There is a chill in the room. It prickles underneath my skin, pulses through my veins, and penetrates the layers of my skull. My lungs tense and tighten; chilled and constricted, they call for air. Carefully, swollen feet hit icy floors and I rise. My knees crackle, clenching, and quickly I glance down at my toes to make sure they haven’t burst. I can feel my heart throbbing–ba-dum-ba-dum-bum–in my ears. Each beat (or cluster thereof, thanks to my PVCs) is reminder: I did this to myself; I gave myself heart disease.The guilt is overwhelming. It’s self-defining, all-consuming, everlasting. It eats me alive, wrapping me in a cocoon of cold, crunching the hope from my bones, gnawing the life right out of my heart. It kills me, and I let it.
Irreversible, permanent, forever. It’s not going away, my cardiologist says, the condition and the guilt. You can’t fix a broken heart–but you can learn from it. You can get up every morning, and you can open your eyes to the world. You can survive with this, and you can thrive with this. You can change the world, and you can change yourself.
And so I promised her, never, never, never again. Never again will I starve, will I supplement, will I slice, will I shrink; never again will I exercise my way to the emergency room; never again will I purge for an impossible peace; never again will I diet to an unwanted death; never again will I let anorexia be my life.
A smile, a nod, a hug, a tear.
There’s a warmth in the room now. I take breath; it rattles like gravel, but my lungs fill with fuzzy air. I slip my yellow flip-flops on, and I hardly notice my blue toes. Suddenly, the grey walls surrounding me don’t seem so grim. I feel can my heart dancing in my hands—ba-dum-ba-dum-bum. Each beat is a reminder: I survived; I beat anorexia.