Imaginary

sometimes I close my eyes when the pain disappears and wonder if I ever truly had an eating disorder

if the voices in my head were just a figment of my imagination, like the monsters I thought were hiding in my closet when I was little

there are times where I look at the official medical document diagnosing me with anorexia nervosa

and I look at those fifteen letters and feel like they are describing a complete stranger

sometimes I become convinced that my eating disorder was just a bad dream I eventually woke up from

and I listen to those who insist that I am not sick, that I do not need help, that my disorder is not real

I let them make me believe that the demons in my mind are nothing more than shadow puppets warped against the wall

because there is so much more to me than just those letters, but oftentimes it feels like that is my sole identity

that I am the girl who was sick

who was sick, but is no longer

who takes photographs of herself holding ice cream as if it isn’t absolutely killing her inside to pick up the spoon and shovel it into her mouth one bite at a time

who shows up on time for plans with friends and family, but gives no sign that she spent an hour trying to decide what to wear because everything on her looks ugly

who once was a fragile wisp that you could blow away with just one misplaced exhale but now has curves instead of sharp edges

and who honors her stretch marks and scars instead of wishing she could unzip them, disappear inside them and hide herself from the memories they bring up

if I really had an eating disorder, I wouldn’t be able to eat, right?

I would be thin as a stick and as easily breakable, with brittle bones and less substance to me than a breath of air

and I would be easily reduced to an absolute mess of tears at the mere sight of a plate of food designed to a regimented meal plan designed to keep my weight from wavering

if I really had an eating disorder, I’d be sitting in a hospital bed instead of in my own house surrounded by familiar features I grew up with, right?

I remember sitting curled up in a ball with sobs wracking my wasted body the day they told me I would have to go the the hospital

and I feel as though that was somebody else entirely, like I was reading a sad story

and I could put that chapter of my life away as easily as closing a book

setting it back on the shelf amongst the records of all the other experiences I’ve had in my two decades on this planet

I am the girl who was sick

who was sick, but is no longer

who spontaneously goes out to restaurants and picks something off the menu with a calm demeanor that refuses to belie the panic lurking beneath

who wakes up in the morning and greets the morning with a smile, despite feeling like simply staring at the ceiling and refusing to move for hours on end

who reassures others that things will get better and that the freedom of life is worth it, but sometimes contemplates throwing it all away

and who pulls out that piece of paper with that fifteen letter description to remind herself that her eating disorder is as plain as the nose on her face

you see, it’s easy to act strong without the spotlight of the stage shining brightly in your face, blinding you to the crowd watching you earnestly

it’s simple to put on a mask of courage like a makeshift superhero wearing a cape made of positive affirmations and mantras and fight your enemies

but upon returning home and hanging up your outfit, collapsing and folding in on yourself until you all but disappear

as much as I long to be defined by more than just my eating disorder

 not the girl who was sick, but who writes

who writes things that kept audiences rapt

not the girl who was sick, but who creates art

who creates art that people could analyze for hours

not the girl who was sick, but who is confident

who is confident and bubbly and happy

and other times I wish for nothing more than to be completely consumed by my anorexia, swallowed up by the waves of self loathing 

sinking beneath the surface, never to be seen again

there is an eternal battle being waged in my mind between the angel and the devil on their respective shoulders

sometimes my eating disorder puts on a halo and masquerades as the protagonist

the hero that comes flying valiantly into the fray and rescues me from the banality of a meal plan and a sedentary life spent sitting on the sidelines

and encouraging me to giddily plan out all the times I will cut corners and create a complex web of lies

sometimes I open my eyes up to a new day and wonder if I ever had an eating disorder

or if it was just as imaginary as the characters I used to write about when I was little

and sometimes I wish it were

but sometimes I also long for it to be a neverending page of the story of my life.”

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