“Fine I’ll say it, I feel alone.” The young girl spoke softly. She didn’t look much older than ten, and that’s when I realized that these problems really do start young. Although with more people talking about why they’re here, it all seems to blend together. It is as though every story is the same with some twist like a mother instead of father or a sibling thing or school. It’s all just it’s all so bland. It’s disappointing that these people can’t seem to see how much their family truly loves them.
Here, I am. A 15-year-old boy with an eating disorder. Who would have thought, that a 15-year-old boy would have self-esteem issues? My mum didn’t. My mum, she’s great, but sometimes she just has this thing where she’d rather just turn out the lights and go to bed. It happened frequently; especially at the dinner table. I would start off telling her things about school, or stuff that I did or saw during the day, and things that I’ve been thinking about; just while we ate together because that was when we spent our family time together. But suddenly she wouldn’t hear me anymore or at least tuned me out. She was still there, just, not with me. She’d continue smoking her cigarette and just stare blankly out the window. She wouldn’t eat any of her own food and I’d often plead with her to eat but I knew she couldn’t keep it down anymore than I could stop myself from puking my own guts out. She was gentle and I knew there was something behind that stare. We knew my father wasn’t ever coming back. It was hard to move forward but harder to forget about. I’m sure it was in the front of her mind just as it always was in mine. It was a sudden accident. No one truly saw it coming. He was a great guy, most people loved him, or at least the ones that truly knew him. He was a war veteran, an honest man. He loved us very much and we loved him too, and to know he’s gone- he shouldn’t be gone, he should be here with us, he served his time in the army. He made it home.
“Why!? Why!? He did nothing wrong!” I had put my palms to my eyes, covering them from the light. Soft sobs escape my lips. I stop and regain control. It was a Wednesday. It was early too, because I was in my 3rd period class. My father was supposed to pick me up from school at 3:05 so that we could have father and son time. I wasn’t so keen on it at the time- I’d have rather been with my friends but I would keep that to myself from then on. I was called to the office in the middle of class and my biggest worry was that I would miss key details for the test the following week. I was told to sit in an office. I sat alone for only seconds but it felt like an eternity. Until my mother came into the room and sat in the chair facing mine.
“Why do you feel so Alone?” The counsellor questioned. The shrillness of the woman’s voice brought me back to the present. I felt cold and shivered a bit.
Can I leave yet?
“Mostly because I don’t feel listened to or heard, it’s always as though my opinion never matters to anyone and no matter how hard I try, no matter the topic I speak on, no one cares. And I feel like it’s a waste of time; trying to be heard. So instead, I’ve started doing this,” she motioned to her arm and peeled the sweater up to her elbow to reveal deep and shallow cuts in her wrist and forearm, “to sort of express myself. Or at least release my frustrations. Even when I scream the loudest of all my peers, I only sound as though I am a mouse encased in a small box, preventing any noise from escaping. “
“You speak with great metaphors, do you happen to write? or perhaps just read a lot?”
“I write sometimes. I read more than I write though.”
“I would imagine your writing is remarkable. You speak quite well.”
“Thank you Mrs. Browning.”
Ugh, I dislike people who speak in metaphors.
“Okay, next will be you, what’s your name fella?” She stared at me, waiting for me to say something. I’m not ready for this yet.
“Ok, uhm, Hi, I’m Jacob. I’m I don’t know, I’m here because, uhm-” I brush my sweaty palms through my coarse hair. I try to think of how to start without stealing a story from somebody else, without really talking about my home life.
“It’s okay Jacob take your time, and no one is judging you today.” The counsellor was quick with her words. I found it careless that she couldn’t wait for me to form a thought.
“Oh that’s not the problem, I’m just trying to figure out how to say what I want to say. I know I’ve sat quiet the whole time but my thoughts are just running rampant.”
The counsellor looked dumbfounded. She didn’t know how to respond to his clear distinction of feeling other than to say, “It’s normal that you feel that way.”
How would you know anything about what normal is; to me? or to the other people in this room, you know nothing about what it is we go through on a daily basis.
“I’m bulimic,” I knew to say that. I paused and realized my lips were still pursed open and so I closed them, before speaking again. I clear my throat. “It started about a year ago. I have self-esteem issues and always have. And I feel like the hatred inside me will spill out of my body every time I expel what is inside my body, and it does, but it always returns. It feels good once I’ve puked my guts out. It’s become an addiction. With the insults I receive daily, they reduce my self-worth to nothing, which makes it easier to harm myself and to continue with my regimen. And the compliments I get as a result of my addiction it just makes it worth the lack of food and the extreme workouts. While I do have a mother, who cares very much about me, she has not yet noticed what I’ve been doing and I try to keep it a secret from her. She’s the only true person in my life that I don’t want to hurt. She’s been through enough as it is.”
“While that is considerate, how would you feel if your mother found out?”
“Ashamed and embarrassed. It would kill me if I hurt my mother.”
“You seem to care about her a lot.”
“I do, I worry about her all the time. She doesn’t have anyone to make sure she’s okay, plus, she’s in a very harmful state.”
“Has she helped in any way toward your addiction?”
“Yes, and no. She helps enable it, that part is true but no I did not start throwing up because of her, if anything I feel more confident beside her. looking like this or previous to my new-found addiction.”
The counsellor had a puzzled look on her face. Trying to read it, it seems pained. I think she might actually care about my case. She stopped asking me questions. She kind of paused for a moment.
“I think he was our last, new person, if you’re new and haven’t spoken, raise your hand.”
If anyone hadn’t spoken up yet, it was hard to tell, except a young female down near the counsellor seemed distraught. I think she was new but I think she was too shy to speak up. I don’t want to make her uncomfortable in making her speak now, but if she feels cast aside, I don’t want to be a bystander either. Maybe I’ll run and try to catch up with her afterwards and we can talk.
“So everyone, I want you all to continue writing in your journals. This is how you’ll communicate with me, for anyone who is new, I will get you a correspondence book which you will bring with you to every session, which is currently every thursday at 4pm. You all may go, but make sure you see me first.” She got up and picked up the stack of paperback school journals and opened the door to the hallway. She allowed for the students to place the used journals on the desk and as the members approached the door, she placed a new journal in each group member’s hands.
As I followed the girl out of the room the counsellor asked me to meet one on one with her. “I think you have a lot to deal with Jacob, if you want, I am available for private counselling as well as group, so if you don’t want to share things with the group you can certainly share them only with me.”
“Thank you Mrs. Browning but I’m not really interested today. Let me think about it.” I kept my eye on the girl as she left the room but found it hard to find her once I got away from Mrs. Browning. I saw her run to meet an older woman, I figure it must be her mother but in truth it could be any which of her female relatives. As for me, I decide to go for a walk and hit the gym. The entire time being locked up in there was driving me crazy.
I put my iPod on shuffle and head out through the streets. The image of the girl implanted on my brain. Her long brown hair tied back into a ponytail. She had a fresh face, no make up and her hair looked more greasy than the other girls’. She looked frightened. But I put the thought away and focus on what’s in front of me. My personal fitness. And a school project but it isn’t due for another week, still it’s good to brainstorm.
At the gym I hit the locker room and get dressed in my workout gear, it’s not the best but I make it work for me. I notice a blue set of goggles on a blue lock. Oh great, Carson is here. I’ll probably get noticed even though I don’t want to be. I get into the weight room and it’s near empty, I hop on a tread-climber and start my stairs for warm up. My heart beating in my ears I step off and waddle my way over to the free weights and throw on a couple of 15’s to each side and find it a bit light so I throw on another 5 to each side and gives me a better work out. I do 12 reps. Feeling good I do some push ups and some crunches, moving on to step ups and the machines, then returning for some stretches and a 3 minute long plank. I take a quick shower and get back to the Locker room. I change and no issues. Carson’s goggles are now gone so I figure he’s swimming and I won’t run into him. Lucky me.
As I step through the door to our house, I smell dinner on the stove. “Mum?!”
I don’t get a response and start to worry. I head to the kitchen immediately and find that a pot is boiling over so I turn it off, and head to the living room and I see her conked out on the couch. I fear she isn’t breathing, “Mum? Hey Mum? Wakies? Hey, Mum please wake up. I’m not asking come on.” My fingertips tap on her knee a few times before I finally bend down by her head to hear for her breathing and look for her chest to inflate and deflate with air. But it doesn’t. Her body is still warm but I panic, what do I do? I find my phone in my pocket and dial 911 and ask for an ambulance. My mother isn’t breathing, this can’t be happening, I’m beside myself; I can’t, this isn’t. Immediately cop cars arrive and soon after paramedics come bursting through the door. I’m crumpled on the floor rocking back and forth next to her, holding her hand.
I’m asked to step aside but I find it hard to move, I come back to reality and I stand up, let go of her hand and move to the corner of the room and just watch. It’s so surreal. She’s taken away and I can’t come with her, Why can’t I go with my mother?
Suddenly I wake up. “Mom, are you ok?”
Teary eyed she looks up at me, “Yeah I’m ok, you’re the one that got hurt.”
“I look up and I can’t move my body. IV’s in my arm, a neck brace on. “What Happened? I remember being at the gym, I thought I made it home?”
“No hun, You got into a fight with Carson.”
“I don’t think that’s an appropriate question, I think you should rather ask how he is.”
“Ok, well how is the jerk that’s bullied me my entire life?”
My heart became heavy as though it were lead and fell into my stomach. “No, he isn’t, he can’t be-“
“You’re not going to jail, they’re not even going to press charges, because you were acting in defence. He jumped you when you were leaving your locker.” She’s distraught. I can’t tell what she’s thinking.
“Mum, I love you. I’m sorry.”
“I know you’re sorry, I’m sorry too. I just, This is a lot, and I wish your father was here, he’d know just how to handle the situation. He’s been in so many himself. Gosh why did he have to go, and I was so close to losing you too. You can’t ever do this again Jacob, I swear to god.”
I feel as though I’ve disappointed her, and in turn disappointed my father. I have the blood of another man on my hands and I have to live with that for the rest of my life.
How am I? What do I do? Maybe I should take up that counsellor’s offer. When I get out of here, of course. “Mum, What happened? Were there any witnesses? How did I end up like this, what did he do?”
She didn’t answer my questions right away. It seemed like everything just floated through the air. It was hard to really know how to move on with this.
A man in a white coat strode into the room. A stethoscope around his neck.
“Hello Jacob, how are you today?”
How do I answer this question? How does it look like I feel? “I’ve had better days.”
“I wouldn’t doubt that, now do you remember anything that happened yesterday?”
“The last thing I remember was coming home and looking for my mum, and I found her dead on the couch at home. So I called an Ambulance.”
The doctor shared a look with my mother, I’m not sure what it meant, but I’m sure they’ll be talking about me later.
“You must have been really roughed up there, son.”
Please don’t call me son. “Do know what happened?”
“I do, but you don’t need to know, not right now. Would you mind if I talked with your mother for a few minutes please?”
“No, go ahead.” They’re going to anyways, why ask? Whatever. I guess I really didn’t know what alone felt like until this moment right now. I miss my Dad. I wish he could talk with me now. I want to know he isn’t embarrassed by me. They seem to be taking a long time. Is my mum sobbing? oh god no. Please, I don’t want her to cry for me. I didn’t want this, I tried so hard. Please, Why?
My thoughts faded away and soon so did the light, the room began growing dark and I could keep my eyes open any longer.
“Jacob, I am proud of you, I am always proud of you. And this, what happened yesterday wasn’t your fault. I was there with you Jacob, I am always with you.” He gestured to my heart.
“But Dad, I killed someone, and I don’t even remember a thing, but I feel so guilty. I never wanted to kill him, I just wanted him to learn his manners.”
“I know, Son.”
“Dad, can you tell me what happened? No one else will and I think I should know.”
“I can’t tell you, but I can show you.”
And as he whispered those words to me a bright flash of light spurred through my optic nerves. I was back in the locker room, but this time I was a witness, I was watching myself, as though it were a dream. Carson ran up behind me and rammed my head into the locker door keeping his hands on my back pack. Feeling the presence I took it off and swung around to see him, quickly I pushed the bag into him and it dropped to the floor, giving me enough time to punch his gut and he fell backward toward a locker. He began coughing blood, but hadn’t hit his head, he came back to punch me and i ducked, his hand punching the locker. I returned back to him, standing on the bench in the middle of the sectioned area, I swung down and punched him in the nose, he tried pushing me off the bench but I kicked him in the groin. He came at me again but I jumped off of the bench and into the open hallway. He came at me again and got a good hit at my skull, my ear began bleeding. I pulled his hair and smashed his face against the bench and picked up my bag to run off when I was confronted by Carson’s best friends who were also on the football team. They took it upon themselves to knock me out and I went seemingly willingly. I smucked my head on a bench as I fell into darkness. And as everyone left, and I was alone in the change room, the visual of my father was there, talking me through it, even though I was unconscious, and unaware, he was there. In spirit.
“Son, I love you more than words can express, please take care of yourself and your mother. I don’t want to see either of you until you’re as old as your great grandparents.”
“I love you, too dad. And I promise.” He was gone as soon as he arrived. I already miss him. I didn’t even get a hug, but maybe he can’t. I put the thought away to avoid sadness.
Suddenly bright lights shine through my eyelids and i wake with a light headache. I want to move up out of bed but again I’m still stuck in the hospital bed. Everyone in the room is looking at me and I become worried. “What’s going on?”
“Oh nothing, you’ve just been out for about a week, we could see your eyes moving but you weren’t waking, we knew it would be soonish, but we didn’t think it would be a week.”
I want to tell mum I saw dad, but i don’t want to scare her, i feel like I’ve done that enough. I’ll keep him to myself for a while. “Oh.”
“Well Jacob, you have a visitor, if you’re ok to see her.”
“Who is she?”
“She only said she was a friend of yours.”
I don’t know any girls who would call themselves a friend of mine. But I’ll keep that to myself. “Uhm, ok, I guess I’m ok to see her.”
The doctor stood in the doorway and gestured for her to come into the room. She looks so familiar.
“Jacob! Thank gosh you’re alive, I can’t believe this-“
“Hey, uhm I think I recognize you but I don’t know your name?”
“Oh, sorry, where are my manners? I’m Lorna.” Aside she whispered “from group.”
She remembered my mom didn’t know. I was going to talk to her. I remember something!
“Thank you for not telling the instructor that I hadn’t had a chance to speak. I knew you knew but it didn’t seem like anyone else did.”
“Yeah I, I wanted to talk to you about it after but you ran off, and I saw your mom, I think.” She Is so cute.
“Uhm actually, she’s my aunt. My parents both passed away when I was very young and they took me in. It’s like they’re my real birth parents, but knowing that they aren’t, it bothers me.”
She’s so lovely. I don’t understand why she needs addiction counselling or even for self harm. Wait she just told me- “Lorna, What do you do?” I flash a look of sympathy, hoping she knows what I’m asking.
She hesitated. Maybe she doesn’t understand. Or maybe she doesn’t want to tell me, Maybe she was just there to observe, that maybe she wasn’t there to get help but to help. Oh my gosh, how awesome.
“Josh I, uhm, well I don’t really do much more than negative self-talk. But I know that it’s a freeway to all the things that others have done or continue to do and I, I want to beat it before it beats me. You know?”
She is so brilliant. “I understand.”
“Thank you for not giving me away to the instructor that I hadn’t spoken up by the way, I’m not really sure what I would have said if I had been called on.”
“Yeah, I wanted to catch up with you to make sure you didn’t feel cast aside but you were with your aunt, I guess. Sorry I’m rambling.”
“No worries. it’s cute, plus you were in a coma for a little while. Only makes sense.” She casted me the most beautiful smile I’d ever seen. Her teeth aren’t the most straight but her concern comes by honestly.
“Oh, right.” She made me silent. I wasn’t quite sure what to say next except that I want my mum out of the room. “Hey mom?”
“She left when I entered the room Jacob.”
“Oh, I was just about to ask her for some privacy.”
“Because I think I like you.”
“I think I like you too.”
She put her hand on the cast around my hand and I felt warm near my heart. I felt a flutter in my belly and it was weird. It’s like something a teenage girl should feel when she flirts with a guy, or however that is in those romantic comedies and girly books they read, but maybe she felt it too. She kissed my nose, “I wish you well, Jacob.”
“I have to, my family will be worried sick.”
“Fair enough-” Suddenly I felt disappointed, but I understood. I shouldn’t be so selfish.
“I’ll be back tomorrow, around the same time.”
“See you then, Lorna.”
She turned away in her slim black trench coat. and blue skinny jeans, her legs finally ending in a pair of white Chuck Taylor hi-tops. Her long curly brown hair swung behind her as she swung away from my bed. She seemed real cool, and I want to keep her around. Maybe we could be good for each other. But right now, I need to focus on getting better, so that I can treat her the way she so rightfully deserves.