By Zara Neukom BSc, MACP
As you turn away from me
a new bone emerges
reckless, fearless from under your skin.
Skin that seems papery, gossamer
These days your cheeks have lost their joy.
I remember last summer
when you were queen of soccer
face flushed: pink and shinning.
I think you disappear more each day.
One day after therapy
you looked at me and said
I can’t do this
And inside, my world crumbled
I couldn’t show you how much
I fell apart in that moment.
Instead I said:
I could imagine you don’t want to recover
Because you’re angry
And because life is easier when you can’t feel
And because this culture is cruel
I used the script. I said the words.
They felt like dust in my mouth.
I can’t name the shape
of this despair.
It lives outside lines
I fear I did this to you.
I fear my absence
did this to you.
It’s June now. You wore a sun hat for the first time
your cheeks have freckles
you laugh with your mouth wide open
I watched you eat a bowl of cereal
You just started grade 11. When we went back
to school shopping you smiled when you looked in the mirror.
I know this is still hard. I know you still pinch
the flesh of your hips
when no one is looking.
Sometimes when you get that vacant stare
I realize how much we have both grown.
I have come to love
that blank look, because I know
it’s attached to the part of you
that is still hurting.
The part that needed to disappear because
the hurt was too much.
And then I kneel next to you and hold
that tender part of your spirit.
We don’t need words. We both cry.
When people say hope exists
I used to laugh like hyena
cackling despair and disbelief.
I used to say try watching your child
disappear and then tell me about hope!
Yet these days
hope sounds like: cutlery clanking on dinner plates
hope looks like: how your eyes have turned into oceans
hope feels like: how strong and warm your hand is in mine.
Thank you to all the families who have shared their stories and their hearts. You are an inspiration and hope embodied.
If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder visit:
https://kelowna.cioc.ca/record/KNA0046* title is borrowed from an Emily Dickinson poem
Written by: Zara Neukom
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