a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
A. Apples- There’s a fresh bag of apples in the fridge. She only grabs one to enjoy the sour and tarty flavor of the green fruit. When she finishes one, the overwhelming feeling of needing more consumes her as she goes back for another. One apple after another; she can’t help herself. Soon she goes back only to stick her hand in an empty bag. Now she is left feeling sick to her stomach and everyone mad at her for eating all the apples.
B. Bottomless Pit- They call her stomach a bottomless pit from her nonstop eating and never getting full. It’s as if her stomach holds no food as she chows down, not even stopping to breathe. When everyone is out for the count and can eat no more, she still lingers around for something else. Her stomach is a bottomless pit; she needs more.
C. Cousins- Her tall and skinny cousins seem to be able to eat as much as they want and keep the same shape. She isn’t made like them, and everyone knows it. Looking at her body then looking at theirs, it makes her wonder why she doesn’t have those genes. She wonders why her brother is skinny like her girl cousins, but she is not.
D. Dinner- It’s a family dinner; of course they will notice if she isn’t there. That was not an option, or else they’d get suspicious. How can she eat when she doesn’t really want to? It’s dinner time at the table so there is no way around it. She has to endure it and enjoy the food on her plate. She sees how happy her family is that she has arrived. A smile on her face; but panic on the inside.
E. Eat- "Why aren’t you eating," they ask her repeatedly. She tells her parents she’s just not that hungry. If it were that easy, she would rejoice and let it be, but they nag her about why she won’t eat. Leaving her feeling like she’s in a game of twenty questions. She lies and says her stomach hurts or that she has already eaten, but some days that doesn’t work and she has to eat, not for herself but to please her family.
F. Food- She loves food and she loves to eat; how can she look at food and not be hungry? How was she going to be able to enjoy her favorite foods? Spaghetti, macaroni, pizza and cake, she wants it all. She stares at her favorite three meat pizza from Little Caesars. Her stomach growls as she watches her family eat it. They all gather in the living room with the movie ready to start. She needs a slice; she can’t resist.
G. Gained- She sits in her room alone with headphones in, crying. A pillow up to her face to silence her cries. He dad says to her she needs to stop eating so much. Her mom just tells her she’s getting a little chubby. Her brother thinks she gained a lot of weight. How can her own family say this about her? She wipes her tears and fixes her glasses. She plasters a smile on her face when she leaves the room only to hear them say they’re joking. She laughs along with them, but the damage is done. The words are permanently in her head.
H. Hyperthyroidism- It is her regular doctor visit to make sure her hyperthyroidism hasn’t relapsed. She stares with an emotionless face waiting for the results. Her heart beating a thousand miles a minute because they checked her weight and her mom asks if her weight-loss was a sign of her disease. If the nurse says no, would she have to confess? She fiddles with the hairbow around her wrist as the nurse walks in and says she has a relapse and weight loss can be a sign. She secretly smiles to herself because now she has something to blame if her parents ever question her. Her mother grabs her hand offering a kind smile.
I. Ice- She has to have something to chew on besides gum; she gets the biggest cup she can carry around and fills it with ice. Not just regular ice but crushed ice, or shaved ice. It’s her favorite kind and she can eat it all day. Not to mention her brother had bought her a shaved ice machine because he knows how much she loves ice. She opens the fridge and the fresh smell of ice fills her nostrils. She’s hungry and she needs ice, it feels like an addiction. If she can’t have food, then ice can be her substitute.
J. Jogging- No one is home and the house is all hers. She ate some salad and isn’t able work it off. She connects her phone to the speaker and turns on Pandora to the fitness music station. She sets her timer to the time it takes her dad to run five miles. When the timer starts, she takes off, jogging down her hallway, into the living room, followed by the dining room, then the kitchen and back down the hallway where she started in her room. That’s one lap down and 39 minutes to go.
K. Killjoy- Everyone wants to go out to eat. Her mom suggests Sake, her dad wants seafood, and her brother thinks they should go to Golden Corral. They ask her where she wants to eat, and all wait with anticipation. She looks at them and doesn’t know how to say the right words. She doesn’t want to ruin the good mood. I’m not hungry, is all she says and that’s followed by questions from everyone all at once. They ask her why she doesn’t want anything and why’s she not hungry. She feels surrounded by them with the feeling of being a nuisance. Her brother dismisses her and calls her a killjoy. Only then to playfully hit her and remind her he’s just kidding.
L. Liquids- It’s hard enough not eating, or just drinking water, she needs something with flavor, or she won’t last. She wakes up in the middle of the night dehydrated and has to drink a whole can of soda. When she realizes how many calories sodas are, she stops drinking them. Before she grabs a juice or liquid with flavor to drink, she checks the calories. Gatorade is the only thing she sees with less then one hundred calories. It’s all she can drink from now on and it’s what she has to survive on. If she gets full from it; liquid comes up much easier then food.
M. Mirror- The mirror always lies to her. She doesn’t know what to believe anymore. Looking in the mirror, all she can see is fat. Gripping her side in the mirror she wonders why she looks this way. She struggles to hold back tears of disappointment looking at her body. The mirror is her enemy, but she can’t help looking every time she passes one.
N. Napkin- At a restaurant she has no choice but to put the food in her mouth and chew. She chews and chews as her taste buds scream with excitement and her stomach starts producing acid to digest the food. She waits until just the right time when her friend looks away to spit her food in a napkin. She feels a wave of guilt for hoaxing her body into thinking she was going to eat. She shouldn’t have done that because now she has the urge to eat. She chews but this time she swallows, quickly she looks at the napkin in disgust. She excuses herself to take care of the rest.
O. Over-weight- Browsing the internet she wants to know how much someone her height should weigh, she wants to be the perfect weight. She clicks on www.rush.edu to see a weight chart. She knows for sure it has to be true since it’s an educational site. The normal weight for a 17-year old female that’s 5’2 is one hundred four through one hundred thirty-five pounds. Her eyes move over to the numbers under overweight, one hundred thirty-six through one hundred sixty-three pounds. Her palms sweat against the mouse as she moves it over to obese, one hundred sixty-four through two hundred thirteen pounds. She can’t believe it; she isn’t just overweight but she’s obese. The overwhelming feeling engulfs her because she has no choice but to do this, she has to be the perfect weight. She has to weigh less than one hundred thirty-five pounds.
P. Purge- After she binges as much food as she can take and drinks as much water as her stomach can hold, she takes her hidden toothbrush that she keeps under her pillow wrapped in plastic; and purges. The feeling is almost euphoric when she empties her once fill stomach. Like a shot of adrenaline, she has to keep going. It is as if a weight is lifted off her shoulders when she no longer has any food in her stomach.
Q. Quiet- No one knows, and no one can ever find out. It isn’t a hard secret to keep. She knows how to keep quiet because she doesn’t even trust anyone enough to tell them. She won’t dare tell her parents; they just don’t understand. All she has to do is keep quiet and no one will get hurt. She looks at her brother and for a slight second, she wants to tell him. He is her best friend and the only one that notices when she’s not eating. She thinks long and hard; that slight second of doubt is all it takes for her to remember she has to keep quiet.
R. Running- She runs to keep her shape, to keep the weight off. When she runs it feels like she is floating. She goes to the track and runs a mile with her dad once, she wants to be skinny when school starts in the fall. Her dad tells her not to push herself too much, but she keeps going because she knows it’s the only way to lose weight and stay in shape. The best feeling is the runners high she gets just knowing she is losing calories with each step, so she knows she has to do better then a mile.
S. Starving- She hasn’t eaten in a week; she’s lightheaded and her head spins, but she doesn’t care because she has lost ten pounds and wants to lose more. She isn’t the perfect weight yet and nothing is going to stop her. She’s starving herself because it’s one of the easiest ways to do it. She takes food in her room just to make it seem like she’s eating; only to throw it away. Even while she starves, she runs five miles every day alone.
T. Trigger- The thin girls in her eyesight from the YouTube videos, social media, and in person make her grow envious of their slim figures. She wishes she looked like them. She wants to be able to show off her body like they do. She knows seeing them will trigger her, but she doesn’t care because she sees it as encouragement. Encouragement to do whatever it takes to be small just like them.
U. Urge- She decides she wants to eat; it shouldn’t be too bad. She wants fast food because she hasn’t eaten in a while. She gets a large fries from McDonalds and she can practically taste the salty potatoes before they enter her mouth. As soon as she eats a fry she can’t stop; shoving them in her mouth in handfuls. If she could see her brain on a scan, she knows it would be lit up with colors. When she reaches the bottom of the paper holder a wave of regret soon washes over her. She has the sudden urge to throw it up. Her mind tells her to get rid of it or she’ll gain weight. She just can’t fight the urge.
V. Vomit- It was gross and nasty, but it was the only way to hide the fact that she wasn’t digesting her food. She starts to get a whiff of the stench and knows she has to throw away the vomit filled bags under her bed. Before her family gets suspicious, she almost gags picking up the warm bags to dispose of them.
W. Why? – She can’t help herself but to step on the scale every day. It is there and she has to know. She has to know if she is losing and not gaining. She has to weigh herself after every meal and every hour. She steps on the scale and her heart sinks in so deep she can hardly breathe. She hears her family coming into the living room for movie night as she escapes to her room. Her eyes fill with tears and she can’t help but hate herself for gaining one pound instead of losing it. All she can think is, why?
X. X-Ambassadors- The song “Torches’ by the X-Ambassadors blares throughout her room from her laptop, turned all the way up. The music is the only way she can throw up the dinner she just ate without her family hearing. As the music plays and she empties out her stomach into a bag, tears stream down her face. Her chest is tight and causes her pain, but she can’t stop. She cries not from the pain but because she doesn’t want to do this anymore; she has to.
Y. Young- she’s too young to feel this way. She can’t escape her own thoughts as they suffocate her day and night. She thinks to herself, I’m too young. She doesn’t understand and she can’t. She can’t understand how someone her age can have no control over her actions. Looking at the symptoms of eating disorders online, there is one that sticks out the most; death. She wants to cry because she’s too young to die.
Z. Zombie- Her eyes are sunken in, and her once youthful face looks like she aged ten years. Her wrists look like they will snap at any moment. Her clothes don’t fit anymore and hang off like they’re five sizes too big. She raises her shirt to see how flat her stomach is and smiles when she doesn’t see fat. Her door opens and her heart races when she sees her mom standing in the doorway looking at her with heartbreak written all over her face. Her lip starting to quiver as her hand tries to cover it. Her mom grabs the mirror and tells her to look at herself. Shaking her head in disbelief, tears stream down her mother’s face as she leaves sobbing. Worry washes over her as she turns to look in the mirror and see what brought her mom to tears like never before. A single tear escapes her eye as she sees her body for the first time in weeks. She can see every line of her ribs; turning around she sees her spine all the way down her back. She touches her face feeling nothing but bone, and the tears fall over her hands. She didn’t like what she is seeing. This isn’t what she wanted; she looks like a zombie. She doesn't want this anymore, and she knows her brain is no longer broken. She takes a deep breath, and for the first time in almost a year, she knows she can stop.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.
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