Beep… beep… beep…The heart monitor was too slow. I stared out the window at the sunny brick wall, my only indication of the weather in the world outside that proceeded on without me. I sat upright in the thin sheets of my bed with the plastic covering underneath. The nurse came in with my tray of food, closing the door and the curtains surrounding it as she left. How had I gotten here?
I knew how. It started in gym class, when we began counting calories in our daily food “just to be aware” of what we were eating. I was always a good student; this was no different, I just wanted to be perfect in all that I did. What was wrong with that? So I logged my food, making sure that I stayed within my calorie budget. How proud my gym teacher must have been!
I savored the feeling I got whenever the number on the scale was less than yesterday; it was working! I felt powerful; being able to do something so many others struggled with. I looked scornfully at my friends’ lunches. Didn’t they know how much they were eating? They began to ask questions;
Is that all you’re having?
Where’s your lunch…?
I knew where I was headed, but I wanted the thigh-gap, the stick legs, and the tiny waist. I wanted what I felt I’d never had; beauty.
So I continued on with my strict ways, and continued to lose weight, priding myself on my progress. But I always wanted more. It was a different kind of greed, where you wanted less and less, and always had too much. The less food the better, which worked, for a time. My efforts were rewarded with yet more proof; incessant shivering, jutting bones, bruises. I would critique myself in front of the mirror the way one would denigrate a work of art; this needs to be corrected, that needs to be reduced. These weren’t my eyes anymore; they belonged to the parasite inside my mind.
Anorexia is a sneaky thing; it creeps into your mind like some brand new idea, seeming so welcoming and positive.
You never even notice the changes it begins to make in your thoughts; you learn to add up numbers in your head and read a nutrition label, but that’s all it gives you. Mostly it takes; bone density, heart muscle, happiness, friendship. Everyday is a struggle against a disease that can’t be measured or graphed, but it’s there, slowly killing you. Yet, all great battles must have a victor; I was no exception.
Pound by pound, meal by meal, I regained myself. I began to live again, not just exist, and discovered who I was, even when I thought I had a clear picture all along. I remembered my favorite ice cream flavor, and the joy of apple cider on an Autumn day. I discovered my love for tea, and my passion for cooking. Anorexia has taught me things I could’ve never taught myself; how to accept my flaws, be gentle with myself, reward small accomplishments, and acknowledge my success. I evolved into someone I had always wanted to be, but had not allowed myself to become for fear of being “wrong.”
I have grown into myself the way the flowers in the spring must push through the layers of ice and snow. It was not easy, it was not always enjoyable, and at times, I thought I’d never break through that cold barrier. But, as I have learned, life is not easy; it has secrets that few ever discover, and lessons that are difficult to understand. I’m not going to say that I’m glad this happened to me, or wish it on others. Rather, I’m glad in what it has transformed me into being; myself.
Margaret blogs as run-margie-run on Tumblr.