Today I am sharing a story. One of sadness, true, but also determination and triumph. This story is not my own, but Sarah’s. Sarah is an inspirational young person and a fighter against anorexia. I hope that you find Sarah’s story as gripping and wonderfully written as I did, as well as it allowing you insight into what it’s like to live with an eating disorder.
My Story, In Prose
Sarah is thirteen and Sarah is fat.
Those are two things that Sarah knows with absolute certainty.
At the doctor’s office, that fateful day in late August, Dr. G says, “Sarah, you are off of your growth charts. Sarah, you must lose weight. Sarah, you must eat less. Start exercising. Something must change”.
And Sarah changed, oh yes they did!
Sarah’s best friends are slim. Athletic. And so are their classmates! In fact, Sarah can count the number of fat people in their school on the fingers of one hand. Sarah only ever wanted to fit in.
“Daily Caloric Intake Calculator
Weight? xxx lbs.
Goal Weight? xxx lbs.”
It spit back a number and heaven help us, that number was Sarah’s life!
The shower’s water is hot on Sarah’s back but Sarah feels cold inside in an odd, icky, not-so-good way. Brown smoke clouds Sarah’s vision and they nearly fall. Panic. Panic everywhere, and Sarah can’t see!
“I can’t see!” Sarah shouts, hands clutching grey walls. “Help, I can’t see!”
Their mother comes, wraps them in a towel. Spots, static, in front of Sarah’s eyes and a burning pressure right behind them.
“I’ll get you some orange juice? Maybe you’re hungry,” The words cut like knives. Heartless attempt at kindness, that is. Offering her child ORANGE JUICE, while that child is on a DIET?
It’s a waste of calories, Sarah.
“No thanks, I’m fine.”
“Sarah, you are eating /something/.”
Sarah picks up the smallest clementine they can find from the bowl in the kitchen.
It’s all your fault, Sarah. Just because it was your mother’s birthday dinner did not mean that you had to eat that. Or THAT. What were you thinking, you fucking fatty? Of course you’ve gained weight since this morning. Of course. Because you fucking pigged out tonight, that’s why! Go. Go do laps and TRY to burn off all the weight you’ve gained. FUCKING FATSO.
Pacing, pacing into the dark, and then jogging, breaking into a run, again and again laps around the house, around the yard, uphill and downhill and uphill again. Sarah tastes bile, sweat drenches their face.
The scale reads lower and Sarah nearly collapses with relief.
Nearly, because only lazy pigs sit down for no reason.
Sarah is an overachiever and thus, has decided to take an advanced summer course at school. For the students in the summer session, the dining hall staff were kind enough to cater lunches for the summer session students.
Hot fudge sundae bar! Two of Sarah’s friends, who also opted to take the class, are excited. They rush to the bar— aren’t you going with them, Sarah? They have dark chocolate chips, after all!
Sarah drags themselves up, tears waiting anxiously behind their eyes, ready to run in an instant.
You’re stronger than this, Sarah. Look at you, worthless monster. You’re giving in. Stop. Stop. Stopstopstop.
Sarah gets a small bowl of vanilla ice cream. Passes the dark chocolate chips without a second glance.
Upon arriving home, they begin to exercise, and continue into perpetuity.
“Sarah, look at you! You’ve lost xx lbs! Look at how healthy you are!”
Sarah is healthy. Sarah is healthy.
First day of school, 2013
Sarah, you look so good!
Any tips? C’mon, spill!
Look how SKINNY you’ve gotten!
Wow, way to get in shape!
I’m so inspired by your self control!
Man, you’ve lost a ton of weight!
Sarah’s not studying enough, Sarah has to get up at 4:30 am to study. They can study till 6:30 and then leave for school at 7:30 and still make it on time.
On the weekends, why isn’t Sarah studying for 8 hours a day? Wait, they do? Okay, what about 10? Do you have anything /better/ to do, Sarah? NO. Studying is all you’re good for, after all.
You want to get into an Ivy, don’t you! You need to actually work, not sit on your lazy ass all day.
Sarah’s mother is concerned.
“Sarah, why does it take you an hour to eat your oatmeal every night?”
“Sarah, aren’t you healthy already? Why are you only eating x calories a day?”
“Sarah, when will your diet be over?”
“Sarah’s /definitely/ not anorexic, but does have some definite issues surrounding food. We’re calling it ED-NOS. Now, Sarah, we want you to eat at least 1600 a day, okay? That’s the healthy amount you should be getting. We don’t want this progressing into a REAL issue, do we now?”
1600. No. NO. NO.
Sarah is cold and they don’t know why. Must be an especially frosty winter, right?
Sarah’s friends grow distant and their voices are hushed and they approach Sarah with a sort of delicacy you’d use in a China shop. Sarah’s not sure why.
Not that they notice much, anyway. The above was more of a hindsight observation; in reality, Sarah was too consumed by their studies to notice much of anything! Because anything less than perfect is utterly unacceptable.
Showering is a waste of time, but Sarah must get clean! Sarah recites her notes in the shower, whilst attempting to tone up their miserable, fat, disgusting body— hang on, Sarah, why do your hip bones stick out like that? Why are your legs covered in bruises? Sarah, how many notches are in your spine?
“Sarah, you’re looking a little tired lately.”
“Yeah, that stress is really getting to me! Now, sorry to cut you off, but I really have to study.”
“Sarah, do you ever eat lunch?”
“Oh, I always forget! Funny how time gets away from you. I’m usually just in the library, reviewing my notes!”
“It’s anorexia nervosa, restrictive type. You don’t make yourself vomit, do you? Don’t be shy, honey, I’ve heard it all. No, oh really, you’re afraid to vomit? Well if you ever do want to try it, come to me first.
Don’t use that school trip of yours as a reason to eat even less, you hear? We’re keeping an eye on this.”
She smiles and has large glasses and is skinny. Wait, why does SHE get to be skinny?
“Eating even LESS when no one’s watching,” it crows. “What a great idea!”
China is cold and Sarah doesn’t know the calories. They cry everynight. Sarah wants to come home. Oatmeal is safe. Rice cakes are safe. Celery is safe. This is not safe and Sarah is lonely, but never alone.
It’s dark and Sarah can barely see, and Sarah’s hand moves all funny when they grip the armchair. Swaying, swaying in the breeze. There are shadows everywhere! I’m going for a run. Let me get my coat! Aren’t most people sweaty when it’s this hot? How hot? The words are dancing. Why did Sarah quit dancing? Oh. They were too fat.
“Sarah, why don’t you sit down?” No.
“Sarah, how long have you been standing” Well—
“Sarah—!” And they catch a bag of bones, swept off its feet.
The pedialyte comes out. It tastes rather nice, like oranges. A sip. “I hate it. Give me water.”
Whispers down the hall and they think Sarah’s asleep. It’s 7:30 pm and Sarah got tired. Weird how sleepy Sarah gets these days!
“She’s dying. Sarah’s dying. I don’t want to be in prison for criminally neglecting my only child.”
Make your oatmeal. You can’t go to the gym unless you make your oatmeal.
One bite, c’mob, PLEASE, for us. Please take a bite. Please?
No, you can’t walk anymore.
(But it’s not enough!)
Please, Sarah. Some blueberries. A celery stick. Anything.
(But it’s too much!)
Sarah’s legs ache and it keeps them awake at night, and so do the tears. Sarah is getting fatter each day! Sarah, the magically expanding teenager! Every day, ballooning further out! Too much space! Too much space!
Barreling down concrete. White lines and fast moving cars. Life won’t stop for you Sarah! You can stop life! And horns honk and colors pass and everything spins and screeches and whirls and Sarah is gasping and screaming and Sarah is a failure and is also alive.
Sarah hides in the bushes. And no one ever found out.
The new therapist summons Sarah’s mother in and shuts the door, and when Sarah’s mom exits her face is white. “Get in the car”.
And they are spending a lot of time in the car these days, and one of these times, they go all the way up to a city in Connecticut where Sarah has never been.
Late June, 2014
“I wish I knew how she’s even conscious.”
“Look at these vitals! It’s a good thing you got here now, because a week or two more—“
Sarah is unsure as to whether they ever finished or not.
No beds. Soon, but not yet.
Tears. Tears in Sarah’s soup and sad, dry crackers. A whisper, more like a growl, from their father. “If she doesn’t eat this, I’m calling the fucking ambulance. I don’t give a fuck. I’m not going to prison because of this bullshit.”
Sarah eats and it takes too long and Sarah is exhausted and fake. More fake than anything because it is inside of them now and taking up space. TOO MUCH SPACE!
July 5th, 2014
“We call it resi!” Tears. More tears. Chirpy smiles and girls of many sizes traipsing in a line from room to room.
This isn’t home.
“You were always on that border, Sarah. We wanted to send you IP, but your mother cried and you were on that border and she insisted, no! Sarah can succeed in residential. But Sarah, we’re going to have to move you to a higher level of care.”
Packing my bags is exercise, right? Good! I’m a fat cow anyway. My god, I’ve probably gained so much here. Look at me!
“J (roommate) Wait, how many calories did you say the Boost had in it again? Never having that shit again, that’s for sure.”
“But Sarah, they have Ensure over there. And that’s even /more/.”
The Following Day
They have tubes up their noses and people are watching them and oh my god, oh my god this is real, this is real and Sarah could die here. God, no!
“How many times have you been here? Fourteen? One-Four?” Sarah holds their breath, unsure they want to hear the response.
M does, though. “Yep, and tubed each time. Never gone more than 48 hours before I relapsed again! I’m a lifer alright.”
A smile. Across the table a dark haired girl’s grin, and two yogurts atop a styrofoam plate. Two yogurts? Excessive. Wasteful on Sarah’s fat body.
A whisper. “You can do it, Sarah. C’mon.”
A staff turns his head, grinning. He’s known and loved for eating a lot whenever he supervises meals. “Yeah Sarah. What are you waiting for?”
Is that hope?
Two empty containers.
Is that hope?
Mid-July- Early August, 2014
Sarah, well done! Almost 75% compliant.
Sarah, you’ve been eating 100% so far today! Well done.
Sarah, that metabolism of yours is a force to be reckoned with!
Sarah, we’re increasing your grain exchange. Where would you like it?
Congratulations, Sarah, you’re now permitted to attend a monitored walk after lunch!
Sarah, look at that potassium— keep it above x.x and we’ll be talking discharge!
“Can I have a banana most days next week at breakfast? I want to keep that potassium up!”
A smile. “I’ll see what I can do.”
The sun beating down on Sarah’s face. Sitting in the seat of a car, feet on the dashboard. A smile.
“Has home changed much in only six weeks?”
“Not as much as you!”
A laugh and the smile of a mother.
Sarah is fifteen and Sarah is alive.