You are what you eat, they say.
It’s a tired cliché, but a fitting one. Tired, like my starving body and withered soul. And far more fitting than the baggy clothing I drown myself in, hiding my gradual deterioration from an outside world in which I strive to occupy less and less space.
Sometimes I sense it eating away at me, attacking with the same voracious appetite I felt when I first began starving myself:
I don’t feel the hunger anymore—that deep, insatiable ache, the craving for sustenance. My body no longer yearns for nourishment; my stomach no longer rumbles with self-imposed deprivation; my soul no longer echoes back the pain of being hollow.
It’s ironic, really, the way you can fill yourself with emptiness.
You are what you eat.
Sometimes I’m a few minuscule crumbs, like the tiny morsels I permit myself to consume in a day. Sometimes I am small, insignificant, and fragmented. Sometimes I am unable to hold myself together, crumbling into shattered remnants of the person I once was. Sometimes I’m unrecognizable. Sometimes I’m broken.
And I am never, ever enough.
Sometimes I’m garbage, like the fistfuls of food I cram into my mouth in my occasional moments of “weakness.” Sometimes I am chewed up and spit out, nothing but the aftertaste of guilt and regret left in my wake. Sometimes I’m hidden—folded in a napkin, tucked in a granola bar wrapper, tossed in the nearest waste receptacle. Sometimes I trash the world around me. Sometimes I discard myself.
Sometimes I find myself disgusting.
Sometimes I’m insubstantial, like the ounces upon ounces of water I gulp in my quest to disappear, to wither away and become the corporeal manifestation of the nothingness I feel inside. Sometimes I’m merely a space-filler. Sometimes I’m transparent. Sometimes I slosh about the world around me, refusing to make room for anything of substance to sneak its way in.
I am drowning.
Sometimes I’m darkness, black as the coffee I drink when my body demands energy, and I turn to caffeine. Sometimes I’m a filler, a stand-in for natural vitality, natural life. Sometimes I feel fake, my personhood disintegrating as quickly as the granules of non-caloric artificial sweetener I stir into my mug. Sometimes I burn the people around me. Sometimes I’m bitter.
Sometimes I can feel the darkness percolating, dripping steadily and staining my soul.
Sometimes I’m bile, like the acrid liquid that churns in the pit of my stomach, one of the few things I permit myself to swallow because doing so serves as a reminder: I am foul. I am rotten. I am only getting what I deserve. Sometimes I try to escape only to be forced back down. Sometimes I’m sickening. Sometimes I’m corrosive.
I slowly burn myself away from the inside out.
Sometimes, many times, I’m all of these things. And the more time I spend being them—the more time I devote to the gradual atrophy of my body and soul—the more I can feel myself becoming something else.
I am becoming nothing.
Trapped in a never-ending cycle of starvation, I’ve become a self-fulfilling (ironically unfulfilling) prophesy:
You are what you eat.
And I choose to be nothing.
I won’t always embrace the nothingness. I won’t always allow myself to disappear within this disease.
There will be days when I choke down meals for the sake of my kids because I know they deserve a mom who is present, energized, and ALIVE. There will be days when I laugh with my husband as I reach over to steal a huge bite of his Starbucks muffin, forcing myself to ignore the demon inside me telling me I don’t deserve it.
There will be days when I decide that maybe I am worth more than the zero I’ve turned myself into—physically and emotionally.
There will be days when I take back control of my own life.
Recovery is a journey, not a destination. It’s a long road, and sometimes there are detours. Sometimes there are speed bumps. Sometimes there are accidents. Sometimes I have to navigate through construction zones. And sometimes I have to stop and ask for directions.
But I know that if I fight—if I commit, if I choose to keep my eyes on the road, if I allow myself to look beyond the wreckage—I can escape the nothingness. And I can heal. Because in the absence of nothing, there is always something.
There is always hope.