My toddler and I went grocery shopping tonight. I dressed him up in non-matching socks (his choice) and a dinosaur onesie before heading to pick out some clothes for myself. He trailed along behind me as I grabbed one of my favorite blue sweaters and an ankle-length skirt. It was an outfit that screamed “I used to be a homeschooler” but it was comfortable and I didn’t figure we’d be seeing anyone we knew anyways. I knew it would hide the bloating from my body trying to adjust to eating again after vomiting for a couple of days straight.

As I slipped it on, I realized I still hadn’t really gained any weight since falling ill last week. I had gained two or three pounds, but when I woke up this morning and weighed, I was back to a pound above my lowest weight since I got sick. I tugged at the sleeves, pulling them down as I took in how baggy it looked on me now. I told myself that at least I didn’t lose enough to be back in little girl size clothing.

When we got in the car I buckled my son up in his carseat and gave him a book to read while I drove. He was quiet and the silence gave way to me remembering all of the times I chose clothing for the sole purpose of hiding my body. Sometimes, it was so I’d be “modest” or so I wouldn’t tempt the boy I liked (and perhaps earn his respect). Other times it was to hide the fact that over 20 pounds of weight had been dropped in a short amount of time. I used “modest“, oversized clothes to conceal the secret that I was starving myself.

This illness, though it was short, has brought up so many painful memories and emotions. I didn’t develop anorexia overnight, and it certainly didn’t develop on its own. Sometimes I wonder if it never would have surfaced at all, had it not been for a few people and things said. I don’t think it developed from some sort of chemical imbalance in my brain. It developed because I was taught to be anorexic.

I looked down at my hands as I drove and saw the cracks already forming in my skin from the cold weather. It is only November, but they already have been bloody and itchy from being so dry. When I was younger, someone told me that the boy I liked would think I was gross because I had “crocodile hands” since I wouldn’t put lotion on them. It is especially noticeable now that they are so bony from the weight loss and every time we get in the car I tell my husband that story. It runs on autopilot in my brain when I touch the steering wheel and I forget I’ve told him the story before. By the end, I always feel like crying, because I know that it will be like this for me forever. My hands can be fixed by lotion, but the rest of my body can’t be.

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