My younger sister has an eating disorder. Part of me is scared, the other part is guilty. The sickest part of me, deep down inside, the part I wish would disappear forever, is jealous.
I have three sisters. I’m the third of four and the little one and I are inseparable and look the most alike. I stick out when I stand with my sisters; I’m taller and larger in build and have always been called the “brother” of the family, aside from the fact that I am by far the most emotional of us.
As a total middle child, I did everything to an extreme. I didn’t just drink a lot, I got alcohol poisoning and wound up in the hospital. When I fell in love, I never got over the heartbreak. When I began sleeping around, I wanted bruises.
When I was 15, I lost 40 pounds in three months by eating 500 calories a day and throwing them up. I felt most beautiful with thin hair, blue fingers, no monthly period for two years, and an earned nickname of E.T. I was the crazy dramatic sister, until I overcame my eating disorder and graduated college early after almost dropping out.
Now, seven years later, my youngest sister has a relationship with ED just like I did and as fearful as I am that she will end up like me, I’m also afraid she’ll end up even better at it than I was.
My oldest sister says I did it for attention. She’s a bitch and we don’t speak and she’s probably a large reason I struggled with my body image and mental state for most of my developmental years. She says it is my fault my little sister is this way, which actually isn’t fair to her.
She wants to have her own issues, not be lumped in with mine. Her issues with her body are her own, and her relationship with food is her own. She was heavy as a child as well, the oldest two never were and so we shared a bond and understanding, knowing what it was like to skip over the tween section in the department store and being the “fat friend.”
When I saw the remnants of puke in the toilet, my first thought was, “You should be smarter than this to cover it up.”
As a struggling bulimic, I know the tricks and scoffed for a split second. Then I was brought back to reality and my heart began to pound. My worst nightmare had come true. This is the last thing I want for my best friend and favorite person on earth.
As much as I’ve embraced being this person who is working to overcome the stigmatism of mental health, I don’t want her to have to wake up every day and hate what she sees in the mirror. I don’t want her to have to force herself to eat because she knows it is right even if it feels like betrayal.
Even in recovery, the self-loathing doesn’t disappear, you just work through it and I don’t want her to have to dread a party because pizza is going to be there.
The last thought that went through my head, the one I wish would disappear, “She’s beating me. She’s thinner, she’s prettier and now she’s better at my own game.”
A good 30 pounds lighter than me, her collar bones are sharp and enviable and her cheekbones rest high on her face, pronounced and just dying to be photographed. She’s still beautiful for now, not too thin.
Disturbing as it is, I do envy her ability to force herself to run at midnight after a long day and reject the homemade macaroni and cheese. But I know how this story ends and I’ve been watching this car crash happening in slow motion for months. The inability to help is burden enough, but the guilt and envy are crushing, a reminder that each day is still a struggle for me, as a recovering person.
I try to comfort my mom, telling her we can try to help fix this before it gets too bad. She can still be normal. But in the back of my mind, I worry because I know what it's like to be a young women in her position. I also remember her words of comfort at far too young of an age, telling me I was beautiful and thin as I cried in her lap, and I can’t help but to carry some guilt.
She watched me struggle and saw how nasty and horrible it was. But eating disorders are terrifying; they don’t follow logic or intelligence. They play by rules of their own.
My duty and goal as a sister is to put my identifier as a struggling anorexic/bulimic in recovery to the side and try to be the support she needs right now, even if it is difficult to get up every day and look in the mirror myself.
Hopefully there is time for her to climb out of the hole and when people say we look and act alike, I can smile without any guilt or worry.