I woke up this morning to a letter in my inbox. I get a lot of these kinds of letters, being someone who puts my personal shit on the Internet -- I get letters from addicts and alcoholics and girls with eating disorders and girls who have been raped and I am not able to respond to them all.
But this letter got to me -- perhaps because it's from a teenager, or because it's so well-written. Anyway, it touched me, so I asked her permission to share it her with you.
I know you guys will have some amazing advice for her. For my part: Get help get help get help. Talk to your parents, see a counselor, just ask for help now before your coping mechanisms are worn in by decades of practice. You're obviously super-smart, but brains don't fix emotional problems. Ask for help.
I'm 16 years old and was 117 pounds this morning, but I don't think I will be by tomorrow.
Let me explain. I do this thing, at night. It's summertime, so I wait for whoever I'm hanging out with to leave my house/bring me home. This is usually about half past midnight and I like to sit on my laptop and read all of the xoJane articles posted that day and let my head devour real words of real people and hope that it is making me better. (Feminism! I don't have to feel guilty for wanting sex! I don't have to feel guilty for not wanting sex! Even hot adult writers don't have it entirely together! Everything!) I like to think that it is.
Conversely, though, I also like to eat a half gallon of ice cream while I read and then vomit topless until my voice sounds like Tom Waits after.
So I don't know why I can't line it all up. I read about it online (not those pro-ana sites or anything, which are creepy as hell) i.e., real accounts of real people. Like you.
People have speculated about Impressionable Teenage Girls reading that kind of thing online; "giving them ideas" and whatnot. And, not to be overly morbid, but as far as the actual illness goes it isn't anything we (I?) don't already know.
I mean, if I lived in isolation my entire life, Maybe I'd have never gotten the idea to put my fingers in my throat. Thing is, I can't even remember the first time I'd heard about the idea, just having my memory jogged about it in some sixth grade health class warning a room full of girls not to do it.
But! What I don't know about is the getting better thing. Seeing yourself in pictures and feeling like you look normal. Good days and bad days. Relapsing, because I forget it's an addiction!
I also realize that I have an addictive personality. As much as I'd like to be thin, I know that purging has not lost me any weight. So, if it were about thinness, wouldn't I move onto some other dangerous tactic? But I can't. I've tried.
Most of the time, I forget that these internal dialogues are beyond the spectrum of what my high school's counselor would define as "healthy." It's scariest when you get a jolt and realize that you've forgotten it's abnormal.
But anyway, coming to tonight. I woke up at about four in the afternoon today. I had a healthy vegetarian dinner (which is how I eat throughout the day most days) and then my friends came over.
We went on a long walk around town, climbed to the roof of some tall building we weren't supposed to, swam in our underwear in a man-made lake behind a store and listened to music back at my place. All normal, teenagy summer-type things that should show that I am happy and well-adjusted. Even confident, or fun.
But still, when the door shut at 12:45 a.m. and I was alone, I sat criss-cross-apple-sauce on my bed with xoJane in an open tab, a frosting-coated bakery cake and a tub of frozen yogurt. One hand for the spoon, another for the trackpad.
It's depressing when I put it like that, even though that's how it was. Then it was gone. Then I went to the bathroom, shut the door, and emerged from it I don't even know how long later, shaky-handed feeling my heartbeat in my teeth and smelling awful.
As much as I hate wording it like this, I was planning on a round two. I almost never do that, one binge and purge session after another in rapid succession. But I've been tense lately: nervousness about the upcoming school year, being incredibly sexualized by my male peers while having awful body image, my boyfriend's hospitalization over his suicide attempt.
It even feels silly to say that those things lead to another bout of gorging in my room in the middle of the night, but it's probably true.
But here's the good part, I think. I was eating trail mix, which I don't even really like. And I clicked on "The No-Diet Diaries: Finally Getting Rid of That Godforsaken Scale."
And I just kind of realized that I'd stopped stuffing my face. My brain when into this swirl of how if I saw a scale for free in the street I'd take it gladly, and how if you had been watching from your window and saw young messed-up me snatch up a scale to go home and obsess that you probably wouldn't feel great about it, and that I am very obsessed and that maybe I should ask for help sometime because I'm not the only one like this.
But... I didn't throw up. I think that's what this whole thing was to tell you. Emily, I didn't puke. I wanted to, and even know I feel like I can feel tingles in my thighs of growing fat even though I know it's just my head, and I regret eating all of those peanuts and dried cranberries. But I did not throw up.
I finished reading the piece and I did not throw up. I finished reading the comments and I did not throw up. Then I decided to write to you.
That was a couple of hours ago. Even if I suddenly changed my mind now, I wouldn't throw up because of the amount of time that has elapsed.
Our illnesses are very different, of course. I don't know what stage I'm in or if I even really feel I count as "sick." But reading you has helped me, and tonight it helped me in the most obvious manifestation. I didn't throw up, and I am scared, and I am trying to get better.
I've been reading your stuff for a long time, and damnit, Emily, I just love you. When I'm up reading in the middle of the night you make me feel less alone. I love you, I love you.
And about that tell-everyone-your-weight thing. Last year when I turned 15 I never got my driver's permit because I thought my weight would go on the card. I was 112 then. I weighed 117 pounds at 4:30 p.m. on August 6th, 2012. I probably will not tomorrow morning, because of the food I kept down.
Right now, I'm thinking about just not weighing myself when I wake up. I might mess up and do it anyway. Baby steps, I guess.
I guess what the plan to say to you (before I started rambling, for which I really am sorry) was: Thank you for writing the truth. Thank you for being there when I was alone. Thank you for holding my gross-smelling hand. Thank you for being a pretty lady who writes honestly and helped me realize that getting better comes with trying, not aging and hoping everything lines up for you. Good vibes your way always.