I am going to be really brave here and post a short story here on my blog for the first time. I have never let any of my family members or friends read much of my stories – especially ones like the one I am going to post below – because they mean so much to me writing them and have quite deep meanings.
This short story isn’t necessarily a story, but rather a snip-it of someone’s life. A girl’s life that most likely we can all relate to (girl-wise). It’s based on the topic of mental health and in particular body image. Writing it was hard – not because it relates to me as such, but because I didn’t realise how deep the story was going to go. It is written in first person, not because it relates to me or is about me, but rather that I feel like it would only work in first person, as it is about her emotions at the time.
To set the scene, a girl arranges a small gathering with around a dozen or so of her friends at her house. For most of the night she is upstairs in her bathroom crying, because she doesn’t like herself one bit. It is a very emotional piece and it takes a lot to post this – so please bear with me and don’t hate it!
“But most of all I am scared”
I sat all alone on the cold bathroom floor, swamped by emotions. I wanted to stand up only slightly, to see the mess, the state I was in, but I could feel the stickiness of the makeup pushed down my face, and so that was enough confirmation to stop me from moving. Instead, I hugged my knees together as though that would hold me in one piece. I thought I was OK; everything was going so well. A couple of weeks ago this feeling came across me, one similar to something I used to feel every day of my life back then. I pushed it away because I thought I was just having one of those days. Little did I know that that was the start of this. I thought the feeling would just go away – maybe it was hormones, I remember asking myself – but it just kept growing and getting worse and deeper into the pit of my stomach.
It always seems like nothing, doesn’t it, until the hurricane hits and slaps you into the hard reality that you’re really not OK. Well, that’s what it was like with me, anyway. I was sad, angry with myself, lost, but most of all I was so scared.
I looked down at what I was wearing, then it all came back to me: I had put on this dress, feeling finally happy with my body weight and shape, after months of crying over it, to impress everyone at this gathering – with my group of friends. The dress, with the cut-outs and the spaghetti straps, now looked ridiculous. You could see my hips, the remaining fat on my stomach, the bulge at my armpits. I hated it.
I cried then, the feeling of stupidity overcoming me. How could I think that I would actually look like one of those girls wearing something so revealing, so short? I wasn’t like those girls; my brain would trick me that I could fit into a UK size 4, but it just looked ridiculous. Why me?
The door swung open. My eyes flitted away from the bulge at my waist, seeing who was intruding on my privacy. Was I that stupid that I had forgotten to lock the door? I had even gone to the upstairs toilet, to make sure that nobody would walk in, as everyone was in the basement. In the doorway was Jake, a look of horror on his face. “Are you OK?” He wasn’t drunk; that was a good thing. Or maybe it was worse than being sober, I couldn’t tell.
I wiped at my tears and the sticky black mess on my cheeks, getting some eyeliner or mascara or eyeshadow, or whatever it was, on my white dress. “I’m fine. I’m OK.” Lying seemed foreign to me, despite the fact I used to do so often, whenever anyone asked that same question. But I had changed since back then. Or so I thought.
“You don’t seem fine.” Without an invitation, that brown mop of a boy sat down in front of the stinky toilet with me – in which I had thrown up a couple of times to try and get the guilt out of me. It didn’t help.
I didn’t respond to him – a statement didn’t need an answer – and I was still crying.
“What’s happened? Did someone say something to you?” Since we were children, Jake had always protected me and once had shouted at the mean girl in the playground for bullying me. He had my back no matter what. We had been friends for ever and have always been in the same friendship group; we had a lot in common. He was just doing his job here.
I took a deep breath, continuing to stare at the open door; I didn’t bother getting up to close it because no one else would come upstairs. Jake was probably just looking for me, to see if I was OK. Was I?
“Look,” I said, my voice cracking. “I’m fine, I’m OK. I promise.” The lies were just getting thicker with each syllable.
He took my hands into his, forcing me to turn my eyes toward his. I was shaking in his hold, and, as my arms peeled away from my knees, it felt like everything really was caving in and falling apart. “You are not OK,” he smelled the vomit. “How long have you been doing that for?”
I wasn’t bulimic. I had told myself I couldn’t go that far, because there was no way to come out of that without being damaged and torn. Not that I wasn’t damaged now. Maybe being bulimic was a good way to go, because I wouldn’t feel fat anymore. “Just now was the first time,” I replied honestly, bowing my head. To say that I was ashamed would be lying; I didn’t know how to feel about that. Releasing my hands, Jake stood up, closed the door, and stayed there with his back on it.
“Lily,” his words were slow and understandable. Did he think I was drunk? That I was crying because I was wasted? I hadn’t had a sip of alcohol in nearly three months. “I need to know what’s wrong in order to help you. You are crying at your own gathering. That’s not OK, Lily.” The way he spoke made me feel imbecilic, like a child. This angered me slightly, adding to the pool of emotions.
I closed my eyes and allowed the words to come out of my mouth. Maybe if I said them out loud, I could accept them and let it all sink in, rather than cry about the concept of it and the maybes, and actually understand that it was all happening. I was a wreck, broken. “I can’t do this– I don’t know how to handle this anymore. I thought I was OK, Jake. I really did. And I was. I was happy for so long. And then I got fat. I am fat, Jake. Fat. Look at me in this dress! I look disgusting. Too much is wrong with me.” The shakes picked up pace and the cries returned. I hated who I was, and I was thankful that I hadn’t stood up and looked at the person I had become in the mirror: someone whom I hated and didn’t want to be anymore.
Jake looked like he had been wounded as his face paled and he sunk to his knees. Instead of breaking down, he slid towards me so that he was immediately in front of me, shaking my shoulders. I was OK, I wanted to tell him, but that was pointless. “What’s the point?” I whispered.
“Stop it,” he whispered, attempting to move the tears away. “Stop saying that.”
I almost laughed. “Why, Jake? Do you want me to lie instead and say that I am so happy? Look at me!” I showed him my body and how gross I looked: someone who didn’t fit into a size four anymore.
“You are not fat! Do you not see how many girls would die to look like you? Jamie downstairs was just going on about how pretty you are, and, she is gorgeous, but she wants to be you, can’t you see that?” He continued to shake my shoulders like I was asleep.
“That’s not the point! I don’t care if someone wants to be, if others think I am pretty,” this was all sinking in now and I hated the feeling of talking about it to Jake; he’d judge me. “It matters what I think, doesn’t it? And I think that I am ugly, fat, worthless.” I tried to take a deep breath and exhale, but it only came out as a high-pitched squeal for help. “What if…” my voice went back to a croaky whisper. “What if the only way to stop feeling so bad, so ill, is to not feel anything at all?”
That was when the whole world seemed to stop. The thoughts and questions and the insults in my head – the “I’m not good enough” s – halted. Everything stopped. All that was left to haunt me was the boy looking at me with fear.
“Just hold on,” Jake said, pulling me over him, gripping me with almighty strength. Holding me like if he didn’t, I’d slip away for good.
“What if it gets worse, the pain?”
He stopped breathing for a second. “Pain doesn’t go away; you have to make room for it. Then, you build up and soon that space for it becomes smaller and smaller until it’s just a quiet buzzing in the background.”
Jake knew what he was talking about.
“There’s– there’s nothing for me anymore.” I closed my eyes, draped over his back. “I’m drowning, Jake.”
He rubbed my back, flushing the toilet. “I know, Lily. Just hold on. For me.”
That was the point where I realised that I wasn’t OK. The previous six months had all been a lie, to soften the blow. For so long I had been lying to myself, pretending that I was happy. And for what? To win the medal of being able to lie for that long? To destroy myself completely. What was the prize? What was the point in any of this? This is when I learned that the worst feeling is not having your heart broken by a jackass. It’s not when you get told you’re ugly by the mean girl in the playground. The worst feeling is not loving someone who will never love you back. It is when you realise that you have lost yourself, and you feel like you are never going to get her back.