The cool tiles of the kitchen floor do their best to comfort me as I collapse into myself again. Lunch should not be this complicated. Eating should not be an emotional event. My hands should move the food to my mouth, and the rest should just come to me naturally. Nothing feels right anymore. My hands are frozen, and my jaw is locked shut. There is a disconnect between my brain and my body. Every connection is faulty.
This bowl of cereal has 150 calories, and this piece of bread has 110. The answer is obvious; you cannot eat that cereal. The math is simple, but I wonder if this is really the answer I am looking for.
I am eleven years old in the fitting room at Carson’s, and I am arguing with my mother about the size of the jeans I am buying. I snap at her about needing a larger size in case I gain more weight this school year. She has a sad look in her eyes as we decide to buy the bigger size, and I know she is unhappy.
I am in the sixth grade, and my classmate asks me if I am losing weight. I sheepishly answer “no,” as I turn away, but my back cannot block her words fast enough.
“Because she was huge last year.”
My lightbulb moment. The “Aha!” in my life. I cannot live this way any longer. I need to make a change.
I am in the seventh grade, and I am getting thinner every day. I am finally small enough to fit in with everyone else, but still, they do not want me. Now, my hair is all wrong. It is wavy in places where it should be straight. I am just so tired.
I am twelve years old, and one of my friends just realized how crooked my front teeth are. She exclaims out loud in front of the entire class, and I make a mental note to never smile again. I am thin, I am straightening my hair, and now, I will stop smiling. I am running out of things to get rid of.
I am in eighth grade, and now, I am too thin to be liked by anyone. I am scaring people and making them nervous. I don’t know why my body always makes people so upset. I was too big, and they did not want me. Now, I am too thin to be deserving of their love.
I am thirteen years old, and I think I have lost the ability to make any memories. The days are all happening, and I am present, but I don’t feel anything. I am thirteen years old, and I think I have learned the true meaning of hollow. I am floating.
I am fourteen years old and seventy-nine pounds, and I don’t think this is healthy. No one really wants to be around me. I still don’t think I am capable of retaining any memories.
I am a high school freshman, and I haven’t had my period in a year. One of my friends still points out how fat my stomach is. I carry on.
I am a high school freshman, and I pretend to make a sandwich every morning before school. I am just putting a slice of bread into a bag. But on some days, that still feels like too much.
I am fifteen years old, and now I just drink sparkling green tea instead of eating. The carbonation makes me feel like there is more to me than that. My classmate tells me I just have one of those faces that is always sad.
I am sixteen years old, and I have started another bad habit. I chew the foods I want to eat, but I do not eat them. It’s nice to feel normal, even if it is only for a moment.
I am a high school sophomore, and I think this concert just saved my life. Something about a punk band in a tiny Chicago music venue made me realize that life doesn’t have to be this way.
I am a high school junior, and my first boyfriend just broke up with me because I won’t let him take me out to dinner. I run back to my eating disorder to soothe my loneliness. I wonder if this is the only successful relationship I will ever have.
I am seventeen years old, and sometimes, I go out to eat with my friends. I’m all cheese fries and milkshakes at Steak ‘n Shake, and if you didn’t know me, you would never know the fear all of this brings me.
I am seventeen years old, and sometimes, I eat too much because I know it will make me sick. I don’t know if I am actually getting better or have just gotten better at hiding it.
I am a high school junior, and I am trying on a prom dress that fits me tightly in the dressing rooms at Macy’s. My best friend’s mom warns me not to eat too many brownies before the prom. I think my mom wants to punch her.
I am eighteen years old, and I finally started eating lunch again. I am not sure how I feel about it. I am gaining weight, and my hair is wavy and unkempt. Is this what starting over feels like?
I am a college freshman, and I cannot starve myself the way I used to. Days are longer in college, and I just don’t have it in me anymore to run on nothing.
I am nineteen years old, and I have gained the freshman fifteen. I cannot stand to look at photos of myself. I need to do better.
I am a college sophomore, and I have finally lost some of that weight. One of my friends remarks about my weight loss, and I feel successful for the first time in years. I have to keep going.
I am twenty years old, and too many people are noticing my body. I am not comfortable here. Send help.
I am a college junior, and I have fallen in love. Maybe now, I will finally learn to love myself. I didn’t think it was possible to hate myself more than I already did, but he changed that for me.
I am twenty-one years old, and my boyfriend thinks my body is disgusting. I am too thin for him, and yet, he will not let me go. I just want to get out of here.
I am a college senior, and I have never been this tired in my entire life. My boyfriend does not love me. I do not love me. If you would just look into my eyes, you would know. I’m not okay in here.
I am twenty-two years old, and I can’t even function as a normal adult. I can’t go eat crepes with my coworkers because I cannot bear the thought of them watching me eat. I’m not actually this anti-social; I am just afraid.
I am twenty-three years old, and two summers in this place still haven’t made me comfortable. I am not at home here, no matter how much I tell you all that I am. Home is a place I haven’t found yet. All I know is that I can cross this one off the list.
I am twenty-three years old, and my new boss tells me I need to eat more, or I won’t make it through the workday. I just wish everyone would leave me alone. I oblige and do my best to pretend like I am fine. I am normal. Every day, I am hurting. Thirty minutes is really too long for lunch.
I am twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six years old before someone ever loves this body. I have burned you into my memory. Please stay.
I am twenty-seven years old, and he left me. Nothing is going right anymore. Most days, I am eating, but I am not happy. I wonder if the two are related.
I am twenty-eight years old, and I guess this is recovery. Some days, I love myself. I am happy. While others, I can’t even look in the mirror. I think that is recovery.
I am twenty-nine years old, and this is who I am now. Mostly fine on most days, but still struggling. Still struggling, but I am here. And as long as I am mostly trying, I am doing well.