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i remember sitting across from her in the hospital room. my parents didn’t know i was there. it was after a particularly violent binge and i was in so much pain i was willing to do most anything… | Secret Keepers by Emily Joy Rosen

i remember sitting across from her
in the hospital room

my parents didn’t know i was there

it was after a particularly violent binge
and i was in so much pain
i was willing to do most anything

she pulled out pen and paper

“so, i see you do not have insurance”
she said,
“is that true?”

i nodded my head

“well, i am not sure what we can do,
but let me learn more about what’s going on
it says here you have an eating disorder
can you tell me more
about your behaviors around food?
what did you eat today?”

she looked back down
at her paper
ready to write
my meals for that day

and i literally felt my heart drop
as i realized
she wasn’t going
to help me

“i ate over 40,000 calories of food today,
would you like me to recount everything?”
i said

and before waiting for a response, i began:
8 pints of ice-cream
6 bran muffins
2 pizzas
8 hostess cupcakes
2 cans of pringles
a pound of gummy bears
24 california rolls
6 chocolate frosted donuts…

i kept going
detailing each item out
with incredible specificity
without pausing
i kept going
careful not to take a breath
so she could interject

she stopped writing
at some point
but kept her eyes averted

and i kept listing the items off
i wasn’t going to stop
until she looked at me

finally she said,
when did this start?

“this morning” i said,
“at 10:00am”

no she said,
“this behavior”

oh i said,
“3 years ago”

at the time, binge eating was not yet in the dsm
and i was not yet bulimic
i had come out of anorexia
and was eating myself into a stupor
putting on 5-10 lbs a week

“well,” she said,

“you’re still normal weight,
so you don’t qualify for our treatment program
you do have a disordered relationship with food,
but this does not qualify as an eating disorder”

“let me go check on something
and while i am away,
can you draw a picture of your family for me”

she handed me a piece of paper
and some crayons

i was 20
and she handed me a basket of crayons
that were broken
and mixed with plastic toys

she still had not looked at me
in the eyes
not once

i counted to 10 once she left
and slipped out of the treatment room
into the waiting room
and out the front door of the hospital

my jeep was glistening gold in the parking lot
it was scorching hot
and i remember my fingers burning
as i touched my sticky steering wheel

i pulled out onto the highway
and started driving
i felt my foot on the gas
and had to focus to keep myself
from pressing full force
i was numb
i was done

my cell phone rang, and it was my mom
i looked down at my phone
and up at the road
the sun was starting to set
and i realized i was going to be late
for my philosophy class
at the local university

i had dropped out of art school temporarily
and was taking a semester off indefinitely

my mom insisted i take night classes
and that night i decided
i would go to class
then decide
if i was going to drive
off the road

i came in as i always did
a little late and clumsily

i sat in the back
with my hoody on
and excess mascara
in attempts to hide
my suffering

a guy sat next to me
now this was rare
in fact, i don’t remember it happening before
and i don’t remember his name
but i do remember what he said

“hard day, huh?”

i guess the mascara wasn’t hiding as much
as i had hoped it would

i shrugged
and felt my eyes glisten over

i blinked quickly so as not to let him see
but it caused a tear to fall

and he said

“sorry, is there anything i can do?

i looked at him
looking at me
he had never talked to me before
he didn’t know me
and here he was offering
to help me?

i didn’t know what to say
i was speechless
so i just shook my head

“it’s going to be okay,”
he said
and smiled softly

i felt my heart flicker
as our eyes locked for a split second
and i turned away
pretending to focus on what the teacher was saying

his kindness was too much for me

by the time class was over
it was dark
i rushed out of the room
before anyone had a chance
to talk to me
and sat in my car
for what felt like extraordinarily long

i remembered buying this car
with my dad

he gave me my first one, a white jeep cherokee
and when i had run that to the ground
he went with me to pick out and buy
this golden one

i always loved watching my dad negotiate
he was so confident
and knew how to put people at ease

with him i always felt like
it was going to be okay

i thought about never seeing him again
and i thought about my mom
and how when i almost overdosed
on diet pills
she told me how selfish suicide would be
and how it would hurt my sister endlessly

so i turned on my car and drove myself home
i went straight into my parent’s workout room
and walked on the treadmill
at 4.5 miles an hour
at a nine point incline
till 3 o’clock in the morn

i didn’t die that night
but a part of me did

it was the part of me
that believed
someone would ever
help me

i didn’t seek help for another 4 years
by that time, i had become bulimic
purging 40 + times a day

and i thought many a times
about driving back to the hospital
making an appointment with her
and saying

“hey remember me, i was the girl
you gave a basket of crayons to
i still don’t have insurance
but i do have an eating disorder now,
can you help me?”

we do not know our impact
we do not know the inner world
of the people we meet
on the street
or even of those we call dear friends

some of us
keep secrets so deep
we are living in hiding
in broad daylight

and this my friends
is a unique form of
chosen suffering

because it is just that
a choice
and i know that’s a hard pill to swallow
because it doesn’t always feel that way

but as long as we remember we have
the freedom to choose,
as long as we have choice,
we still have a chance

it’s fascinating to me
how many of us act
like this is not the only life we get
myself included

i think about this daily
because i feel like i squandered my twenties
on scales
and in toilet bowls
and cold beds
with men who whispered empty words

i was a professional
at self destructing

and while yes,
i learned
and my pain taught me
most everything
and made me the person
i am today

i don’t think that pain
is how we need to learn

what i would love
is for you to endure less pain
than me

wanting help
is nothing to be ashamed of

it’s brave to open your mouth
and ask for support
for care
for understanding
and anyone who acts differently
is simply showing you
they are not the person for you

so i hope you do not give up
if you had an experience,
anything like i did
i hope you do not wait
another 4 years
till your body is breaking down

and remember
if you are on the other side
it is also a choice
how we show up for those around us
do we offer kindness or judgement?
do we ask questions or lay on assumptions?

we have no idea what it took
for anyone to just get out of bed today
have courage
have compassion

be willing to do it differently
if you are not showing up
as the person you want to be

and live
like this
is your very
last chance
because who knows
it could be

❤️ emily joy rosen

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