Rachita Vasandani is a senior in SCAD Atlanta’s writing program. She enjoys reading, writing, and the company of her cat. She aims to get a PhD in writing, and eventually live a secluded life in Hawai’i.
It was 2015.
I was 18 years and 2 months old.
I weighed 121.24 pounds.
4 months from then it will be 2016.
I will be 18 and 6 months.
I will weigh 83 pounds.
I will be hospitalized for 2 and-a-half months.
6 months more.
It is still 2016.
I am 19 years old.
I weigh 153.3 pounds.
2 years and 2 months later:
October 2, 2018.
I don’t know how much I weigh.
I don’t know how to talk about my eating disorder in a way that isn’t anything but factual. It is clinical. I talk about it like it happened to someone else. Some hazy memory of some girl I once knew, from a past I don’t recall, a life I never lived.
I have only one photo of that time. I am standing in front of a mirror, in pale pink underwear I got from the children’s section of Target. My skin is stretched tight- so tight- over my hips and ribs. My arms look like one of those skeletal arms you find in a Halloween store, except they are a light shade of brown. I am not smiling, but looking intently at my reflection; searching for flaws, searching for meat and fat that isn’t there but I don’t know that- I refuse to know that. I am too much, too big, too curvy, too soft, too much. There is too much of me.
My hair is thin, a shadow of the dark mass of exuberant curls and bounces it used to be. My face is gaunt, my mother remarks on my disappeared dimples. My spine pokes out like some starved creature- isn’t that what I am? My body no longer has the arcs and bows of an untouched desert, but is the angled, sharp, geometry of shards of glass and twisted metal.
At my smallest my waist had a circumference of 18.894 inches. I had a Body Mass Index of 13.4. I ate an average of 230 calories a day. My core body temperature dropped to as low as 35.8oCelsius. My resting heart rate was 38 beats per minute.
I wanted what everyone wants, what society and glossy magazines tell us we should want. I wanted to be thin. I wanted control, and if that control came in the form of counting out celery sticks and obsessively tracking the number on the scale, so be it.
Anorexia: derived from the Greek words of ‘an-’ meaning without, and ‘orexis’ meaning appetite. A psychiatric disorder characterized by self-starvation, an unrealistic fear of weight gain, and conspicuous distortion of body image. In the US alone, there are annually over 200,000 cases. At any given point in time, between 0.3-0.4% of young women and 0.1% of young men will suffer from anorexia nervosa.
Anorexia was, and is, never a disease to me. It is not, as commonly misconstrued, dieting gone wrong. Anorexia is a discipline, it was my religion, my identity.
But this isn’t an elegy to the glamour of thinness and ideal beauty. My story is not a podium to share a success story from dancing on the brink of death. This is the truth of a disease that consumes both mind and body. I was not beautiful. I was the soft, broken fingernails. The dry, jaundiced skin. The yellow, bloody teeth. The seizures at night as my body fought itself to stay alive. I just wanted to be skinny, and it destroyed me.
I am only here today because my body refused to give up. It’s an amazing human faculty, our perseverance. I still bear the scars, both physically and mentally. I get anxiety attacks over food I don’t cook myself, my heart can’t quite keep up with my athletic endeavours. I can’t stand discussions about calories or weight. But I am here, and I am enough.