One of my most vivid memories is of what happened one sunny April morning when I was sixteen. My parents had brought me to a random doctor’s office for a random appointment, and it pissed me off because I should have been in school. I should have been sitting in my AP chemistry class learning about radiation. It would require so much time to catch up on all of what I missed, and even though I was acing the class, the ever-present whispers of derisive thoughts emanating from my brain were particularly loud that day. Their volume increased until they were almost deafening, until I could barely hear the sound of blood rushing through my head, until I could barely concentrate on standing up, barely fight to stay on my feet as black spots clouded my vision. They told me everything would go to shit because I was going to fail chemistry and not get into college and never amount to anything. They told me I should have fucking been in class.
But instead, I was pacing in the waiting room of this strange, unfamiliar office, painfully cold as always despite my layers upon layers of clothing. I had my belt pulled tight, as it was the only thing holding my baggy 00 jeans onto my ghostly and withered body. I genuinely didn’t know why I was there, yet I had an overpowering feeling that something life-shattering was about to happen.
A nurse called me back. I followed her into an exam room. She instructed me to undress entirely and put on a gown. I did, and it finally hit me what was coming. Panicked apprehension coursed through my veins with every pained, frantic beat. She told me she had to get my height. I slid off the exam table to be measured, stood tall, steadying my shaky hands as they fell to my sides. Five feet.
Then, with nerves reaching an insurmountable level, she told me to stand on the scale. The heavy-duty, never-inaccurate, medical-grade scale. I stepped carefully onto it, as if I didn’t already know what it was going to say. A lifetime passed by in a second, my heart stopped as time froze. The machine beeped as it landed on what it had declared as my weight. I didn’t look, I didn’t look, I didn’t look. Nothing was happening. Don’t look, don’t look. But after I’d stood there forever and ever, holding the air in my lungs until it hurt, I looked at the nurse. She was staring at me. I breathed out. I looked at the scale. I sucked a lung-full of oxygen into my body involuntarily.
My heart leaped at the number, three pounds below what I’d last seen, and then plummeted into a free-fall. There was no derisive voice in my head telling me I wasn’t good enough. There was just a pitter-patter of words bouncing off the edges of my mind, echoing loudly between reverberating silence: Sick. Shame. Sick. Broken. Sick. Sick. Sick.
In the sheer terror of the moment, I had no idea how it had happened, how I’d gotten that way. But the truth was that I was nearly seventeen years old and I weighed sixty-five pounds. And at that point, I knew what I was doing and how I’d gotten that way.
It was simple in the most complex and intricate of ways: I had an eating disorder. And I’d had one for three years. It had been all I’d known for three long years. The gnawing, excruciating hunger that had long since dissipated into expansive internal emptiness. The bitter cold that lay so deep within me that it had settled permanently in my bones. The sheer, unrelenting anxiety, the weighted feeling of impending doom. I’d been trapped.
And in an eternity that lasted only three months, I was released into a freedom I hadn’t realized existed. I could write novels about what happened during those months, those wonderful, terrible, frightening, uncertain, beautiful months. And I will write those novels. But the point is that the identity I’d been chained to for so goddamn long would no longer be attached to me. Being reborn like that? It’s indescribable.
But it’s twelve years later. Twelve fucking years later. And I once again officially fall into the category of “someone with an eating disorder.” Instead of three years, it’s been three months. Instead of being grossly underweight, I’m just 25 or so pounds lighter. But the thoughts, the fears, the discomfort…it’s all there. Again. As if no time has passed. I’m afraid of jelly. I’m afraid. Of fucking. Jelly. I’ve arbitrarily attached emotion to jelly as if the main ingredient of the stuff is “paralyzing anxiety.”
I hate it. I hate that I’m doing this again.
It’s different now, though. I just keep telling myself to “cut the shit.” I’ve done it before. I’m no longer in the dark. I have knowledge. I’m well aware that I can be released into freedom, that the chains holding me to this identity are nothing compared to the supernova of resilience powering all that I am. But I feel too far gone. It scares me.
Not to mention, as I’m ashamed to admit, that I like my body better now. Superficial as it maybe be, it’s a relief to have gotten rid of all the weight I’d gained after getting on the new meds (which, by the way, are a literal gift from whatever god might be up there). I know I shouldn’t like the weight loss, but I do. I have a sick pride in it, just like how I’m stupidly proud of the fact that I was 65 fucking pounds two months before turning 17. With that at least it was because, after three years of suffering, that number was all I had to show for it. But now? I don’t know what the deal is. I guess it’s just nice to be able to be good at something again.
It probably also has to do with control again, with how I desperately want it. It just isn’t making me feel any closer to that elusive concept anymore. Like, why is it that when I’m waging war with myself over the simple act of sitting down to eat, I never have control over the outcome?
It probably has to do with how I was bored. How I wanted to be distracted, wanted something to focus on. How I was morbidly curious.
It probably has to do with the low self-esteem I’ve begun to wear even though it doesn’t feel right on me.
I keep telling myself that I just “went at this a little too hard.” That it was really just an attempt to lose weight gone wrong because my brain naturally just jumps to this shit when life gets stressful. A result of the fact that I’ve never known any sort of middle ground in regards to anything. I’ve never understood healthy dieting. If you want to lose weight, why not just stop eating altogether? It’s a miswired translation code in my head. I’ve never been able to fix it. I’ve only ever worked around it.
Maybe that’s the problem: I never got around to rewiring everything.
When I write, it’s to give people something they can read to understand something. Something they can read to be dragged down to the depths of my mind and come out with my feelings and desires, as fucked up and crazy as they might be, as souvenirs. I don’t think many people need to visit hell, though. I think it’s enough for me to do so.
Maybe writing this will help me rewire. Maybe afterward I’ll remember even more vividly how fucking insanely disgusting my eating disorder was at its peak. Maybe I’ll drag myself down to the depths of my former mind, the mind I used to try like mad to learn an entirely new way of looking at things, processing things, and understanding things. The mind I used to smash the title of “anorexic” into so many pieces that it no longer lingered above my head and next to my name.
I can’t fathom where in the fuck to start. But if my brain is made of wires, the wires are reduced to words. So let’s just call this a beginning.