I was fortunate enough to be out on pass today with my mum when this thought struck me. We were wandering around Newbury Street and had meandered into a clothing store. After selecting a few items from the rack, I then proceeded to spend another fifteen or so minutes dithering around trying to decide whether or not to brave the fitting room. After that came a five minute wait standing in line where I debated between running away and stuffing all the clothes back onto a rack and casually strolling away like I had never intended on purchasing any of them. Good sense won out in the end though. Trying to act like I was the picture of confidence and not belie the ridiculous nervous wreck I really was, I followed the assistant into the empty room she gestured to and hesitantly yanked the curtain closed behind me.
Fitting rooms truly are designed by the devil. They’re lit in the most unflattering way possible and the sheer terror that being surrounded by mirrors causes to course through your veins is literally physically painful. I swallowed once and selected a relatively innocuous looking shirt to try on first. This, of course, meant that I would have to remove the shirt I was currently wearing and expose the camisole underneath.
I knew what was waiting for me under the sheer flowy fabric I had purposely donned. The incredible, abominable bloat. (I swear I’m actually going to call it that from now on) Once the first barrier was lifted, there was only a very thin, very body contoured piece of fabric between me and what I have sought so avidly to change for the past several months.
My body has undergone several drastic changes in the past weeks. Upon my third admission to Beth Israel back in late February, at the lowest I have ever weighed and in the poorest physical condition I have ever found myself, I was vaguely content with the way I looked. This, of course, was because I was blind to how sickly I appeared. I looked at my flat stomach, my hollow cheeks, and my spindly, spaghetti-like legs and arms, and felt pleasure bubbling up irrepressibly in my throat. Since then, due to numerous weeks of continual consumption of high calorie meals and virtually no physical exertion, my frame has changed noticeably. My thighs now gently brush together if I put my feet together and let my knees roll naturally inwards. My curves that were flattened by anorexia’s deathly grip are beginning to reappear. My face has started to fill in where it looked emaciated and sickly beforehand. And, much to my displeasure, my abdomen and stomach have become distended and bloated.
I know that the fact that these changes are so dramatic is evidence that I was close to death back in the hospital. In the interest of full honesty, I’m going to disclose something I have not revealed to anyone close to me because of how terrifying it sounds.
While I was lying in my bed virtually unresponsive as they took my vitals at a godforsaken early hour, one of the doctors happened to mention he was unsure how I was still alive.
How I was still alive.
Essentially, by all rights, I should have been dead.
There have been moments in this journey where the mental pain has become so excruciating and so taxing that I’ve wished to simply cease to exist. I’d be lying if I said these sorts of moments didn’t still happen from time to time. Especially when I am forced to confront the reality of my body like I was this afternoon.
But this time, I decided to do something different.
I looked at myself in the mirror. I noticed every little change and every little flaw. However, instead of letting them take over and blur my vision, I tried to accept them just a little bit. I tried to look at them as signs that my body was healing itself and relearning to trust me. I attempted to convince myself that all this distension and awkward proportion were signs that the right things were happening.
And you know what? It actually worked a little. I stood there in that shirt in that awful dressing room and didn’t feel like screaming, crying, and curling up into a little ball on the floor at the sight of my body. In fact, I felt content enough that I then proceeded to try on a couple of dresses and even flash myself a wavering smile or two. And then I did something monumental: I took a couple pictures. They’re up at the top of this post for your potential viewing pleasure. Unedited, unretouched, and unapologetically me.
This isn’t to say that I’m magically cured. In fact, that would probably be the most depressingly hilarious of jokes ever made. I’m far from cured.
But I’m healing. I’m slowly relearning how to believe I deserve to live.
I don’t deserve a life limited by food. I don’t deserve a life spent in fear of weight gain, calories, and other manmade creations designed to make me feel simultaneously enormous and minuscule all at once. I don’t deserve a life that I’m not truly living.
I deserve to live. And if you are reading this and feeling as low as I have, know that you, too, deserve to live. Not a life that’s delegated by your disorder. Not a life that’s a shadow of what it truly could be.
A real life. A life worth living.