Through the looking glass

You are caught in a swirling nothingness. You can’t breathe, hear, feel, understand or see. Suddenly, your 110-pound body can’t feel anything but an extreme terror that the cookie you just ate is expanding viciously into a gut that would rival that of even the largest of whales.

Something has taken over your body and in a mad rush you stuff in more cookies, adding some chocolate, cereal and ice cream to the mix.

Thousands of calories later, your stomach so stretched that you can’t physically put anything more into it, you go to the bathroom. In a daze, you stick your fingers down your throat and it begins.

Once you are done throwing up, you sit on the floor crying, promising yourself that you will never do that again, that tomorrow will be different, wondering how you ever became this person in the first place.

Then, somehow, you find yourself in the kitchen again, with another malicious cookie in your hand, and the cycle begins anew.

The next morning the mirror reflects your puffy cheeks and bloodshot eyes.

You run your tongue over your sore teeth but none of that catches your attention. All that you can see is how fat you are. You envision your body spreading across the room and frantically try to think of what clothes you will actually be able to fit into.

Ten minutes later you dry your tears and try to get dressed, which takes another 15 minutes of crying, gazing in the mirror and finally deciding on a large sweatshirt and jeans that will camouflage your obesity. Which is probably better, because at this point your body is not functioning at a level that will allow it to produce its own heat.

You have now fallen through the looking glass to my world – a world where nothing makes sense. Where, to get what you want, you must walk away from it. Where, every day, you drown yourself a little bit more until you don’t even recognize who you were.

I chose to be thin for one small price: everything. My family, my friends, my sanity, school, my future, going out, my health and eventually, my life. And fate’s cruelest twist is that I will never live to truly see it.

Sure, I can look in the mirror and see my body, but my mind will process it as being at the same size I always was and usually bigger.

People can tell me not to lose weight, not to worry, “you look fine, even almost too skinny.” And the disease that has twisted my life around her finger whispers back, a classic line from American Beauty, “There is nothing worse in life than being ordinary.” So I shrug off their comments, usually angrily, and revise my “diet,” as I am not getting the results I want.

The worst part is that I chose this for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t just wake up one morning and think, “I’m going to start throwing up.” It started with extreme dieting. I wasn’t anorexic, but I would restrict myself to less than 800 calories per day, many days much less.

Then one day my body couldn’t handle that stress any longer, and on auto-pilot, began to stuff itself. Once I returned to my natural disordered state, I was so disgusted with myself that I raced to the bathroom to try and free myself from this evil that I had allowed to take over my

control.

It was mine and I wasn’t about to let anything else control me, and the only way I saw to put myself back into the driver’s seat was to expel the food from my body.

I made that choice to start, thinking it would put me back in control, but all it did was spiral me deeper and deeper out of control. I lost control and got bigger, and that is my deepest shame. It is not that I participate in this sadistic behavior, nor that I have hurt the people I love

immeasurably.

I will never be truly “better.” I will never look in the mirror and see a person I am satisfied with. There will always be a voice in the back of my mind that says, “that would be so easy to throw up and it would save you the weight gain.” Some days that will get the better of me. Some days I will get the better of it. But I will always have to live with it.

People are so curious about eating disorders. They think that they can test the waters without getting hurt. They want to go through the looking glass to see what we live, to “lose a little weight” and then go back to “normal.”

No! This is not something you want; it is not a quick fix. And most importantly, you can’t just leave it behind when you want to. It consumes you: body, mind and soul. It’s addicting. Even when you want to leave it behind there will always be a stronger part of you who isn’t willing to give up the control. “Besides,” the disease will lie, “you are still fat, so you don’t deserve help.”

If you don’t believe me, if you do tumble through the looking glass, you will realize too late when you wish to return home, that your passage through the mirror was a one-way ticket. That the mirror has glassed back over, and you are stuck forever in a world of terror and darkness.

Wonderland, it seems, is not all that it appeared.

Serenity Berntson is a first-year student. Send comments to [email protected]