For her.

All pain is pain. There’s no hierarchy for suffering. That was one of the harder lessons to accept, staring into the tear-filled eyes of the girl across from me, as she described the feel of his rough fingers against her skin. Her pain was real, justified, mine was not.

It spilled out of her, this ugly thing swallowing the space between us. I felt it through her. The lump in our throat, the pressure in our chest, suffocating. It made too much sense. To exist with that demon just beneath the surface at all times, waiting eagerly to rear its terrible head. Purging it from her body not only made sense, it was necessary for survival.

She finished, her face mirroring the shock we all felt. I settled back into myself from floating somewhere else. The others returned to themselves as well, who they were ten minutes ago.

We held her pain with her. Not daring to speak over the sound of her sobs. She needed to break, to show us her brokenness, and we were there to pick up the pieces.

Somehow, hearing her story, each one of our stories, we were reclaiming our own. Allowing ourselves to feel loss, grief, hurt. Our collective experiences woven together to create a meaningful pattern that could be used for comfort in the face of so much pain. Out of our suffering grew compassion, resilience, connection.

There are those who still doubt. Who trivialize this thing that is part of our identity, but that we refuse to be defined by. To them it is, we are, a cliché. But the scars consciously and meticulously drawn up and down her arms say different. The grave dug every sixty-two minutes for a fallen angel says different. Thirty million struggling, surviving, says different. My pain says different.

This is for them. For her. For me.

Permission to feel all of it. Take stock of the sadness while rallying around the anger. So much anger. A way to dispel it without forcibly purging it from our bodies, or hurting ourselves in its expression. To be seen, understood, not felt sorry for or degraded. Stripped of our pain and simultaneously, ownership of our experience.

I’m holding it with you. All of it. Hoping to help you reclaim your story by sharing my own.

  • At least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S.
  • Every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder.
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

From The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, Inc. (ANAD)