Oh, What A Sweet Girl!

Oh, What A Sweet Girl!

By Addison Townsend, age 16, Utah.

Oh, what a sweet girl. What an innocent, kind, happy girl.

I didn’t know of anything but the perfect life. School was perfect, my family was perfect, and even something as small as my fish was perfect. My life was filled with the joy of ignorance, where there was nothing wrong in the whole wide world. And, oh how happy I was when I looked in the mirror and saw only a body and not the calories from the apple I ate an hour ago. And how tragic it was when that apple mutated to a dark obsession, soon to take over my whole life.

Thin was the first-word people would use to describe me, and it never offended me. But, as I continued to age, there was an expectation forming. What would they think of me when I gained weight? How would they react when I wasn’t a bottomless pit of food anymore? When I was big?

What would I think when I was big?

I think the word ‘comparison’ should be changed to ‘that which is impossible to overcome’. Pictures of my face reminded me of chipmunks hoarding nuts for the winter, while I envied the girls with round and youthful faces, enhanced by their chubby cheeks. Lunch became a study session and dinner became an afterthought. I wanted to lose weight and I didn’t have much time for meals anyway so how easy it was when I stopped eating. And how addicting it was to see an inch off of my stomach. When you have the body people would die for, how could I not fall in love with my illness? Hunger became a friend, one I could rely on every day, every hour, every minute. When everyone else left, a twisting stomach was still there.

When they ask, “Are you going to eat all of that?” the translator in my head vomits it out as, “Go stick a toothbrush down your throat.” Eventually, the portion sizes became as small as nothing, but I could still look in the mirror and see more than a skeleton.

Long sleeves and layered clothing became a daily necessity. I was playing a game with my body, how long can you go without food and how well can you hide it? I didn’t mind the layers though, my body clenched and shivered without any insulation. But that’s okay, shivering means you’re winning. Those bruises on your spine and your hair falling out in clumps mean you’re winning. Passing out means you’re winning.

But nothing about my illness felt like winning.

My anorexia’s whispers became a deafening scream as the caloric calculator in my head lit up like a scoreboard at a basketball game. My stomach begged for more than water, but nothing felt better than how the cool water slipped down my throat and hit my stomach. My head pounded at me to wake up, but you can’t be hungry when you’re asleep. My teeth clenched for anything but the gum I had fed it for the last week, but gum was just so low in calories and mental unrest. Hallucinations of a younger Addy begged, why do you do this to yourself? My once-perfect life had managed to flip itself into a food-focused, dizzying black hole. My mindset went from me praising my anorexia, to me running from it like a killer ready to murder what little of me there was left. My diseased mind furied, like an ex who desperately wanted to get back together.

You know, there are perks of going to the hospital. The people are nice for the most part and the beds are adjustable, but my once secret friend became less of a secret and less of a friend. Bite by bite, my mind screamed at me, shrieking the most heart-wrenching and life-ruining things at me. They say, “I would die for a body like that,” I urge, “I am dying.” They say, “No. You’re an inspiration.”

Some days it’s easier to die than to take one more bite.

But some days, you remember why you’re still breathing, swallowing. Some days, you remember the sound of your violin, the way the orchestra comes alive as you close your eyes and peace fills your whole body. Some days, you remember what it’s like to hug your dog and to have him wiggle his booty as you come in the door, so excited to see you’re still fighting. Some days, you remember the joy of being able to kiss your girlfriend and that feeling of never wanting to let her go. Some days, you remember what it’s like to be happy.

Years later, I’m still re-learning that ice doesn’t count as dinner and the reflection in a passing window is not a measure of my worth. And even now, after years of recovery, I still cannot un-memorize the calories of a peppermint.

So, Anorexia, I wrote you a letter:

Dearest Anorexia,

I’m breaking up with you. And no, I’m not going to say, “It’s not you, it’s me.” because it was you. You stole five years of my life that I’ll never be able to get back. I wish I could say I loved you, but what we had was not love. Love is supposed to be beautiful and filling and satisfying, but you hollowed me out, turned me into an empty shell of a human. You taught me dependency is love, not desperation, and I believed you. It took me five whole years to realize food wasn’t the enemy, but it was the voice in my spinning head promising control, perfection. You built a shrine of my bones and diet pill bottles, forcing me to worship you.

So, Anorexia, you can loom over me and scar me and nip at my heels, but today I build an empire out of every word you used to destroy me. I tear down your temples made of my self-hatred and face you, saying, “Do your worst.” You whisper I’ll never be perfect, I say I know. You say I’m disgusting, I say I’m beautiful. You scream I’ll never be happy, I cry back, I already am.

By Addison Townsend, age 16, high school Junior, Utah. She adds: ” I wrote this narrative about my experience with disordered eating as I would like to create more of a space to talk about the struggles of Anorexia. For five years, Anorexia broke me and coming out the other side of recovery, it is incredibly important to me that I prevent this from happening to anyone in the future. This is the true reason I value publication and strive for attention from others.”