You don’t understand me. You have never understood me. I try so hard to be the perfect child and I’m good at it. But you just don’t see me. Whenever Sarah does anything, and I mean anything, you comment, you praise her. I hate Sarah sometimes and that’s your fault too.
I tried running away last time but that didn’t work. So this time I am going all the way. Life is just too hard and I don’t want to be a part of it anymore. I know you won’t really care cause you will still have Sarah.
From your ‘not favourite daughter’ Amber.’
It’s time. I have had this letter hidden in my school diary for two weeks, afraid to finally accept my defeat. I can’t understand why the person who is supposed to be closest to me is so blind to my pain. She is too busy with her own life to even care about mine. I can’t keep going like this, I won’t keep going. It’s ruining my life.
The first time is hardest. I’m a straight-A student. I am pretty-ish. I have blonde long hair. I think I’m a good friend, maybe a little bossy at times, but overall fun to be around. If I’m honest, I am not fat but maybe a couple of kilos over weight. In general terms, I’m OK.
Sarah is my older sister, by only 15 months but she is perfect – if there is such a thing. She is taller than me. She is prettier than me, even when she wears her cool pink glasses. I would be smarter but no one thinks that is very special. And one thing that is for sure, she is skinnier than me. Mum thinks she is perfect and makes it obvious that she loves her the most. Why am I so hard to love?
It all began a few months ago. School was over and I had walked home on my own as my best friend and I were fighting. It was the worse fight ever and I wanted to run away and hide. I needed something, anything to make me feel better. The bright lights of the supermarket shocked me back to reality, not recalling entering the store in the first place. Unsure why I was here, I wondered up and down the aisles, oblivious to everything around me.
It wasn’t until I stood in the freezer section and spotted the frozen donuts did I know what I wanted to do. My heart began racing as saliva spurted into my mouth, making the desire more intense. This would make me feel important, feel special, so I took the donuts from the freezer, eyes darting around me, while placing them in my school bag. The adrenaline pulsated through my body as I swiftly made my exit from the store without suspicion. I did it. I took my first step to freedom.
I inhaled the four donuts before I had reached my front door. Still on a high from stealing, the concealed wound inside me had temporarily been filled. As I walked past the mirror in my bedroom, the disgust, the hatred began bubbling to the surface. I was pathetic. I was fat. I was nothing.
I needed the donuts to escape my body as I ran to the toilet. I needed this pain to go away as it was pulling me down, trying to pull me under. With my head in the toilet bowl, I retched. Nothing. Again I retched, the noise echoing through the little room. Nothing. Get out of my body I thought. Again and again I tried, perspiration accumulating under my armpits and my eyes immersed in liquid.
I couldn’t even get this right. I left the toilet and returned with a pencil. I shoved the pencil deep into my throat, scratching the lining but penetrating deep enough to cause the reaction necessary. Again and again I injected the pencil deep into my throat until the contents of my stomach was empty. Slumping to the floor, an overwhelming sense of perfection came over me. It was like I had elevated to a higher status in society, I was actually someone. Sheer exhaustion took over my body as I lied on my bed, slumber pulling me in.
The first time hurt the most but I have never looked back. The euphoric feeling I get from each session, allows me to get through days when life is just too hard. I feel prettier, I feel skinnier. I feel like I am finally someone of importance.
I’d like to think I am now an expert at throwing up quietly. I no longer need a pencil to get deep into my throat – that is only for beginners. I know precisely where to place my fingers so my body can react accordingly. I am proud of this fact.
It never occurred to me that what I was doing was wrong or even harmful to my body. It never occurred to me that there was even a name to what I was doing. I gorged myself to fill a void, an emptiness that began as hunger pains but grew into obsessive cravings. This would invade my body, penetrating my mind until I could no longer focus on anything else. Then I simply fixed the problem.
But the disgust that follows from these sessions and the self-loathing feels like a knife is cutting into me. My body goes into auto mode. It knows what has to be done so the hatred can be eliminated and the euphoric feeling of thinnest takes its place. This is my drug of choice. This is where my rush occurs. This is when I know I am someone special, someone who is lovable and someone who has earned their place in society.
I didn’t do this everyday, but almost. The high I gained from each session started to last for less and less time. I made excuses to myself about why I was doing it – ‘My friends do like me’ or ‘Mum doesn’t care anyway’ or ‘If I was just a little bit skinnier I would be more popular’. Each time I would think of a different reason as to why I was doing what I was doing.
My weight didn’t change though. I wasn’t getting skinnier as I had hoped. I wasn’t getting that gaunt look on my face that I desired. From the outside nothing was changing. I woke up every morning and looked at myself in the mirror but all I saw was a predictable girl. I dressed the same, looked the same and in front of everyone, I ate the same.
From the inside everything was being torn apart. I was sending my body on a roller coaster of highs and lows in such extremes that I was exhausted. The internal torment was my ally and it was the only thing in my life that I could rely on.
I have tried to stop. It wasn’t because I was thinking about the damage I was doing to my body. It wasn’t because of the damage I was doing to my life. It was because no one had noticed how much I had changed; even though I thought I had.
It was a normal day at school. Sitting in the class having a joke with my best friend, I actually felt happy. The teacher had her back to the room as she wrote the lessons workload on the blackboard, white dust from the chalk falling to the ground. Kids were talking, mostly amongst themselves as we waited for instructions. I had my best friends full attention, something that didn’t always happen. We were laughing about what one of the cool boys said to us before school.
As the noise took over the classroom, the teacher appeared oblivious to the rising volume; I began to take in my surroundings. Here I was in a room full of kids that categorised me in the popular group. I had a best friend who made feel special (most of the time). I had a boyfriend who put me on a pedestal (most of the time). What was I chasing? I was so desperate to change, to be something other than myself that I never stopped to look at what I had already.
I was tired of my internal hostility. I was beginning to feel desperate to share my secret with someone. The thought of verbalising what I was doing was embarrassing. It struck to me that I was not normal. If what I was doing was normal then I should have told me best friend a long time ago. But I knew she would not understand. How could I make her understand that I needed this to make me feel superior and important?
Looking around the room, I wondered if anyone else was like me. All the different faces, different personalities mixing together, surely there was at least one other person who thought the way I thought.
Trent, with his surfy blonde hair and gorgeous blue eyes, never had a care in the world. He played football at lunchtime with his friends; had the coolest parents ever; and had a girlfriend (me) who would do anything for him. There was no way Trent would ever do anything to harm his body. I could never tell him as he would definitely dump me.
Eliza, with her skinny legs and big boobs, never had to worry about being a strong and independent woman. Everyone wanted to be her friend, always being picked first in any activities at school. Other girls wanted to be her friend, wishing she chose them to be best friend but I was lucky, as she chose me. I realised if I told her she would lose respect for me and pick another skinnier, prettier girl to be her best friend.
Mandy, with her perfect facial features and bubbly personality, she was someone you either loved or hated. She was my friend and most of the time I loved her, even when she was annoyingly perfect. Telling her about my inner demons was an absolute no no. She would cringe and exclude me from her inner circle immediately.
So it was just my inner thoughts and me. I was the only person at school, or at least in my grade, that felt so inferior to everyone else. I was surrounded by people who knew themselves well enough and were confident in their own skin. I squirmed at the thought of my own skin, hiding the truth from everyone I knew.
I tried to not compare my life to those around me but it was difficult. Everyone seemed to have life sorted out, whereas I was struggling understanding where I actually fit in. I knew I needed to stay thin to stay in the popular crowd. I knew I needed to be happy to be popular. I knew I needed to have no major issues to keep my boyfriend. These things were facts. Trying to keep all these things together at the one time is what was bringing me down.
So I gave up purging and throwing up. And for a while I felt better within myself. I didn’t get thinner but I also didn’t gain any weight, so a tick to the first fact. I felt happier when I woke every morning, like the major stress in my life had been taken away and I was behaving like a carefree child again. Fact two now also had a tick. Finally, without any major hang-ups in my life to keep secret from my boyfriend, he had no reason to want to leave me. The final fact was ticked off.
However, one day I woke up and the sun wasn’t shinning as much as it use to. Getting out of bed wasn’t something I wanted to do. I wanted to avoid school, avoid my best friend and especially avoid my boyfriend.
The day before was a normal day at school, a quick kiss with Trent before the first bell went, a giggle with Eliza on the way to class and a bitch about one of the girls who always wanted to steal our boyfriends. At recess we all hung out down the far end of the oval to repeat the mornings ritual of kissing, giggling and bitching. A perfect day at school.
When the topic of food came up, I kept my mouth shut. I hated to talk about food. I hated to eat food in front of people just in case they thought I was too fat and shouldn’t be eating what I was eating. When Trent said he hated eating fruit but was glad I ate lots of fruit, I didn’t know what he meant. When Eliza asked the question I was thinking, Trent had replied in a joking manner he didn’t want a fat girlfriend. The entire group laughed at his joke. I just sat there.
The little confidence I had started to build inside crumbled with a few little words. No matter how hard I tried, I was never going to really fit in with my friends. With a small smile on my face, I tried to join in on the joke but internally I was screaming. All I wanted to do was run from the circle and never return.
That afternoon when I got home, I ate an entire packet of barbeque shape biscuits, barely stopping to chew properly as the jaggered edges ripped my throat on the way down. When the packet was finished, I reached for a choc chip muesli bar – gone. Next I opened the tin of milo, eating spoonful after spoonful until most of the tin had disappeared.
This is the feeling I remember, the feeling of disgust, of patheticness. It was time to hurt myself once again. I deserved it. As I closed the door to the toilet, I realised I missed the high I got after each session. I missed feeling important and I missed feeling like this made me better than those around me.
With my fingers down my throat, retching only once, I began releasing my internal emotions. Every time my fingers went back for more, I could feel my body getting lighter and my mood euphoric. I was back to where I belonged. I was home again. Ten minutes later, I was in bed and asleep, exhaustion over ruling my body.
When the sun rose the following day and it was not as bright, I knew I was heading into a form of depression. I had been trying to avoid this for over a year but I wasn’t strong enough. It only took a few joking words from someone I cared about to drag be back into my own selfish world. I had returned but this time I didn’t want to leave.
The house was quiet as I wrote a letter to Mum. It was only my thoughts that I could hear. I couldn’t spend the rest of my life in this state. It wasn’t fair on my best friend, it wasn’t fair on my boyfriend and it wasn’t fair on my mum. As I finished the letter, sealing it up in an envelope, it dawned on me that it also wasn’t fair on ME.