dear ms fordney, you are beautiful
when i was sophomore, you stood behind your desk with your hips out and your stance wide and you look us fifteen years olds, full of burning energy and talkative eyes, and you said, “the only thing standing in your way is you.”
and i will not forget that
dear ms fordney, you are my favorite teacher
you are my favorite teacher because you dress nice, because you have straight blonde hair like i’ve always thought was so beautiful and rare, because you are a runner, because you’re thin but you’re also proportionate. you are my favorite becuase you teach science, most specifically biology, because you work with your head held high in a sea full of men. you are my favorite because you are fearless, not of sexism, not of intimidation, not that of asshole in the back of the class fucking around, not of being stern, not of being disliked.
dear ms fordney, getting a smile out of takes effort
it’s hard work to see you happy, & your approval is earned, not given. but it’s rewarding. every smile you give to me is a stamp of approval, it’s how i know that i’m doing something right and i’m being the kind of girl that could someday be the kind of woman you would be proud of.
dear ms fordney, you know
you know that when i sleep during your class it is not to disrespect you. you know because i am honest with you about my depression, my weakness, my inability to let myself be free and okay and not take responsibility for once in my life. you know that my eating disorder ravages at my heart, drains my soul, wrecks my brain, and you know that i am trying. you know that someday i will survive. you said to me, “right now it may feel like it’s controlling you, but someday, you will learn to control it.” and it was honest, and all i could ask from you.
dear ms fordney, you believe in me
you believe that i can be better, that i will be stronger, that i am intelligent and i can beat this. you also know that i am intelligent and can trick myself into not beating it, and you told me, “you have to realize that society as a whole, is incredibly stupid. you have think, ‘okay, that’s society over there, and here i am, over here, and that’s okay’ and “you need to protect yourself from your brain sometimes, but that’s okay.” you believe that i am someone outside of my eating disorder. you believe there is hope,
and ms. fordney, someday,
i will believe it too.
i talked to my nutritional counselor, Ileana, who has one of the kindest dispositions of anyone i have ever met, and i have a hard time trusting medical physicians and doctors - i’ve had six in the last year (partly due to my ed, partly due to my irrational and crippling phobia of syringe needles, and partly because i have this thing where i want adults to think i am perfect / uncomplicated )
it wasn’t an easy visit. she picked up right away that my demeanor is several notches lower - we use a scale to talk about how low or high i feel. i generally use an ocean metaphor “breaking the surface” (good, scary), “sinking” (bad), “drowning” (very bad) to describe my depression, and in the last few weeks, i’ve been at the bottom of the ocean floor, so to speak. i know this isn’t just sadness. sadness is tangible, i feel sadness, i take hold of it, but right now, i’m just, i’m drowning. i’ve been sleeping for two to three hours a day, sometimes during class, sometimes before work, but as tired as i am, i am unable to sleep at night. i’m not just tired physically, but mentally. tired of thinking, talking, blinking, breathing.
as of right now, i’m maintaining a caloric intake of 1500 at most and 1200 at least, and bad days are for counting and good days are for nothing picking at my body in the mirror. if i look bloated first thing in the morning, my day is bad. i feel people looking at the small space between my thighs, and i’m paranoid enough to think, they know i don’t try hard enough. i could be so beautiful i wanted.
these thoughts creep back into my head like a parasitic worm. Ileana says, ‘this is your eating disorder talking,’ but i’m not so sure anymore. me and my ed, if i wanted to personify it (which Ileana says can be helpful in order to overcome it) are so intertwinted in thoughts and nature that i don’t notice when i’m being self-destructive and when i’m not. Ileana tells me I need to maintain a caloric diet of 2220 to 2500 calories, and i smiled and told her i would try, while inside, i thought, “never going to happen.”
i’m not skinny. i’m not thin. i’m slender, petite at best. i know this. i also know if i start eating 2500 calories a day, i will gain weight. and while i know most people can’t fathom the fear of food, the thought of gaining weight makes me want to cry.
i always tell myself someday i will be beautiful. i will be educated, somewhere on a beach picking tangerines and braiding my hair and i won’t care what i look like. i always tell myself that there is an ocean out there that would love to take me away to sea, that i will be free and sure and i will deserve happiness. someday, i will smile with integrity.
this someday, starts today. this someday, this future, it starts tomorrow. and i believe in someday. i do.
fatass. out of control. failure. ugly. unworthy. fat. gross. greasy. how could you. but you’ve come so far. you’ll never be pretty. don’t you dare eat again today.
hey i will beat this someday and today i had french fries and you know what, i laughed a lot with my sister and it was so great, it was
i’m going out for crepes with my friend kimberly. she knows i’m in nutritional counseling and she knows about my ed (even if she doesn’t really understand it ) and she’s so happy for me and i’m going to
try eat one. and everything is going to be okay, and some day that won’t be such a fear food, it’ll be just a food . wish me luck.
i have found my home at hogwarts, so it’s okay now.
sadness is that strange soreness behind your eyes. sadness is seeing your dreams right in front of you, dancing in your grasp and ignoring them, saying, just one more day can i pretend to not exist. sadness is being tired all the time. sadness is being cold. sadness is being not alone but always lonely.
sadness is when they diagnose me with an eating disorder and a voice in my head whispers, you’re not skinny enough. you’re not dying. there’s nothing wrong with you.
having an eating disorder is something no one understands. they can define it, measure it, tell you your bmi is too low or just right or over, tell you 500 calories is too little or 5000 calories too much. but the phrase ‘having an eating disorder’ has no context either.
because no one who struggles with food ‘has’ an eating disorder. it is not something they keep or hold or snuggle up to. they don’t own it. it is not something they come home to every night with a warm smile and cold feet. no. an eating disorder is all your fears, all your nightmares and the things that go bump in the night, it is the monsters that fester inside our soul and live there, it manifests into a voice that you are tricked into thinking is your own. you can’t look at another girl without thinking, look at her beautiful legs, her thighs don’t touch, she is so tall so thin. you can’t look at a boy without thinking, please don’t look at me, please don’t notice me, please don’t tell me i’m beautiful, because i am not. no one who struggles with food has an eating disorder. an eating disorder has them, it owns them, it is tidal waves of self-deprecating criticism and comparison and so much sadness you want to throw it all away -
and they don’t go away. there is no magical pill, no way to snap your fingers and say, i can put this in my mouth and not want to cry! there is no way to get rid of the food journals and the calorie counting and the people who look at you and think that girl can’t possibly have an eating disorder, she is not 80 pounds, and the only reason they think this is because society has it figured out there the only people who suffer from this problem are those rich tall white girls, who are then glamorized on television. most people don’t understand that a smile and a moving speech about self acceptance does not cure years of habit and mental construction. this is not a fad, a phase, a plea for attention. there is no quick-fix.
sadness is knowing that while my life might be a road paved with recovery, it will also be paved with struggle. recovery means gaining weight, gaining weight means conquering my fears, conquering my fears means telling society, fuck you, i can be beautiful too, and society saying right back, you keep telling yourself that, darling.
i am not ready yet. this is sadness. i cannot let go.
and let me tell you, it is exhausting.