- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
Easy As Lie
Saying they watch my every move is an understatement. They watch me when I'm not moving, thinking I'm hiding something under the table when it should be on my plate. They watch when I go to the bathroom, afraid that if I'm alone, I’ll find a toothbrush and do the “unforgivable”. They monitor me like a criminal, their paranoia almost equal to my own. You see, their biggest concern is to make sure that my worst fear comes true.
They call my “sickness” anorexia, but she’s not a 'what' she’s a 'who'. She’s the voice I hear constantly – the one that encouraged me drop a quarter of my body weight. She’s the realest thing I know, even though technically she’s a figment of my imagination.
-(Come on, Bex. After everything we’ve been through you’re going to call me a ‘figment of your imagination'?)
I want to scream back at Ana out loud, but have no desire to wake the lump of piercings and scars in the bed above me. I’m always up before Dara, though I never do so much as move my leg out from under the itchy woolen bedspread, terrified of shaking our bunk.
Ana and I met the summer before 7th grade. We didn’t really talk much then, as the most she ever did was tell me to do my hair in a way that better frames my round cheeks. But as all friends do, we got closer. We started sharing our deepest feelings – our dreams, our fears, and our weaknesses. Within a month –
-(Within a month I knew you better than you did yourself. Great speech by the way, just very predictable.) I hit my head in attempt to shut her up, and recoil as I feel Dara shift above me.
As I was saying, Ana knew me inside out. I can’t even remember what she told me about herself – I just remember thinking she was totally perfect in every way. I decided she was my role model.
-(Yeah, I get that a lot.) I ignore her this time.
Anyway, that’s when things started getting out of hand.
-(Whoa! What’s that s’posed to mean?)
Ana decided that her brief visits to my head weren’t doing enough good, so she did something drastic. Something disastrous. Something that changed the course of my life for good.
-(Ouch, that one really hurt.)
She made the permanent move to my brain.
-(To help you!)
-You destroyed me.
-(I gave you what you wanted, Bex.)
-Not the way you ‘gave’ it to me.
-(It was effective!)
-Yeah, at sending me here. This is priso – no, it’s worse than prison. After all, in prison, they don’t make you fat.
Clunk, clunk-clunk, clunk-clunk. Maria’s skipping again. I watch as the thousand latches on our door click one by one. Dara hears it though her thin layer between consciousness and slumber, and squirms overhead.
-(Don’t give in to them!) Ana warns as the door creaks open.
“Up and at ‘em Ladies! Hop outside for vitals!”
God, Maria’s voice is so fervent I want to get up and smack her straight across her pimply face. She has no real purpose other than to escort us to different places throughout Chestnut Hill – the estate for us teenagers with severe health risks connected to eating disorders. I jump up and immediately head for the door, dragging my prickly blanket with me. Maria goes over to prod Dara and I escape just as I hear a roar that should be coming from a bull, rather than an 80-pound teenager.
I walk down the blue hallway, past the dark wooden doors that lead to bedrooms identical to the simple one I share with Dara. I pass portraits of former residents of Chestnut Hill. They look healthy and happy; some pictures were of huge families that they’d gone on to create. You would have never guessed that these people were once upon a time here. Of course, in the 20 some years this place has been up and running they’ve had hundreds of patients. The idolized people on the walls make up the small fraction that was able to recover. I wonder about the others, the ones who went on to commit suicide, the ones who relapsed after being discharged, the ones who never lived a happy day since they’d gotten sick. There were so many of those, but nobody ever remembered them. They didn’t even want us to know about them! They figure, “Hey, let’s just put up pictures of the lucky ones that escaped their EDs. Maybe if the kids see them they’ll believe that one day all of them will be like that 1%.” It’s like putting up pictures of lottery winners in a homeless shelter – downright tantalizing.
Then there are pictures of the manor when it was first built, sometime in the 1980’s. It’s been around long enough to establish a name as the ‘best eating disorder clinic for teens in Pennsylvania’. Yeah, right. My mom ate it all up. When the doctors told her I was going to be admitted she insisted I went to ‘the best’. I exhale, and keep walking, until I reach the end of the hallway where it merges into the waiting room. This room used to be a dull brown, but they painted it last week to a lighthearted green. I think they hoped they’d brighten our moods along with the color. As if.
Maria must’ve left our room for last again, as I see the rest of our lovely residential family scattered in the chairs that encompass the area outside the examination room. Lila’s up first, and obviously in panic mode. She gets up to run around in circles for a few seconds, then suddenly halts and sits back down, then does it all over again. To anyone else, she’d look like a nut job, but not to us. To us, she looks more like a frightened patient who doesn’t know if she wants the scale to reveal a higher number, or if she wants to do everything she possibly can to fight weight gain – that is, to fight recovery.
“Lila Brady,” calls nurse Swenson. Lila takes a deep breath and walks into the room. I have to pee really bad, and start walking towards the bathroom.
-(Hold it in, Bex. Fool them into believing you’re a pound heavier than you actually are. Just sit down and wait for your turn.)
As hard as I try to keep moving towards the bathroom, to remember that honesty is the most important factor in a successful recovery, I find myself giving in to Ana. I walk over to the closest empty chair, and sit, just like she instructed. They call us in alphabetical order of our last name, which leaves me for last, but I’m used to waiting. I’ve lived with the last name, Zander, for 13 years now, so I pretty much have to be.
“Bex!” Someone whispers in my ear, making me jump in my seat and nearly wet myself.
I reposition myself and look at the source of the voice. “Simon!” I whisper back, and reposition myself again, trying to find a way to sit that might suppress the strong urge I have to pee. Simon is the only boy inpatient. He’s also the only other person who’s in my grade. 7 of the 8 other girls are in high school, and then there’s Dara, who’s an 8th grader.
“You nervous?” he asks.
“Not more than usual, why?”
“Um, you’re squirming in your chair like you wanna break it.”
I didn’t realize it, but I was! I stop immediately. “Oh. I need to pee.” A Normal Person would feel their cheeks heating up in a moment like this, but my body temp is 94.7° - I don’t exactly have a Normal Person’s heat flow, no matter how embarrassed I may be.
He smirks. “Were you tanking?” Tanking is a method some of us use to cheat the scales. Just drink a butt load of water and viola! An extra few pounds without the fat that comes with. The only hard part is sneaking the water. You have to either save it up over a period of days (they only let you take a certain amount from the sinks) or get it from the toilet stalls and sneak it around the cameras that monitor the rest of the bathroom.
“Toilet water, yummm,” I roll my eyes. Simon knows
I wouldn’t drink toilet water if my life depended on it. Or rather, the end of my life depended on it. I probably wouldn’t even be able to drink shower water – not that they’d ever let us take one before a weigh-in – as I’ve been a neat freak and perfectionist my whole life, not to mention my OCD.
“Just checking. You should go to the bathroom.” He advises.
“I know.” I go back to rocking back and forth.
He sighs, and runs his fingers through his curly red mop, making me wish I could do the same to my own hair. I currently have two limp braids hanging from each side of my head. Until recently, my hair had been the only part of me I liked. As a matter of fact, some would say I was obsessed with it. It was long, luxurious, blonde, and I was constantly getting compliments on it. Most people wouldn’t even believe me when I told them it’s natural. I still have the color of course, but it’s not the same, and I doubt it ever will be. Last Tuesday it starting falling out, and in masses. I took my evening shower, and when I ran my hand through to massage in my shampoo, it came out with a huge clump of golden hair. I didn’t think much of that first handful, but by the fifth one I was flipping out. Apparently it’s totally normal in malnourished person, but it didn’t stop me from completely losing my cool. I’ve been maneuvering around my hair for 5 days now, careful not to tug on it or get it caught in anything. I keep what’s left of it in braids, so that I don’t go through the day feeling prickly hair strands shower down my body. But Simon couldn’t possibly understand my despair. Dudes just don’t have the same connection to hair that girls do.
We sit in silence for a while, watching the others hunched in their seats. Some are weeping, some fidgeting, and some paralyzed. And then we hear Dara.
“Ger’off me you ugly witch!” She’s swatting away Marissa’s arm, which is trying to keep her from running away.
“Easy there, kiddo-“ Marissa grabs Dara and locks her in a hug, but Dara spits in her face, and manages to wriggle out of her grasp.
“Hags don’t control me,” she sneers, and Marissa clucks her tongue. Simon’s been trying to hold back, but he lets out a hearty laugh at this one.
“Dara!” A male voice booms from behind the exam room door. How did he know what was going on from behind a wall? Well, Dara’s voice has a very distinctive quality: LOUD.
She flinches, and lets out a sound I can only describe as a hiss. “What now?” She whines.
Dr. Grolen, the nutritionist, opens the door, “If you don’t sit down this instant, Dara, we’re going to have to relieve you of tonight’s phone time.”
“Go ahead, take it! There’s no one I wanna talk to anyway,” she says it straight into his warm brown eyes, too. Does she have any conscience?
“Glad we’re on the same page, we’ll also give you a complimentary Resource. How’s that for a deal? You get it all unless you decide to take a seat.”
Dara pauses at this. Nobody, not even her, wants to have to drink a Resource. Swallowing it is exactly how I would imagine swallowing heavy cream, except I'm sure heavy cream would at least taste better. I doubt they would actually make her drink one for causing trouble (it’s typically only forced when you don’t eat enough at a meal), but she seems to buy it.
“Well I was going to sit down anyway,” she scoffs.
Satisfied, Dr. Grolen goes back into the exam room. Shortly after, Lila emerges, and Zoe goes in. Minutes later, Zoe comes out, and Ellie goes in. It all blurs together. Leah goes after Ellie, then Simon, then Maddy, followed by Dara, Hannah, Randy, and finally Van. I amuse myself by trying to read their faces, but it’s no use. If there’s one thing we residents are good at, it’s hiding our true emotions. Oh, and lying. We’re all masters of that art.
-(Here we go! Remember who we are.)
-Go the hell away. I’ll do what I want. I stand up, and stroll into the room, where Nurse Swenson, Dr. Grolen, and the pediatrician, Dr. Greenwood, await.
“Are you ready?” Dr. Greenwood asks in her overly sweet tone.
“Almost,” I reply, fighting as hard as I can to thrust Ana into the backmost part of my head.
“There is one thing I’d like to do, though.”
“Yes?” She asks, a little taken aback. She had obviously meant that as a rhetorical question. “What is it?”
“I need to pee.”