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Baby Steps to Happiness

By , Chelsea, MA
Shuffle around, open a few cabinets, the fridge, sigh.

“An apple’s an okay lunch I think.”

“No, no, no, not anymore.” More sighing. Back to the cabinets, get a bowl of cereal and wash that apple. “Okay looking better.”

Teaching myself how to eat again after a 2 and a half year battle with anorexia has been an extremely difficult process. Something as simple as lunch turns into a small battle in which I must assuage the inner demons and assure them that yes, I can have an actual sandwich with a bag of chips, or even a bowl of cereal with milk, something that was previously unheard of.

I’ve been in ‘remission’ from anorexia for about 6 months, and I suppose eating has gotten easier over time. My body no longer gets stiff at the sight of a large plate of food and my stomach doesn’t automatically make itself nauseous, forcing me to only eat bits and pieces of the meal. I’m able to sit down at dinner and not hide half of my food in my napkin, or one specific instance I remember involving me going onto my back porch to toss pieces of a granola bar snack onto my neighbor’s roof, simply to avoid eating it. My younger sister no longer has to follow me to the bathroom to make sure I wasn’t going to throw up (I never did) or inspect the trash barrel after I had thrown away my plate to ensure I had eaten more than a few tablespoons of whatever was being served. Things are easier to deal with everyday. I’m able to give in and destroy a bag of chips with my best friends at a sleepover, and restaurants are a completely different experience; I no longer have breakdowns over the menu’s, no sobbing arguments with my mom over wanting to only eat a few pieces of plain lettuce because there wasn’t anything else I would force down on the menu, and at a particular restaurant, no more hiding my entire piece of dry fish in my cloth napkin, placing the napkin in my purse, and disposing of the package in the sanitary bin of the bathroom. (At the time I was extremely proud of doing this because I was never caught despite our frequent trips to this restaurant; today I wonder how confused the cleaners were when they saw this in the bin…)

Despite these enormous victories, eating still remains a challenge. I can’t help but envy other teenagers my age who have no issues with food, and allow themselves to eat whatever they want, while I try and limit myself to the healthiest and lowest calorie food at every meal. I’ve eliminated meat from my diet, mainly because of the taste, but there are times when fried chicken or chicken parmesan makes my mouth water (it used to water for my forced twice daily chocolate Ensure, the only thing that remotely resembled dessert in my diet.) There are times when i hear a voice in the back of my mind, chanting usually “well its alright to skip lunch, just don’t eat anything you’ll feel great about yourself,” or “make sure you don’t have a snack later, you ate more than usual at dinner,” and it is extremely difficult to silence these voices, because for so long they were the only reasoning I would listen to. The long term effect my anorexia has had on my family shows too. When my sister assures me she’s not hungry so she only eats a mouthful for lunch, or refuses herself a snack at night, it sends my brain into a frenzy; I become stressed out that I may have eaten more than her, or that if she doesn’t have a snack then I shouldn’t either, because I would end up feeling fat eating alone. These thoughts shouldn’t continue to appear in my mind, but they always do, and that is what keeps me nibbling at my food, feigning fullness myself. In addition to this, my mother has continued her policing of what I eat, always making sure that I had some sort of protein, a starch, and whatnot. As helpful as this is, there are times her paranoia shines through, and her attitude reflects that of the one she had when I thought 10 cheerios made a breakfast, never ate lunch, and dinner was salad and an ensure. She panics when I only want a granola bar before gymnastics practice, afraid that I may be reverting to my old ways, when in truth that’s all I need for energy, going as far as threatening that “your sister and I will die if you go back, you know that. Its going to kill us both, everything, the stress, the emotional part, you’re going to kill us.” The words burned at my flesh, my insecure and emotionally scarred heart, one that holds more sadness, anger and stress than anyone knows. My mother doesn’t know that I feel depressed often, that I lay in my bed crying, hating myself for all of my flaws and mistakes ive made, not only regarding eating, but with love, my new found attractive body and dealing with the attention that comes with it, not letting people use me, abuse me, etc. I blast Killswitch Engage, Seether, or my favorite band Blue October, the singer Justin Furstenfeld comforting me because he himself has gone through so many mental and emotional trials and is still around to sing about it. I hate myself more than love myself, and this is all a result of things that have happened as a result of my anorexia, directly and indirectly.

As hard as eating still is for me, I know that one day it won’t bother me at all, and anorexia will be a distant part of my past. Right now I have to assure myself that these baby steps I’m taking are alright and that my strides will gain ground over time, until I can run confidently again, smiling and self assured. Until then, holding the hands of everyone around me, I will continue to take baby steps to a brighter future in all aspects of my life.





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