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The Person Across the Room

Look around the classroom, or your house of worship. Keep you eyes open in the coffee shop and at the grocery. Is she or he walking across campus carrying a backpack heavy with secrets similar to your own?Is she thinner than me? Is he a better runner than I? Is no one forcing them to either eat or return to treatment?What do you feel when you her collar bones jutting out? What crosses your mind when you notice that her skinny jeans are baggy?The competition is on! I used to pride myself on those washboard-like chest bones and pelvic bones that stick out your back. I was forced to gain weight - my hard work was ruined. I'm filled with envy for another young woman's disease.Look again, who does she remind you of?Me, she reminds me of myself. That's why it's so difficult to to think rationally about this - I want never to return to this sick place, but I also don't want to give it up.Look one more, look at her splotchy blue hands as they grip her pen. Look at her pale face and dull hair. Look at the way she stares back at you - she shares your secret, she's in on the competition too. Steady your own fidgety legs as you observe her wiggle uncomfortably in her chair. She glances around the room. It's almost like a mirror, she can't concentrate either. She's hungry. Starving, really. What do you feel now?Humiliation - I shouldn't want to compete with her. The reward for being the "best anorexic" is death. I should want to thrive, not fixate on another hurting girl's vertebrae.Dread - I don't want to want to see other people struggle with this. I long for things to be different. For both of us.Sadness - Why is competition so central to eating disorders? Why are we locked in this sick dance? Can we look at each other and recognize what a dark place it is we occupy? Can we use our innate competitive energy to climb out of this cave instead of to whittle our bodies down into a still weaker version of ourselves? We have so much to offer the world besides our secrets and bones.