Something I wish people noticed in childhood before “anorexia”
All of the little ways in which I kept making myself smaller, such as by not smiling with teeth, until eventually the entire coloring surrounding me turned pale.
Just a tom-boy with OCD no one really knows
Without basketball, I was worthless. Drudgery was supposed to pick me up and make her change, but I wasn’t allowed to have feelings about it all. If a guy didn’t save the day, my “basketball” reality would. This process should mostly happen “unconsciously.”
Not my middle school
When my family moved to California after sixth grade, I had one friend from Maryland over the years who visited me. When my friend visited, she did not come alone but with family. I remember, the first time she came was probably 2002. I used to keep a picture of Dad,my friend and me at the top of a hill overlooking my favorite water. I wore a sweatshirt from the middle school I, evidently, no longer attended in Maryland. Is it not sad? Because here I was with this amazing opportunity at a new and better life, but dressing like I didn’t want it!
Closing off Laura
They chose their world over remembering our friendship now that I wasn’t part of their everyday lives. What’s annoying is how they stole what I’d brought to the group…but neglected me! The nicknames I made up for various girls. The fascination with sport(s). The childish inside-jokes. They didn’t need me there to take these things. Better to forget Laura, close her off completely and act like it was all their own. Because I didn’t need anybody, right, and was just spoiled rotten to get to move to California even though one of the main reasons why my family left is because things weren’t going well in the sense that people were unhealthy/unhappy, so we wanted something different and very far away.
One year after moving, California was already a horrendous failure
More than anything else, as a seventh-grader, I needed this door to his world and I needed him to open it and let me in because I could not speak or miraculously make him want me. For half of a semester, sure, just being touched by him (never literally) was enough to keep me going. But it makes little sense to me emotionally that, somehow, over the summer I got swept away and forgot how strongly he’d made me feel then liked new people the next year. Truthfully, I can’t remember much of anything that happened between seventh and eighth grade. I asked my mom, and she told me about going to camp with a group of girls. They weren’t necessarily my favorite and had been friends for a long time before me; I felt unimportant, like they didn’t really need a Laura. Within their group, I didn’t at all have the same specialness that had been there for me in Maryland and as a basketball player.
Although there were other people I experienced attractions to in eighth grade, nothing was the same or strong enough to mesmerize me like the seventh grade crush. But of course the message learned from adults, society or whatever had been that I was just a 12 year-old, couldn’t really have deep feelings for this boy who’d left anyways. Not having him there and losing the world he created for me (that I, ultimately, created out of him) explains, in part, how I became so obsessed with school and competitive against myself. Everything felt like my fault although of course in reality I couldn’t control this boy and the door I recognized as “his” came through my own eyes. No matter, she wasn’t enough, and I positively needed him more. At the time I still had friends but they’d only known me for a very short period of time since I met new people in eighth grade and didn’t stay close to the people I’d had classes with in seventh. I just didn’t matter to people like I had in the past, felt unworthy, and like one year after moving California was already a horrendous failure for not getting this boy and, furthermore, for dropping basketball. Especially once diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, I’d never get another chance to feel the same way about a guy since, at the root, my seventh grade crush was all about timing. I recall him now, symbolically, as a midpoint.
Seventh-grade Laura: “I didn’t want to ruin him with my ugliness and problems”
We had social studies and physical education together. Social studies came before lunch. I terribly looked forward to seeing him and sitting across from each other. Well, almost. The room was set up like this: Walk in the door. On the left side is the board. Turn right to face the front of class. He sat on the right side of the room, and I the left. I think he was in the second row back and I the third, which made it easier to stare. He was also one row down horizontally; I was more nestled in the middle. Either way, I was completely embarrassed and wanted to hide behind the friend who sat in front of me. She liked me and always wanted to hug; I thought getting attention from her would make him notice me more. I always prayed that when students got assigned partners, we’d be set-up. That didn’t happen. I think I got him to sign my yearbook, though. I remember how close I was to opening my mouth in physical education as the school year wound down because once I realized “this is going to end” I felt more sad and alone than ever before. But he was just so quiet, pure, mysterious and innocent; I didn’t want to be the person responsible for ruining him with my ugliness and problems even as a seventh grader before anorexia nervosa.
How I explain being sandwiched into anorexia nervosa
A little girl needs him as the sign of her victory in being forbidden. If I don’t accept or trust in her torment, she insists that I am not allowed to love because “it won’t come true” without specifically him. She is punishing me via his restraint. He isn’t by my side, yet it’s in the way she affirms, so vividly, “He’s the one who brought me here today,” that makes it impossible to coincide separately with another. I wasn’t just stupid to be sick but needed to invest in him as something better if to believe there’s an other way this bad stuff couldn’t have happened through being with each other. Now I realize what he did is put up a black curtain making it so I couldn’t grasp my duress from behind henceforth redirecting it through him front “back” into me plainly because he couldn’t see her. This is how I explain being sandwiched into anorexia nervosa; via his continuation of the red tunnel horizontally going through first associated with basketball.
Holding not having
My pressured elementary school frenzy with sports, academics and peers took Laura away. Moving didn’t magically provide access. Rather, I found new ways to confine myself through guys and, also, not eating. I locked men up inside me instead, yet despite the agony of not getting, none was the initial reason for her loss. My steady accumulation of mental oppression over a period of four years ultimately became frozen into this one boy who seemed—only in his power—to hold an undisturbed rendering of me. My transformation is what’s missing; there wasn’t that day when things clicked and the last quarter in Maryland magically digested. Instead, I became forevermore transfixed by anxiousness to the point of being unable to touch my own body.
I was just average, then became ill with anorexia nervosa
In childhood it grievously wounded my identity for people to look at me, as a Cancer, and say I’m exactly like my friend, the Sagittarius, for instance. Initially their comments seemed like compliments since my Sagittarius friend was just a tad taller, slightly more “skinny” and with fair coloring. At the time, I was actually cooler. But even though we were close to the same size then, our body types remained different. She is more shoulders; I am broader in the chest. My hair is wavier. Her smile is close to exact; mine tends to go on a slight angle. We were raised in different religions. Although nice she wasn’t known for being funny like me and, today, my profession is boldly less conventional. Even though we both got good grades and played different sports, and my Sagittarius friend might have been a reliable person for me to hang out with, we were never the same. On some level I always knew that regarding her, but with others it wasn’t quite so easy in terms of where to draw the line. I tend to feel most competitive with people who resemble me, especially in size, height and hair color. Unfortunately, it just so happens that growing up on the east coast I ended up being “average” in most of those categories. So, I was maybe a tiny bit shorter (but not today) and exceeded in competitive athletics. Still, being so close to average drove me to draw identity around things that presumably made me different (being Jewish and left-handed) even if such characteristics did not resonate most accurately with me internally. Because really I appreciated my heritage but did not grow up in a religious family or take passionate interest and, also, I don’t think being left-handed says very much about me beyond stereotypes. Nonetheless, I had to make myself matter in a world that didn’t see anything special! My identity became built around, you know, what blocks most other “average” girls out so that people recognize me. There wasn’t stuff inside to work with; I never felt like enough there. That is why by the time I was a teen, sexuality seemed like something out of my control. In my talk last week I discussed how even though boys liked me when I did basketball, that wasn’t the expression I needed or how I wanted to feel and be desired as a girl, and especially not as a young woman.
Elementary school peers or eloquent Laura
I naively overrated my elementary school peers but, at the same time, they were my “real” friends that made me cool and on top of the world in ways I couldn’t find again. Nonetheless I opened up to a much softer and more eloquent Laura long after leaving those people behind; she’s the version I started out as anyways, and I mean before doing ballet. That girl who sat on the porch and looked out at the forest as she painted rocks, did bead projects with the babysitter that then got ironed into hearts and made braids out of gimp.
Unlocking her gold mine
My sense of Laura got stitched into setting. Through the process of becoming that world, I lost everything that makes me. Throw “Laura” away and take this other version instead because it’s better. She’s a small, comical girl everyone wants to pinch at and to take from. She doesn’t need anything so just eat from her lunchbox. She won’t notice anyways. In truth I needed those people more than I needed to feed myself because I felt so scared and alone. Today, I cannot push up against their webbing anymore. It took a while to stop rubbing and let fully sink in: Fifteen years ago, I was one of “them,” I belonged with those people and had my place. Of course there were other groups too but everybody thought I was cool. People saw me was an attractive substitute version of myself—not at all reflective of the depth, potential, creativity, passion and underground worlds I manifest. This life and kind of fun wrote all over me, creating distance at heart. It will kill me to keep feeling sorry about missing my social heyday when it’s in fact nothing compared to the gold mine I’ve unlocked from inside.