As far back as I can remember I was the object of ridicule. My shame started with overt acts of aggression: getting shoved on the bus as I walked to my seat, being slammed into walls in the crowded hallways. I never understood why though. I thought maybe it was my fault, maybe I wasn’t good enough. I tried everything to meet the expectations my peers had of me, but still I fell short.
Nikki, I’m here to help you. Just do what I ask, and I’ll make all your dreams come true. Hunger is a feeling, Nikki, thin is a skill. The choice is yours.
Each day starts the same. Wake up and head for the mirror. The list of flaws seems to never end, I can almost hear Her voice in my head.
In the past you have heard all of your teachers and parents talk about you. You are “so mature”, “intelligent”, “14 going on 45”, and you possess “so much potential”. Where has that gotten you, may I ask? Absolutely no where! You are not perfect, you do not try hard enough, further more you waste your time on thinking, and talking with friends, and drawing! Such acts of indulgence shall not be allowed in the future.
Your friends do not understand you. They are not truthful. In the past, when the insecurity has quietly gnawed away at your mind, and you asked them, “Do I look….fat?” and they answered “Oh no, of course not” you knew they were lying! Only I tell the truth. Your parents, let’s not even go there! You know that they love you, and care for you, but part of that is just that they are your parents and are obligated to do so. I shall tell you a secret now: deep down inside themselves, they are disappointed with you. Their daughter, the one with so much potential, has turned into a fat, lazy, and undeserving girl.
Her voice has become my own. I am no longer my own. My thoughts, emotions, actions, and reactions belong to Her now. After three years of living in my head, she decided to make it her home and what could I do to stop her anyway? I was the one who invited her in.
I was 14 when my disorder first started. I wasn’t ever too concerned with my appearance. I divided all my attention, focus, and dedication between two things: soccer and painting. I quit soccer in the eighth grade. My legs were too fat for spandex. I knew because earlier that day I had to weigh myself during my annual sports physical. I stared blankly in disbelief at the numbers, but they just stared back, never changing they stared past my eyes, and into the inner depths of my soul. I can’t even remember the last time I picked up a paint brush.
She doesn’t allow hobbies. Counting is my only habit. Numbers have consumed my life. I keep busy counting calories, and charting my weight. The numbers become both friend and enemy, and the frenzied thoughts pray for them to be lower than yesterday, last night, etc.
I had to sacrifice my friends for Her because she made me choose. She told me she was the only one I could ever trust. Although I appeared to be isolated, I was never truly alone. She never left my side, just like she promised.
Progress is pain.
That fall, I started my freshman year at an all-girls Catholic high school, and kept chiseling away at myself, trying to purify my soul through the transformation of my body. By October, I was subsisting on almost nothing — about 250 calories a day. I was still very new to this lifestyle. I had spent the summer filling my journal with magazine clippings of models and bikinis I wanted to be able to wear.
I was still an amateur. I had entered a world I never knew existed. Halfway through my freshman year I started doing research. I found websites for girls like me, girls who needed to lose weight. I made a lot of friends who helped me with my struggle. There were rules that had to be followed – guidelines to help us reach our goal, perfection. Every website I visited had the same rules posted on the home page.
1) If you aren’t thin you aren’t attractive.
2) Being thin is more important than being healthy.
3) You must buy clothes, cut your hair, take laxatives, starve yourself, and do anything to make yourself look thin.
4) Thou shall not eat without feeling guilty.
5) Thou shall not eat fattening food without punishing oneself afterwards.
6) Thou shall count calories and restrict intake accordingly.
7) What the scale says is the most important thing.
8) Losing weight is good/gaining weight is bad.
9) You can never be too thin.
10) Being thin and not eating are signs of true will power and success.
These were the rules I was to live by, and I did for three long years. I went from weighing 121 to a grand total of 87 pounds. I had been in and out of hospitals. Hiding the disease was no longer an option. It was obvious.
The doctors tried reasoning with me, “You’re beautiful, but you are wasting away with every second that passes.” They asked me questions, “Have you eaten anything today?”
There was no need to respond, no answer was required; the consultant already knew the answer. I hadn’t eaten that day. I hadn’t eaten that week. I hadn’t eaten much of anything for years. I was 17 years old, and I was dying.
It’s dark now. The sun set hours ago. I must have passed out again because I am still in the woods behind my house. I go here often to escape reality for a little while. It’s so peaceful and serene. I love the quiet. There’s no questions, no accusations, no ridicule.
Don’t kid yourself Nikki. You have become your own worst enemy.
Then comes Her. She breaks through my thoughts before I can over-think anything. There are no secrets. She knows it all. After all, she is me. I have grown tired of her voice. Her intruding nature drains my energy. She feeds on my fear: fear of losing her, of being alone.
It’s been weeks since the last time I had anything to eat.
I tried to ignore the agony of the hunger pains. I’m trying all the tricks: coffee, gum, I even went for a run; nothing satisfied the burning desire within my aching body.
Ignoring her I opened the fridge door, and I caved. I ate, and ate, and ate. With every bite I took she grew angrier.
You are throwing all your hard work away, and for what? If you eat, it’s all over. There’s no going back. Take a look at your stomach. Do you really want it to get worse?
She tried reasoning with me, playing back my insecurities like a broken record, but nothing phased me.
My love, you are stronger than this. It’s not too late to turn back. This isn’t what you want. Trust me.
I couldn’t stop. I ate everything in sight: potato salad, brownies, an apple, leftover macaroni from last night’s dinner, chicken nuggets from I don’t know when, fries, yogurt, pop tarts… the list never ends.
Nikki Elizabeth look at yourself! For Christ’s sake you have lost control.
I’m scared now. Her words cut through my trance. My actions are catching up with me; reality is setting in.
Are you done?
I sit in silence waiting for her to lecture me, but this time she doesn’t She doesn’t say anything at all. This terrifies me. Has she left me? I stare at the tub of potato salad which had tumbled off the counter and exploded on the tiled floor – what have I done?! I stand to run to the bathroom, but collapse. I ate too much. I crawl across the kitchen floor, and drag myself to the bathroom.
Minutes pass before I scrape up the courage to life my head enough to see my reflection. I stare in the mirror. My reflection stares back, almost as if it were mocking me.
Do you see what you did? I never left you. I kept my promise, but you just had to have it your way. Are you happy now? Is this what you wanted? Who will you turn to now? You have no one. Hear that… silence…
My head fell in shame.
Coward! That’s what you are. You are the only one to blame for this, and you can’t even look at the results of your actions. Look in the mirror. Do it. Do you honestly think you can live with yourself after this?
Tears are streaming down my face. For the first time in years I looked in the mirror without her saying a word. I don’t even recognize the face staring back at me. Her complexion is ghostly pale; her lips have lost their color, but are slightly blue. Her cheekbones poke through her freckled skin. Her hair has faded and is ratty; some chunks have even fallen out. She couldn’t bring herself to smile. She looked like an angel who had just stepped off the battlefield. Broken but beautiful.
She is you. You made her like this. No one will ever love you. I was the only one who ever did, but you couldn’t even hang out to that love, could you? You let it slip through those stick fingers of yours. You are worthless. I asked one simple thing of you, and you failed.
She is growing stronger in my pain. Her words are gnawing at my soul like hungry wolves. I lean over the toilet as I have done a million other times. It’s still silent. I feel weightless. I open my eyes, feeling satisfied with myself. She will proud of me.
Still nothing… I glance down at the ground below me, and find myself looking down on my shattered, broken bones.