Friday, September 25, 2009

Photographic Evidence.

To any other person, this is a normal photograph, taken by a webcam. To any other person, the girl pictured may seem normal, cute, possibly even slightly self-absorbed if she's snapping away at herself with said webcam. To any other person, this wouldn't be much to look at.
But, to me, this picture is photographic evidence. To me, this picture is proof that I was, indeed, sick, probably sicker than I believed or thought at the time or would ever believe or think, period.
I have pictures in which I am physically thinner. I look like a corpse, a Holocaust victim, a cancer patient. Assign a negative, too-thin adjective-noun to your choosing. It would fit. But, in those photos, the spark was still in my eyes. I had hope things would improve. Beneath the taut flesh, chicken legs, and sunken face lay a skeleton surrounding a heart that could beat, a brain that could function, and function well, and muscles, joints, and all the inbetweens that provided life. I was very much aware of these things. As sick as I was, I maintained, cherished, and salvaged that hope. I kept it for myself and it was what propelled me through. Those pictures are the before. The pictures after treatment are what I call the 'during.' I call them this because they were not necessarily the 'after.' I went through treatment. I caught a very large glimpse of what life could be without my disorder and did my best to keep my eyes open. Then, reality struck and the door slammed in my face. I trekked on through. But, I wasn't happy. The during was the waiting room. I still had hope - that it would get better, that I would find the tranquility, the peace of mind, to deny even the slightest of symptoms. But, even with that hope, I also knew it could go the other way. An eating disorder has no gray area. It's black or white. You're either in the midst of the disorder or crawling through the ruins, facing the aftermath. It is very, very capable for you to be on the fence. But, you won't stay there long. At least I didn't.
The picture above is the after. I chose the wrong side of the fence and I didn't look back. For most people, relapses are gradual. For me, relapse happened in a matter of five minutes. One morning, I had breakfast. The next, I didn't. Ditto lunch, ditto dinner. Food ceased being significant; I stopped being significant. In a matter of hours, I morphed from Jessica to nameless. All I possessed was a body. And, I wanted it to hurt.
It hurt, that's for damn sure. I spent months with my head beneath the water, gasping for air, flailing my arms around helplessly. In this picture, the spark is gone. I'm forcing my smile, desperate to appear happy, desperate to even pretend. My skin is a dull pallor, my face thinner than it had been in a long while. In retrospect, I should have thought this picture was cute. Instead, all I could see was 'fat, my cheeks look fat.'
I wasn't fat. I was too thin. My clothes were hanging onto my limbs for dear life, threatening constantly to fall to the ground and expose my twiggy gams. I wore sweaters large enough to hide families in, shorts that added girth. No one ever saw my body or even caught a glimpse of what it could look like. I even ceased seeing it myself after awhile, my eyes grazing over the mirror, seeing nothing but unwanted flesh.
I wasn't fat. I was sick. Sicker than I'd ever been, but in a different way. Prior to Florida, I was clinically diagnosed as anorexic, BMI registering at just below 15. Prior to Philly, I was ED-NOS and my BMI wasn't even recorded. That embarrassed me. I wanted the title, I wanted the label. All I had were five bland letters implying I engaged in a peppering of eating disorder behavior, but that I wansn't, in fact, sick enough to have a definite diagnosis. I believed what I saw; I believed that I had no name in the eating disorder world. That I was just as nameless and faceless as I was in the real world. I felt like a failure.
I look at this picture and have realized that I was sick enough. If this wasn't sick enough, what would have been? I was beautiful. I still am (I cannot believe I even just said that, but whatever), nothing has changed. I'm glad I can see it now, but I wish I could have seen it then, more so than anything else.
Pictures now have no label. I don't care for before, during, after. This piece of my life is what I like to call the 'escape from conformity.' I don't need to associate myself today with who I was then if I don't feel like doing so. Those photographs no longer hold any weight. I don't look at them longingly, hoping to one day assume that level of sickness again. I did that in the past, but I wouldn't again. When I was the after, I wanted to be the before. When I was the before, I wanted to be what I thought would be the after. There was never a happy medium. So, now, I am all sides of the spectrum, the before, during, and after.

Only, I am better.

And, I am whole.

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