By Eve Brink
A monster consumed my sister. It first tempted her, pulling back strands of curled hair to whisper, You aren’t beautiful. But her hazel-green eyes sparkled when she smiled. Freckles lined her fair skin that glowed a rosy pink in the summer. Even when I stood on my tippy toes, she was taller than me, reaching a height of 5’8”.
But the monster told her these features weren’t enough. It preached that although there were some qualities it couldn’t change, parts of her that should be fixed. The monster followed her, creating a darkness shadowing her every move. It hid in the kitchen cabinets, ensuring she didn’t consume anything too high in calories. At first, the monster was lenient. The monster tolerated sugar free items, but it encouraged a clear liquid diet.
What was first a whisper in my sister’s ear turned into a grotesque growl. Three meals turned into one. The monster snarled, Just a few bites. Day after day mom and dad would set the table, and we sat down to a family meal. However, my sister scraped even her favorite spaghetti into the white garbage bag, staining it with streaks of red marinara.
The monster then took my sister’s beauty. It picked out her clothes, telling her the baggy ones looked best. They were the only clothes that were able to keep her frail body warm. The monster reminded her that she didn’t need makeup because her caved in cheeks already looked great. Dark circles emerged under her eyes, dimming the hazel-green sparkle. Soon enough, the monster became more than a shadow.
Time passed, and the monster took her physical health. Heart monitors echoed around the house, sounding her abnormal heart rate. She needed a feeding tube up her nose because she could no longer process food in her damaged body. But the monster roared, You’re so healthy! You don’t need the tube! So, sometimes she ripped it out in a fit of rage. Daily tests became routine, blood rushing through glass tubes to ensure her body was still working. But her major organs were shutting down, and the sound of a flatlining monitor was approaching quickly.
Each day I recognized my sister less and less. It was then my family and I realized it finally had a full grasp on my sister. The monster, named anorexia nervosa turned my beautiful sister into a sickly stranger. I ask myself why I didn’t see the signs sooner, and why I didn’t know how to help. I wondered why she couldn’t see how beautiful she was to everyone around her, and why she had let this monster consume her. My family decided it was time to get my big sister back, when we sent her to an inpatient eating disorder clinic halfway across the U.S.
This was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to encounter. Watching my sister slowly fade away took pieces of me I may never get back. There were some points where I thought I would never get to hear my sister’s laugh again while we watched a corny movie, or have her arms wrapped around me while tears fell down my cheek. I was terrified she wouldn’t get to see her little sister graduate, build a family, and become a fantastic aunt to my children like I know she would be.
After years of treatment, I’m happy to say I’m still getting those hugs, and still get to hear her contagious laugh. She has made immense improvement, regulating health issues anorexia has brought as well as healing the distorted thinking that came with it. She is one of the strongest people I’ve ever met in my life, because as many people know battling a mental illness is not easy. Although I don’t think the monster will ever completely go away, my big sister is out of the shadow, and back in the light. A healed body walks to college courses she has now restarted. Her smile is genuine, not hiding anyone or anything. And, her hazel-green eyes sparkle even brighter now, with a glimmer of hope for herself, and others.