When you stand in front of a mirror, your hands slide over your skin. Your fingernails never dig into your flesh, but make no mistake. You have never been gentle, and you spend this time ripping yourself apart. You pinch at your belly, and watch until the red marks of your fingers fade away.
You cannot stop seeing numbers, counting down to nothing. Zero calories in intake. Zero pounds on a scale. A cycle of circles, spiraling into nonexistence.
You learn how to multitask by calculating calories and studying schoolwork simultaneously. When you can’t count down to zero, you’ll insist that you are a failure. But even the days when you do not berate yourself aloud, you resent everything you are.
But then you realize. You are five pounds lighter than you used to be, and the rest of you is so, much heavier. Made of nothing and made of misery.
So you pull yourself together, and eat a balanced meal for the first time in months. Several weeks pass, but you do stop counting. And when you do, you feel lighter than you ever did. You never realized how much the numbers weighed.
Hating yourself is easy. It is throwing yourself into the darkness and hoping your bungee cord doesn’t snap. But learning to love yourself, to accept the flaws? That is the journey back up the mountain. Handhold by handhold, sometimes gripping by a single finger. Each movement is momentous. Your own strength hauls your body back up the rock, and when you reach the top, you can see sunlight again.
You will make it up this mountain. You already have.
Maxxe is a senior at The Westminster Schools who shared this poem through VOX’s Atlanta Teen Voices program. To share your original poetry, email your typed document with your name, age/grade in school, and school to Sarah@voxatl.org.
Are you interested in sharing your poetry related to mental health and body image?
Come to the Mirror Mirror Open Mic at VOX on Wednesday, April 12 from 6-7 p.m.
Share your original poetry on the topic of body image and mental health. Pieces performed can be submitted in the upcoming issue of VOX Investigates!
Register for this free open mic at bit.ly/2017AWWWorkshop.