I guess it started when we were around 17. My mother used to leave us dinner when she went to her full time job and it was up to my identical twin sister and I to divide it. I watched in amazement as every night turned into a drama of who took more or less to the point where every piece of food had to be accounted for to maintain any level of peace in our household. That was just the beginning.
I have little recollection of my sister’s eating habits at that point in my life. I only remember looking at her standing next to some of our friends and just fading in comparison. She had always been an exceptionally attractive girl but you really couldn’t tell now that she was sinking into an oblivion of bones and hair where other young girls shined.
In the coming years, we both would move out of our mother’s house and live together as roommates. While I enjoyed my youth, it was shadowed by the fact that I was the main victim of my sister’s eating and exercise habits. I remember finding, of all things, a pear, that she had hidden in one of our kitchen cabinets. When I questioned her about it, she swore up and down it wasn’t hers with such conviction that I realized how deeply I had lost her to this horrible disease. Never had my sister been so fiercely dishonest with me. I knew she had a new best friend.
Of course friends and family noticed. (Yet many still couldn’t tell us apart despite our weight difference.) The biggest question was ‘why?’ But there is no answer. I have theories including our father leaving us or the fact that we were so often compared as twins. But without my sister to confirm that any of this is so, they remain just that, theories, and I honestly believe she doesn’t know the answer either.
I think what confounds so many people is trying to understand why a person wouldn’t eat when food can be so delicious. It seems like such a simple thing-JUST EAT! But the truth is that there is nothing simple about anorexia or curing it. I know it sounds cliché but yet it is so true that you can not help a person that doesn’t want to be helped. And I don’t just mean like, “hey, I thought I was having heart palpitations last night so I ate breakfast this morning’’ or, “sure it would be nice to look normal again but then I couldn’t fit into these really great children’s size 8 jeans that actually fit me.” I mean they need to, like really want to, like desperately want to, GET BETTER!
Treatment options for anorexia cost thousands of dollars and are not covered by any type of insurance since it is considered a ‘luxury disease’. No strapping her up to a stomach pump any time soon.
But there are two sides to every story and I feel I would be remiss if I did not point out these facts:
First, I too feel that I am a bit anorexic as are a lot of the women in my family. I look normal, though definitely skinny, and I am obsessive about my weight.
I also have to say that my sister never threw up or took any diet pills or laxatives to maintain her ungodly childlike figure. This contributes to the fact that though she remains anorexic to this day, she has not had any serious health scares (although sometimes I wish she might have, if just for the fact that it might scare her into gaining weight).
Finally, there are so many people who are overweight and yet there is such a stigmatism to being anorexic. I have gone over and over this in my mind and I can’t see how one is worse than the other.
I have distanced myself from my sister over the years. Although I will always consider her my best friend and soul mate, every time we try to do something together, I can’t help but think that she has some hidden agenda involving her anorexia.
My mother maintains a relationship with her. Currently, she tells me she thinks my sister is gaining weight and looking pretty good, although she is still terribly thin. It is true that my sister has gained and then lost weight over the years but I am too jaded to get my hopes up about anything as far as that goes.
I look at the relationship of my mother to my sister as that of an enabler. After all, if they go out to lunch and if my sister eats two more lettuce leaves than she did the week before, my mother would be happy. I would probably see the pathetic display of food and like to throw it in my sister’s face. But such is the relationship between mother and child, especially if you feel somewhat responsible for your child’s state.
My sister is still anorexic to this day. This brings her total years as an anorexic to 23, more than half her life. It amazes me that she has devoted so much to maintaining such a destructive disease, especially one suited for adolescent girls.
I troll the internet for inspiration on a way to poetically end this story. But while I study pictures of haunted females, more skeletons than girls, and hear their heartbreaking tales of recovery or their continuing fights, I realize that for my sister, my family, and our fight with anorexia, there is no end until the end.