Trigger warning: This article discusses topics that may be triggering for some readers.
I looked down at my thumb today. I know haven't been eating enough. I told everyone I would get all my vitamins and calories in. I totally wanted to eat more of the guacamole I bought the other day, but I counted what I had eaten and those numbers seemed a little too high. I decided I didn't need the extra helping, so I went to bed and the guacamole went bad.
Right now, there's this vein popping out in my hand. I've never seen it before. Have I lost more weight? I just rushed into the bathroom, and I pulled my shirt up. I realize my ribs are nearly xylophones they're so prominent now.
My breasts are all but gone. Even at my lowest weight at 17, I know I was a cup size B. I don't know if I would fit into a training bra from Target from when I was 10 right now.
The pants I'm wearing are a size two. They keep slipping down my body. I pull them up. They slide back down. It hurts to sit now. My ass is only bones. I know the next thing I'm about to do is the worst for me. Yet, I still do it.
I turn sideways and see my stomach. It's not flat. I try to fight the voice, but it takes over.
Everything else is small now, why is my stomach not flat?
I fight back. It's organs. People with reproductive systems have organs. I'm on my period. Of course, I would be a little more bloated anyway. These organs are keeping me alive. This uterus is working. I want kids someday, right?
The voice kicks back in: It would ruin your body. Your stomach. And why is it not flat, anyhow?
Shut up. I didn't even eat today. My stomach is empty.
YOU LOOK FAT.
I pull my shirt down and leave the hell-scape that is my own bathroom mirror before the voice has more to say. Then, I settle back into bed. I know I shouldn't, I know I start comparing my body over the years, but I scroll through old photos anyway.
I stop at one from the beach in 2018, one I realize I don't look at often. It was a true off-guard moment from the beach. I was wearing a blue bikini, and I was smiling. Really smiling.
I was running my hand through my hair, my posture wasn't perfect, and my stomach was... not flat. I hated that set of pictures when I first saw them. My body didn't look good enough. My hair was too messy. My smile was so goofy looking, my crooked teeth on display. I have a different thought today...
I look so happy. I look so beautiful.
I scroll to the next set: I'm wearing a tight olive dress, posing with my beautiful cousins in front of the water.
I remember feeling the need to suck my stomach in that day. In the dress, my tummy poked through. I remember focusing on it after it was taken. Even at my smallest, I remember doing the same thing: zooming in on the smallest detail and wondering if it was too big. My "hip dips." My stomach. My thighs. Now, I can only think of how beautiful that dress looked on 18-year-old me.
I scroll through the years, remembering exactly which photos immediately triggered me to stop eating.
Tiffany Noel Photography
Tiffany Noel Photography
I really gained a lot of weight in 2019. I had just gotten a birth control implant and put on a bunch of weight. I didn't think much of it until the comments rolled in — "you look more womanly now." But, the worst were the little comments from my ex. He'd show me pictures of us from years ago. "Look how skinny we were!"
Did I no longer have the moniker of skinny?
Tabitha Stevens Photography
I immediately decided that I was going to lose weight. It was easy. I was pretty broke, and I was working often. I drank only black coffee although my job as a janitor was physically demanding. I celebrated the days I made it through not eating at all, the days I was dizzy while carrying 30 pounds of weights across the gym. I was so tired all of the time. I tracked my calories to make sure they were close to zero.
I lost 20 pounds.
I couldn't stop sleeping through half of the day, waking up only to go to work. My friends were worried, showing up at my house with my favorite foods and nearly shoving them down my throat.
In January 2020, I came down with strep throat. I started to not be able to walk. My partner at the time would have to carry me to the bathroom and back to the bed. We were planning to go to the doctor the next day if it persisted, but by the end of the day, I could walk again. When I woke up, my partner had already gone to work.
This time, it got worse.
I couldn't walk without falling to the ground. I decided to take a warm bath, call my mom and then head to a doctor. I stood up, then fell down. I used the wall to make it to the bathroom and crawled up to sit on the toilet. I video called my best friend, telling him what was happening. Except he didn't really hear me, because my words were slurred.
I fell off and onto the floor and had the first seizure. Somehow, my friend and I disconnected, and I couldn't stop from hitting my head over and over on the tile. I couldn't control my limbs anymore. I reached for my phone, trying to call my partner knowing how expensive ambulances were. It was getting blurry. I could hardly see my phone anymore.
Every time I went to reach up, I would seize again. I had no control over my body. I called 911. She could hardly hear me. I don't really remember much of what else happened, but when I fully came to, I was in the hospital.
I couldn't walk anymore. The tests came back: I had no neurological problems. I was too low on vitamins, and the perfect storm of my medications occurred, causing a sudden, onset seizure. I know if I hadn't called then, I would've lost consciousness. I would've kept slamming my head, and I probably would've died. I would've died because when I turned in the mirror... my stomach wasn't flat.
Looking at my thumb, now, I realize I'm headed back towards hospitals and heart problems. And even between it all.... those photos held so many happy moments.
They're snapshots of being alive.
Tabitha Stevens Photography
being lucky to have a family...
...snapshots of a healthy body.
I know I never want to risk my life like that again. I'm so happy my heart is still pumping. I have too many more pictures to take. Ones at my wedding. Ones with my cat. Ones on vacations I'll never forget.
I still haven't eaten, but now my partner and I are cleaning the room a little. It's been a mess. I'm pretty dizzy, and I have to sit on the floor, drinking water. He walks in.
"Are you hungry?"
I pause for a moment, then give a weak smile.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255
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