Half Empty- A Letter to my Ex Self
I catch sight of you sometimes. Those sunken eyes of yours are suddenly back in my mirror if I get flu. Or, when I’m tired, that weird lisp you had from the blisters and ulcers in your mouth slips back into my voice. In the cold, when my fingernails turn violet and my knuckles redden, I think of you and how your hands looked like this constantly.
Of course, some parts of you have never left. These days my blood sugar levels crash about like a remote-controlled car, meaning I can be fine one moment, then drenched in sweat, trembling and dizzy the next. The edges of my teeth are translucent. My stomach is permanently swollen from internal damage caused by years of inducing vomit multiple times a day, thirty laxatives as a standard dose (to think, you told yourself that was the only way you'd ever have a flat stomach) and losing then gaining the same eighteen pounds over and over. My knee-jerk reaction whenever I see or hear anything about weight loss, calories or eating disorders is aggression and distress- the legacy of existing in a mental impound so tiny and dark, I don't know how you didn't break down screaming with claustrophobia. Why did you put yourself through it, day after day, telling yourself you loved it and this was your true self?
I know why, really. I know you couldn't stop, even though you were scared. I know you believed completely that being thin would protect you- from cruelty, from expectations, from failure. But sometimes I'm furious with you- sixteen years, wasted. The youth that could have been mine, the things I could have done with that time, and you trashed it.
I don’t give advice unless I’m specifically asked to, and even if I could somehow communicate with you, you were convinced you knew best. You'd never ask anyone for advice. But, in memory of you, I'll share some things I've learnt that I wish you'd known- or, more accurately, that I wish you’d paid attention to, as they occurred to you throughout the years.
August 2010, pacing around your apartment, you pleaded with yourself to wait another hour before you threw up again- another hour makes it three hours, the risk of an esophageal tear or ruptured stomach reduces*, if I give my gag reflex a rest it won’t hurt as much, just another hour, please try. You pace and shake and throw up less not , blood spraying the toilet, because you simply can't do it. In order to resist that need, you'd have to be someone else and for now you are entrenched in your own sick, obsessive self.
Transforming yourself isn't an act of pure will or brute force. You smash a glass of water on the floor, it's still water. But actually changing it; boiling it into steam, or freezing it into ice- giving it time to happen is the non-negotiable part.
February 2007, jittering with hunger on the third day of your usual raw spinach and cigarettes regime, you find a massive bag of stale rice forgotten in the back of your housemate's cupboard. A humming sensation spreads through your body, wordless instincts in your brain rise up, and, moving like a sleepwalker, you pour about a kilo of rice into a pan, boil it into sludge and ram it into your mouth with your bare hands. But I want to be thin. It's not even been three days. I want to be someone with willpower. I hate rice. None of this matters at this moment- you didn’t decide you were going to 'break your diet' so much as become another being who could hear your thoughts but wasn’t interested in them.
What you're doing is against nature. Nature is older than you, cleverer than you and every time you go head-to-head with her, you are fucking with the original queen. Do you really think she's going to stand for your goal-weight, thigh-gap-test bullshit?
Late December 2013, your house-share empty for the holidays. You're really trying to get better now; tomorrow it will be three weeks since you last purged. Surely you can hang on for that? But you're lonely and have nowhere to go for Christmas and you feel so fat it seems impossible you could ever be peaceful in your skin, so why keep trying? The sound of retching ricochets through the silent house. Then, to punish yourself for being weak, even though it's dark and snowing outside and you, stupid girl, are right at the bottom of your overdraft, you run to the corner shop- blotchy face, puke in your hair- to spunk thirty quid on junk food you throw straight back up.
For you, hating yourself was a kind of laziness. It was easy to say; ugh, you're pathetic. You're stuck this way and it's all your own fault, you've got nothing else left now anyway, so you may as well just do it again. Go for it. This is your life now, aren't you proud of yourself?
It takes so much more willpower to quieten down and softly say to yourself; hey. You really tried that time. I know you did. Nearly three weeks isn't nothing. You can try again.
And this is how you became me. By giving the transformation time to happen, learning respect for nature- both your own nature and the laws of nature- and doing the hard work of, bit by bit, convincing yourself that you could become someone who deserved better. This , it will be three years.
Thank you for getting this far.
*Author's note- this isn't true! It was just something I convinced myself of at the time. There's no way to be really safe when purging.