Correspondence from E.D | Rebecca Petch | TW
Miss Rebecca Petch
Message to your brain
Your friend, Eating Disorder
The recesses of your mind
23rd September 2018
I’ve been utterly terrible to you. I can’t even put into words how devastated I feel reflecting on the way I’ve treated you. I found an old piece I wrote about you and I’m ashamed of the things I said about you. I called you some disgusting names and you believed every word I said. I twisted your perception of yourself with a few meaningless words and I broke you. I tore you apart day in, day out because I was afraid. I was so afraid that you would come to accept who you were as a person and forget about our goal: perfection. I was so consumed by my desire for perfection that I ripped away every part of you and forgot to give it back. I took your happiness, your laughter, your enjoyment, and your soul and left you an empty shell of a girl you used to be. I told you time and time again that you were worthless, ugly, boring. I ruined you. I tore you down in every way possible: telling you that you should stop eating, that you had to look a certain way and behave a certain way and I lost sight of what was important: you. You deserve better. You are worth so much more than you even know and it’s my fault that you feel so numb. I picked at every flaw and made you feel as though it was something against you. As though you were somehow less than everybody else. Constantly drawing comparisons against you. And you always lost. There was always somebody funnier, somebody prettier, smarter, kinder. Everything you did was wrong. I had such high expectations of you, and I can’t even begin to fathom how much you are hurting. You’ve been hurting for years. I started by putting those questions into your head: am I a good person? Why don’t I look like the other girls on TV? Is it ok that my tummy is a bit bigger than theirs?
Then came step two: tear down the appearance. You’re fat, Rebecca. Ugly. Lose some weight, maybe then boys will like you. So, you started your diet and it worked. People noticed how thin you were, and I think it was the happiest you ever felt. You were in control. The Christmas of 2015, you looked great. You had a flat tummy and you felt good because of it. But that’s where things spiralled. I pushed you too far. I told you that it wasn’t enough and that you needed to do more. Work harder. The boy you liked still didn’t want you so there was more wrong with you than just the way you looked.
Phase three: cast doubt about your worth as a person. You still weren’t happy at Christmas. You felt lonely, boring and no boys ever wanted you. Why? Because I singled out your insecurities and hit you where it hurt. Fear of being rejected. The embarrassment of realising I was right about everything I said. Fear of proving me right and stepping outside of your comfort zone. Every time you were in a class with nobody you knew, I told you that you had nothing interesting to say so it was better to sit by yourself and wait to be approached. I really had you, didn’t I? I told you that people didn’t want to get to know the sad girl with the empty eyes and fake smile. But you sought solace with your friends.
You felt good when you were around them: they made you laugh and more importantly, you returned the favour! And then there was him, the one who made you feel special. He flirted shamelessly, and you flirted back. He made you feel like you mattered. When he told you how beautiful you were, I made you shrug it off and laugh at him. You told him to fuck off because of me. I ruined anything between you two because I was afraid. I thought that if you allowed him to bring your guard down, I would be weak. I was stronger when you were alone. So, you have to understand why I made you push him away. Why I told you that he couldn’t ever like you. You were too boring and fat for him. You must understand that I only said those things because I wanted you for myself.
When you started at school after Christmas, you had lost control. You told your mum. I told you not to tell, Rebecca. I told you that it was our little secret. You thought I was gone. That it was time to start healing. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you were deceived. I came back with a vengeance. Only this time, it was different. I told you to eat the chocolate and crisps and junk food and you don’t need to exercise today because that’s how you fall down the rabbit hole and you’re healing now. I wore the greatest disguise: your friend. I pretended to be your ally and you were too trusting to question my motives. This time I was sneaky. I kept telling you that you were boring and worthless all the while whispering that you should be kinder to yourself.
Then it was time to go to university. You were adamant that things would be different, but I had other ideas. I hid away in the very depths of you and followed you all the way to your new hometown. You met some really amazing people, but I came out of hiding the first night: I kept telling you how boring you were, and you froze. My message had been received, loud and clear. From then on, there was always something holding you back. You didn’t keep in contact with people from back home because you thought this was your fresh start. Too many painful memories at home.
I guess it all got too much for you, the battle between us. You found a good friend who knew my voice all too well. You told her about the new voice in your head: the one telling you to purge. You tried it a couple times and nothing came up. I remember the stream of frustrated tears because I told you that you were such a failure. I didn’t mean it my darling. You just needed to try harder. Well, you didn’t let me down.
Eventually I think you’d had enough. You spent the year feeling depressed and sorry for yourself, trying hopelessly to get back your control and be as happy *read as thin* as you were in the Christmas of 2015. You tried counselling, but you were so good. I taught you well. You lied about it all. You thought you wanted help but what you really wanted was for people to leave you alone so you could self-destruct in peace.
Recently you’ve been sad, Rebecca. I’ve been there through every step of the way. The truth is, I need you more than you need me. You don’t even want me. I thought I’d found a home with you but all I do is destroy you.
So, for now, all I can say is that I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I broke you. I’m sorry that you’ve spent years feeling like you’ll never be good enough. I lied and deceived you, telling you that if you looked perfect on the outside, nobody would know how ugly you were on the inside. I was wrong about that. You were not ugly. You were not broken; not until I came along and destroyed you. So please, no matter what happens now, every time you feel me, and your first instinct is to shut down and admit defeat, fight me. Fight everything I say because you are worth so much more than what I can offer you. You have a whole life ahead of you: a life without me.
Toxic bitch, Eating Disorder
The recesses of my mind
Miss Rebecca Petch
From my laptop.
7th September 2021
God, it’s been a while hasn’t it? I’m not really sure why I’ve decided to open up this
Pandora’s Box and set you free, your dark twisted spirit swirling around me, clawing at me as you demand my attention.
Well guess what, I’m not fucking listening.
It’s my turn to talk.
I read your letter: what kind of self-serving, pretentious, emotional bullshit is this?
“I’m sorry I broke you…” Please, you give yourself far too much power. Not anymore.
The power’s mine now bitch.
Stop treating me like some fragile little bird with a broken wing… the fragile bird with a broken wing that you clutched in your hands and suffocated with your clenched grip until every breath set my lungs on fire.
You didn’t break me. I wasn’t broken.
YOU DIDN’T FUCKING BREAK ME!
Ok. Maybe just a little. This isn’t me admitting defeat, by the way. It’s just exhausting, being “recovered” all the time.
Sometimes I miss you. If you tell anybody I’ll deny it but here, in the safety of our own mind I can say it: I miss you.
A lot has changed since I last heard from you. I’m a D cup now!
That’s right, I actually have boobs. I mean, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about them seeing as I spent the vast majority of my time with you completely flat chested, but I hear they’re pretty nice.
I don’t have a thigh gap anymore and I’ve got a few new stretch marks on my tummy (which has also grown a lot by the way). I’m not a big fan of those features but I’m learning more and more every day about how to accept them.
Another thing I don’t have these days? The sheer joy of feeling my ribs every time I reach up and hold myself, never mind the utter delight of feeling my hip bones jutting out at all angles. Let me tell you something, feeling your bones is really not conducive when you’re as squeamish as I am.
And yet in spite of all this, I still miss you. You were wrong when you said that you needed me more than I could ever need you. I do still need you. You made me feel safe in a world that felt increasingly dangerous. You gave me a confidante when I felt like I had nobody to trust, or nobody who cared enough at least. I was never alone when I had you. And despite preaching about body positivity and cutting yourself some slack, you provided me the one thing that I still strive for: perfection. Or at least a path to perfection. Even though I hated myself, you made me feel as though I could at least one day be worthy. Like I had something to work towards.
So yeah, I fucking miss you okay?
I wish I didn’t but apparently that’s not how recovery works, so I guess we’ve just got to deal with it.
I could say something now about how it’s all just bullshit. How the only difference between me now and me when I was ill is that now I actually have a reason to hate myself: I got fat. I’m not happy and I hate it.
But that would be a lie. Well, not a lie as such… more an embellishment of the truth.
I don’t like my body most of the time. I can’t deny that. Sometimes I look at my body and I feel this huge weight on my chest, like something is desperately wrong and I don’t know how to fix it. I was never prepared to occupy this larger space and yes, sometimes it feels as though I am a stranger in my own body. This body cannot be mine: who I am and how I look do not fit together.
And yet here I am. Still the same old me at the very core of it so how can the size of my waist and the softness of my tummy create such a divide between my body and the very foundation of my being?
I’m learning a lot about this, E.D. You see, I’m learning things that I never could have put my finger on in my wildest dreams when you were dominating my very existence. Things that always felt ever present in my mind but just out of reach. And it’s all so… so twisted. You see, before I just thought that the reason I needed you and pursued you so compulsively was because of pure genetics: the personality I was born with created a toxic cesspool in my mind which, left to fester, created this ubiquitous parasite, clinging onto every recess of my mind.
But it’s far more complex than that.
I’m learning that, simply by having the audacity to be born a female, the messages to take up as little space as is physically possible were given free rein to work their way into the depths of my psyche, oh so subtly.
I’m learning that my biological make- up holds great significance in your existence, but it will never be the only thing as you would have me believe.
And more importantly, I’m learning that it’s possible to change that.
You’re scared now, aren’t you? Now that I finally have some semblance of understanding of the way you work, it’s all over for you.
So, to sum up this little foray into the reasons you most certainly did not break me and to bang the final nail in the coffin if you will: things I have learnt about myself - and the world - without you…mostly.
My worth as a person is NOT directly correlated to my size or physical appearance in any way. I am a person who is made up of so much more than just my soft tummy and thighs that now touch. And just to put it out there, there is also absolutely nothing wrong with my soft tummy and thighs that now touch. It’s just a body.
I have feelings, a whole lot of them, and that is okay. The bad feelings do not make me weak. It is how I live with them that makes me strong.
I really like chips. Or any potato goods really.
You’ll be around for a while, probably for the rest of my life. And honestly, that’s not so bad. You may shout as loud as you want, but I’m slowly figuring out how to tune you out.
I’m pretty tough. And pretty fragile. I’m a whole person made up of hundreds of contradictions and this, too, is okay. Honestly, I think a lot of people are.
I really like bold colours, mostly in regard to clothes. I spent so long hiding behind baggy, dull tops and sticking with my jeans because they felt familiar. Items of clothing that I deem bold and now own include: a bright red jumpsuit; gorgeous blue sundress that emphasises ALL the curves; little black dress that makes no effort to conceal my cleavage; black floaty trousers with some lush red patterns that I now wear about 70% of the time.
The world is filled with enough people who will try to tear you down due to their own insecurities, you don’t need to add to that. In fact, my opinion of myself will always be the most important: I’m the one that has to live inside my head all day…
Pancakes for lunch is the greatest meal anybody could ever offer me, and I’m actually allowed to eat pancakes for lunch. Or any meal come to think of it.
I think we can safely call that a nice two fingers up to you, old friend.
A woman who’s tired of your shit and intends on continuing into recovery, even when you entice her back with woeful promises of perfection that will always be broken.
I’m Becca, a perpetual daydreamer, wannabe writer, and amateur crocheter in training (thanks to the global pandemic!), masquerading as a recent Psychology graduate!
I’m a big believer that often the subjects that make us feel uncomfortable and are seen as taboo are the ones that need more attention - including the side of mental health (the unromantic, raw and often brutal side) that we tend to shy away from.