the dKol la femme project: abuse + bulimia
dkol la femme project – Ashley Bickford
Her name is Ashley Bickford. Her age is 29. And her story is one that deserves to be heard.
From a young age, Ashley saw the challenges and darkness that life can bring. She saw instability, fighting, sickness, alcoholism, death, physical-mental-sexual abuse at the hands of someone she should have been able to trust, and discomfort in her own house; and soon her own skin. She felt like she had no control of her life, no opinion, and nothing was her own. So – she did something, something that could be her own, something that she could regulate, and something that she now wishes she could go back and reverse; knowing what she knows now.
It was about control. She needed to feel that something was her own, and that only she could command how it would work, how it would grow – at least this part of dictatorship in her life was her own, and she was the tyrant. She said, “My life wasn’t mine. I felt like I had no control but, I could control my eating disorder, I could control when I decided to throw up, I could control when I ate”. This allowed her to feel as though her body was her own again. Maybe she wanted to hurt those who hurt her, or maybe she just couldn’t fathom keeping this food that was recently binged down. There are a lot of causes to this effect, but, we as the outsiders will never actually know what she was feeling in that moment when she first decided that her food would not control her, and that she would instead control her food. Throwing up, was like releasing toxins – hypothetic toxins of course, but to Ashley it felt empowering.
As a young girl, most females can probably relate to this discomfort in our own bodies. This unrealistic constant comparison to others – both real and fake. We never feel pretty enough, we never feel skinny enough and we never feel good enough. On top of this overwhelming need to be unrealistically perfect driven into us by digital platforms and expectations, we also have others picking us apart to make themselves feel better. Having your body picked apart by anyone can do all sorts of damage, but imagine being picked apart by family – those that are supposed to raise you up. For Ashley – she didn’t have to imagine this, because she lived it. Her brothers would pick her apart, call her thunder thighs or cow and say unimaginable things. Add to that her brothers’ friends and her step dad. “My step dad would just say really not nice things, and it would just make me feel like shit. It just wasn’t fun.”
Ashley had bulimia for about 4 years. During this time, her weight would fluctuate immensely. “I went from almost 150 lbs all the way down to a little over 100 lbs. It was a rollercoaster and it wasn’t consistent.” She remembers times where she would be at the gym fighting through with little to no nutrients because she had earlier thrown them up. She needed these nutrients to get through her workout, the rest of the day, and tomorrow – but she didn’t care; “I didn’t care because it was my act of defiance towards the people that hurt me in my life.” Until she realized that this wasn’t actually hurting those that defied her – but instead, herself.
“I remember the day that I decided to stop; when I said what am I doing? Don’t I love myself enough to not do this?” It’s now Ashley’s fifth year without her eating disorder, but it is still with her every single day. Ashley speaks of her recovery as her first step being making that decision to not throw up one day after a meal. This may sound simple to us, but to Ashley, it felt impossible; she felt as though she craved it and like she was kicking an addiction by keeping this food down. While not easy, she did soon realize it was in fact possible, because she did it. From there, she concentrated on getting her diet right by focusing on nourishing her body. During her recovery process, she saw someone religiously who helped her to get through this, and to find love for herself again. Her mantra is “I love myself, I forgive myself” and she says this over and over again. She still struggles with this concept of body dysmorphia, and she has days that are harder than others – but she loves herself, and she forgives herself; and it’s through this mindset, that she gets through each day.
Ashley is strong, she is brave, and she is a true inspiration. She hopes that by telling her story she can impact someone else struggling like she was – even if it’s just one person. “If I could say something to a girl that (was) my age when I was going through this, it would be that you can get through it. I get how bad things may seem at the time – that you want to lash out. I get it. But, it’s not worth what you will put yourself through and not just at the time, but for years after.” She hopes that by being kind to others, and by sharing her story she can inspire someone else to love themselves enough to not harm themselves; and to feel like they are enough. As she puts it best, “Don’t be somebody who looks like the cover of a magazine – you know – photographers we know Photoshop; shit aint real!”
When you are looking at yourself in the mirror, analyzing yourself, reflecting on who you are – before you say the things that you are thinking of yourself, consider reflecting on if you would say this to someone else first. Ashley says that there were things she would say to herself that she wouldn’t even say to her worst enemy, but that she said to herself just fine. Why is it that we are so easily brutal to ourselves when we could never even imagine saying such things to others? Why is it ok to hate ourselves so strongly, when we try so hard to not put out hate into the world around us? Our bodies, are our own – they may not be perfect, they may be flawed, they may be weak, they may be sick – but they are our own and they deserve to be loved, cherished, and treated with respect. We often demand respect from others, especially when it comes to our bodies, but yet do we respect them ourselves? This was Ashley’s realization herself when she finally asked herself 5 years ago – don’t I respect myself enough to say no?
The dkol la femme project is a platform created to give a voice to you and your unique struggles by telling your story through art. la femme is where vulnerability meets liberation. What is confidence and empowerment to you? What is VULNERABILITY, and how does it affect you? You, as in the generalized you, the one that isn’t gender specific, or defined by your struggle or labeled by medication. OR maybe you are and want to advocate so your story is heard (insert dKol la femme). At la femme you are allowed to free yourself of the need for perfection. Here you will evoke your self-confidence and take pause so you can reflect on your soul.
Be heard through #thedkollafemmeproject