How funny it is that when I was young I hated maths, didn't understand numbers and couldn't understand anyone who enjoyed them – yet here I am, living a life dictated by the very thing I couldn't wait to leave behind.
Ask me how many calories are in a particular item of food and I could tell you. Ask me how many steps I'd need to do before walking it off – I wouldn't even need to think about it. Addition, subtraction, addition, subtraction. And yet if you were to ask me how many times in the past year I laughed whilst eating pizza with my best friend or have eaten ice cream with my little sister when she felt lost and needed my mind to be solely focused on her, it wouldn't involve complicated sums it would be one single number that actually isn't really a number at all. Zero. It's all so backwards.
Aren't they the things I'm supposed to lose count of?
Zero is the number I am driven to reach by the 'friend' in my mind. I am to eat zero of this and that, and I am to take up zero space. Why? Why am I scared of a number that goes any higher than what literally amounts to nothing?
I have spent years dictated by other people's opinions of me, convincing me I am nothing and nothing is what I deserve, that carrying a few extra pounds or eating something slightly out of what I'd planned means I need to scream in the faces of those who love me until I’m blue, my throat is raw, my eyes are puffy and I have destroyed not only their trust, but their belief that I'll ever smile over something so simple as a birthday cake.
None of that matters, whispers my friend. You are shrinking and I am proud. And this for so long was all that mattered, my friend’s validation, meeting her goals and impressing her with my lies and the noises my tummy could make at night. Feeling nothing was like a warm blanket: I didn't care about anything and I no longer felt any of the bad things I used to feel. Yes, I may be ugly, worthless and stupid, but I'm not taking up any space whilst doing it; I am not burdening anyone with my flaws anymore. I no longer think about the things the girls at school would chant, or the words I'd see online, and my heart doesn't break every time I think of the only person who's ever made me feel safe leaving me. You're right: that's what I wanted, and for a while it felt so good. But I still remember it all – is that any better? I just don't feel anything when I see those things in my mind – surely to get over something you must go through it? Am I just delaying the inevitable? Did you lie?
Because, here I am cold, tired, bruised and weak. I have reached zero. I do not have a personality and I certainly don't have much of a life. This is what I wanted – or is this is what you wanted? This is happiness in your eyes, so why don't I feel happy, my friend? Did you lie to me? You told me you never lied, that it was everyone else who was lying, so why do I feel like this? Why don't I feel all the good things you promised I would? Do I need to lose more? I'm not sure I want to die yet. Please don't let me die. Is it too late to turn back?
Maybe, my friend, we have different ideas of what happiness means. My version may mean I take up a little more space and my clothes designed to fit a prepubescent teen no longer fit me. But it also means that I don't taste sick for days in my mouth after a night out. It means having 'chip races' with my dad and sister and choking on our laughter. It means enjoying the biscuits my nan used to buy us when I stayed at hers and seeing her smile because it reminds her of who I used to be, of who I can be again. They want me to take up more room. They miss the space I used to occupy. What does that mean? Why did you tell me they hated it? Did you lie?
Maybe without you I'll have a life, I'll get a degree, and maybe have a baby one day. I won't have to plan my days around meals and exercise, and I won't spend my days sleeping because I can't bear watching how slow the clock ticks before I'm allowed something else to eat.
I know this scares you – I'm scared too. It's a big risk and I could be left with nothing. I'm so scared. We've been friends for so long. You have been the one constant in my life. You have whispered sweet nothings in my ears for years, helping me through some of the worst times of my life. But I now realise have my friends and family and they don't leave me with scars or bruises or poorly bones. I'll miss you, but I don't think we're good for each other.
I've reached your target. I just didn't realise it would cost me my life and that's a price I'm not willing to pay, even for you. Thank you for everything, but I hope I never see you again.