To the Eating Disorder That Followed Me Through High School
To the feet that clenched the scale in glory with every pound that melted away.
To the reflection in the mirror that silently screamed “worthless,” compelling me to believe beauty was a mere 6 stone on the scale.
To the warped voice inside my head once so powerful, drowning out all family cries to “just eat.”
I have all but 11 words for you: this is not my obituary we’re writing today; it’s yours.
I’ll admit, I’m not proud I surrendered three years of my life as a frail puppet under your mastered hand. I’m even more embarrassed that at 67 pounds, my own mother spoon fed me mashed potatoes at a public restaurant, having refused to eat them myself. But as sick and manipulative as your ways were, I still would like to thank you.
Thank you, you may ask? For what? Bradycardia plaguing my heart? How about gaining 50 pounds in recovery? I’m sure she loved that, you thought. I’m not going to lie, every fork I’ve picked up, every calorie I’ve consumed and every ounce of every pound I’ve gained has been terrifying and sometimes still is. But each day I choose recovery, I find more strength from within and manage to further loosen the strings you use to toy with my life.
To be honest, I don’t understand you, but I know myself enough that I meant it the first time I quivered to my father, “I want to get better.” I vividly remember his fearful suspicion of my weight loss, forcing me to hover on the scale for what he didn’t realize was the fifth time that day. I thought after rigorous therapy, family support and copious amounts of food, you would disappear entirely.
Yet here I am on my 18th birthday (weight stable for practically a year), still slightly anxious to eat a slice of carrot cake with my family. I know you don’t like carrot cake, but I do and I ate every bite, so ha! That’s the thing I learned about triumph.
There is no such thing as “recovered,” just like there is no such thing as perfect. I recognize recovery will be a lifelong process I must endure and with every bite, I’m attempting to take back control of my own body and inner thoughts.
But you of all people know that is easier said than done. Because the second I even consider tossing my fully packed lunch in the school garbage can, your voice comes raging in with full force, tempting me to do it. You got a tight grip on my strings again in my graduating year and managed to knot them with anxiety and depression.
Sitting in my vice principal’s office for the first time in four years, you made me feel terrified to even go to class. “Karley, your teachers are concerned.” I know. “If you don’t hand in your assignments, you can’t graduate with your peers.” I know. “Please talk to me so I can help you. This isn’t like you.” In that moment, I realized my VP was right.
We are not the same person. I can’t meet your expectations to be sickly thin, and I don’t want to. I want you to know I completed five assignments within one week and walked across that stage to receive my high school diploma. Maybe my marks weren’t as high as I had planned, but for once I was truly proud of myself.
And so, I think it’s best we say goodbye. I’m not your puppet anymore. I’m taking what I learned from you and starting a new chapter of my life at university next year. I don’t know what challenges will arise on my plate, but I have faith in me to pull through, and sometimes that is enough.
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If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.