You don’t know me, and I don’t know you, but I think know what’s going on with you. I could tell just at a glance. You were sitting there—I won’t say where or when, so no one can guess who you are—and I saw what you were doing. You were twitching your leg.
That sounds innocuous: “twitching your leg.” No big deal. Except it was more like you were bouncing your leg up and down, up and down, up and down, as fast as you possibly could. I saw you doing that, and then I noticed how thin your leg—and the rest of you—is.
You have an eating disorder, don’t you?
I ask that because people I love have had them. And they couldn’t sit still, either. Leg-twitching burns calories, lots of them, and if anyone were to notice that you’re doing it, they probably wouldn’t think much of it.
So, am I right about you?
If I am, then you need help.
You might not think you do. You might think you’re okay. You’re just trying to lose some weight—there’s nothing wrong with that, right?
Except it’s not about the weight, is it? If it were, you would have stopped by now. Stopped skipping meals. Stopped working out—jumping jacks, planks, squats, running in place—when no one’s looking. Stopped twitching your leg whenever you sit.
Is it about being in control?
Is it about becoming something other than what you are?
Is it about being “perfect?”
With an eating disorder, you’re not in control, it is. With an eating disorder, you’re becoming something other than what you are now, because your body’s breaking down. With an eating disorder, you may think you can be perfect, except that chasing perfection is like chasing a unicorn. Good luck catching it.
You might think you can stop any time you want: you probably can’t. You might think this isn’t a problem: it is.
And it might kill you.
No, for real, kill you. Starve yourself long enough, and your body will give out, and it’s usually by heart attack. Yes, you can have one at your age. Really.
Maybe you think I’m wrong about you, that you don’t have an eating disorder. Maybe I am. Let me ask you, though: are you cold all the time? Do you feel dizzy a lot? Do your fingernails break easily? How well do you sleep? And do you have those tiny, fine hairs all over you, even your face?
So, maybe I’m not wrong.
Don’t do this to yourself. You’re worth more than this.
You might think you’re not. You might think that no one cares about you. It’s not true. I don’t know what goes on at your house: maybe your home life is great, and you have parents and brothers and sisters who love you. Maybe you don’t have that: maybe your folks ignore you or—worse—maybe they make life shitty for you. But even if they don’t care about you, someone else does.
You might look in the mirror and think that you’re ugly and fat and hideous, and but that’s not so. What you’re seeing isn’t real, it’s your head distorting your sight, telling you lies.
You might think that you have to be perfect (there’s that word again). It’s not true. Everyone has flaws: a crooked tooth, an ear that sits a smidge lower than the other one, a conspicuous scar, a lazy eye, a mole in a distracting spot, a bent pinkie, a finger that’s too long. Instagram is illusions done with personal trainers, hair stylists, makeup artists, filters, Photoshop. The other girls don’t look like that in real life.
Ads online and in magazines throw more illusions in your face and tell you that you could be like them if you buy what they tell you. More lies. They don’t believe that, and they don’t care about you, they just want your money. And if you starve yourself literally to death trying to look like their illusions, their lies, they wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. Don’t let them do that to you.
One more thing: none of this is your fault. No one wants to have this happen to them, and it doesn’t mean you’re weak, or stupid, or crazy. It just means you have a problem, and you need some help. At some point in their lives, everyone has a problem they need help with: I’ve needed help at least half a dozen times. There’s no shame in asking for it.
Tell someone you trust.
I hope that’s your parents. If not them, then someone else. Someone who can help you. Tell them, and let them help you.
Do it now. And if you won’t do it for yourself, do it for the people who love you and care about you. Their lives are better with you in them. The world is better with you in it.
Kenton Kilgore writes killer SF/F for young adults and adults who are still young. In his latest novel, This Wasted Land, high-school senior Alyx Williams learns that witches are real when one attacks her and her boyfriend Sam, dragging him off to a nightmare world where Alyx must go to get him back.
Kenton is the author of Lost Dogs, the story of the end of the world as seen, heard–and smelled–by a dog. He also wrote Dragontamer’s Daughters, like Little House on the Prairie…with dragons! With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature. Kenton also published Hand-Selling Books to help authors better their sales.
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