I decided, at twelve, that I would be bulimic. During the day, I exercised for hours mimicking crunches and squats illustrated in my mother’s Jane Fonda workout book. Breakfast and lunches hidden behind bookshelves, in drawers, flushed down toilets, dinner eaten with regret, and afterward, more regret. I collapsed often, burning everything inside of me, and then going even further, burning when there was nothing left to burn, only to find myself five, ten minutes later against the cool mosaic floor of my bedroom. It was that summer a boy called me pretty. Imagine to be called pretty at twelve! When I met him again, a few summers ago, as we sat outside on a deck by the water, it was a cool day atypical of short London summers, and cornered on the train during rush hour, he was still the same, still too tall and a goofy unmistakeable smile. He had turned out to be such a wonderful person, someone so kind to tell a girl, of only twelve, that she was pretty. We hugged before I rushed into the station, and I hoped that I too could change, like him, only for the better.
I read endlessly, of the horrors: the corroding teeth, the heart attacks, the hair loss, the bruises upon the broken skin, the death. I scared myself, and I was afraid of death for days, until I was not afraid of death again. There were days I did not lock the door, did not play the music loudly, did not run the water in the bath tub and the sink, hoping to get caught, that she would hear the retching, hoping that my mother would catch me, drag me out and slap me and then cradle me in her arms and we would both cry and I would be better. She never caught me, but when a suffering is not born upon you and rather, the suffering is of your own selfish choosing, the only person capable of saving you is yourself.
A few months prior to that summer, I stopped. Ten years had been too long, and then, a few months ago, I was on my knees, crouched over the toilet, in disgust of myself and the place I had found myself again. I told him of the first time, but not of the second or the third. It wouldn’t have been right to anyway; we had stopped speaking as two people in love, instead we spoke now as two people falling apart in love, falling apart, in love. I could no longer find the words, and tore out the first two pages of the notebook he had given me, pages containing all that he made me feel, words I could no longer enunciate, sealed in an envelope, addressed to him. I held on to the third page, the page on which I had written that I loved him, I love you. I held on to the final page, holding on to love.
One morning, not too long ago, I turned on the shower and began to undress. I raised arms over my head and counted the outline of my ribs, bearings of being overworked and tired and lost, accumulated over the course of a few days and untouched lunches, and I felt the hollowness of my ribs, my chest tightening, my head throbbing; I was hollow, both on the inside and out. Then I stepped under the hot shower and and stood still and quietly until I was crying, until I could no longer differentiate between the hot tears and the scalding hot water. How could anyone ever love oneself so poorly?
One morning, not too long ago, I saw myself in the mirror soft and round, feeling invisible and yet all I could see was myself, filling out the width of the mirror. I panicked and gasped for air, unable to recognize myself, unwilling to recognize myself. Why did anyone ever love oneself so poorly?
Some days I run my hand over my stomach when it is concave and go over the peak of each hip-bone, and some days I wake up feeling twice my size, and I wonder how, overnight, I doubled, swollen and aching, and I panic on days when my collarbones seem less significant, less striking, and I cannot look at myself in the mirror, either too gaunt or too heavy, and on those days I focus on my eyes, I stare at them staring back at me, and I like my eyes very much, I like that upon a closer look they are light brown, and my grandmother always tells me I have lovely eyes, alive and gleaming as a child, now soft and curious, and on those days,those terribly difficult days, I see the better parts of me, and I resolve to love myself dearly.
It’s so important to see the better parts of you, to recognize the bits of you worthy of being loved. It is so important to love yourself; to be loved, you must first love yourself.