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An Open Letter to the Body I Destroyed through Anorexia

Dear Body,

I remember the day perfectly when you completely broke down because of the way I treated you. I completely deprived you of the nourishment that you deserved; you were starving, but I didn’t care. I over-exercised you to the point of having negative calories inside of you; you had no energy, but I didn’t care.

I can imagine how confused you were because you thought my days of abusing you were over after already completing eating disorder treatment. You were healthier, happier and freer for a brief period of time, but I am sorry that time didn’t last long. I thought my days of using you to find my sense of control were over too, but the thoughts inside my brain overcame the way I should have treated you. I didn’t know how to control everything else in my life, so I manipulated you to gain that sense of control.

I controlled you to a point where you couldn’t even function anymore. I realized you broke when I could barely walk up a small hill without feeling like I was going to faint, I couldn’t stand up without feeling incredibly dizzy and I could feel my heart beating slower than ever before. You were dying, slowly dying, but still dying.

 I thought I learned how to treat you right after treatment. I thought I learned that I could nourish you without feeling guilty or exercise without burning all the calories I left in you. I took you to college with me, away from the people who could make sure I kept acquiring to your needs. I used this alone time with you to destroy you; I used it to break you down more than I ever did before.

I knew the warning signs you gave me with the emptiness in the place where I fed you and the unsteady beat from where you pumped blood into me to survive, but I ignored all of the signs and continued. I forgot about you for a brief period as I poured alcohol into your emptiness, but it only damaged you more and turned me into a monster. I thought I hurt you, but I never knew I destroyed you until I had to hook you up to an EKG, sit you down in a hospital bed, hook you up to wires to make sure you were alive, give you pills to help you survive and feed you normally for the first time in weeks. I am sorry.

Honestly, Body, I thought you would never forgive me. For a little while you made me hurt because of how badly I hurt you; the payback was relentless. Not only did I need it, but I deserved it. You made me shake during anxiety attacks as people forced food down my throat, you made my bones and muscles throb as you got grew accustom to not being exercised, you made me feel excruciating stomach pains as I re-nourished you, you made me bloat, you allowed weight to add onto you and worst of all, you made feel like I had no control.

For a long time, I hated you for doing this to me and, after getting out of residential treatment for the second time, I retaliated against you once more. First, I didn’t want to hurt you in the way that I did before because I didn’t want to get caught. I didn’t want people to send me back to treatment for making you smaller, so I found new ways to hurt you.

I dug my nails into you and ripped the skin off of you until you bled, but you remained strong; you were still punishing me. I tried harder to destroy you for making me feel terrible about myself so I picked up a match and lit it while looking down at you. I dug the lit match into my leg and burned you to remind both of us how much pain you caused me.

Body, I am sorry, but I hated you so much that I continued to do this; I hated you so much that I began to starve and over-exercise you once again, but this time I was a lot more careful to not get caught. You were able to retaliate against me, but in the ways that I didn’t mind. You made me feel exhausted, irritable, depressed, anxious, weak, dizzy, cold, and empty, but that’s what I wanted you to do; it hurt so good.

I didn’t go long until you got me caught again. I stepped on the scale and instead of weighing a certain number, Body, you carried the weight of a number far too low for what I needed to be. For the months that followed, I struggled between letting you win or letting anorexia win, and there were numerous days that you lost.

For that, Body, I am sorry. I should have protected you from that vicious anorexia, but I didn’t know how to win that battle. You hurt me over and over again, but it came to a time in my life where I realized that this pain was there to make me feel worse before I ever felt better. I just needed to accept the worst feelings that you made me go through.

You accepted the pain that I put you through and now it was my time to endure your punishment. I had to allow myself to let you make me feel uncomfortable, sick and hurt until you made me feel alive. And as I look at you now, Body, you form tears in my eyes because of how fucking thankful I am for you. I hurt you so fucking badly, but you resisted; you kept me alive. I am alive because of you even though you have all the reasons in the world to not let me stand today because of what I did to you. Every single day I appreciate what you allow me to do. I appreciate that you found it within yourself to forgive me. Yes, sometimes you’re a huge bitch and make me bloat or make me feel incredibly anxious and depressed, but the little things that you now allow me to do without killing you are beyond amazing.

You now allow me to run to class when I am late without making me feel like I am going to faint, you allow me to dance, you allow me to laugh and smile, you allow me to sing, you allow me to brush my hair without making it fall out, you allow me to be outside without making me get hypothermia, you allow me to nourish you without starring at food like it’s the enemy, you allow me to study rather than allowing me to calculate every single calorie I put inside of you, you allow me to engage in conversation, you allow me to feel sad without letting it ruin my entire day, you allow me to swim, you allow me to hike, you allow me drink and you allow me to accept you.

Accept you; no, I don’t love you yet and I am not sure that I ever will. I am still in the process of recovering and it continues to be the hardest thing I have ever done, but I am still doing it for you. Every day I still think of how I can destroy you, how I can starve you and how I can break you down, but I don’t.

Body, you are only in recovery, not yet recovered, and I am still amazed at what you allow me to do despite how much I broke you down. I know you have ways to go and it’s still really hard for me to accept that, but I know you will reward me again for my progress. I have witnessed what you’ve given me and I know there’s more to come.

Yes, there are still days that I allow anorexia to beat you because it’s too hard to allow myself to give you what you need so I act on urges, but I won’t let it destroy you again. And yes, I still need to be on my medications to make sure I don’t hurt you more and I know I have permanently damaged you, but that doesn’t stop me from fixing you.

I try my best to not look at you in the mirror and only see numbers: the number of what you weigh on a scale or the number of calories I’ve put inside of you. I know you’ll let me run again, play sports again, be able carry a child when the time is necessary, but first I need to give you what you need in return. I am still unable to allow you indulgences without feeling guilty and I still follow a meal plan to make sure you get everything you need. I still go to the doctors to make sure I have someone who will be sure to protect you when I am falling apart. I still cry about how much I dislike you or feel like I can’t get you out of bed because of how done I am with you.

Every day is a struggle, but Body, I am sorry and you are forgiving me; I am thanking you and you are welcoming me to be truly alive.

Alaina Leary is an award-winning editor and journalist. She is currently the communications manager of the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books and the senior editor of Equally Wed Magazine. Her work has been published in New York Times, Washington Post, Healthline, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Boston Globe Magazine, and more. In 2017, she was awarded a Bookbuilders of Boston scholarship for her dedication to amplifying marginalized voices and advocating for an equitable publishing and media industry. Alaina lives in Boston with her wife and their two cats.