i remember a woman i admired years ago saying,
she didn’t believe we ever truly recovered
i felt my heart sinking each time
she hit me with her certainty
i wondered what that meant for me
and i let my picture of my imagined future
get so blurry i could not longer see who wanted to be
i resented her for how she unintentionally
stripped possibility from my fragile psyche

i used to be a cashier at whole foods
i used to stare in disbelief as slim women
pushed handmade pasta
and an assortment of full fat cheeses in front of me

i wanted desperately to lean over and whisper
“tell me your secret,
how do you eat such things?
or are you like me?
do you buy such delicacies only to force them back up
as soon as they go down?”

there was a girl who was growing fur
on her arms – a telltale sign of anorexia
she only ever came through my checkout line
she would buy dozens of nectarines
and tangerine flavored sparkling water
i knew why she came to me
i knew why, when no one else had a line,
she would wait until i was free

she knew i knew
and i knew she knew
i wouldn’t hide my hands in front of her
i let her see the cuts on my knuckles
and i always made sure to keep eye contact
as i said “debit or credit”

i would often tear up
as i watched her walk away
she was on her way out
i could tell,
she was thinner than anyone i had ever seen
and while i knew she was dying
i was jealous of her

i used to think
that if i could be that thin
it would solve everything
and i would imagine myself as small as her
eating a croissant slowly
i thought if i could just be that thin
i would be able to eat again
because i know maintenance
would be easier once i got down to 62 lbs

she stopped coming in
and my pasta eating girls kept coming through
i was in awe of them
and how their grocery basket looked to me
like there were on a perpetual picnic
they wore light denim
and white t-shirts
shimmy eyeshadow
and earrings made of feathers
and other such sparkly things

when i got off work
i would often go to barnes & noble
and sit there reading books on nutrition
hoping i would figure out how to fix me
so i could be more like these fancy free ladies

i would take notes
and write lists in my diary
about who and how i was going to be

invariably, the store would close
and i would have to make my way home
i was never sleepy in my twenties
the constant stream of caffeine from
diet coke, coffee and hydroxycut
kept me alert despite the fact
that i never kept my food down
and didn’t sleep most nights

i used to hate the 15 minute drive across town
i had one cd an ex-boyfriend had given me
and though each note reminded me
of how he had fallen out of love with me
it was better than silence
and listening to my psyche

if i made it home without pulling over
i knew i had 20% chance
of falling asleep
before the need to binge took over me
the other 80% of the time
i would end up at a local 7- eleven or gas station
loading up on little debbie’s and bags of cheesy chips

i would always make my night time smoothie
as soon as i walked in the door
hoping it would hold me over till i passed out
on my mattress on the floor

4 packets of diet cocoa (25 calories each)
1 tablespoon of freeze dried coffee (5 calories)
6 packets of equal (free)
a cup of water and a tray of ice cubs
blended to perfection
this was dinner and breakfast for many years
105 calories of toxicity
was how i ended and began my day

sometimes i would make another
if i was especially hungry
the cocoa packets were just over 3 dollars a box
and as i was only making $7.15 an hour
i tired to keep my consumption to a minimum
i would alternate between
hot and cold cocoa drinks
chugging diet coke in between
praying i would pass out swiftly

but as hopeless as i got
i always believed recovery was possible
i always thought someday i could be a girl
who eats pasta and full fat cheese
a girl who went grocery shopping
and got exactly what looked good to her

a girl who smiled at the cashier
because she wasn’t insecure
about what she was eating
a woman who could say
“i recovered”

i would be lying if i said
i don’t still struggle with body image
i would be lying if i said
i wear light denim and white t-shirts ever

but here is what i can say

i eat pasta and full fat cheese
yes, gluten free and organic
but i eat them, i do
and here is the best part about it
not only do i do it
i do it joyfully
and without feeling guilty

for those of you who have never had
an eating disorder
you cannot imagine what a victory
that is for me

i like the word recovery
and i like the word recovered
i do think it’s possible
i do think i am
and i think you can be

so paint your future
oozing with possibility
find examples of what recovery
would look like for you
and i will be over here consistently
reminding you
that while recovery can look different
for me and you

i promise it is possible
i promise it is worth it
i promise it is necessary

❤️ emily joy rosen

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