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An apology to myself

| Thursday, February 25, 2021

This column includes mentions of eating disorders and body dysmorphia. If you feel listening may aggravate your suffering or complicate your recovery, please take this notice as a trigger warning. Discuss with your support system as necessary and as always, take what you need and leave what you don’t.

It is two thousand and nine
I’m only eight years old and I’m crying Waiting for the beach and a tan Realizing with much effort that I can’t Be with my cousins on the sand

Their faces glow with joy
Splashing through the waves with the boys But on the inside, I’m destroyed
And there is nothing left to fill the void. 

I don’t like what I see In the reflection of me And I start to think … What if I could be free? 

It is two thousand and thirteen
I wonder how much weight I can lose in a week?
Five pounds? Ten? What is the best technique?
At 12, I first discover the influence of a pro-anorexia link. 

I tell my mom not to pack me any food
I’m not hungry and just not in the mood.
But my mom and I don’t realize that soon
My understanding of self-worth will be skewed. 

In the mirror, I gawk at how I look
Fat, ugly, gross and I begin a book
Where I count my calories and make sure I’m never full
I run three miles a day, burning the calories is well understood. 

It is two thousand and fourteen
I start running faster to prepare for the track team My weight plummets but so does my self-esteem The rest of me coils like a wound up machine. 

I become embarrassed of my intake
I should eat less for my own sake
Anything consumed becomes a mistake
Little did I know, a 13 year old girl I did break. 

I never go to the cafeteria, and my anxiety builds
I don’t want anyone to see me, for a look would kill.
I hide away in the library and build my skills
Of saying “I’m not hungry” while my stomach is unfulfilled. 

It is two thousand and fifteen
I haven’t told anyone; and my disease remains unseen. It is a creature I created and becomes my exterior screen It rules my life, and my fragility only begins. 

Is this what it means to be empty; to make no sound? My disease soon consumes and surrounds
It is a cage filled with water where I drown
And finally, my body has unwound. 

It is two thousand and sixteen, and I can’t breathe And I can’t see
My body is shaking
Because I fainted 

when standing up on my two feet. 

It soon becomes about self-possession
Fixing myself becomes an obsession
What if I could be free? Wasn’t the real question Because I was trapped within anorexia and depression. 

It is two thousand and eighteen
Restrictive thoughts are still a routine
They lurk at the back of my mind where they can’t be seen 

By anyone or anything
It is a monster that has only ever come in between. 

It is the most isolating aspect of my life.
My world is about numbers and how I’m seen in another’s eyes. How small can I become? How much little space can I comprise? But … what if I die? 

It is two thousand and nineteen
Before today, eight people had seen
How my life was dictated by the number on my jeans The number on the scale, and the numbers that I read. Each one distinct, and all bring back memories
Of the time where I was ruled by myself: an enemy. 

It is two thousand and nineteen
My body is no longer a battleground; it doesn’t mean
That I have to continue to be terrified by the number on the screen
Because I know my body is the outward appearance of my refusal of defeat. 

I choose to live outside of that singular frame of hunger,
I’m trying to reconcile my insides and outsides with one another
I have felt the suffocating hands of anorexia that I will forever remember But now choose not to define my self worth by a number. 

If you or someone you love might be struggling with an eating disorder, know that you have my full support in recovery and consider seeking treatment. If you feel treatment may be inaccessible to you, please consider seeking support through Project HEAL, which is the largest nonprofit in the U.S. delivering prevention, treatment financing, and recovery support for those struggling. 

If you are in a crisis situation, please contact NEDA’s helpline by texting “NEDA” to 741741. 

If you would like to learn more about eating disorders or are looking for a greater support system in healing, feel free to visit my podcast “Heavier Than I Look” on Podbean, Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts or @heavierthanilook on Instagram. Eating disorders demand silence, yet this podcast is an attempt to deisolate and destigmatize a survivor’s experience by giving a voice to each story. We must abandon a quantitative, numerical definition of identity and reclaim our self-definition to exist beyond the numbers that rule our lives. 

 

Kiera Russo is part of 2021’s Show Some Skin. Show Some Skin is a student-run initiative committed to giving voice to unspoken narratives about identity and difference. Using the art of storytelling as a catalyst for positive social change across campus, we seek to make Notre Dame a more open and welcoming place for all. If you are interested in breaking the silence and getting involved with Show Some Skin, email [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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