when the perfect girl falls

a personal essay

The “perfect girl” was cold.

It was debilitating, gut-wrenching, corpse-like, freezing cold- and yet, it was a blistering July day on the beach.

Her fingers were pale, weak, frail. They seemed to transfer a thin layer of ice onto anything they set their bone-like extremities upon. 

But at least they felt something

The rest of her was not as fortunate. 

I was numb, I was a zombie. I could feel nothing, my brain was so malnourished. There was no joy left in life— I was not living, but just barely surviving. Nothing was ever warm; even my vision had a tint of icy blue. I couldn’t tolerate loud noises, sharp sounds, prolonged clamour. I couldn’t tolerate life

I was a living embodiment of anorexia.

The media does not portray eating disorders accurately. They glorify them, mask them in appealing labels of “healthy eating” and “nutritional diets” and “great exercises to boost your calorie expenditure”. 

What they don’t show is a hospitalized teenage girl with a heart rate below 35 BPMs, missing a quarter of her sophomore year. What they don’t show is blood getting drawn twice a day, covering her arms with bruises. What they don’t show is her being wheeled in a wheelchair, too low in weight to be permitted to walk. What they don’t show is the trauma she now has, the information she wishes she never knew.  

I was the “perfect girl”. Blonde, blue-eyed, tall, straight A’s, intelligent, kind. I was the ideal daughter, the flawless elder sister to a developmentally delayed younger brother. 

And so I repressed my emotions, my anxieties. I pushed them off, telling myself to be the consummate automaton I thought was expected of me. “They have other things to deal with,” I told myself, “they shouldn’t be bothered by my issues”.  

And then, I cracked. 

Like delicate porcelain striking against the sharp needle of life, like an egg shattering against concrete. My mask of perfection dropped, my bubble of safety popped.

The “perfect girl” fell— and she fell hard

I was in the hospital for six days, and a residential facility for eight weeks. During that time, I found out more about myself than I could have ever imagined.

But most importantly, I found out that I wasn’t the “perfect girl” I once knew. In fact, I realized that no one was a “perfect” anything at all. 

At first, I denied it, pushing it away. It was possible to be perfect, I insisted, and I would become it once more. I failed to notice it was the very imperfections themselves that constitute the beauty of the whole.

As I progressed in treatment, I realized how absurd my former beliefs were. I started to recognize the innate faults in everyone around me, and how these faults serve to enhance, rather than diminish, our intrinsic value. 

The “perfect girl” finally realized that it was okay to make a mistake- nay, she realized it was advantageous to make a mistake. For a mistake allows one to learn. If you live life perfectly, you are not really living; you are simply a shadow, an emotionless robot. Life is about mistakes. It is about learning, about improving upon yourself. It is about becoming stronger after you fall. 

When I was finally weight-restored and discharged from residential treatment in late October, I had never felt more euphoric. I had been through absolute terror and fear, but the results were ethereal. After not being able to see the outside world for so long, I was enraptured in absolutely everything. The changing leaves, the heavenly weather, my darling friends and school- I was intoxicated with pure love for the reality around me. My first day back at school was one of the happiest days of my life; I was blissful, rhapsodic even. I had never felt so elated before.

It took me darkness— quite frankly, hell—to see the paradise that life is. No one cares for how perfect you are, no one worries over your appearance. A mistake should not be scolded, but instead rejoiced over. 

On that wonderful Monday, a “perfect girl” had died. And yet, I was not upset in the slightest. “Good riddance,” I thought. 

The girl’s “perfect” skeletal figure, her “perfect” emotional coldness, her “perfect” standardized test scores— these are only the scattered remnants of a forlorn life, left to flutter in the wind; rather, a fallacious, sad excuse for a life. 

Her grave is left unattended, overgrown with weeds and ivy. Ironically, it has more life now than it ever did when it was a part of me. 

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