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What Happens When You Make Friends With 'Empty'


Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

I don’t really think I understood the word “empty” until last year.

I didn’t understand that “empty” could be a state of being. I didn’t understand that “totally empty” could exist right alongside “absolutely full.” I didn’t know that after a certain threshold, the degrees of emptiness cease to matter. I quit rocking back and forth between full and empty. After a while, “full” vanished from my life. I just went along until I felt it. Empty again. It’s that same ache that burrows into the pit of my stomach and spreads through the marrow in my bones.

I didn’t realize I was courting a darkness that was deeper than I could understand.

I didn’t realize I was making friends with Empty.

I made Empty a bed. I invited Empty in. I let Empty live alongside me, day in and day out.

I didn’t know.

I wish I’d known.

When Empty is your friend, you’re scared to sit still. You’re scared to relax. If Empty is a good friend — and Empty tells you over and over again that it’s your very best friend — you want to believe Empty wants the best for you.

Empty paints pictures of a spring breeze. Of balloons floating through the clouds. Dancing and loving, unhindered by your feet or your “too heavy” skin. The way Empty tells it, you aren’t a person anymore. You’re a collection of “could be’s” — a bundle of wonderful dreams and possibilities. Empty spins you around the room and you laugh. That sounds beautiful, doesn’t it?

When Empty is your friend, Empty starts to take up the space you used to count as sacred. Empty lives in silence. Empty gets to stay warm under the covers watching you shiver and drag to the harsh outside. Empty is endless counting and unending lists. Empty whispers, asking for more and more and more…

But Empty reminds you of that breeze. The balloon. The dancing. Empty sings beautiful songs explaining how it will all matter in the end. Empty promises it will find a place of its own just as soon as it helps you reach that elusive dream. But… Empty doesn’t do dishes. Empty doesn’t buy groceries or pitch in with rent. Empty isn’t a good roommate. When you stop to think, it doesn’t really seem like Empty cares.

I don’t let Empty sing songs anymore.

Empty isn’t gone. It still lurks in the basement bedroom with the too-big mirror on the wall and the freshly made bed. I invited Empty in. I let Empty seduce me. I’m ashamed, but Empty is a part of me now.

If I could go back, I’d like to believe I’d make a different choice. Slam the door. Lock the windows. Hide away until Empty gave up knocking and went looking for love elsewhere. I’d like to think, given another chance, that’s what I’d do.

But… I don’t really know, do I?

If I’m honest with myself, I sometimes want to be lost in that summer breeze Empty promised. I want to dance and love without a second thought. I want the wonder that comes from floating through the clouds…. Weightless. Free. Untethered. Empty.

But, Empty didn’t tell me the whole story.

Empty didn’t tell me how scary it is to not feel the ground under your feet. How, as you begin to float, you remember you aren’t a breeze. You’re a person. Balloons never come back.

When you make friends with Empty, the possibilities seem endless.

But, when you make friends with Empty, it’s far too easy to float away.

When you make friends with Empty, you realize…

You are Empty.

(And if you aren’t careful, that’s all you’ll be.)

You can follow this journey on Hello My Name Is.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure.