Empty Head

Empty Head

By Alayna

It’s never like this. A shaking hand reaches to take another swig of my third Monster today. Still spinning in my chair, I imagine myself anywhere else. Through the fog of my thoughts, I hear Mr. Redundo reiterate the lesson, his voice barely audible from behind a mask and computer screen. At this point, listening to another lecture is futile, and my mind is already zoning out. 

You just ate. You are not hungry. You just ate. You don’t need to eat right now. Numbers, addition, and overestimation run through my head again. 



The guilt fills my stomach. 

“Why did you start counting again?” I can hear my mom’s tired and worried voice as that moment replays in my head. The moment she found my numbers. The moment she knew I had broken my promise. 

“I’m fine,” I repeat. 

It’s just a slip up.

I will stop. 

This is the last time.

My stomach twists with another pang of…something. My head is spinning, and another chill runs through my body, probably from the school day exhaustion. 

I’m fine.

Hot coffee with sugar-free syrup and unsweetened almond milk, and whatever else I can muster up to reach my intake limit. It’s enough for my stomach to ruminate on for a while. 

My phone buzzes and lights up with a text from my friend. You good? You were staring at nothing for almost the whole class. I responded, I’m good. Just tired. I get a thumbs up icon.

The sky turns to ash. The light in the house dims. 

Dinner time crept up on me and was met with dismal dread. 

I still need to eat or else they’ll say something. 

Why can’t I just stay here? 

Why do they need to bother me when I am doing school work? Why do people even need food to live, it’s a waste of time. My chest went tight, and I sauntered down the stairs to face whatever concoction sat on the table.

Dinner came in a blur and ended with an empty “Thank you.” Almost on instinct, the numbers were tacked on to the rest of the day, and I let the disappointment set in as I realized I exceeded my limit. I tell myself I have to make up for it tomorrow, and something inside of me starts to ache. 

By the time Mom called me into her room to talk, I couldn’t do it anymore. 

“Is something up?” she inquires. “I can tell when you’re lying.” 

I broke. The walls holding back all of the anxiety, guilt, depression finally shattered. I couldn’t do it anymore. I felt the hot tears stream down my face, the room started to shrink, body trembling. My lungs tore themselves apart in search of oxygen but were met with insufficient gasps. 

I’m sorry. I didn’t want to. I didn’t mean to. I;m sorry.

I didn’t think it would happen, I wanted to say, but nothing would overcome the sobs wracking my throat. 

Every thought that was pushed to the side over the past six months flooded my mind in a tidal wave of grief. I was counting again. I was body checking. I was restricting. I wanted to end it all if it meant I wouldn’t have to see the disappointment in my parents’ faces again. It would have been better for everyone. I didn’t want to be here anymore. 

Eventually, my mother was able to hear all of these thoughts from me. The words were sour and filled my chest with shame and embarrassment. 

Why did I do it? How could I let them down again?

For the first time since sitting down, I looked my mother in the eyes. A bit of relief washed  over me after letting everything out. I calmed down, and my mind fell back into numbness, not from hunger, but from crying. She gave me the option to go back to the Emily Program for group treatment. Hearing this, having it be the reality of my life, hurt. It verified that I failed. I let everyone down. 

“Okay, I’ll go,” I strained. “I want to.”

I needed to make up for this disappointment. I needed to prove to everyone that I wanted to heal so that they knew their time spent and efforts were not in vain. Some part of me also knew I just wanted to feel normal. I wanted a life again.

After hugging my mom goodnight, I return to my room and lay awake listening to music, waiting for the last of the day’s guilt to dissipate.

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