I sat across a full-figured white woman in a polka-dot dress and combat boots with hairy legs on the subway. In front of her was a Black woman with boxed braids and a black mini dress dancing along to the music on her headphones. I looked at both of these women longingly and thought, “If only I were that brave, that free, I’d be happier.”
Earlier this summer my weight dropped drastically and I was admitted into a facility to address my issues with food. I was a textbook anorexic. I was in denial of my diagnosis yet on more than one occasion I had collapsed in public. I still refused to believe that I had a problem because in my mind I looked good but could still use to lose a few lbs.
My drinking had gotten out of control, my dating standards were nonexistent and on multiple occasions had blocked guys from calling me, reported harassment to the dating sites I had met them on and even sprained my ankle running away from an overly aggressive Tinder date. Rock meet bottom.
With my hands folded on my lap like a dutiful student, I sat through the intake procedure.
“So this page is to acknowledge that in case of a medical emergency you are consenting for us to call 911,” the intake counselor said at the treatment center with a point of her perfectly French manicured index finger to the X marked blank line.
I was about 8 pages in and had scribbled my name so many times my name no longer looked like my own.
“Any questions?” she asked.
I took a breath and said, “no.”
“Great!” She clasped her hands together before reaching for the clipboard. “Now that that’s out of the way I can officially welcome you to our community.”
We walked down a long corridor and I was plopped into a group session already in progress. The counselor welcomed me with a smile and waved me towards an empty chair. I sat down and could already feel my ass spreading onto the seat expanding with what I imagined to be my oversized body. But in reality, I was a frail itty bitty thing that shivered like a chihuahua when temperatures dropped below 60.
I listened as other members discussed body image and their tumultuous relationship with food and smirked believing I wasn’t that bad. I was then handed a food journal and one of the on-call therapists interrupted the session to alert us that dinner was served.
“Wait, what?” I asked the girl in front of me as everyone began to file out of the room into the dining hall.
“It’s dinner time, don’t forget your food journal,” she said with a warm smile.
“What? They feed you here?” I blurted.
I followed the other girls and saw a plated tray with my name beside it.
“You’re vegetarian, right?” asked one of the nutritionists.
I nodded, my jaw clenched and my eyes began to well up. “I’m sorry,” I said bursting into tears and running out of the room.
One of the counselors followed me and asked what was wrong.
“It’s my first day and I didn’t know they fed you here!” I cried hysterically.
She extended her hand to me and assured me everything would be ok. After a few minutes of sobbing, I picked myself up from the ground, took a deep breath and reentered the dining hall. None of the other girls batted an eyelash. I sat in front of my tray, picked up the fork and took my first bite towards recovery.
Photos courtesy of Leslie DJ