Those of you who know me well don't have to ask what the hell I'm talking about but, for the rest of you, allow me to elaborate. Many years ago I developed a sort-of obsession with anorexic people. Well, I suppose it extended to people with eating disorders in general. This obsession turned into a full-fledged fear.
I grew up listening to the Carpenters. In fact, they're still one of my favourite bands. There is something very lovely and melancholy about their songs, and I have always adored Karen Carpenter's voice. I also happen to think that she was absolutely beautiful. Beautiful and terrifying.
I remember flipping through Carpenters LPs as a child and coming across certain pictures of Karen that made me feel like suddenly there was an apple inside my throat--my eyes would bug out, and I would close the album. Of course, since being afraid makes me excited, I would look again. At times I would hear a terrifying sound upon seeing the images--the kind of thumping organ sounds you hear in old black and white horror films. A few years later, The Karen Carpenter Story aired on television. Of course I watched it. It gave me chills. I remember having a hard time sleeping that night. For whatever reason, for me, the image of a person with an eating disorder had become as scary as the old guy in Poltergeist II!
Now, jump forward to my awkward teen years when, for godknowswhatreason, I start seeing people with eating disorders everywhere. It seemed that, for several months, I couldn't go a day without seeing someone near death from anorexia or bulimia. It freaked me out! Just to be clear, I am not being insensitive to people suffering from these conditions, as I understand how serious and awful they are. I'm simply stating what it was like for me to feel like I was being haunted by what seemed to be the living dead.
This haunting escalated when I was 18 years old, working in a department store. I knew a girl that worked there who often spoke of her battle with bulimia. She always seemed a healthy weight to me, so I never thought much of it. Months went by without seeing her at work, and I assumed that she quit, until one day I saw what appeared to be the zombie version of her walking down the hall--gaunt face, sunken eyes and jagged bones poking out from under her clothes. I ran into her a few days later in an elevator, and I couldn't look her in the eye. I noticed her eyes darting around as well, settling on the ground as she said hello. Her voice sounded more like Gollum, probably due to the lining of her throat being damaged from puking. It was sad, and also frightening.
Later that night, while home alone in my then apartment, I had a meltdown. I was gathering laundry when I hallucinated that girl hiding in my closet. I pictured her trying to eat my arm, then I burst into hysteric tears and started shaking. I called my mom to explain what had happened. She laughed at first, because my reaction was most certainly insane, then she talked me down from the ledge.
I never saw my ill coworker again, but I still think about her. I hope she's alive, but I honestly have my doubts.
I could go on with many other stories about various encounters with people with eating disorders, but I won't. I don't have the same fear I used to. It could be because I've gotten to know some people who have suffered from these conditions and I was more occupied with being a friend than being afraid during their struggles.
The reason I'm writing this post is because I recently saw someone that means a lot to me who is clearly wasting away, due to an eating disorder. She is one of the reasons I continue writing as she always encouraged me. Her praise lifted my confidence and I am forever grateful for having the opportunity to write for and with her. Unfortunately, I spotted her in the hospital, while waiting for someone else I care about. It wasn't the time or place to approach her, but I wanted to tell her how much her kindness and encouragement helped me. I hope she already knows, and I hope that she is able to find the help she needs.
I'm finally doing it--pulling my insides out and splattering them around for all to see. Here we go!