She was coaxed with a voice sweet as honey and words wonderfully captivating. Just like that, she followed it down the endless black hole of doubt and hatred towards her own body. Sometimes it is like her savior, lending her a hand and pulling her up when she falls on her perfectionist ways. Sometimes it is like her commander, telling her words that she can’t argue with and forcing her to do things that she can’t deny. It has a name. She calls it Ed, while most people would call it “eating disorder.”
It all started with the seemingly harmless jokes that eventually turned into intangible knives, and Ed stabbed every single word of them deep into her nearly non-existent self-esteem. She was never popular. Words get stuck in her throat, and tears swell up her eyes whenever eyes are turned on her. Conversations, so wonderfully easy for others, are her worst nightmare and a burden she carried until she broke apart. She found an escape from this when she discovered that making sarcastic and self-deprecating jokes could make others laugh. It hurt, but somehow it hurt less than being invisible in a room full of people.
The start of her sophomore year at high school was when Ed first came into her mind. It scanned over the piles of emotional garbage spread messily over her mind and knowingly smiled at her. It was a toxic smile, seemingly understanding and warm, but evoking some of the worst insecurities she’s ever had.
The grades that never seemed good enough.
The loneliness that comes with hiding in the back corner of the classroom.
The jealousy and uselessness that floats up when she looked at groups of people chatting, laughing, and seemingly having the time of their lives.
Its smile got wider when it saw:
The jokes about being “fat” and the perfect girl she never got to be.
It promised to help her with these unachievable goals, to take her anguish away, to make her happy. So, despite most of its suggestions being incredulous and against the human instinct, she voluntarily followed them nevertheless, desperate to fill up the emptiness of failure with physical aspects of success.
Enduring the endless and painful nights where her stomach yelled out for help, ignoring the aromatic smells, and missing opportunities to have dinner with friends all became worth it for her when that needle kept moving towards the left. She still remembers the ecstatic feeling when she fit into smaller sized clothes and when other people commented on the positive change of her appearance. Those were the times when Ed would compliment her and encourage her to go one step further to receive more of the looks of jealousy sent her way.
Seeing her willingness to commit, Ed continued to give her countless suggestions to “help” her. Her whole mind slowly became fixated on Ed’s tasks. There was no more passion left for the things she used to love; no room left for any academic information; certainly no space for the worried looks from people who genuinely love her.
Her body was also flashing the warning red light. She began to lose hair and felt dizzy every time she stands up. However, she couldn’t stop and wouldn’t stop. Not with Ed continually yelling at her, not with the flaws she still sees in the girl in the mirror, and not with all of the hard work she had done to get to this point.
Everything became numbers.
Numbers that don’t matter. Numbers that don’t even begin to define who she truly is. And numbers that took all of her already scarce energy away.
Yet, those numbers seemed to be a matter of life and death to her.
Today, while writing this story, she still on her journey to recovery. Unfortunately, even if she has recovered fully, Ed will never disappear. It will always be a part of her, but pushed into a dark little corner of her mind where it belongs. The constant negative comments it makes will only remind her to love herself, her body, and appreciate what she has more. One can only truly love something else after learning to love themselves. One day soon, she’ll look in the mirror and see that same genuine smile that she had lost on her long ago on her way to pursue “perfection.” She’ll smile back and tell the girl in the mirror something she should’ve said a long time ago.
“I love you.”
Authors note: If you relate to Suzanna’s courageous and heartfelt story, please join her in the journey to recovery, there is hope, healing and a way forward. Please talk to someone you trust and visit these resources on how you can make a change for yourself, you deserve it.