Trigger warning: This article may be triggering to those struggling with eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder.
A sparrow comes and knocks its beak against my glass window long enough to wake me up. I open my eyes and tears roll out. It’s not even been a second since I woke up , and I’m already scared. I can’t stop thinking about the dream I had last night – a million little snakes were crawling on my body, writhing against my skin. I felt naked, with a thick sense of disgust layered over my chest like being enveloped by a mucus-like slimy layer. I lay there, still as a statue, wanting to sprint and scream, but not being able to. Almost forcefully, I brush the dream out of my consciousness. It’s not the first time I’ve had it.
I stand up for a glass of water. There’s a mirror between the room and the fridge.
I sprint across the mirror, because today is not the day I can handle my reflection. I have a glass of water and take the lentil container out. It’s slightly heavy, but I manage to take it across the kitchen, where the scale is. I switch on the scale and put a bowl over it. The bowl is a few hundred grams and I add exactly a hundred grams of lentils to it. I put the cooker on the stove, add some water and cook the lentils. Normally, I would open an app and track everything but I now remember the amount of caloric, fat, carbohydrate and protein content in every gram of anything edible I could ever eat.
I walk back to my room, and this time the mirror catches me. I stand in front of it, and I suddenly realise my arms are too big. I start pulling at them and see that they are, indeed, massive.
This is infuriating because yesterday, I liked my arms. They didn’t appear like they were made of apples strung together like a garland. Yesterday, I didn’t like my stomach because I could pull a fistful of it if I tried to. Today, not only is my stomach nothing but a lump of unsightly flesh; my arms are rotten, squishy apples, as well.
I enter my room and suddenly the walls start to envelop me, and I can’t breathe. I lie on my bed and roll under a blanket. I curl into a cinnamon roll, because cinnamon rolls don’t take much space. I want to howl, but the mucus on my chest weighs me down, and the pull of gravity on my grotesque back made of lumpy stone sacks, doesn’t help either.
I can’t howl, but crying requires less effort, so I cry, multiple times. It feels like a bargain, like I betrayed my body, and I am supposed to feel bad. I don’t, because my body betrayed me first. I stand up to walk to a place where my body is not the only thing I can see. I sit up straight, and my thighs spread on the foot of bed, and I realise they’re wider than they should be. I stand up, trying to not latch onto the loop this one thought could spiral into.
I move towards the bathroom, hoping to bathe. I love water, but not baths; because I am naked and sometimes I have to close my eyes while bathing so I don’t catch a glimpse of my own naked body. I enter the bathroom, and suddenly I’m too aware of how heavy my legs are, and I can’t walk on them anymore. I feel gravity coursing through my body, pinning itself to every bit of flesh, until it stops and I collapse. It suddenly feels like someone hit my legs with sticks; and for a while they are awfully numb until the pain starts. The pain courses like a chill in my veins and it feels like my knees have frozen. I want to tell people how I was beaten with sticks but there are no bruises to show for it.
I move back and lie on my bed again. I pick up my phone, open an app and decide what I am going to eat today. After an idle one hour of sincere math, trading calories in and out, I put my phone down. I get to the kitchen and take the lentils out. I only have an appetite for half, so I serve myself accordingly. My cousin suddenly enters the house and sees me taking the plate to my room. He smirks, almost to appreciate me for what I’m eating. He thinks I’m treating my body how it’s meant to be treated – which is terrorising. It is petrifying how most people think I’m in a harmless pursuit of an aesthetic body but I just wish I didn’t have one at all.
People equate my dysmorphia as a general desire to look like Jenifer Anniston – which is pervasive in almost every human woman. But, when you have body dysmorphic disorder, it becomes the sole purpose of your waking and sleeping existence. It becomes why you wake up every day and cry yourself to sleep every night. It is why working out is scary. It is why this body feels like a book and I want to keep tearing page after page, hoping that the next page is beautiful enough – because no matter how many times you were told to not judge a book by its cover; somehow, for you, the cover becomes the book.