Lately, when I am naked in front of the mirror on my way to the shower, I study my bones.
I’d never noticed them before. They appeared so gradually that it feels as though they are suddenly just here, overnight. Here are the lines above my breasts from the top of my rib age. And below my breasts: sharp protrusions from the base of my ribs. It is easy to see my skeleton inside my body and imagine how it looks.
If I twist to the side I can see the base of my ribs from the back, perfect parallel lines curving to my spine. I lean forward and study the knobs of my spine and how they jut out, one, two, three… My hip bones curve sharply from the base of my waist in twin points.
My collarbones sit delicately, obvious beneath my neck. I think they are beautiful. I suppose they always have been, even under my flesh. I remember when I couldn’t clearly see them a couple of years ago and it bothered me. When I cover them again, I will not miss them. I know they are there.
Years ago when I was a teen, I had muscles in my thighs that stuck out from each leg in a way I was embarrassed about. I thought they were so ugly and masculine. I would look at other girls’ legs and wish mine were delicate lines like theirs. Now my legs are delicate lines. My legs held out to the last—of all the places my body held on to fat, my legs were the biggest fighters. They haven’t yet given over completely to bones. The flesh is soft with weight loss though, my skin is like tissue paper.
When did I first notice my body and decide it fell short of expectations? When did the eating disorder begin whispering lies into my ear? I cannot remember a time when I did not have disordered eating. Sometimes because I wanted my body to look a certain way. More recently, for control. My anxiety and the eating disorder walked hand in hand, the things that made me anxious and I couldn’t control made me seek out control anywhere I could get it and for me, that was in restriction.
I do not remember the day I first skipped a meal, I don’t remember the first time I looked at myself and hated what I saw. I don’t ever remember thinking that I would slowly kill myself by increments. But I remember the day I decided to live. The first time I told my partner. The tears. The shame. The relief.
In the 21 months prior to the day I decided to live I had lost a total of 23 kilograms.
I had also lost other things. When you are suffering from an eating disorder, your body uses everything it can to stay alive—my body wanted to be alive more than I did sometimes. And it fought. It takes energy wherever it can, so other things suffered. Hair, nails, skin. Organs, muscles, bones.
The first day, I ate two macadamia nuts to try to kick me over my calorie intake and I cried the whole time.
The second day, I didn’t cry.
I fought. I am a warrior.
It was as though after years of looking at my body and finding it wanting, I had broken it down to the “bare bones” and learnt to love them first. Every meal is a war and my body is the battleground and with every mouthful I am choosing to love it.
My body is this amazing patchwork of fragile flesh and defined bone…it is the vessel in which I will ride into this fight. Beautiful warrior. I do not hate my body this night. I admire it. I touch each imperfection on it with the tenderness of a lover.
You are amazing. You are beautiful. You are brave. Despite it all—you will live.
Author: Liss Brewer
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Author’s Own