I wrote stories, diary entries, poems, lists, and letters to people I never sent. I scribbled away in countless composition notebooks. I only wrote in them in my bedroom closet, where I permanently kept a small desk lamp. I hid behind my clothes and closed sliding closet door and wrote down what I ate that day. Then I carefully noted next to each item if it was good or bad. I tallied all the bad things, and wrote about how tomorrow would be better. The days that tallied more “bad” things concluded with I HATE MYSELF at the bottom of the pages. I stored the journals and notebook pages in a Nike shoe box which I craftily punched holes in and slipped a padlock through. If anyone found it, they would have to destroy the box to open it, and I would know. I was testing how much privacy I was allowed.
My dad asked me on several occasions what was in the box. I was ready for this question, I had practiced the answer a million times. I recited a list of harmless items, and finished with a good reason for the padlock: it’s where I keep a secret code I made up. This was believable as I frequently pretended I was a spy, and was constantly masterminding elaborate keys, replacing words and letters with symbols, and writing letters to people that no one could understand.
I was twelve.
On my thirteenth birthday, I wrote a letter to myself that I sealed, placed in the padlocked shoe box, and did not open until I was sixteen. The contents contained how I thought I should be when I was sixteen. I listed goal-oriented items; have straight A’s, kissed a guy, visited Disneyland. Then I listed; weigh less than 100 pounds.
When I see twelve-year-old girls, I dismiss the possibility that their minds are capable of such thoughts. They seem so young and innocent. They are still playing marco polo in the swimming pool, and watching the Disney channel. The thought of a little girl’s mind clouded with a demanding and hateful voice tugs at my heart. How is that possible? How is it possible that it went undetected for so long?
A workshop was offered at my middle school, and a letter was sent home to parents explaining the opportunity. It was a free, 3-day after school thing, with some hip phrase like, “Girl Power” attached to the title of the program. I remember wanting to go, but before I got a chance to figure out how to ask for permission, my dad said; you don’t want to go to this do you? You have so much self-esteem, you don’t need this! I was immediately embarrassed that I even thought to attend something like that. That would show weakness. I didn’t want to be weak. I had to have will power. So that I would never weigh 100 pounds.