Appetites are arbitrary, almost subjective. Growing up, my appetite was like any other kid’s: chips, chocolate milk, maybe an apple or two. My mother was a single mom who worked two jobs, so more often than not, my dinners consisted of a McDonald’s happy meal. What my insatiable hunger lacked was in sports. I had always been more interested in chocolate muffins than playing soccer or soft ball. This may have been supported by my heart condition, but in reality, I knew I just hated sports. So, in turn, most of my time was spent on the couch watching cartoons and eating my bore away. Eventually, my lifestyle caught up with me, and at the tender age of nine, while in the midst of my cardiac surgery, I had doctors and nurses telling me that I was fat, heavy, obese, and just too big for my age.
For a long time, these statements did not curb my appetite, they actually reinforced it. Food was the only constant comfort for me, and so I would indulge in almost anything and everything, mostly to the point of sickness. I would binge and binge and binge until I didn’t feel bad anymore, until I felt like my mother liked me, until I felt some of the self-hatred go away. My mother observed my weight gain, and introduced me to a nutritionist in an attempt to understand and maybe find a balance of my caloric intake. But, that was the thing about my eating disorder, it was never in the grey, never faded or opaque. Even in my astrology, I was born as an all-or-nothing soul. For me, it was always black or white; binging until the point of physical sickness, or eating so little that I myself became brittle and grey
My freshman year of High School was when the starvation really set in. I had finally gotten my first boyfriend, a frail boy who was about 125 lbs smaller than me. My appetite dwindled and faded as did my sanity. I had been in the hospital for suicidal ideation and attempts, and as I dealt and weeded through all of the twists and turns of my mind, I had finally decided that being fat was not going to be my life. Of course, as a recovering self-harmer, my mind thought the only way to fix this was to stop eating all together. But, to be completely honest, it didn’t start out as a bad thing. I tried to just reduce my calorie intake just a bit and maybe go for a jog once in a while, I tried to be smart about it. But my polarized personality quickly took over, and before I knew it I was counting not only calories, but breaths.
At the point where I had lost almost half my original body weight, I had also lost my appetite for food, friends, family, even living. The hunger I was consumed by could only be satiated by the poignant shadows of my cheek bones, by the dips and valleys of my ribs, through the feeling of leather skin stretched taut over brittle bone. I wanted to be small, I needed to be weightless. But the only ******* tongue would implore for was the taste of stomach acid kissing my lips. The only sustenance my stomach would have was the crisp air of cigarettes and coke zero. The only thing my mind would give me was a quiet attack and endless assaults on my psyche.
I used my friends and family as a tool to substantiate my fatal way of life. Because of my lifelong struggle with my weight, the photos depicting my weight loss progress were bombarded with comments congratulating me on how great I looked, on how proud of me they were. But what they didn’t know was that they were patting me on the back for not eating for days and days; they were complimenting me on how my sinewy fingers would crawl down my throat and take the little nourishment I had given myself from my stomach; what they didn’t know was that they were happily watching me slowly **** myself.
I knew I wasn’t okay, I knew I was just waiting for rock bottom; I knew I was a dead girl walking. At this point my joints would groan and weep when I walked, and my stomach practically rejected anything I’d give it. I had learned to deal with the hunger pains, and I learned how to hide the scars on my body that my relapsing mind would leave. I was a ghost trapped in a bag of dry, cracking skin beside a pile of fragile, toothpick bones. I believed that I was to die sooner or later, and that that would be it, the pain would be over. But I guess the universe had a different plan for my time on earth.
It was cold outside, and I had layered myself in cardigans and jackets and parkas. I was walking home from school, to burn a few extra calories that my mind deemed to be immediately terminated. It wasn’t a long walk, maybe twenty minutes if I didn’t stop. Just as I reached the open field, about ten minutes away from my house, it began to snow. My eyes darted up, too fast for my feeble mind to process, and everything went fuzzy. I knew this meant I was going to pass out, so I hurried home. My feet were able to carry me to the sidewalk before my house steps. But before I could even reach the front door, everything was suddenly black, my eyes rolled back, and my knees fell from underneath me.
My eyes fluttered open as I felt a sharp pain under my head. I look around and see that I have a light layer of snow covering most of my body. I saw that there was blood seeping through my white coat, and that my legs were numb. As I sat up, I realized that I had hit my head, and that there was blood on the ground. My fingers prodded the chunk of skull that was throbbing, and thankfully only found a small little wound. Finally, my legs woke up and I was able to hobble inside, but not without covering up the mess I had made.
When I got inside, I peeled off the layers of cloth to tend to the bruises and scrapes on my arms. What I didn’t expect was the multitude of red lines across my bony wrists, all varying of size, age, and severity.
This was my rock bottom.
I hadn’t even remembered doing it to myself. I did not recall taking that razor from its secret home and running it across my skin. My mind could not pull up the images of red-dotted paper towels and carefully placed band-aids, and this is what scared me the most. The fact that I had been living in such a fog to the point where I could not even remember my own self-mutilation pierced itself to my core, and I began to cry. I cried for myself, I cried for my mother, I cried for my life, because this disease had taken all of those away from me. It dug its way into my brain and fed upon the very core of my being, not giving a **** on the consequences my soul would suffer. It tore out my lungs and veins and flesh, and most importantly my heart. My eating disorder turned me into a vessel. My eating disorder held me captive in my own body for years with the only solace being coke zero and granola bars. My eating disorder took everything away from me, and I willingly allowed it.
The only appetite I’ve ever had was the desire to be impeccable. I wanted to be perfect, I wanted to be good enough. I wanted to be wanted. But, what I learned was that bones cannot keep you warm in the bitter cold, that the skin I drew so tight over my hollow heart would not hold me together in a tiny little bow, and would eventually break. Finally, the appetite to live was greater than my appetite to die. I learned not to just live but to thrive, and accepted my body with all of its curves and slopes, and even still remembered the sharp corners and valleys that were left behind. Not only did my appetite return to me, but I returned to me, and I am so hungry.