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The Reality of Anorexia Nervosa

Updated on September 27, 2014

The reality of anorexia is seeing my mother for the first time in six months during my first week of residential because I didn’t want her to see what I had done to myself, standing on shaky legs to hug her, then hearing her suck in her breath, seeing the pinch of her lips. I remember seeing her eyes stare at my chest and my arms and feeling the hot flush of shame radiating in those body parts under her scrutiny. I remember sitting in the wake of her shocked silence, seeing the look of denial in her eyes - “This is not my daughter. This isn’t Becca.”

The reality of anorexia is waking up to find my partner crying silently over my bed with his fingers wrapped around my arm, my leg, my waist, probing my body to see the damage I had done with my willful neglect. I remember hearing him beg, his voice shaking with fear and anger, “When are you going to start eating? Please eat something with me.” I remember him grabbing my sleeping pill bottles, rattling the containers in my lifeless face and demanding, “How many? How many tonight?” And I not being able answer because I had taken a handful, I had lost count, I didn’t know, and wouldn’t he just stop asking me these questions? My body was paralyzed while my brain was on fire.

The reality of anorexia is going to the grocery store after midnight to buy my bizarre assortment of safe foods because I felt so ashamed of what I was eating. I was paranoid that someone would look at me and see that I was wrong, that I was bad, that I was sick, that I was dying. I didn’t want to see the confusion, the revulsion, the concern in someone else’s eyes. Even worse, I was afraid those eyes would belong to someone I knew, and I would be left breathless without an explanation as to why I looked the way I looked, why I was buying so many frozen vegetables, why I couldn’t quite bring myself to look anyone in the eye, especially the late-night cashiers who began to recognize and address me by name.

The reality of anorexia is driving in the car with the car radio turned up so loudly that I couldn’t tell the difference between my palpitating heart and the beat of a song, hearing my favorite song, yet sitting with my mouth shut in silence, because I had no joy in my heart, no energy to sing, no life. My brain could only hear the music faintly because most of my attention was focused on the dig of my spine and hips into the car seat, the anticipation of walking into my dark and silent home, swallowing sleeping pills before I even set down my purse or took off my shoes, and starting my nightly ritual of self-destruction.

Anorexia did not make me dainty or perfect or “lovely.” Anorexia made me a lifeless shell, a shadow of the person I was before starvation and self-abuse took over my life, a soulless nothing. The reality of anorexia is painful, lonely, and ugly.

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