Why is it that my eyes see something so different than the rest of the world? Why do they pick me apart, reflecting me as if I were a specimen in front of a fun house mirror? Why do they distort me into ugliness and yet let me view such beauty and wonder in others and the world around me?
If you could dismantle my mind piece by piece, would you find something improperly wired? Broken? Missing? Would you examine me as if I were nothing more than a machine, as if I were some object to be observed empirically? Or might you want to delve deeper? Perhaps you might.
If you looked into my heart, would you just see an organ pumping, albeit sometimes with a fluttering like that of a butterfly’s wing that seems so futile, to keep me alive? Would you see medical terms and diagnoses too complex to spell or pronounce? Or would you perhaps see scars? Scars that etch patterns along its surface? Some that delve deeper? Some that have been haphazardly stitched back together? And some that have evidently been torn apart again? Maybe then you’d start to wonder what truly makes me tick.
Do I run like a clock? Am I precise, orderly, compulsive, even, born out of that same mechanism you observed in my mind? Do you have to wind me back up when my anxiety and depression become too taxing? Do you need to metaphorically rescue me and return me to the light when the shadows take over with mental menacing claws and whispers?
Why is it that I can smile with my muscles, my teeth, and my intentions, but seldom with my soul or eyes? Is it because these are the same eyes that hyperexamine myself, finding imperfections layered over each other the way a step into a puddle creates a ripple effect? People say I have such beautiful eyes and a lovely smile, but what if they knew the truth? What if they knew the emptiness hiding behind my expressions? What if they knew that my soul is not solely a caged bird, not only a songless bird, but a broken bird with clipped wings and tattered feathers? If you knew that despite all this, I still sometimes dreamed of flying, would you believe me? Or might you just simply cast that wish halfheartedly aside, like wisps of clouds blown into the distance by a gold breeze that grasps you by the bones and holds on tightly? Could you find it within yourself to acknowledge that grip can be deadly?Could you convince me? I wonder if you could convince me. Me, this wounded little bird with no song left to sing, yet with an endless twisted, sadistic melody playing in my head? Could you convince me that I, in an attempt to make myself happy, could kill myself? That I could be deadly, as diminutive and frail as I have allowed myself to become?What is it that I have become? A shell of who I used to be? The outer fragments, all shattered apart irreparably? Something , someone so barely present; something practically intangible?
What if you knew who, why, and what I genuinely was? Could you answer that query?
I’ve decided it’s time. It’s time to answer that query. That entails me being completely, one hundred percent honest about my eating disorder and how it’s affected me. And that includes being honest with myself.
I remember being ten years old. I remember standing in the ocean, feeling the water wend its way around my ankles; it was just a few degrees cooler than the hot summer air. I was dressed in a bathing suit my mother had purchased for me just a couple months earlier. It was a bikini, albeit a bit more modest considering my age, like I had requested, and it was rainbow colored, sparkly, and probably everything I’d hate to wear now.
And I remember constantly tugging at the hem of the top, trying to drag it down over my stomach. Trying to hold it in. Trying to look thinner. Wishing I was invisible, and eventually getting in the water and never wanting to leave. Not because I was enjoying myself, but because I didn’t want anyone to see how fat I was.
From then on, I think feeling overweight was always a part of my life, whether it was consciously or subconsciously. I would try and squeeze myself into jeans in the department store in front of those hideously unflattering mirrors with the bright lights that would make a diamond look like a beat up old rock. I obsessed over sizes, learning the conversions between European and American numerical measurements, berating myself when I didn’t match the model’s dimensions. Eventually I decided it best to avoid dressing rooms all together and just bought things on a whim, hoping they would fit. Every time they did, because I always bought everything just a little too big. Just a little too big; so I could disappear just a little bit more.
Then came the calorie cutting phase. I had always been very physically active. When I was very young, I played soccer (or ran around and chased the other girls and not the ball), did various forms of dance, and even tried my hands and feet and leotard at gymnastics for a little while. Eventually soccer was the only thing that remained other than karate, which I had begun at the age of seven and still stick with to this day. And then due to injury, karate became my sole form of physical exercise. Not that I was lazy by any means. But I felt it wasn’t enough, so like I said, I started cutting calories. I became obsessed with numbers and nutrition fact labels; they were like puzzle pieces to me that had to be put in the proper order. If one little thing was wrong: one calorie too many, one piece of pasta too much, one item missing from what was permissible to eat, it was disastrous. I halved everything and saw weight loss instantly. And for a while, I was pleased.
After this, the disorder sort of took a backseat to my daily life. Home was a difficult place to be, and so was school. Essentially, I was without a safe haven, and often found myself alone at home with my depression and anxiety, and usually, a mindless snack. The pounds started to come back. Desperate, I began avoiding purchasing lunch at school. Somehow I managed to convince myself that a diet of vending machine food like Doritos and fruit gummies was healthier. I lost weight, but obviously not fat. And not enough weight. Never enough.
Then came the summer before college. I underwent surgery to remove my tonsils and adenoids to hopefully prevent any future reoccurrences of the strep that had made my adolescence and early adult life a literally living hell about six times per year. Post-op, I was in too much pain to eat, and watched in delight as my weight dropped like a brick from the sky attached to a car attached to the Empire State Building.
But college was difficult. The workload was stressful, and as if that wasn’t enough, there were the added aspects of socializing and being on my own. My depression and anxiety began to take tighter hold of me, and my eating spiraled a bit out of control. By the time the next summer rolled around and freshman year was over, I was an emotional wreck and completely filled with hatred for myself. So I decided something needed to change.
I welcomed anorexia back into my life with open arms. I cut portions hugely. I ate only certain foods. I ignored hunger. I exercised myself to the bone. Finally, I found myself in extremely desperate need of not only mental, but also medical intervention. And that brings us to the present day, where I sit here in front of this laptop just about 5 days away from having been in treatment for two full months.
Anorexia isn’t my choice. But it’s part of who I am right now. And having the courage to admit that to not only myself, but my family and my peers, is something I am immensely proud of having been able to do. It’s an uphill battle for sure. There are days where my eating disorder beats me down entirely. There are days where I am doubtless the loser. But there is also a light at the end of the tunnel, and I know that even in moments where I can’t see it myself, others can. And that is why I am so grateful to everyone who has supported me along this most difficult journey: be it my treatment teams, my family, my friends, or anyone at all who has offered a kind word or an encouraging smile. You are what keep me going. You are, along with myself, who will help me defeat anorexia once and for fucking all.
Pardon my French. It felt necessary. As did this.
The image I’ve chosen as the avatar image for my blog is one I’ve used many a time before, but it’s precious to me. Because in it I am struggling with my disorder, but I am also smiling. And I think it’s a beautiful smile. And that is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Life will throw roadblocks and obstacles in my way. It’ll hack me to bits mercilessly with words like knives and prick me endlessly with thoughts like needles, tearing through whatever thin layer of protection I’ve managed to build up. But one thing life will not do is defeat me. One thing my disorder will not do is kill this bird, no matter how hard the wind blows or sharp the blades are or how broken I become.
Because I am never truly broken. There is always putting me back together, and together with the support of my friends, family, and the world around me, I know that I will never stop being capable of that.
This is what I’ve decided to piece together as the beginning of my memoir. Please take the poll or in some other manner let me know what you think of it!