Category Archives: body haters, body lovers

She Had Won

This is for anyone who believes, or aches to believe, in Something More. This is for the girls and boys who almost died. For the ones who wasted themselves away. This is for headaches at three a.m. and hollow stomachs. This is for anyone who’s ever been held hostage by disease so badly it overtakes all the joy, energy, and love you’ve left to give and offers you a shell of a life in return.

This, this story, is a new day.

God smacked into me. I was standing in my living room, holding a remote and turning off an otherwise muted TV. I’d been sitting in the kitchen for hours, forgetting that the TV had even been on, and pressed the power button.

Before it flickered off, I caught sight of a girl onscreen.

Something told me to turn the TV back on. I needed to hear her story.

So I did.

And within 30 seconds, it became clear why.

Mariah Pulice was 19 years old. She had spent most of adolescence chained to the belief that she would never be able to starve herself enough. In high school, she lived on a slice of American cheese a day. She forgot how to love anything. She forgot how to laugh, how to sing, how to experience anything other than emptiness.

And she lost friends. She lost herself. She lost pounds and pounds.

I waited for her sister to say the words that shook me to pieces: “She wasn’t Mariah. Mariah’s always fun all the time and she’s always energetic and goofy and… she didn’t want to do anything.”

Because I knew that girl. That energetic and goofy girl who just got the wind knocked out of her and could do nothing but lie in bed and text her roommate to tell her she thought her heart was going to stop beating.

I prayed she could sing. And she did. Let It Be by The Beatles.

But what broke me clean in half was when they told her she was going to Hollywood and her sisters and her mother and her whole family came running in and smacked into her. Almost knocked her onto the ground. And they were crying because she was alive and because someone believed in her second chance the way she believed in her own life.

And her mother, through inconsolable tears, just falling over her crumbling daughter, could do nothing but thank the judges for this moment.

Because that’s what we do when the people we love make it through unconquerable storms: we get scared, downright terrified, that they will not survive. We play the scenarios in our heads, the really bad options and the good ones, when we’re able. We think about the future as this gift we won’t get to open because life has taken us down this irreconcilable path.

And then, one day, we wake up and dream. We start to let the cracks of sunlight through the slats in our dusty attic of a head. We start to be alive again.

I meant it when I said God smacked into me. Standing there, breath lodged in my throat, shoulders shaking with silent tears. Because she was alive. So am I. So are the hundreds of thousands of others who may or may not ever get a chance to see the sunlight peek through the darkness.

She had won.

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To The Girls Who Would Like To Be Skinnier Tomorrow

In one of my favorite memories of being seventeen, I am standing in the elbow crook of my kitchen, scooping Citrus Blast water ice into a faded green mug with dancing tuxedo penguins on it.

My best friend, a girl for whom the boys will always want to buy a beer, says something about my defrosting the ice in the microwave and I start to laugh.

The freezer door is still ajar, my bare legs hit with cool air when I lean over and hold my gut. It’s the kind of laugh that your whole body remembers for years.

Just last night, I knelt down inside Barnes & Noble and scanned the titles for some sort of reminder.

How To Eat Citrus Blast Water Ice With Your Best Friend Without Feeling Sick To Your Stomach

It is my fault. Let this be several hundred words strung together into a warning, a “begging on my knees, come find me please if you need assistance” warning, to the girls who would like to be skinnier tomorrow. The girls who would like to punish themselves with 30-day slim downs and smoothies that taste more like facemasks.

Please, please, please come see me. I will be the one with tired eyes and a knotted stomach and a fridge for condiments I’ll never use and eggs that already expired.

When everything began, the everything that never began so much as unraveled after years or days or comments or feelings, it was just about treating my body better.

At fifteen, though, I was already staring at my stomach in a leotard and wishing I wasn’t older than the other girls, that I hadn’t grown up so fast, that those brownies weren’t catching up with me. I was a size 2. Should I repeat that for you?

No one who is a size 2 deserves to feel like they have love handles. Or a stomach that juts out too far, OK? Everyone’s stomach juts out in skin-tight neon and metallic plush leotards. Got it?

The fact is, we are all broken. There is inherently something inside us that breaks or cleaves or shatters or chisels away as we start seeing ourselves not as our own best tools to build up this world but as defeatists who lost some battle with the woman next to us at the dry cleaner whose suit is two sizes smaller and decided not to wear sweatpants on a Saturday morning to go pick it up.

Now, in that Barnes & Noble, there is no book for rewinding the clock. No book to tell you not to starve yourself because it is a battle you will never win. Not until you are dead dead dead and the only thing left is a crying mother and a confused sister and an army of friends who wish you would have known just how beautiful you were, all along, standing in front of your kitchen toaster scooping green water ice into mugs.

And maybe that is dramatic, but it’s the thing no one talks about: that you will never be able to just eat what you want, that your stomach will reject and reject until you feel sick and can’t sleep and whittle your options until your selection is so bare that you find yourself calling your mother and crying because you’ll never again be able to eat a cheese quesadilla or pizza or ice cream. You will never again because you wrecked yourself good.

Maybe that’s dramatic, but people die. People die and they suffer and they think that happiness is losing pieces of yourself but it’s not.

I want to shake the world by its shoulders and stop it from learning that phrase.

The Most Destructive Relationship You’ll Never Ditch

Late in the winter, I unknowingly offended the gluten free community.

To be fair, it was my 140-character compliment, in which I gushed over print design and food photography for a digital magazine serving the gluten-free community that sent me into a war zone.

I was backed, virtually, into a corner for more than thirty minutes while some stranger made me forget how to swallow my fear.

“Cute,” I’d said.

It was one word, intended to describe the magazine’s bright and fun color scheme. But this guy didn’t think so.

“There is nothing cute,” he said, “about being gluten-free.”

And then, as if taking a virtual breath, he unleashed so much anger and frustration on me that I literally sat on my living room couch reading the words out loud, desperate to make him understand that I had merely been awestruck by the way the colors danced across my computer screen.

I had merely been gawking at the way somebody turned food into something magical.

My relationship with food has been, for most of my life, a relationship. Which sounds pretty dumb, if you think too hard on it, but I don’t think any of us remember a time before food was good or bad, revered or ignored. I don’t think any of us were ever allowed more than a few years of “eat whatever you’d like, whatever makes you feel good inside.”

Maybe the cavemen were. Maybe. But choosing to eat something has always been a bit like finding the middle school dance partner in the swell of hormonal and anxious bodies grinding in the cafeteria: nerve-wracking and thrilling.

Choosing to eat what you want should feel like asking that cute boy from your art class to jam out to Blink-182 with you Friday night in the cafeteria. As in stellar. Just stellar.

It shouldn’t be hindered by whether you’re able to walk in heels or the strobe lights block your vision of him or the popular couple shimmies past and you suddenly feel that sense of defeat all over again. But it is. Many times, it is.

I’m 22. That’s young, I know. But in five years, I’ve driven all over the food relationship map.

I’m there now. It’s kind of like standing at the dance after the last song, the lights coming up and the boy from art class sliding by, glancing over as if you have forgotten him, as if he cannot come over and ask you to fist pump, no no no. It had to be your doing.

That’s how it feels, sometimes. Like you took those four hours of techno music and strobe lights for granted and now you are starting at square one again.

I know how gluten-free guy feels. I am there. Trying to figure out what, if anything, doesn’t keep me awake until two a.m. trying to figure out why I entered an abusive relationship with food in college, one that’s screwed me over.

It’s anything but cute. The photos might look glamorous, the plates shining white, the dairy-free, gluten-free plated entrees all properly aligned and unified on the digital page.

But it’s still hard. Still something I haven’t mastered. Still a relationship that keeps me up in the middle of the night, mad for the mistakes I made in the past.

My Lights Are On For You

Last month, I thought about turning the lights out on this story of mine. Every book has an ending, right?

I didn’t know if I wanted to reach that end or if I could sit down and write it out of me and feel satisfied. I didn’t know if anyone would notice if the next week and the week after that and six months from now, my fingers weren’t poised over this laptop keyboard telling you something you already had humming inside your eardrums.

The truth is, I had forgotten myself. Forgotten that I kicked depression aside and sat in my childhood bedroom and tried to piece together a blog post about falling in love at eighteen and the pain that comes with that. The starvation and sunken stomachs and aching limbs and itchy eyes that comes with letting go.

I was sure goodbye was not the best word in the world, but wanted to remind myself that even though I hadn’t quite nailed it down, my sister’s best friend and her boyfriend could. So I wrote a post for them.

But last month, after a combination of conversations whirled into my Sunday morning and afternoon and evening, I wasn’t sure if I could hit the Publish button on Monday morning.

Mostly, I thought it’d be easier to not tell you I was mad lonely, to skirt around the fact that the place in my apartment I knew best was my bedroom floor, or that I had sat in my walk-in closet and tried to find one thing that still held the old me. A pair of shoes or a summer sundress.

I couldn’t. Even my wardrobe had changed.

And I didn’t want to tell you that, because I knew, deep down, about those of you who never typed an email or a Facebook message to me.

Yesterday, I got two emails from girls I’ve never met. About this blog and HUGstronger. About their hurts and pains and the hope my words have given them.

And I remembered why I was so glad to have pushed through this past month. Why we write our pain and people forgive us over and over. Because, if there is one lesson that will put empathy into your hands and never let you empty them, it is this: we all struggle with something. Admitting that something doesn’t just take a ton of bricks off your chest—it unloads the weight of someone else dabbling in the same heartache.

So tell me, please, what bricks are suffocating. Tell me, please, what weights you need lifted.

For most of my life, I have been a quiet listener. It is a job that rouses me out of sweet dreams at three a.m. A job that does not let you apologize. A job that is sweet and sad and altogether wonderful. Because I love connecting and reminding people that you’re not the only person whose thoughts are littered with pain.

You aren’t. Oh, I promise you. You are not.

Note: My email is kaleighsomers@gmail.com. If you ever, you know, need a friend to listen.

A couple thousand words beyond Goodbye, Goodbye, I Don’t Think I Love You Anymore.

I need to start pocketing tissues for these girls who shouldn’t shed tears.

It seems to be happening too often these days. Like someone is lining them up along my path to class and asking me to dish out It’s Gonna Be OKs and Don’t You Worry, Darlings for all these sad souls.

And I don’t even know why they’re crying. Don’t even know why the tears are littering their cheekbones. All I know is that it’s too much.

Too much for the library bathroom stall next to mine. Too much for the snotty mess of I’ve Just Got A Cold that keeps cropping up every time I enter an empty restroom.

Every time I’m least expecting a puddle of tears and a bucket of I’m Sorrys, she’s there.

She’s standing at the sink now, blowing her nose like she’s fine, just fine. But I know she’s not supposed to be in here at all. Not supposed to be stringing misery along like it’s a dog she keeps walking because her neighbors paid her while they’re on vacation.

It’s a funny feeling, this happiness that sits in my stomach while everyone around me is drudging up memories of vocabulary terms learned in January and geometry proofs memorized over spring break. It feels wrong, so very wrong, to be singing behind ear buds to my very own Pandora station.

The soundtrack of my life. Playing softly in a silent library. One story above this sniffling girl.

One story past this crying in public restrooms. Two chapters later. A couple thousand words beyond Goodbye, Goodbye, I Don’t Think I Love You Anymore.

But my time here is not long enough to place pick-me-ups along her daily route. On the bus seat she always slides into. On the desk her elbows sometimes lean upon. On the library shelf her fingertips trace as she searches for the book with all the answers.

The book to reset her broken heart. The essay to reaffirm her shaken soul.

I know she won’t find what she’s looking for in this library. Won’t want to listen to the same Pandora station anymore. Might need a mixtape that sounds a bit like mine.

Happy. New. Reassured.

Maybe a handful of brightly-colored tissue packs to pair with it, stuck in places she always visits. The side pocket of her Jansport back pack. Her bedroom desk drawer. Her shower caddy and linen closet.

Leave her a few tissues and bright words where she least expects it.

It is a hard lesson, learning the time is dwindling on this proactive approach to bridging others’ heartbreak with my own words.

But I know this – someone else will be in the adjacent bathroom stall next time, and she will surely know what words this brokenhearted girl needs to hear.