The first time I heard of anorexia
I was eleven years old.
A girl in my class had passed out in the lunch line because she was starving herself.
The ironic thing was,
She was about to buy an ice cream desert.
That day in the car my mom told me how she didn’t understand this disease,
And she told me never to starve myself.
I didn’t understand either, and I promised her I wouldn’t.
The irony this time,
Is that I had no idea my promise would be broken.
The first time I had the thoughts
I was in eighth grade.
Struggling from depression,
My parents fighting every day,
And my friends constantly leaving me out,
Making me feel invisible.
I remember one of my friends wouldn’t eat at lunch,
And would sometimes go to the bathroom if they did.
I didn’t quite understand why,
But at some point that year
I found myself going to the bathroom in my bedroom,
Trying to throw up whatever food I’d eaten.
Copying my friend, hardly understanding why,
Yet understanding that what I wanted to feel was
I started a journal that year,
Documenting foods that I ate,
And writing down tips I’d found on the internet,
Tips on how to starve yourself.
Not long after that I threw the journal in my closet,
Hiding it under notebooks upon notebooks,
Ashamed of my thoughts and actions.
The first time I heard her voice
I was in the tenth grade.
Well, I’d been hearing her voice for a while,
And I hated to look in the mirror,
But this time was different.
I was walking in the cafeteria,
And suddenly, she told me to purge.
Suddenly, I longed to puke up my food,
Obey her cruel order,
And again, I didn’t understand.
I didn’t know where these thoughts came from,
And I didn’t why my brain was filled with her toxic words.
I confided to a friend about my thoughts, a very close friend who lived miles away.
She told me everything close friends tell you:
“Don’t listen to those thoughts.
And so on.
I wanted to believe her,
Oh god, I wanted to believe her.
But I didn’t,
And so I struggled on.
The first time I counted calories
Was the summer before eleventh grade.
It was my second summer with the cross country team
And I was in fantastic shape.
I had been weighing myself
And noticed how naturally my weight was going down.
Pride swelled within me,
But the monster insisted the number was crucial
To my worth.
I began to track what I ate,
But only for a few weeks before the thoughts ran around in my head so much
That I became dizzy.
I deleted the app, and confided to a best friend about what had happened,
And promised myself if that if I downloaded it again and became obsessed,
I would delete it.
Yet another promise I would break later on.
The first time the monster stayed in my head
I was in the eleventh grade.
I longed for my classmate to like me,
And I started wearing makeup.
But only a little bit at first—some mascara, a touch of eyeshadow.
He never came to like me in that way,
But we were friends, and I was happy for at least that at the time.
Then spring hit,
And I remembered how cross country practice would start soon—
And suddenly, my eyes became aware of my body.
How my stomach stuck out over my jeans,
And my thighs jiggled when I walked.
No muscle, only fat—
Who had I become?
I had lost all the strength I’d gained from cross-country,
My shape had transformed without me even noticing,
It was all I saw.
The first time I dieted
Was that spring in eleventh grade.
It was an innocent attempt to lose weight,
To get back in shape for cross-country season.
Completely normal, completely innocent,
Until I found the community again,
The community of teenage girls who saw Anorexia as a diet, a lifestyle, a choice,
And encouraged each other to starve.
Their intakes were so low.
If they could eat that little,
Why couldn’t I?
She convinced me I was eating too much,
Way too much.
The monster came to life,
And this time she wasn’t going to leave so easily.
The first time I restricted
Was after my seventeenth birthday,
Most likely once school got out in June.
It was pretty easy, to be honest.
My mom didn’t notice if I missed breakfast,
And no one cared if I missed lunch.
Best of all, I didn’t feel hungry.
If I ate,
She would whisper in my ear,
Yelling at me for my mistake,
Laughing at me for my weakness.
Her taunts bounced off the walls of my room,
And my stomach was full from her poison.
Every time I weighed myself,
She slithered out of her dark cave,
Shaking her black head, tapping her foot,
Her red eyes glowing—
I couldn’t please the monster,
But I was her slave,
And I was determined to try.
The first time I had the chance to ask for help
Was at my physical that summer.
My doctor noticed how I had thirty pounds,
But she thought it was over the course of a year.
My mom was slightly concerned,
But I shook my head and wore my mask of a mile,
Insisting I was fine.
I was fine.
The first time I became truly worried
Wouldn’t be the last.
It was just a few days before a half marathon.
I’d been training over the summer to run in it,
Now I was concerned not about my time,
But about passing out in the middle of the race.
Then everyone would know.
I knew I wasn’t eating enough deep down,
And I knew I should eat more if I was running so much,
But the monster shook her finger at me,
Laughing at my foolishness.
Somehow, I pushed that food down my tight throat
And my stomach swelled with self-disgust,
Yet that meal was the tiny bit of fuel I needed;
It was what stopped the engine from breaking down.
The first time I asked for help
Was that winter.
A best friend, unable to see me suffer no longer
Confided in the school counselor.
Fear snaked through the hallways
As I followed her into the office
And insisted that I was fine.
She said that my mom would find out anyway,
And I left with a dread weighing me down.
But only a week later,
I was at home and it as Christmas Eve.
I sat on the maroon rocker in my living room,
Guilt butterflies swarming in my belly
Because I ate a cookie.
I realized something that night,
And it was that nobody,
Not even me,
Should feel guilty for eating a cookie,
Especially when it was all I’d eaten so far.
I realized that night
That I didn’t want to live like this any longer.
The blue of my hollow eyes was a dull gray,
And my mask was beginning to break.
I was down to a weight I hadn’t been at
Since I was eleven years old.
But dizziness overwhelmed me
Every time I stood up,
And my sleep was constantly interrupted
By the monster who’d wasn’t my friend
Like she had tried to tell me.
My friends were avoiding me, or so it seemed,
My mom’s concerned yells echoed in the kitchen every morning,
And my siblings teased me for my sudden pickiness around food.
Who had I become?
The monster, who now lingered at my side, clinging to my bony arm,
Whispered her usual insults in my ear.
But I hardly noticed;
I was no longer the girl trudging down the school hallway,
But a ghost on the other side of the girl,
I emailed my guidance counselor that night,
And I told her the truth:
I wasn’t fine.
The first time I felt like I was in recovery
Was a few months after treatment began.
I had started therapy in March,
But it took me some time to get used to the idea of
Not depriving my body of what it needed to live.
My face refilled with life,
And my blue eyes sparkled in unison with a real laugh.
Finally, I was learning to nourish my body
Instead of hurt it,
And my body was forgiving me.
The first time I no longer felt alone
Was when I discovered the recovery community on Instagram.
Instead of encouraging each other to starve,
These girls posted perfect pictures of plates filled with food,
Fruits and meats and cheeses and oatmeal,
Savory foods that I longed to eat again,
But had become forbidden in my world.
I was not alone.
These girls struggled, and they fought,
And many of them…
If they could,
Why couldn’t I?
Their intakes were high,
And their smiles were real
And I longed to be like them.
I pushed the monster away from me, and she stumbled backwards,
Shocked at my behavior.
Energy shot from my toes to my head,
And I became determined to kick Her out of my life,
This time for good.
The first time I loved my body
Was the summer before my sophomore year of college.
I had survived my freshman year with its ups and downs,
Making few friends but growing fast,
Like a dandelion that springs to life at the end of a dreary winter.
I could eat what I wanted,
And the monster was very weak,
A shriveled thing lying in the back of my mind.
Sometimes her voice would be loud,
And her shouts would make it to my ears,
And to say I didn’t listen at times
Would be a lie.
But much like the girls I found on Instagram,
I fought on.
I admired my body in the mirror,
My long torso, muscular thighs and generally athletic build
No longer seemed like a curse
But rather a blessing.
I was grateful for a body that carried me on runs,
For running had become my greatest stress relief,
And running saved my life.
I recovered because to lose my ability to run
Scared me more than the calories in a chocolate chip cookie.
I flew through my town’s park trail, and my neighborhood,
Growing faster and stronger,
Pushing myself until my tan skin sparkled with my hard work.
I was learning to love myself, and all my flaws,
But more importantly,
I was learning to trust and love my body.
The first time I questioned recovery
Was only a few weeks ago.
I am now a sophomore in college,
I have EDNOS,
And I have a confession to make:
I’m no longer in love with my body.
I have been struggling for months,
And the monster has been gaining strength.
She is able to crawl around,
But her voice is strikingly loud most days,
And her words are equivalent to a knife slicing through my skin.
I have opened up more and more
To the girls on Instagram,
One woman in particular
Listens to my rants and validates my feelings.
Even though she is 4000 miles away,
She has encouraged me to seek help again.
She is strong and courageous,
And most of her past I can’t dare say I relate to,
Let alone imagine—
But one of her monsters is similar to mine,
And she has beat Him,
So I can beat Her,
Yes, I can,
And I am determined to do so.
For I long to be happy again,
In love with my body again,
Not following the orders of a ferocious beast
Who could care less about me.
I long to be
This is who I will become.
And the first time I can say I have recovered
I will throw a party.
Maybe I’ll be alone,
Or maybe I’ll celebrate with friends,
Even if they don’t know the real reason why.
I will eat foods I love,
Like cake and pizza and fruits,
And I will snap photos of my body as it is—
Because I will be in love with it,
Regardless of what I look like.
I will have killed the monster,
And she will lie on the battleground, bleeding a black substance,
Her monstrous blood will flush itself out of my body,
And she will eventually disintegrate.
I will take a gravestone,
And dump her shriveled body into a hole,
Then I will write on the gravestone:
“For the girl who thought she deserved to starve,
For the girl who hurt her body in ways she thought she never would,
For the girl who made promises she didn’t know she’d break,
For the girl who found life and happiness…
You, Monster, will not be missed.”