TW: Eating Disorders.
Another tiny pair of jeans, folded neatly, added to the pile. Tiny shirts, tiny bras and knickers... tiny, tiny, tiny. How a human being was supposed to fit into these things was beyond me. But then, the human that fit into these clothes was dead.
I looked up across the room to the mirror. The reflection that looked back at me was sometimes alien, sometimes entirely me. I barely knew her, yet I knew her very well.
I picked up the final pair of jeans and folded them, but my fingers got caught in a rip. Not a rip... a cut. A cut running along the inner thigh. I closed my eyes, tears threatening.
The voice made me freeze. I took a breath.
“Hey. Look at me.”
I shook my head. The tears slid down my cheeks.
“Come on. Look at me. I’m not here to hurt you.”
I opened my eyes reluctantly. The reflection in the mirror was a ghost. Pale, grey skin; limp, long hair; skeletal features on the brink of death. I bit my lip almost hard enough to make it bleed, almost reopening the scar that had been healed for a long time.
“You’re stronger than I was.”
“I know...” I held the jeans in my shaking hands, and let out a shaky breath. “I know. But you nearly killed me.”
“I said I’m sorry for that.” She held my gaze. Her body was slender, beautiful, but in a gothic, Tim Burton kind of way. She was sick. She was almost dead. “Perfection is impossible to achieve.”
“You don’t say. Perfection for you was death. You’re sick. You were sick.”
“We were sick.”
“No, YOU were sick! You nearly killed me! You got rid of everything I held close! I almost lost my family, my friends – the ones who stuck around fucking hated you! I lost relationships, and the few guys who did want me, they hated the way my fucking bones dug into them whenever we got intimate!”
“They couldn’t handle our perfection -”
“WE NEVER HAD PERFECTION!” I threw the jeans across the room. “HOW COULD THIS BE PERFECT!” She looked down, and picked the jeans up. She fingered the same cut that I did.
The night those jeans were cut from my body was the night I realised I was in the grip of something that was killing me. I felt light, airy, like an angel. I hadn’t eaten for days, and I was at that stage which Monks (I think) call Nirvana, where the body is so empty and clean that it’s heavenly. Except for the fact that I hadn’t been eating more than a ninety-calorie apple a week for several weeks. No – months. I hadn’t been eating for months. My friends were slowly starting to realise that I had an illness, but their attempts to help me eat, to get me to eat, were futile. Meals out were pathetic; they saw me putting food into napkins or bags under the table. They knew I ate and then went to the bathroom to throw it up almost immediately. They tried everything – they kept my bag away from me. They demanded tissues from me before the meal started. They backed me into corners where I had to keep food down, but it didn’t stop what I did at home, alone.
My family did much the same, too. My brother tried a hunger strike with me, but a week in and he’d fainted and started eating normally again. I told him he wasn’t ready to be perfect. He stopped speaking to me after that. My mum tried using massive plates to make it seem like she was giving me a sparrow portion of food, but I saw through it. I ate one mouthful and distracted them with whatever else I could. I fed most of it to the dog. My dad saw me feeding the dog and started putting the dog outside while we ate. I always found a way, though.
My boyfriend hated it. He snapped one night and told me that he couldn’t stand the way it felt when we had sex – in his words, it felt like he was fucking a skeleton. The curve of my hip-bones sticking through my skin made him feel sick, as did the bruises I got because there was no fat to protect them from anything. He hated the way his entire hand covered the entire of my shoulder, which at this point was a literal bone with no fat. He hated how sweat pooled in my collarbones, because there was no fat or muscle to push it out of the dip. He hated the gaunt look of my face. He hated that I didn’t see what I was doing, not just to myself, but to my family, to my friends, to everything and everyone that came into contact with me.
When the dog died because of the amount of food I was giving him, I stopped eating altogether out of pure grief... and I loved the results it gave me. The extra pounds off in the morning, the way my body got even smaller... it was bliss.
Then, one day, it all went wrong. Very wrong. My heart felt funny the whole day, and my kidneys were aching something fierce. I felt sick, more so than usual. My head was light – too light. I’d surpassed that heady happiness feeling and I’d gone down the hill to the other side. My jeans were the size of a small twelve-year-old's, but my shirt was baggy since the kid’s section of the shop I’d bought it from didn’t have nice age-appropriate designs. I hated it, especially since people always asked me why I wore such large clothing when I was obviously so thin, but I didn’t have a choice... anyway, I felt sick the entire day, and then as I was walking through the park, I collapsed.
I don’t remember anything, but my friends turned back to me and saw me on the floor. My organs were on the brink of failure. I had literally no energy left in my body to run anything except my heartbeat and shallow breathing. My friends called an ambulance, which was thankfully already there since there was some sporting event happening in the park. The paramedics tried to get a line into me, but there were no veins in my arms, or my underarms, or my neck. They had to cut my jeans open at the groin and go in there. When I came to in the hospital, I’d been out for a week. They’d fed me via an IV, stabilised me, and brought me back from the edge of death. I woke up to my mum, sleeping in a chair. I saw what I’d done to her. My dad came in, looking gaunt and sick. Both of them did. They looked ill. They looked old and dishevelled. They looked dead.
I saw a psychiatrist for a year or so after that event. I saw the damage I’d done to my body. I saw the issued I’d caused with my hormones, my bones, my periods, my hair, teeth, nails, skin, organs, brain... I started to eat again. I found that learning about my food, about the food groups and their energy, about how to play with them for different goals, helped me to tailor a diet that let me have all the control I needed without restricting.
I set my sights on a half-marathon, in the end. A goal of running it in two and a half hours gave me something to work towards. I needed to build muscle, eat for fuel, sleep well... I started going to the gym four times per week, working with a personal trainer who refused to weigh or measure me. Instead, we looked at my times on the treadmill, and how I felt. Some days, I felt sick and fat, other days, I felt lean and strong. But gradually, I noticed that my race times got faster, and it got easier to run 5km fast. I felt happier, my skin was glowing, I was strong.
I quickly found my jeans too tight, but the muscles in my thighs and glutes and core were like rocks – you could bounce a penny off them. I had to buy bigger clothes, but I was filling them out in ways that looked good. Guys checked me out in the streets, and my friends complimented me more and more. I felt amazing.
“You killed me.” Her voice in the mirror broke me out of my reverie. I was standing now, the jeans held out in front of me.
“You killed yourself the day they had to cut you out of jeans small enough to fit a pre-teen.” I licked my lips and sighed. “I’ve held onto these for so long... It’s time for them to go.”
“If you throw them out, you’ll... you’ll never...” she was struggling for something to say. She looked at me sadly. “I just wanted us to be perfect.”
“We were already perfect. I am perfect.” I smiled. “And it’s time for you to go.”
I looked back to the mirror, and there I was: strong, healthy, glowing from my recent beach holiday with my new family. My little girl, perfect in her own right, slept in her room just outside. My husband, tall and dark and fucking gorgeous, appeared in the doorway. I held up the jeans to him, and he chuckled gruffly, eyes sparkling.
“Almost done?” he asked, watching me.
“Just these.” I held the jeans to my hips. They were barely bigger than my thigh. I sighed. Matthias moved behind me and held my hips, his hands huge. His solid strength behind me gave me reassurance. I was on the right path now. I’d outgrown every single thing in that box in the right way – both physically and mentally.
“Time to let them go?” His Belgian accent was like smooth chocolate.
“Absolutely.” I folded the jeans, and tossed them towards the bin bag in the corner of the room that held old clothes not fit for donation.
“I love you.”
“I love you more.”
You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.