If You Didn’t Know Me

If you didn’t know me, you wouldn’t know about the scars on my heart

The lacerations that etch deep rivulets through which the poison of my thoughts run

Or the permanent reminders on my skin that stand out like stars in the sky, but much less beautiful

If you didn’t know me, you might assume that all that occupies my life is happiness clenched in one hand and smiles in the other

Maybe you’d hear my laugh and come to the conclusion that I’ve practiced it over and over again

And see the pictures I carefully select as accurate representations of my whole being

If you didn’t know me, you wouldn’t know about the fiery, hateful words that sear my mind

Targeting the soft and sensitive areas of my hardened exterior that don’t quite tessellate

As they chant their monotonous and vitriolic message to the thump of my heart against my ribcage

If you didn’t know me, you might think that I spend my days trying new things and venturing out into the world

Believe that I was a quiet yet shy girl who comes alive once she gets to know you

Smirk a little in amusement at my seemingly quirky habits and opinions of things

If you didn’t know me, you wouldn’t know about my crippling mental illnesses

That I cannot get through my day without following an almost ritualistic order

And how every breath I take brings a little reminder that I came so close to death I nearly shook hands with it

If you didn’t know me, you might assume that my hesitance to speak to you was because I was standoffish

The reason why I would prefer to have my nose stuck in a book than in someone’s business is because I was pretentious

Wonder why I bother to cake makeup on my face even if it is only to go shopping for groceries

If you didn’t know me, you wouldn’t know that sometimes I long for the days when I was able to count my ribs like you might stairs

Hiding in clothes that dwarfed my wasted frame from the cold that permeated my very bones

As I stared drearily out the window at the rain pattering the glass, contemplating whether or not my life was worth saving

If you didn’t know me, you might think I am simply someone who is rather health conscious

Dismiss my inability to accept even the most generic of compliments as typical

Chalk the way I purse my lips and skim my hands over my hips up to being normal habits that I don’t even notice

If you didn’t know me, you wouldn’t know that I used to be so fragile you could have snapped me in half over your knee like a piece of firewood

Or how I spent my two decades anniversary of walking the face of this earth inert in a bed

Which is really just a fancy way of saying my twentieth birthday was celebrated while confined to a hospital room

If you didn’t know me, you might assume that the reason I turned down your invitation was simply because I was too busy

And the logic behind my holing up in my room all by my lonesome was because I was a particularly studious type

As I watch every bite you take with hawk-like intensity, maybe you’d write that off to awkwardness

If you didn’t know me, you wouldn’t know that I loathe the way my thighs touch together as if they are magnetically drawn to one another

Woke up every morning, stripped off my pajamas to put on a dressing gown, and tromped down the hallway to stand backwards on a scale

Passed my days staring at the motivational posters on the wall that somehow failed to stir a spark of life in my chest

If you didn’t know me, you might think that the vocabulary I have is due to my being a bibliophile

Convince yourself that because I bit my lip and uttered not a word against your insult, it didn’t really hurt me

See me walking alone with my arms wrapped tightly around my middle and believe that I enjoyed solitude

If you didn’t know me, you wouldn’t know that I used to exercise until I tore my skin open and my muscles screamed bloody murder at me

Prodded and poked at every inch of my skin to feel the sick rush of tracing the bones jutting out against my pallid flesh

Pretended to listen to the frightened pleas of others to just eat while hearing only the voice in my head screaming fat, fat, fat

If you didn’t know me, you might assume that the tape measure I kept stowed in my desk drawer was for hanging posters in my dorm room

My overstuffed backpack was filled with copious amounts of textbooks and school supplies

And that I had a particularly fickle immune system that kept me relegated to my bed

If you didn’t know me, you wouldn’t know that I used to fill notebooks with morbid thoughts of dying and complex calories calculations

That I watched the most recent Super Bowl from the confines of a wheelchair because I wasn’t even permitted to stand

And that sometimes I wish for that broken, shadowy girl with every fiber of my soul

If you didn’t know me, you might assume that my mind isn’t rife with monsters that shred my hopes and dreams to tattered remains

Maybe you’d believe I love rainy, dreary days because they appeal to my inner romantic

Preferring not to call people on the phone due to the banality of holding a device up to your ear

If you didn’t know me, you wouldn’t know that my most cherished and fervent dream is to be free of the shackles in my mind

To embrace life for all the beauty and wonder that it brings with each new blazing sunrise

And as the day closes and sets the horizon on fire, to realize that I finally, truly know myself.

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