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I used to start my days with an egg white (17 calories) every morning.
Then, until 3 p.m., I would have nothing. Perhaps half a small apple (45 calories) if the hunger became unbearable, but usually the growling noises my stomach made subsided at around noon, and the feeling of emptiness in my gut was a reason for pride, not misery.
When school ended at 2:22 p.m. every afternoon I would do the seven-minute walk back to my house, wash my hands and run upstairs to the slate-grey scale in my parents’ room.
Of course, I would make sure I had peed first – I needed to get every extra bit of weight out of me. I would strip out of my high-school uniform, the standard black pants that now hung baggy and a white polo shirt, sleeves dirty from rubbing against pencil-stained desks – and step on the cold metal.
It would blink 0.0: reset.
If only that was me.
But I wasn’t 0.0 kilograms, so I waited for the amount to grow, dreading what I would see but also shivering with anticipation, desperately hoping for a number smaller than what I saw yesterday.
One day I got it: one of my biggest long-term weight-loss goals. The little blue screen blinked 45.4 kilograms and my mind skipped four steps, already doing the conversion, multiplying by 2.2, and I knew I was finally under 100 pounds.
I felt as light as a fairy.
I faked sick and didn’t eat for the rest of the day, terrified to break my perfect spell.
This was in February, 2011. I was suffering from a mixed eating disorder at the time – or, as my “ana sisters” (an online community of pro-anorexia/bulimia bloggers) called it, “disordered eating.” It seemed easier to say than anorexia. And it was easier to ignore the problem when we believed that there wasn’t one, that the only “problem” was our bodies and the weight they carried, the bones that didn’t stick out enough.
My friends at school never mentioned my weight loss or asked me if I was okay, and I didn’t expect them to. We didn’t have the type of friendship in which we expressed concern for each other.
But I liked to imagine that everyone talked about me and how thin I’d gotten – even if it wasn’t true (in the mirror I only saw myself getting fatter and fatter).
By the time I hit 99 pounds I had isolated myself, and barely talked to or spent time with anybody.
My only “friends” were the pro-ana bloggers I spoke to online. I had amassed a huge following of ana sisters on my Tumblr blog. It grew to over 7,000 followers before I finally deleted my account.
I couldn’t share my “big” weight-loss news with anyone in my real life. I was afraid they would either take me to the hospital or be jealous and start to lose weight themselves.
I was so, so sick. I could only tell my online sisters, who understood that jealousy was a motivational tool and that we each had our own ways of coping with the flesh prison in which we were trapped.
I blogged pictures of girls with jutting ribs late into the night – until July, 2011, when I began a recovery.
After somehow realizing that I couldn’t do this to myself any more (perhaps the dizzy spells were becoming too much to bear), I deleted my blog after writing a tearful apology to my followers (who sent me many messages of support, wishing me well) and tried to stop weighing myself.
I started working at a summer camp, and I started eating. And I hated myself for it.
Two years later, I have attempted to start a “recovery” a handful of times, but I’ve also failed and relapsed a bunch.
It’s hard to say that my problem is anorexia because whatever I have been through is not as clear-cut. It’s a combination of things.
I would starve. I would have bad days and I would binge. Then I would make myself throw up. I would give myself challenges – “Five hundred calories today, Sof, you can do it!” – and then I’d try to beat it by sticking to the real goal of 200.
I lost over 30 pounds in my quest for perfection. At my lowest, I weighed 96 pounds.
I want to say I got better, that I am healthy and happy now, but it’s not true. I haven’t gained back all of the weight I lost, only 15 to 20 pounds of it. I say “only” because perhaps to some it won’t seem like a lot. I admit that I don’t look fat or overweight, but I still feel that way every single day. A glance in the mirror is all it takes to make me miserable.
I want to say I am healthy, but healthy has become a synonym for fat.
I want to say I’m better, but that would be a lie since there are still days that I feel so ugly I refuse to leave the house.
I once read that recovery from eating disorders can take up to six years. I guess I have my work cut out for me.
Sofie Mikhaylova lives in Toronto.