And it turned out that I was all right. It turned out it was all right with me to be human, to have hungers, to have needs, to take space. It turned out that I had a self, a voice, a whole range of values and beliefs and passions and goals beyond what I had allowed myself to see when I was sick. There was a person in there, under the thick ice of the illness, a person I found I could respect.
Sitting up in bed, a little more anxiously now, I grasp the collarbone, so prominent that it protrudes beyond the edges of the shoulders, like a wire coat hanger suspending this body, these bones. Beneath it, the rows of ribs, deeply corrugated (and the breasts, which I don't inspect). Then I press the back of my neck and as far down my spine as I can, to make sure the vertebrae are all still there, a row of perfect little buttons: as if they held this body together, as if I could unbutton it and step out any time I wanted to.
When she shut herself up in her closet and starved herself to death, people were shocked. But starvation was in her voice all along. That was the poignancy of it. A sweet voice locked in a dark place, but focused entirely on the tiny strip of light coming under the door.
Step into a tanning booth and fry yourself for two or three days. After your skin bubbles and peels off, roll in coarse salt, then pull on long underwear woven from spun glass and razor wire. Over that goes your regular clothes, as long as they are tight.
Smoke gunpowder and go to school to jump through hoops, sit up and beg, and roll over on command. Listen to the whispers that curl into your head at night, calling you ugly and fat and stupid and bitch and whore and worst of all, "a disappointment." Puke and starve and cut and drink because you don't want to feel any of this. Puke and starve and drink and cut because you need the anesthetic and it works. For a while. But then the anesthetic turns into poison and by then it's too late because you are mainlining it now, straight into your soul. It is rotting you and you can't stop.
Look in a mirror and find a ghost. Hear every heartbeat scream that everysinglething is wrong with you.
Two days later, two days before Christmas, I am judged fat and sane enough to be kicked out of the hospital. The plan to send me straight back to New Seasons won't work. There is no room at the inn for a leather Lia-skin plumped full of messy things. Not yet. The director promises Mom Dr. Marrigan he'll have a bed for me next week.
I'm stable enough to go home until then. They all say I'm stable.
I failed eating, failed drinking, failed not cutting myself into shreds. Failed friendship. Failed sisterhood and daughterhood. Failed mirrors and scales and phone calls.
I breathe in slowly. Food is life. I exhale, take another breath. Food is life. And that's the problem. When you're alive, people can hurt you. It's easier to crawl into a bone cage or a snowdrift of confusion. It's easier to lock everybody out.
My name is Gabrielle and I am twenty-eight years old. I began to self-injure at age fifteen -- so nearly thirteen years minus a two year period. This website is one about self-injury (self-harm), made to let self-injurers know that they are not alone and to help their friends and family learn more about self-injury and how it affects their loved one.