Lovesickness and Rice Cakes

I remember being so in love with my disease. I wrote her a million love letters in a little pink diary bookmarked with a red ribbon. I specifically remember one day in late March, standing in line at the snack bar in the school cafeteria, blurting out “I wish I could have the eating disorder without the depression” to my best friend. I don’t remember how she reacted. She probably just laughed it off, but I was serious.

I remember depression always being the devil on my shoulder and the eating disorder being the angel. “Don’t eat” she cooed. You could hardly even tell where her throat had been scratched from her pointy white nails. “No! Eat! Eat yourself to death then punish yourself!” depression boomed. I suppose when you’re caught in between the barrel of two guns, it’s easy to rationalize that one bullet might hurt a little less than than the other. Love causes people to be blind to all the faults of a person. Maybe it does the same with sickness.

When I was younger I’d spend hours online reading blogs and forums where the skinniest girls taught other skinny girls how to get even skinnier. I had hidden food stashes around my room where I stored all the candy my mom gave me on Holidays that I’d sooner die than so much as smell. I hid a little glass scale under my old stuffed animals in my bedroom closet which I only pulled out late at night, once everyone had drifted off to happier worlds. I put my journal inside my textbooks and during class would read and reread the notes I’d taken every day for weeks: Current weight. Highest weight. Lowest weight. Goal weight. Anorexia was my dirty little secret, and I cherished her like a child. I loved finding sneaky ways to drop my weight into conversation and hear the worries and pleas of my friends. I loved the satisfaction of seeing everyone around me grow up while I just got smaller. Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels: A common phrase in the world of eating disorders that I truly took to heart.

Throughout the years of my illness I’ve had several people come to me for “advice.” They’d ask me how I did it, knowing very well that I was sick. They’d ask me for tips and tricks to avoid eating around family and friends. They’d ask me my opinion on throwing up, or laxatives, versus simply not eating. They’d ask me how to curb their cravings and how many calories I thought were in the chicken parm and green beans their moms had made for dinner. On my bad days I’d give them the information they were looking for. On my even worse days I’d stay silent, not because I cared for their health but because I didn’t want to give up my secret. I wanted to be the skinniest girl in the world.

What I’d say to those people now is this: I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I helped you in your unhealthy quests to lose weight, but I’m even more sorry that you got to a point where you felt that you needed to ask someone who was dying for advice on how to get the illness that was killing them. I’m sorry that you, too, thought you could get the eating disorder without the depression and I’m sorry that I didn’t know enough to stop you. I’m sorry that I loved being sick more than I loved you.

I think, to a certain degree, I’m still in love with my disease. I see the faults and I know that it’s wrong but I still find myself praying to hear her sweet whispers in my ear. I still find myself wondering if the (exactly) 210 calories in those California rolls were worth it. Like really, truly worth it. I find myself begging the universe for the strength to practice again what I once thought was self control. The thing about eating disorders is they don’t exist without the depression. You don’t get the weight loss without the self hatred. You don’t get the body you always wanted without the hair loss, the mood swings, the lack of focus, the organ damage… You don’t get to just get skinny and have your world turn back into sunshine. Mental illness doesn’t just turn off when you’re done with it. Once you’ve accepted a life of sickness, there’s no turning back.

Please, eat.

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week takes place between February 26 – March 4 in 2017.

Take action against eating disorders

Take the first step to recovery with this free online screening tool

Find a support group in your area

Toolkits for parents, educators, and coaches/athletic trainers

Information for parents, family, and friends

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NEDA Instant Message Helpline

NEDA Telephone Helpline: (800) 931-2237

NEDA Crisis Text Helpline: text “NEDA” to 741741

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The Illusion of Community

This isn’t a nice post, and it’s not about those who we’ve already lost. It’s about why we’ve lost them and how to keep from losing more. Thank you to the many people who helped me write this for your support and your points/opinions, many of which I pulled from. I hope those of you who do read this, understand where it comes from and why it needed to be said. Nothing can be done about those we’ve lost, but we can prevent losing more.

*UPDATE: I posted this on Facebook but for those of you that are finding this through another means, I’ll comment here, too. I’d like to make something as clear as I possibly can right now: This post was not written as a hate piece against Acton-Boxborough or to bash any particular group of people, including the teachers and counseling staff of AB. I was trying very hard NOT to refer to any specific situations and keep it as general as I could. I recognize that I didn’t do the best job at making that clear in the piece, but I’m a 20 year old college student venting on the internet… I can’t be expected to have the accuracy of the New York Times and the wonderful thing about wordpress is it always lets me go back and edit!!! I never expected anyone other than my friends to even read it let alone for it to blow up the way that it did, but I wanted to thank everyone who read it and messaged me today, and also apologize to anyone who may have misread the post or my intentions. There are quite a few people at AB that I love dearly, and I hope they know who they are (apart from those that I’ve already spoken with today). The fact that SO many people connected with this piece and told me that it was exactly how they felt is a huge sign that something is wrong. I hope you can all see this piece as a whole instead of just the little pieces of it that you may not like or agree with.

Probably most importantly: I cannot stress enough how much this is about loss as a WHOLE and not any specific person. I know with the timing, it may seem like it is about the two most recent losses in particular, but it is not in any way about those people or their experiences, as I do not know their situations and would never make assumptions. This was written through my own eyes about my own experiences and those of my friends.

(Before getting started, I urge you to take a look at this post, which is the one I originally wrote two nights ago about AB’s most recent losses. This post is not about those people, but is written through my own eyes about my own experiences and those of my friends.)

 

I know you’re not supposed to try to place blame in times of loss, it isn’t my first time around ya know.. I don’t think anyone should blame themselves and it isn’t any one individual or group of individuals’ fault, but all of ours. Acton-Boxborough has failed as a community and whether you played a role in that or not, that’s for you to decide. I’m not writing this to call anyone out, but to point out how wronged we have all been by the place that is supposed to be our home. I’m sure I’ve already got some people mad, especially those of you posting about how it’s such a beautiful community and how you’re so thankful to be apart of it, but bear with me because I do have a point to this.

First I’d like to point out that I literally just said “it isn’t my first time around.” I graduated less than three years ago and in that time alone have seen at least eight people in our community die, most of which being just in the past year and not including the (at least) three I saw during my time in high school. These people were my closest friends, my classmates, people I didn’t like and people I never knew, members of what you would call my “community.” In most of these cases, if not all, the cause of these deaths were either some form of overdose or suicide. I know right now I’m just relaying information most of you probably already know but it’s important to remember this. All these people in the same community, most just in the past few months, and all for the same reasons.

Second I’d like to backtrack to those people who are posting about how beautiful of a community Acton is and how it shaped us into who we are and how we should all be so thankful to live in a place that is so warm and welcoming. I will say this: you’re right about one thing. It did shape us into who we are. Unfortunately for a lot of us, instead of shaping us into college-level sports playing superstars it shaped us into suicidal balls of self-hatred who turn to drugs or other forms of self-destruction to cope with how we didn’t turn out as great as the rest of you. Because that is what Acton does to you. It drills into your head that if you’re not academically inclined or some kind of jock, you’re not as important. You’re not as good. You’re not as worthy. We all had different high school experiences, obviously, but if you don’t remember the immense pressure everyone felt junior and senior year to get into a great college and do better on your SATs than the kid who was mean to you in chemistry because you didn’t understand a question, or the girls crying in history class because they got less than a 95% on an exam, or the people that would literally drink during school because they’d just given up so long ago, then you’re lying. Do you remember being called a fat slut every day in junior high and growing up into an anorexic whore? Probably not, but do you remember the girl who did? Probably not, either. I bet you would if she died. Maybe that wasn’t fair. But do you remember going to your counselor and asking for help because your parents wouldn’t listen, and all they would do was call your parents? Do you remember detentions for getting into screaming matches in one of the common areas with someone who did something awful to you? Do you remember the whole main lobby being blocked off frequently and all the ambulances and all the hospitals and all the people who wanted to die? Do you at least remember seeing or hearing about any of this? Probably not.

I’ve said before, it is beautiful how the members of AB come together in times of loss. It’s always nice to see everyone’s kind words, and it’s clear that most of the sadness is genuine. What I can’t understand, though, is where you all were when these people were alive? Why didn’t you have any kind words then? In one case in particular I know no one had heard from or about this person in years, but you all had plenty to say about how great he was once the chance to make a Facebook status popped up. I know most of you people. I know most of you don’t mean it in the way I’m making it sound. I know most of you genuinely care and are deeply saddened by this constant news of death, but that doesn’t change the fact that no one appreciated these people until they were gone. If AB is such a beautiful and warm community, its members should feel welcomed and appreciated while they’re alive. Its members shouldn’t feel like they need to turn to drugs or suicide to feel better. If we had such a strong community, we wouldn’t have lost six members in the last year.

Acton-Boxborough does an excellent job at raising students, but not necessarily humans. It’s great at staying at the top academically but has no problem letting a few kids slip through the cracks. Have any of you noticed, since leaving AB, that other high schools and colleges make it a point to reach out to their students in times of tragedy? All those communities make counseling readily available, while AB stays silent apart from the occasional email to the parents or maybe a Facebook group. Teachers in some schools in the district were specifically instructed not to mention any of the losses from the past few weeks. Kids still in high school have told me that they haven’t had a single teacher say a word about any of it. How are you expected to go into school the next morning after finding out one of your friends killed himself or overdosed on Heroin, and then have everyone act as if nothing happened? How are you supposed to just act like nothing happened? Lucky for you, AB is great at teaching you to shove it all under the rug and keep up with your studies.

I know it’s scary, and parents don’t want to think of their kids as being depressed, and the school has other concerns, too. I know that it’s not a fun topic to discuss and it is different for everyone, but it’s such an easy thing to prevent. It’s so easy to teach people to love themselves if you start right away, if you start in what’s supposed to be their “home.” Obviously not everyone is going to be happy and love themselves, but significantly more people would. High school and college are supposed to be the greatest times of our lives, and there are people who aren’t even living long enough to find out if that’s true. Those of us who are still living are just going day by day and waiting for a text message to see who’s going to be next. People are really scared right now. It’s such a small town and we’ve lost so much, and it seems we only have each other to rely on and most of us don’t even like each other very much. It shouldn’t be that way. Our school and our community should be there as means of support, especially in times like this. Our school and our community should be actively working towards a solution and prevention rather than just brushing it off and moving on with the school year. Finally, I’ll end this incredibly long post filled with run-on sentences and rants and nonsense with this: Those of you who felt at home at AB, I am happy for you. I’m thankful that you’re one less person that feels like these people who have died did, like most of the people I know do. But please remember, a large portion of what you call your community does not feel a part of that community. A large portion of the people you know feel alone, and helpless, and cannot call that place their home. We can’t end depression or suicide, but we certainly can’t do it by ourselves, and Facebook statuses don’t help anyone after they’ve already died. We don’t need to lose anyone else.

From a “Former” Anorexic

I know that this is the bottom of the barrel when it comes to societal problems in today’s world, but it’s just something that I felt like writing about. And it’s been a while since I’ve written so please cut me some slack. I just stepped out of the most beautiful shower at the house that I’m sitting for this weekend (for Christine of course). It has three shower heads – one of them detachable. I used sugar scrub shampoo and body wash, tea tree conditioner, and when I got out I used tea tree/stress relief lotion across every inch of my body, as well as some detangling leave-in conditioner. I decided that I deserved to feel soft for once, even if it was just on the outside. After all this I thought to myself “Oh, I have to tell Christine how amazing her shower was and how great I felt afterwards.” And then I saw a scale.

Every single voice in my head shouted “no!” “don’t do it!” “you’ve made so much progress!” “you know you’re 103 you weighed yourself at home last week!” “DON’T DO IT!!” But I did it. Now what I wanted to tell Christine was “Your bathroom is perfect, except that damn scale! It must be broken because I refuse to believe I weigh that much! Haha!” 

For those of you who have never met me, I know you’re thinking “oh my god how could she think this?” “This girl must be insane” or the few of you whom I’ve never spoken to but we have oddly strange emotional connections via twitter/tumblr/whatever (you know who you are) may be thinking “I know she’s half serious but I can tell she’s also kidding so it’s also funny in a dark way but it can’t be THAT serious if she’s joking about it.” (Shoutout to you guys for mostly getting it).

For those of you that have met me in person, I know that you’re reading this thinking “How dare she worry about her weight?” “How dare she say she weighs too much when I weigh more than her?” “If she thinks she’s fat then what the hell does that make me?”

Those of you that know me pretty well would be reading this thinking “Oh God, here we go again.” “We better comment and argue and tell her she looks skinny.” (please don’t) “She needs to get with reality and realize she looks fine and we’re all so sick of this.” “Might as well not say anything because we know nothing we say would make a difference.” (Shoutout to you guys too, because you’re right. It wouldn’t).

Anyway I guess I have multiple points in writing this absolute train-wreck of a ….whatever this is, rant? Post? Nonsense? Whatever. My first point is that when someone has an eating disorder, even if it hasn’t flared up in YEARS, it is still there. Forever. There is not and never will be a point in which you will be able to say “oh I thought you’d gotten over this by now.” Eating Disorders are like alcoholism. They are addictions and recovery comes with steps and relapses and pain. They are things that you will deal with for the rest of your life. I don’t mean for this to be morbid, of course you get better, and of course it gets easier, but it’s still something that stays with you in the back of your mind forever. Three years ago you couldn’t even get me to eat half a slice of pizza and now I can down a whole medium pizza from Dom’s by myself without a second thought, but that’s not always the case.

There are days that it hits me. Hard. There are weeks that I go without eating after one mistaken step on the scale to see a horrifying number like 109. As I said at the beginning, those of you who do not know me or do not understand eating disorders are NOT going to see the problem with this. I’m aware that 109 is very low. I’m aware that the average healthy weight for my height (5’2″) is 120. I’m aware that most people my age/height weigh more than that, which is NORMAL because it is UNHEALTHY to weigh that little. What you’re NOT aware of is that I have never allowed myself to weigh more than 110. What you’re not aware of is the absolute terror that rips through my body seeing a number like that. What you’re not aware of is that I used to wake up with notes around my house telling me that “under 100 wasn’t an option, dear. You look terrible,” and I believed them. What you’re not aware of is that 109 pounds was enough to absolutely shatter me. What you’re not aware of is that 109 had me collapsed on the floor in a hyperventilating mess. All of this, after being in recovery for three years, over just 109 pounds. But hey – 109 pounds is a full twenty more pounds than what I was at four years ago when I would practically fly away with every light breeze, and even then I thought it was too much. Even 89 was too much.

And those of you sitting there reading this thinking “ugh I’m so jealous she weighs that little,” and “how dare she sit there and bitch about that when I have it way worse because I weigh more!” I’d like to personally shout out a massive FUCK YOU. Eating disorders are impossible to understand until you live through one. The triggers and the unnatural, warped perspective of ourselves and our weight are entirely out of our control. I suppose that’s a good segue into my final point. You CANNOT sit there and tell me that you are jealous of my 109 when that’s closest to my highest weight I’ve ever reached. You CANNOT sit here and tell me that I’m being dramatic or that I look fine and you look “so much worse.” That does not help me, it infuriates me. What helps me and others like me is simple support. Don’t try to argue with us or force us to eat. Just support us and help us through it the best that you can. If you don’t understand how to speak to someone with an eating disorder, check the many links I’ve shared over the years. Message me and I would be glad to share some more with you, or explain it to you myself and answer any questions, at any time.

And you know what else? That doesn’t help YOU to think like that. You’re jealous of a girl who cannot breathe when she breaks three digits? You’re jealous of a girl whose hair has been falling out since she was fifteen and whose heart can hardly handle a flight of stairs without feeling like it’s going to explode and who can most likely never have children just because you want a tiny body like her? And in case you weren’t aware, there’s a lovely little thing called Body Dysmorphia, which means that I don’t see the same body that you see. My (and people like me)’s brains do not work on the same level as yours. We see things differently and there’s no talking us out of it. The notion of “well if you’re fat then what am I” is absolute nonsense, because we see ourselves as something we are not, and we see you as our beautiful friend who we would do anything to be able to function like.

I guess all I’m really asking is please stop attacking me when I say I don’t feel like I look okay. Please stop commenting on my pictures telling me you’re jealous of my body. When I come to you about the panic attack I had over gaining three pounds, please don’t just brush it off with “well I’ve gained ten….” Please just be thoughtful of other people, especially those with disorders that you cannot and will not ever understand. When someone asks for help, they want help, someone to listen, not just to be told “well listen my life is worse than yours so…” Especially when it comes to situations like these. Gaining three pounds could be a minor setback for some people or it could be enough to end someone’s life. Please take eating disorders seriously and please take me seriously.

Again – I’d like to point out that I am always here for any questions/ help anyone may need with not only eating problems, but any form of mental illnesses. Even if we’ve never spoken before in our lives, please don’t hesitate to message me and I will tell you everything I know.

If you read all of this then thank you and I appreciate you more than you know.