I am River.
I’m a fat fucking loser. I hate myself, every minute of every day. It feels like I’m constantly being crushed by myself.
I have an eating disorder. It’s my fault that I have it. I chose to starve myself because I wanted to make my parents angry. I wanted to make everyone angry. I wanted to make everyone as afraid as I am. But now it’s not a choice. It doesn’t feel like a choice.
I don’t get to make any decisions. The eating disorder makes all of my decisions. I know I want to be a child. I want to be small and skinny. Light. Invisible. Weightless. My eating disorder is so loud. I don’t think it started that way. At first, it was just a whisper. It was sweet and it promised me all the things I wanted. I wanted to be safe. I wanted to be a kid. A real kid. I didn’t want to think about scary, adult things. I didn’t want to have to make hard decisions and I didn’t want to be responsible for my choices.
The disorder promised me all of those things, as long as I followed its rules. Then there were more rules. At some point, I think I didn’t want it anymore, but it’s stronger than me. It’s louder than me. And I needed it to drown out everything else, everything that scared me. And it worked, so I guess I became superstitious. Now I’m a slave to it.
I suppose I imagine that everything would be okay if I stopped following these stupid rules, but if I’m wrong…if I can’t make decisions, if I can’t be safe, if I can’t live without it, I think the consequence of that misjudgment would be annihilation.
But also, this is something that I’ve earned, that I’ve worked hard for. And it was taken from me. They confused me and manipulated me into breaking the rules. They scared me into retreat. I had to spend the next two decades silently and helplessly watching my body become everything I had ever feared. So I promised myself that if I could ever regain control, if I could ever find my way out of the shadows, if there was an ever an opportunity for it, I would come back. I would finish what I started. I would hit my goal weight and I wouldn’t let anyone or anything stop me. I wouldn’t be fooled into recovery before I had a chance to achieve my goal.
Except now I can’t remember why it was so important and I’m terrified that I will never be skinny anyway. I feel weak and pathetic even saying that. I feel ashamed. I feel like I’m betraying the disorder. But how can that be true? How can I betray something that I created? I think maybe the problem is that I let it get too loud. And now it’s the loudest thing in the room, all the time. I can’t hear anything else. I can’t think anything else. I can’t speak of anything else, but I can’t speak of the disorder either. I invited this thing into my life because I thought it would protect me. I thought it would make me extraordinary.
And maybe it still can. I certainly still want it to. I still want to be skinny. I still want to be a child. I still want to be invisible.
So how do you reconcile that? How can I know what I want or what I need? How can I know what will keep me safe? How can I trust myself to make the right choices? How can I even know what the right choices are? How can I find the courage to silence the very thing that covers the sound of everything that terrifies me, everything I work so hard to keep hidden?
And even if I had the courage to fight it, where would I find the strength? How could I ever make enough noise to be louder than my eating disorder?