A collaboration with The Exposure Project
My name is Eirinie, I am a 31 year old mother of one (if you don’t count the dog) and wife to one. One man. His name is Adam, but that’s neither here nor there. I am a writer all of the time but a model some of the time, and that is how I actually make money. It is also tied closely to my personal struggle with mental illness, my little eating disorder that was once not so little.
I’ve been trying to write about anorexia for years but I never quite felt I was hitting the mark, or being fully honest, or being kind to myself, so when The Exposure Project asked me to contribute, I saw it as a goal renewed.
I have struggled with Anorexia Nervosa for maybe 15 years, sure I dabbled in bulimia but anorexia was my jam, occasionally still is my jam. Weirdly, I’ve also been modelling for a little over 15 years, but I cannot see a correlation. Nope, nothing linking those two things at all.
Nah not really, if I were an amateur detective creating a DIY crime map in my living room fueled by coffee and adderall and a deep desire to know the truth, there would be but one red thread leading from one issue to another. Because in fact my eating disorder can be traced directly back to age 17 when I went on the pill and gained weight and my booker at the time (the person at my modelling agency in charge of getting me jobs) told me I needed to drop 15lbs. I had put on, at MAX, 10. When I say I had never considered my body in this way, as needing to be fixed or altered like a garment, I am not exaggerating. Sure, I had coveted other girls’ bodies on set, had even convinced myself I wanted to be blonde, but nothing concrete, no changes that I had to actively work on and monitor. I have always stayed on the slender side, and before 17 not one thing I ate affected my external body.
It was such a formative age, and perhaps I would have eventually come to hate my thighs or stomach or legs or face on my own, and I’m sure my upbringing and the way we talked about food contributed, but I truly consider that booker (Sasha, her name was Sasha) to be the crux, and wonder if she knew the path she set my brain on that day.
Anorexia for me is deeply linked to my anxiety, my body dysmorphia and my feelings of loss of control. I began to wonder what people thought of my body and of me, and as I could not control these things I stopped eating and exercised in the solitude of my dorm. I logged on to chat rooms (remember those?) to share tips and tricks for both stimulating and hiding your weight loss. I did one particular famous “cleanse” for 14 days with a model friend, I ate no solid food and abused laxatives. I was so thin and ill, I felt like nothing, like no one. And the worst thing was my career flourished. My bookers suddenly loved how I looked. No more grabbing my thigh to indicate where I needed to work on, no more hints about the gym partnership the agency had just fostered. But in my head, instead of gaining control, I spun out, I felt as if I was floating from the nothingness of it all.
I tried a therapist a friend made me see, but I hated him. I didn’t realise then what I know now- finding the right fit of therapist is as much a journey as finding a babysitter you trust, or a masseuse you love; it takes patience and tenacity. I was in no place for that back then so I just gave up on the idea completely.
Help finally came from an unexpected place, from a boyfriend who I had been friends with in university who was kind and nurturing and good to me in a way I had not experienced before. He respected my weird food rules (don’t watch me when I eat, don’t ask me when I last ate), and treated me like a skittish deer. Later, when my eating habits had evened out, I recall being bold enough to say to him, “back in uni I had anorexia”. This was big for me, I had never said it out loud to anyone, I stayed away from that word as using it would be to admit something about myself I was not ready to confront. He quietly said, “Yes. I remember.” It really shook me; I had always assumed that my stealth exercising and disgust of eating and food in general had gone completely unnoticed. He had seen. He had known. And other people had too. I wasn’t nothing, I was here with everyone else. Shoutout to you, Jake.
I have achieved a lot, despite what my brain may tell me in the still of the night. I have sustained a modest modelling career for nearly 20 years (!!!! Don’t start a career when you’re 14, you guys), I have worked with some wonders and some disasters. I have walked for Jean Paul Gaultier and Tsubi. I even modelled in a Rimmel commercial with Kate Moss, in fact they had to bring in an apple box for her because I am so tall. I have a roster of wonderful companies (shoutout Grove, shoutout Baggu) that I work with regularly. Modelling took me to LA, where I met my angel of a husband. Modelling funded every dumb idea I have ever had. But what could I have done without that physical manifestation of anxiety in my life? What could I have done, unhindered, untethered by the male gaze? We’ll never know, but perhaps there is hope for my kid.
I now see a therapist. I now talk about my issues frequently with my husband, I try to be frank about my idiosyncrasies despite the fact that they make me sound mad as a box of frogs. I still get angry if I have had a particular meal in mind, Mexican say, and don’t get to eat it and so then do not eat anything as if in protest to the Universe.
Do I consider myself recovered? Not really, but then how can I be in a world that harbours the deep lying subtext that women are their external beauty only? With the modelling industry I myself am a cog in being as fucked as it is? Every woman I know struggles with weight concerns and body dysmorphia, is my story any more or less valuable than theirs?
These are questions I grapple with constantly and now, as a mother to a beautiful two year old who may (but I pray to the fucking ether she does not) hate her body one day, I also wonder how these acts of self hatred can be perserved by her evergrowing brain.
I want her to know she is worthy not for her innate and profound beauty, but for her mind and her deeds and her words. That a casual observation of our bodies is necessary for our health but that there is a limit to how much we need to police ourselves or change ourselves or try to force ourselves to fit into this world. And that is my ultimate judge and jury: not the mirror and not my fucking agency, but my kid.