by Kathryn MacArthur
I heard once that the colour red stimulates appetite.
so I threw out everything red that I had.
When I was young a doctor told me I didn’t look like I had an eating disorder so I went home and didn’t go back until I did,
until my body had swallowed itself whole until I had evaporated back into my own heaving breath until my eyes had sunken completely inside my skull, all rough and raw and barren
you can’t look into eyes that aren’t there
you can’t hold a hug with half a person
or half a waist a wasted space wasted food a waste a waste a waste I just wanted to waste away
the sun is a delicious red it splits time into days making way for the night
but my illness doesn’t rest
and the numbers in my head wont go to sleep until I do and even then we dance around each other counting each other
I haven’t really been to sleep in years.
I am ruled by numbers not by the stars and I try everything I’m told
but I have never left a yoga class feeling any more woman any more beautiful more fit more thin than before
there aren’t enough namastes in the world to fix this broken brain
I am suffocated by the amount of water I drink I think maybe I am trying to drown myself flush myself out turn my body against itself,
but bodies are unpredictable
There is a vast community of people recovering from eating disorders connecting online, but a lot of them not recovering- just sweetening each other’s sicknesses they wear their hospital stays like badges
counting them out on display
it is just another thing for them to count.
They call themselves soldiers but what side are they fighting for
And I find myself not ranking the highest but I must be sick to want to be the sickest
these blood shot eyes follow me through city streets they are a token of my compliance I pledge allegiance to this illness
but it is the loneliest place I have ever lived.
When I tell people the city can be a lonely place to live sometimes I really mean this eating disorder can be a lonely place to live sometimes.
But we all live in a nation obsessed with the number zero-
size zero, zero calories, zero carbs, zero down payments, zero sugar, zero commitment I guess we are all obsessed with
but zero doesn’t give you much
doesn’t leave you with much.
We want nothing more than to eat ourselves back into nothingness back into babies back into not being born back to zero we are an empty black hole of desire
just learning how to make ourselves appetizing but have no appetite I am
just a space to fill up and empty again as quick as I can.
We are constantly reminded exercise is a necessity in the maintenance of good health, fives times a week
there is never a bad time to be working out
so I kept a folder on my computer,
labeled it “health”
filled it with my weight loss progress and I kept storing more and more and more photos of myself in there until there was nothing left to photograph
nothing left to track.
I went from fitness to illness and
what good is this blood and bone
what good are these muscles thick with flesh and fiber
if not moving, if not shrinking
every second I stand still is another second I feel wasted
My mother told me it’s good to feel hungry sometimes
so I let my meals eat themselves.
I learnt to see my stomach as an inconvenience
a gluttonous, ravenous mistake for a necessity
voracious, insatiable, wolfish but now I am the wolf and the prey.
These days I think I’m doing fine but every morning I put milk in my coffee when really
I want sugar.
I had a doctor tell me recently I don’t look like I have an eating disorder.
So I went home.