Today I’m sharing a very personal excerpt from Open Heart. As many of you know, Simmi suffers severe body image issues and eventual bulimia. Although I have never had an eating disorder, I know what it’s like to grow up hating the way you look and despising the part of you that can’t turn things around. In fact, this is something that–even at 27 years of age–I have not grown out of. Writing Open Heart has proven to be incredibly emotional and very hard on my psyche, because when I write about Simmi’s feelings, I’m writing about my own. And it’s scary as all get out. The following scene is definitely raw, but hopefully, it will touch your heart.
I’ve done it twice now, twice in the same day. Starving myself was painful and risky. Eventually, Mummy, Shapri, or somebody else would have noticed. Besides, throwing up is far simpler, safer, and only hurts for a second. I can eat whatever I want and gorging makes me feel good, which is why I’m such a deplorable blimp in the first place.
I wake up the next morning and all the comfort I obtained yesterday has disappeared. My skin covers me like a hollow container; my gut contracts in pain, wanting something, anything, to make it full. My feet carry me away from bed, while my mind screams, “No, no!” My body doesn’t listen; it just moves forward like a zombie. This is more than just needing food. Something else is missing, something my body craves desperately. If only I could figure out what I need to be full, maybe I could stop myself.
No one else is awake yet, leaving me alone with the well-stocked kitchen. I grab a bag of Lay’s potato chips, a container of sour cream, and a king-sized Twix and steal away to my bedroom. Click, the door locks behind me. No one will ever know. I tear into the wrappers. My mind has resigned to the inevitability of what I’m about to do, what I’ll keep doing, probably forever. I slide fistfuls of food down my throat, hardly bothering to chew. Maybe I’ll get lucky and choke.
I finish my meal and my stomach churns, going from hollow to overflowing in a matter of seconds. The food claws at my throat, desperate to escape.
What ugly thing lives inside me? I am still debating this question when my body springs to action. I kneel at the toilet and grasp the cool porcelain between the outstretched fingers of my left hand. My right hand reaches down my throat, finds the tender part on my neck, and pushes.
Acid stings my skin, but I don’t care. Everything comes back out—smooth, jagged, white, brown, yellow. The colors and textures swirl together in the clear water, a hideous portrait of how I look inside.
There, that’s the part of me that’s ugly. If I get it all out, the ugliness will leave, too.
My knees tremble as I rise and go about my morning routine. By the time I’m sitting at my bureau and working my hair into a side braid, strength has returned to my limbs, and for the first time in weeks, I can’t sense my stomach. There’s no pain, no emptiness, no discomfort. This could work for me. I can lose these excess kilos and become beautiful, someone worthy of Alex, someone I can love.
Enjoyed this post?
Sign-up for my monthly newsletter for Advance Review Copies, giveaways, and special announcements.