No, I’m not fucking okay.
Because these voices in my head are telling me I’m worthless.
And everyone in my life makes me want to die."
Some people romanticize recovery,
as if it can be defined as a light switch,
that can be turned on and off,
from darkness to the light,
the reality is that recovery
is using every ounce of your strength
to fight all the fibers of your being
that tells you to keep your lips shut
and your tongue clean
so that when you resist the urges
you fall asleep exhausted
and in tears,
recovery is a feeling
that’s a mix of disgust and freedom
that can’t be identified,
recovery is the deliberate act
of forgetting weeks and months and years
of accumulated knowledge,
because these numbers are wisdoms
you never asked to be blessed with,
but your mind holds on to them like a lifeboat,
and tearing them away requires such force,
that at times you believe that this,
this is worse than any physical pain.
But recovery is also,
spooning the chocolate powder off a frothy cappuccino,
and taking a bite of the complimentary sugar cookie
they served you on the side,
over gossip and college admission papers,
and enjoying it,
Recovery is sleeping in on Sundays and late Friday nights,
because exercise is not essential
to maintain a healthy and happy lifestyle
between yourself, your body and your friends.
Recovery is soft kisses
on secret places you were once
too ashamed to see -
to see even with your own eyes,
Recovery is licking ice cream
from a beach kiosk,
the creamy consistencies dripping down your chin,
on your blooming chest in the summer heat,
as you laugh,
and you never thought
that you could learn to love yourself,
and sometimes at night,
the blade and the bottle and the diet soda
still plays its role of temptation in your mind,
and the friendships you have gained,
do not stop you dreaming of the mass you could lose,
except now you know,
that emotions pass,
and life is short,
and the weight can only lift off your shoulder,
when you realize it doesn’t mean a thing at all.
THIS IS THE SETUP: Why should you be nice to someone who is fat?
THIS IS THE PUNCHLINE: Because they have enough on their plate.
this is you, eight years old the first time you realize that your stomach is just a little bit bigger than the ones your friends have. it happens at a sleepover when cake is served and you’re the only one to take a third slice. this is you later, sitting with your fist in a popcorn bowl, watching disney movies. you look nothing like the princesses. you don’t have ariel’s waist or jasmine’s or anybody’s. you love the lion king because nobody’s human in it. this is the first time you learn that a fat person’s place is cracking jokes. everyone will love you if you’re funny enough.
THIS IS THE SETUP: Relationships are just like fat people.
THIS IS THE PUNCHLINE: Most of them don’t work out.
this is you, thirteen the first time your best friend kisses someone. her blonde hair spreads across your lap as she giggles about it. she has such blue eyes and such a perfect body. you are used to how easily she makes friends. you are used to how people just draw themselves towards her as if she was a solar eclipse. you are used to being funny while she is beautiful. you are her sidekick. you are always making them laugh. this is you, fourteen the first time you put on a miniskirt and stare in the mirror. you take it off and wear jeans to school. it is not your job to be sexy, it’s hers.
THIS IS THE SETUP: You know what’s ironic about pubs refusing to serve someone already drunk?
THIS IS THE PUNCHLINE: McDonald’s still serves fat people.
this is you, trying to lose weight in every way you can think of. atkins. paleo. alphabet. south beach. eating healthy, only eating halves, only eating orange food, only eating ginger root. this is you, somehow gaining weight no matter what you do. this is the phone call to your friends when you fake sick so you don’t have to go out swimsuit shopping with them. this is mentally begging yourself to stop feeding yourself at four a.m. but being unable to do it, just shoving more and more food into that rotten hole of a mouth, sucking up every crumb and cracker. these are tears pouring down your cheeks while you eat and eat and eat, sometimes forty-eight (and a quarter) servings of your “safe food,” sometimes a whole jar of peanut butter, sometimes a little bit of everything (followed by a lot of everything) until it feels like you’re not even human in those moments, like your hands are out of your control. it’s both disgusting to you and the only way that you feel whole. this is you, tumbling into a dark place until you find yourself secretly lusting for some kind of disease to strip this body off of your bones. this is you, feeling so guilty for the stray thought “i wish i had the control to starve myself.” this is you, stuffing a whole box of oreos into your mouth and thinking, “i wish i could stop.”
THIS IS THE SETUP: Life is like a box of chocolates.
THIS IS THE PUNCHLINE: It doesn’t last very long for fat people.
this is you, on the bus, closing your eyes and pretending you don’t hear the little boy say “mommy, why’s she so big?” this is you, overhearing whispers in the gym’s changing room. this is you, pretending to be overly confident because inside you’re completely wilted. this is you, skipping out of parties just so you don’t have to meet anybody, just so you don’t have to watch the look on their face when they first see you. this is you, picturing a zipper on the back of your neck, wanting to step out of this body. this is you, right before you fall asleep, wishing for some kind of needle to suck all of the fat right out of your tummy. this is you, telling your skinny friends “love yourself no matter what you eat,” and never hearing it used when you need it - when you’re freaking out, this is you finding messages like “why not try working out? i can come with you if that will help,” “eating healthy is easy once you get used to it!” “you’re not really very big, not like seriously anyway. just wear clothes that aren’t very tight. no one will see.” this is you, having no one to talk to. this is you, begging yourself for control. this is you, growing older and still only getting bigger, bigger, bigger, while your heart seems dead-set on shrinking ever smaller. this is you, being asked if you are pregnant. this is you, without a prom date, unwilling to wear a dress, reading books where the fat girl gets all the guys because she’s funny even though you’re actually left all by yourself, this is you listening to girls talk about sex, this is you being the odd one out, the walking insecurity, the faceless monster, the unpretty.
THIS IS THE SETUP: You hate food so much you want to set yourself on fire, you want to burn off your fingers so you never pick up another sandwich, you want to sew your mouth closed and chop away at the rolls on your hips, you want to dissolve into a puddle and just be pretty and popular and skinnier than the rest - more importantly, you want to actually feel those things, actually feel good about yourself, actually be able to do things but
THIS IS THE PUNCHLINE: You keep eating.
this is you, the joke sitting permanently on your bones. this is you, but you are not alone. this is your best friend and you are both only a little tipsy when a drunk girl says “you need to lose some weight, fatty,” this is your best friend throwing the only punch you’ve ever seen her give, her small stature usually leaning towards being more passive. she bruises her knuckles and rips the other girl’s dress. a stranger mutters something under her breath while you squeeze through a door and your little sister goes from all smiles directly into fire, she spits out more sass than you’re sure is appropriate for a high schooler, she says things you think she’ll have to apologize in church for. this is you, being there for yourself when you feel like you have no one, standing in the mirror and saying, “my eyes are great and i am important.” this is you, refusing to be the punchline anymore, refusing to be beaten into a pulp, this is you, willful and maybe not as proud of yourself as you’d like to be but still ready for anything, this is you, occasionally still falling apart because it all hurts so badly, a lot - but this is you, and you have always been more than three letters, more than a word, more than anything they said to you to get themselves off, this is you and this is your story. be sure that you are the one doing the writing. don’t let them turn your saga into a tragedy.
this is you, and you are learning how to feel beautiful, slowly."
1. I am watching you get sick. The whites of your eyes are becoming yellow yolks; cheeks hang like grocery bags. You make diets of day planners. No time to eat with a stuffed calendar. Live off scheduled glamour. Meals are powdered hot chocolate packets. No marshmallows; just water. Breakfast is plain oatmeal. No milk; flavored with tap water. It is always raining. You swallow the storm.
2. To invite happiness inside him, Vincent Van Gogh drank paint of yellow hues. You do mad things for happiness, too. Vomit like an after school sport; casually, to pass time. Stomach acid erodes enamel. Your teeth blister. Bathe in sea salt to dehydrate water weight.
3. Eating disorders are very in. Like kale, like skinny jeans, like old Hollywood glamour- and don’t you dare bring up Marilyn Monroe. Recent studies show her frame was only one third of what you think.
4. Shrivel your stomach until it takes a single granola bar to feel full. Have NyQuil for a midnight snack. With pale pupils and unplugged irises, the only language you communicate in is numbers. You are a human recycling bin. Quit blaming your hometown and decomposing skin. If you’re not recovering, you are dying. There is no halfway when you’re overflowing from the inside. Drown your organs- they are already shipwrecked.
5. There was another girl in our grade who got sick about the same time you did, but she went to the hospital real quick because she was already thin to begin with. You see, when you’re thin, then get rapidly thinner, you have a problem. You need help.
6. You were not thin to begin with. You were fat, and now you’re evaporating, so everybody is congratulating you on getting “healthy.” You are not an illness, but an inspiration. Your father still carries your before-and-after photo in his wallet. Your disease is a smashing sensation.
7. Friend, I am so sorry. You too, are sick. Your messiah Kate Moss promises her physique is an achievable ambition, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”… Girl, she’s never had Nutella. Do not trust her, her two-faced dental care, or her fur pelt. Anorexics develop a hair all over to thaw their glacial bodies, called lanugo. The cold won’t let you go.
8. Veins bulging like a pop up book, I am watching you get sick. Mistake tracing paper for your skin. I am watching you get sick. When the blackouts start and your pulse gets slippery, wallpaper your interior with laxatives. I am watching you get sick. Read so much, your body insists it is full on authors, not high on hunger. I am watching you get sick.
9. One day, you will learn. The natural pigments will return- no more yellow skin, no blue fingernails, no scarlet scratch in your throat matching the raw nick on your middle finger. Make amends with the kitchen. Your face will glow like a television. You will get full again. Be able to finish a meal. You will become a writer. One day, I hope I’ll be able to finish this poem and say-
10. I am watching you heal. I am watching you get better.”
Even when I wanted to die, to kill myself
To rip each cell of my being apart, not once,
Not ever, did I miss a piece of homework.
Or fail a test or skip an hour-long lesson.
Sure, I skipped three meals a day but at least
I had my priorities straight.
I see these kids walking in front of me to school.
I see them, and they are zombies.
Blank faces, I doubt they’ve slept,
Probably up all night doing that essay
They forgot to do because their parents
Asked them to spend a few hours with them.
And I know this isn’t right but
I remember overhearing someone rant
About how mental illnesses are so common these
Days; they’ve become the latest fashion accessories
For the young.
It’s popular to be damaged. That makes no sense.
These kids are going insane.
Perhaps if you looked the tiniest
Bit further you’d see that this system is not working.
The clue is that millions of children are being literally
Driven mad by it each day.
But at least they’re averaging Bs
And thank god they cut themselves when they
leave school so the teachers don’t have to deal with it.
Dear every person who says that a mental illness is not
a valid reason for not being able to attend school normally,
Say that to the counselor, the school nurse, the paramedics,
and the friend who walked me to the office on the day of my overdose.
Say that to the kids who saw me sleep through first and second period.
Say that to the boy who sleeps in every class.
Tell that to my teacher who had to talk me out
of suicide on a school night.
Tell that to my bio teacher who saw
me break down during a suicide prevention assembly.
Tell that to the housemates who have heard
me call the suicide hotlines.
Tell that to my freshman English teacher who tells
me I look so alive now in comparison to
how dead I looked freshman year.
Say that to any friend who has had to talk me out of suicide.
Say that to any friend who has had to calm me down
after an anxiety attack.
Say that to every friend and follower that has
come to me with thoughts of suicide.
Tell that to the kids who have failing grades because
they can’t focus, the ones who can’t make it through
a school night without having an anxiety attack,
the kids who sleep right when they get home and
straight on until morning, the ones who
have more breakdowns a day than meals a day,
the ones who have spent more time staring
at hospital walls than school hallways.
Tell that to the kids who cry every night.
Tell that to the teenagers in psychiatric wards and treatment centers.
Tell that to the family of someone who has just committed suicide.
Tell them that school is more important than their sanity."
A FAT LITTLE GIRL
is eight years old, she’s got pink cheeks that her grandmother calls chubby. She wants a second cookie but her aunt says “you’ll get huge if you keep eating.” She wants a dress and the woman in the changing room says “she’ll probably need a large in that.” She wants to have dessert and her waiter says “After all that dinner you just had? You must be really hungry!” and her parents laugh.
A FAT LITTLE GIRL
is eleven and she is picked second-to-last in gym class. She watches a cartoon and sees that everyone who is annoying is drawn with a big wide body, all sweaty and panting. At night she dreams she is swelling like the ocean over seabeds. When she wakes up, she skips school.
A FAT LITTLE GIRL
is thirteen and her friends are stick-thin ballerinas with valleys between their hipbones. She is instead developing the wide curves of her mother. She says she is thick but her friends argue that she’s “muscular” and for some reason this hurts worse than just admitting that she jiggles when she walks and she’ll never be a dancer. Eating seconds of anything feels like she’s breaking some unspoken rule. The word “indulgent” starts to go along with “food.”
A FAT LITTLE GIRL
is fourteen and she has stopped drinking soda and juice because they bloat you. She always takes the stairs. She fidgets when she has to sit still. Whenever she goes out for ice cream, she leaves half at the bottom - but someone else always leaves more and she feels like she’s falling. She pretends to like salad more than she does. She feels eyes burrowing through her body while she eats lunch. Kate Moss tells her nothing tastes as good as skinny feels, but she just feels like she is wilting.
A FAT LITTLE GIRL
is fifteen the first time her father says “you’re getting gaunt.” She rolls her eyes. She eats one meal a day but thinks she stays the same size. Every time she picks up a brownie she thinks of the people she sees on t.v. and every time she has cake, she thinks of the one million magazine articles on restricting calories. She used to have no idea a flat stomach was supposed to be beautiful until she saw advice on how to achieve it. She cuts back on everything. She controls. They tell her she’s getting too thin but she doesn’t believe it.
A FAT LITTLE GIRL
is sixteen and tearing herself into shreds in order for a thigh gap big enough to hush the screams in her head. She doesn’t “indulge,” ever. She can’t go out with friends, they expect her to eat. She damns her sweet tooth directly to hell. It’s coffee for breakfast and tea for lunch and if there’s dance that evening, two cups of water and then maybe an apple. She lies all the time until she thinks the words will rot her teeth. She dreams about food when she sleeps. Her aunt begs her to eat anything, even just a small cookie. They say, “One bite won’t make you fat, will it, darling?”
A FAT LITTLE GIRL
is seventeen and too sick to go to prom because she can’t stand up for very long. She thinks she wouldn’t look good in a dress anyway. Her nails are blue and not because they are painted. Her hair is too thin to do anything with. She’s tired all the time and always distracted. She once absently mentions the caloric value of grapes to the boy she is with and he looks at her like she’s gone insane and in that moment she realizes most people don’t have numbers constantly scrolling in their heads. She swallows hard and tries to figure out where it all went wrong, why more than a granola bar for a meal makes her feel sick, why she tastes disease and courts with death. She misses sleep. She misses being able to dream. She misses being herself instead of just being empty.
A FAT LITTLE GIRL
is twenty and writes poetry and is a healthy weight and still fights down the voices every single day. She puts food in her mouth and sometimes cries about it but more and more often feels good, feels balanced. Her cheeks are pink and they are chubby and soft and no longer growing slight fur. Her hair is long and it is beautiful. She still picks herself apart in the mirror, but she’s starting to get better about it. She wears the dress she likes even if it only fits her in a large and she doesn’t feel like a failure for it. She is falling in love with the fat on her hips.
She is eating out with friends and not worrying about finding the lowest calorie item on the menu when she hears a mother tell her four year old daughter “You can’t have ice cream, we just had dinner.
You don’t want to end up as a fat little girl.”