In my deck of cards, 11 was never truly heaven—and 12 was most certainly hell.
It was up until those pubescent middle school years I had always been the chubby one. And of course everyone who knew me always made sure to point that out every time I asked for seconds—or when I asked for some new clothes because mine were starting to fit a little tight. The fear of their judgmental eyes bled through my skin every time I’d wear a t-shirt over my bathing suit when we’d go the beach. What should I have to hide if I was eating healthy and exercising regularly?
I had barely started my pre-teens before my battle with my weight had began.
There was this dark cloud that began to form in 2007. A couple of months after I had turned 11, I only could think about death. I spent the last 3 weeks of summer vacation crying in my room because I didn’t want anyone to die, including myself. I remember the reason I became consumed by this idea was because my dad told me that one day, he wouldn’t be here anymore—and it never really hit me until he mentioned it. Was my existence really of that much of importance if it all would be gone one day? And because of this revelation, I stopped eating for the following 8 days, and the only thing that I consumed was the Minute Maid Fruit Punch. And in those 8 days, I lost over 10 pounds.
I don’t remember exactly how I got back to not wanting to cry all day long, but when I did and went back into the world—I received nothing but compliments from everyone on how I looked. Maybe that’s why I still associate depression with accomplishment, or maybe I’m just still a little messed up in the head.
I had never been so praised for my outer appearance a day in my life—and now it seemed to be a regular occasion that I was called “pretty,” “cutie pie,” and “adorable.” With my two sisters always being the ones who got all the compliments, now it seemed as though we were the now a complete package. All the kids wanted to play with all three us now, and I wasn’t the one forgotten anymore!
Having this amazing experience, I knew that I couldn’t go back to the way I used to be. I was starting middle school very soon, and this was going to be a new chapter in my life. No more pizza, no more soda, no more anything! It was really hard at first since I didn’t have that dark cloud distracting me as much, so I had to find a medium that could help push me to stay as thin as I was.
This is when I found the site Tumblr—more specifically, this was where I found all the “thinspiration” that could magically appear on your dashboard when you needed that extra push of motivation not to eat that day. Collarbones and thigh gaps…and the quote that seemed to be under all of their captions, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”
With the help of my newfound Internet friends and thinspiration, I had started my first official diet of nothingness. A few days in, and I didn’t even crave food. And then, the worst thing imaginable happened—I got invited to a birthday party at the roller-skating rink. Oh no! Pizza, soda, and cake!
I caved. And that night, I cried for the first time since summer vacation. I looked in the mirror and could see the weight crawling back onto me. Running to my personal computer, I went on Tumblr to gain support from someone. Anyone!
This is when one of my friends suggested throwing up. She did it regularly so she could eat more of the foods that she loved without having to worry about gaining weight. This gave me the magical idea that I could do both—not eating + throwing up = more progress! And that night, I found a spare toothbrush in the house that would become my best friend. We lived deep in the woods, so I went even deeper with my new partner in crime to get rid of it all, my new control. And that became my daily routine.
Then, I was introduced to a show that had all of my Tumblr friends would rave about—specifically the second season—Make It or Break It. This was a show about female gymnasts who were all skinny and pretty. And it just so happened that one of the girls had formed an eating disorder. The episodes that everyone was talking about was what she did to lose weight. This probably would scare off those who hadn’t already been through eating disorders…but to those of us who were now veterans in the pro-ana (anorexia), pro-mia (bulimia) game, it was seen as inspiration because she was so pretty and had such great strategies! After watching a couple of the episodes, I began using the elliptical and counting calories just like the girl from the show did. I was basically Kaylee! I even changed my Tumblr username to kayleelitpical.
And I can remember ever so vividly, in a Tumblr post I made, the suicide letter I wrote. The times between the dark clouds over my head were getting closer and closer and closer— until there was no more space and it just became my life. The only thing I had control over was what I ate. I didn’t want to die, I just wanted to be in control over something in my life. And who had more control and, better yet, more courage than the person who could take their own life? I had the perfect story: the ultimate combination of a suicidal, depressive, pro-mia/ana, 12 year old black girl in an all-white town. The girl whose 11 year old best friend, prima querida, had just committed suicide. The girl that wondered why she didn’t have the same feelings towards boys as her friends did. The girl that was well-liked by all, but never truly understood by any.
When my mom heard a loud thump coming from my bathroom, she rushed in to find me passed out on the shower floor. In the midst of getting ready to go to the library, I had blacked out. Noticing that my naked body wasn’t as full as the last time we went to the beach, she realized what I had been doing.
I remember waking up in my room, fully-clothed—with both of my parents staring directly at me. They asked me if I was feeling okay, and I said that I was just a really tired because I had spent the entire night studying for a hard math test I had to take that Monday. Never being a good liar, all three of us knew that wasn’t the truth.
Telling me they had a surprise for me, we walked down the stairs into the kitchen—and on the table were two ham sandwiches and chocolate milk. Everyone knew that was my absolutely favorite, so when they told me to have lunch with them I began to shake.
But more shockingly, I knew too.
I never really thought that I had a problem until that very moment. I just believed that I was trying to be the best version of myself; in reality, I was destroying the best version of myself and became the second-rate version of what I thought everyone wanted me to be. And almost 10 years have passed me by since that very day, and I still wonder… What if I could lose just 5 more pounds?
Disclaimer: Although never formally diagnosed, I identify(ied) as anorexic and bulimic. I formed who I was around these “facts.” The terms to me mean(t) strength, beauty, and grace, and even to this day I still, in a way, take great pride in them. During my teenage years, this is what I was consumed by. Everyday. Not the answer you may be looking for, and I myself am still working to this day to learn and unlearn so much. I am no expert, I do have lived experiences. And everyday is a challenge, some harder than others. Our stories are never finished, and I may never know a “happily ever after,” but I’m trying for it.