Please give a warm welcome to our Featured Artist for the month of May, Gabrielle Szynski! Gabrielle sent us some incrediblely moving and powerful essays that were a beautiful interpretation of our May theme: CHANGES. In them, she discusses the personal struggles she's dealt with in her life and how she has changed for the better because of them. Below is the first of a series of three essays we'll be posting from Gabrielle this month and keep looking out for our interview with her later in the month!
I never meant for it to happen. I never meant for this to become a new life style. I was simply tired of being the “fattest” girl in middle school. I was tired of being the “chunkiest” sibling. I was tired of being the not so pretty freshmen that was over looked by everyone, even teachers. Quite simply, I was over with being the “bigger” friend, the bigger kid in my grade, everyone my age always being smaller. I’d look in the mirror and burst into tears, then I’d eat the pain away. It was a never ending cycle for a teenage girl who wasn’t happy with the body she was inside. In the beginning, I just wanted to lose a little weight. It all started out with just a few pounds. I just wanted to lose a few pounds, and then everything went to hell
The beginning was easy. I simply stopped eating as much junk food and halved my portion sizes when I did eat. Then, the weight shed easily, and I was so happy. I had never felt better in my entire life. I looked in the mirror with rejuvenation and new purpose. It was glorious, it was perfect, it was short lived. I’d pinch harder at my stomach, pull down my arm flab a little more each time, squeeze back fat, and I wasn’t satisfied. The starvation worsened. I skipped breakfast and lunch in high school. I sat in the bathroom so I wouldn’t be forced to eat. I packed something from home only to throw it in the trash later. I would maybe eat a handful of crackers or grapes and tell myself I was fine. The stomach pain meant I was getting thinner. It meant I was winning. I lost a few more pounds, and it wasn’t enough. If it jiggled, it was fat. I was fat. I was ugly. I was not skinny enough. It.was.not.enough.
Starvation was no longer the only option. Junior year starvation turned into vomiting. This way I could eat, and still be skinny. It was brilliant! Why I had cracked the code! I could have the best of both worlds! At least, I could, couldn’t I? As a matter of fact, everything went down further into the pits of hell then ever before. I now fought the temptation to eat anything over 100 calories and 90% of the time I was puking everything back up five minutes later. Calories mattered the most. It wasn’t just the food, it was the caloric intake, and even one was too much. Memorizing calories was an easy task. I was never good at math, but this was an equation I had down to the last zero. Calorie counting became an instinct, and the lower I limited myself, the more throwing up I did. I had the system down to a perfect T. After every meal I would simply go the bathroom like any normal person would, only I would make sure to go alone. I could make a quick “deposit” into the toilet, brush my knees off, and pop two pieces of mint gum into my mouth. If I wanted to be extra careful, I’d rinse my mouth out in the sink before proceeding on to the gum. No one ever suspected a thing. It was the perfect crime.
Eating was a sin to me, but no one could have guessed it. I preferred to eat alone, but was able to act normal and eat in public in various circumstances. While the desire to be thin was high, the desire to hide it was higher. I could eat small amounts of food in front of people, and go to the bathroom afterward. I drank a lot of flavored water, the ones with zero calories, as this made the perfect excuse for constant restroom use. The goal was to look and act normal. It was easy to make everyone believe you are fine, because many never look beyond the surface. I was okay in public, so friends and family assumed everything was fine. I was never questioned, nothing was ever done. If I kept quiet, nobody knew, or nobody dared to speak up on it.
Bulimia is an obsession. It is the obsession of counting every single calorie you ever dare putting into your mouth. It is memorizing the calories for pizza, soup, an apple, a handful of chips, a single cookie, everything edible. Bulimia is constantly weighing yourself on a scale four or five times a day to see if you maybe just maybe gained half a pound within the last two hours. It is being excited to weigh yourself in the morning at your skinniest and almost bursting into tears when it came to looking at night. It is being obsessed with the compliments from others. “You’re so skinny.” “How do you stay so small?” “Ugh, your collar bones are so amazing.” Bulimia is absorbing every compliment and imprinting it into your memory so that the next time you grab a cookie, you’ll drop it, or puke it up later.
Bulimia is constantly wondering how others think you look. It’s constantly wondering if they heard your stomach crying out for the food you’re not giving it. Do they see my hips sticking out in that? Bodycon dress? I can’t wear that. Oh my god, did they hear how loud my stomach growled? It is looking in the mirror with a pair of scissors and squeezing your fat skin in-between the cold metal desperately wishing that cutting off flesh and fat was as easy. Bulimia is clawing at your own skin wishing you could tear it all away. You want to be anyone else in the world. The worst part is, it wasn’t supposed to happen. I had never imagined my life revolving around the numbers on a digital scale. I didn’t think I’d ever memorize the calorie count in a celery stick or a piece of toast, but I did. I told myself it was only a few pounds, and that this would be the last time I look at my reflection from the toilet bowl, it would be the last time, I promised.