Violetta Milerman: Why I feel empowered by my struggle with bulimia
On the surface, Real World: Skeletons' Violetta Milerman is one tough customer. She's not afraid of controversy — she's on a reality show, after all — and she has no qualms about speaking her mind, which can, at times, come off as harsh.
It's an image the 24-year-old Florida student is aware of, but she doesn't necessarily agree with how fans of Real World: Skeletons may interpret her actions on the high-octane show. "I think I'm kind of a tart person and my humor is very bitter and dry," she told SheKnows. "I think that my sarcasm comes off as being kind of cynical and just, like, rude, but it's not. I'm a very blunt person. If I think something, I'm going to say it. I'm not going to sugarcoat it."
In Tuesday night's emotional episode, Milerman revealed her tough exterior is actually hiding a four-year battle with anorexia and bulimia. The information came forth after a roommate outed her during a fight, but now she's bravely speaking up about her issue with eating disorders to empower herself and help other people.
We spoke with Milerman the day before the episode aired and she admitted that, while a bit apprehensive about her story going public, she felt relief it was happening. "It was really hard because I'm one of those people that don't like people to know my weaknesses," she said of talking about her struggles in front of cameras. "The pressure and everything around me was just so intense and I felt like I was just losing faith in who I was and I started acting in a way... I'm normally a very calm person and it was just very, very hard, especially since not a lot of people know about my eating disorder. My family doesn't even know and I don't know how I'm going to bring this up at all because I don't think I'm ready for them to know, but it's going to be out in the open tomorrow."
What Milerman doesn't think the cameras captured was how supportive her fellow cast mates were once they found out about her eating disorder and how they helped in her healing process. "It was just, it was hard to deal with it in the public eye," she said. "But I think that now that everyone kind of does know, especially since it's about to go on air, I feel like I'm more empowered. I don't see it as being a disease anymore. I see it as being a survivor."
"I've always had body issues"
Her family might not have known that she was battling with eating disorders prior to Tuesday night's episode, but according to Milerman, her struggle with her self-image is nothing new. "I feel like people think it [bulimia] was a hobby because, 'Oh, you're in high school. This happened,' but it was more than that," she told us. "My cousin and I, she's got blond hair and blue eyes, a really tiny and beautiful girl, and I was always the awkward brunette. A little bit taller. So, ever since I was young I always had a problem with my body."
Milerman continued to fight her own negative thoughts, but didn't realize she was spiraling out of control until much later. "I realized I had a problem when I couldn't, like, I would literally eat a salad and all of the sudden I would get nauseous," she said. "I started seeing it as a problem when I couldn't control that. I couldn't control my body... when I was at my worst, I was at 95 pounds. My healthy weight, if you want to call it, would be 115. I'm still a little below it, but I'm healthier than I was."
"You can't hold up the world by yourself"
The MTV star stressed the importance of getting professional help for eating disorders or other issues someone may be dealing with. "I see a therapist. I've been seeing her for a few months, almost a year," Milerman said. "It started off with something completely irrelevant to this eating disorder, but then it got brought up. I personally believe that you can never beat your demons if you don't have someone who can understand them. It's all good if you want to be like, 'Oh, I'm strong. I'm by myself...' you need someone. You 110 percent need someone."
"No one is blaming me"
Milerman remains grateful about the way her Real World roommates supported her, without hovering, after they found out about her eating disorder and she thinks it's the best way people can help friends who are dealing with issues. "If I want to talk about it, they'll talk to me about it, but if I don't, then they won't," she said. "They don't pressure the subject, they don't make me feel overwhelmed. They kind of just let everything go by subtly."
"You need to love yourself"
Milerman believes learning to love herself and cutting out all toxic relationships was instrumental in her road to recovery. "If I could sit down with someone, especially someone in high school who is going through this, my advice would be: You can never, ever, think that being perfect is what you see in the magazines, because that's unrealistic. You need to love yourself," she said, adding, "I do this every single day: I wake up in the morning, I brush my teeth, I look in the mirror and I tell myself one thing I love about myself... you can't ever be OK with your image, whether it's your body or your personality, unless you care and you truly and deeply love yourself."
Though Milerman admits she's afraid some people will perceive her public declaration of her struggles as a "pity party," she feels it's important to talk about her eating disorders so that other people going through it won't feel alone. She's also willing to communicate directly with anyone who needs help. "If anyone has this issue, if they want to DM me on Instagram, I am more than willing to talk to people about this," Milerman said. "It's not something I'm ashamed of, because if I was ashamed about it, I wouldn't be able to talk about it."
In case you missed last night's episode of Real World: Skeletons, here's a clip.
Image: Real World: Skeletons/MTV