In the Burning Phase of My Life.

To befriend the shadow girl in the mirror…


I was just talking to a dear, dear friend. She is someone I’ve known for a couple of years now, without realizing it. I first met her over on the “other side,” Myspace. We had one of those friendships where we got to know each other quite by accident, and quite by random, but there was something immediately there, and we clicked. We still have the type of friendship where we could drop out of each other’s orbits from time to time and then just slide right back in, as connected as ever.
Today was one of those days. We talked about everything and nothing in the easy manner that is natural to us. At one point, she said something that resonated so strongly with me that it was like a blow to the center of my chest:

I don’t like being sick, but what else have I to claim when I am healthy. Does being healthy make me less special?

For a moment, I was completely stunned. Then the conversation continued for a time, and then she had to go. Then I was able to go outside, have a smoke and a cup of coffee, and really think about what she was saying.
What does an identity mean, anyway?
In general, an identity is a label that allows someone to see who you are and possibly what you stand for…kind of like a card catalog for humanity. Labels can be good, bad, and just indifferent. Some create belonging, and some are designed to separate us from others and give us distance.
An eating disorder is an identity, too.
It is something to hide behind, to hide within. Something that can be used to get support, can be used as a cry for help…and as a way to push others away.
An eating disorder is also a disease.
It is not a friend or a lover. It is no “ana,” named like a girlfriend.
It is, in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV)
Axis I (without personality components) code 307.1.
A disease.
A disease that kills, sometimes slowly, sometimes not. Without treatment, it is the disorder with the highest fatality rate of ANY mental disorder.
Does that make us special?
If you or someone you knew had a disease that was sure to be fatal in many cases, like cancer, would it be said that it makes you special?
Certainly not. What makes you special is everything else about you. Your ability to love. The sound of your laugh when you are truly delighted. The way you tell a joke that is different from anyone else. Your intelligence. Your one-hundred percent unique point of view.
Anorexia and bulimia are not you. They are a disease that manifests itself as a voice that feels SO real that it seems to be the only part of you that is the truth. But the truth is this…they want to kill you. The disease will not be satisfied until you no longer exist.
That is no friend.
I nearly died from my disease a year and a half ago. Luckily I was so far gone and so deep that I really didn’t know how far gone I really was. That was a mercy. It tried to rob me of everything that made me special. But I fought back. I’m not perfect, I will never be perfect. But I still fight.
Now I know what makes me special. I may not feel it every day, but deep down, I know it’s there. It’s a comfort, a smooth worry stone that I carry in the darkness of my pocket to call upon when I feel like I have no hope.
If I had continued to think that it was only the disease that made me “special,” I would have ended up in my grave. My son would grow up without a mother, with only anger and tears to remember me by. My husband would have faced life wondering if more could have been done, and why he couldn’t make me see how special I really was.
And what could it have read on my gravestone?
she died Thin.
Really? That’s all?
fuck that.
Forgive my crudeness, but really, what else can be said?
I would rather be known for the things that really do matter.
And my wish is the same for all of you. You are not your disease. You are not that voice, the one that seems so damn strong sometimes that you feel like you have to believe what it tells you. Period. No matter how strong it seems to be.
You are the friend, the lover, the wonderful sister, brother, daughter or son…and you laugh, live, you are strong just when you need to be. And you are loved.
You are loved.
When I look at you, each and every one of you, I don’t see your eating disorder, whatever form it may take.
I see YOU.
And if you ever forget, and want to know just what it is that makes you special, just ask me, because I will tell you everything.
And I guarantee you that when I put together that magic list of what makes you unforgettable, anorexia or bulimia will be NOWHERE on that list.
Cross my heart.
I love you all. Be good to yourselves, even if it feels like an alien or strange thing to do…


March 23, 2010 - Posted by | Anorexia and Disordered Days. | , , , , , , ,


  1. Thank you Jen,
    This and the conversation we had earlier today about me maintaining have really opened my eyes.
    I’m not saying that I will be magicly cured by any means.
    But I will fight this battle to stay healthy.
    Even if I didn’t get help from “doctors” I got help from someone who loves me.

    Thank you Jen.
    I love you mamas.

    Peace Love && Lipstick

    Comment by JordanMayTwigs | March 23, 2010 | Reply

    • I love you, too, and I’m so blessed to have you in my life, truly. You have always been such a champion and support for me…and I want you to do the same for you that you have always done for me…I will always be here for you.

      Comment by Jen Kamerman-Jenkins | March 23, 2010 | Reply

  2. I am a stranger to you, & chanced upon this blog only by seeing it on my twitter feed. I cannot begin to tell u how much your words touched me, changed me, made a grey fog of confusion & despair thats been suffocating me for i don’t know how long, lift. You made me understand. I thankyou, & i thank your friend who prompted you to develop this thought, & share it. I am in the midst of an ed + depression, & as a 19yr old female with no friends bar my boyfriend & mama, i am struggling. I am seeking recovery & have gone so far as to reach out to an ed clinic via my uni therapist. I’m waiting to hear if they’ll accept me, & feel like i’m creating worse & worse behaviours everyday in the mean while. Ur words were beautifully written & gave me hope, hope in that you are beyond a disorder & finding your way, hope that i will find my identity or create a new one once my behaviours release their hold, & hope that one day i can inspire as u have. I may be rambling, i’m sorry for being on your blog when i don’t know u, but i couldn’t not leave a comment, i felt it vital that i say thankyou. So. Thankyou. Cheers to true identities 🙂

    Comment by Ailis | March 23, 2010 | Reply

    • Oh, my dear…you have moved me and made me smile…truly. I am so glad that you stumbled upon me, and this blog…hearing what you are going through is like seeing myself in the mirror, you know? I don’t have all the answers, but I try every day to stay hopeful and stay on the right side of recovery. I would love to talk to you more, and I’m going to try to send you an email to the address above. You have given me hope, today, too, because I see that you have not given up on yourself yet…

      Comment by Jen Kamerman-Jenkins | March 23, 2010 | Reply

  3. i love reading your work jen, you are so fucking talented it’s disgusting 🙂 and you inspire me so so so much. After a long hiatus i am starting to write again. can’t tell you how much that means to me. xx

    Comment by aldiana | March 24, 2010 | Reply

    • just hearing that I’ve inspired you to write makes me happy beyond measure, truly. You are amazing, and I would love to read more of what you write, my dear. And thank you for the huge compliment. I LOVE the fact that I am disgusting…:)

      Comment by Jen Kamerman-Jenkins | March 24, 2010 | Reply

  4. This is amazing and so so true, i know exactly what you mean about anorexia becoming an identity, I still have anorexia but i came to a place a few years ago when i realised anorexia did not equal me, but having had it since the age of elleven so the search of self began. Still you have to fight everyday with the bitch in your head that thinks thinner will make me feel safer, more me, but i make it a priority to remember the days when stuck on ng feeds with a brain that had shrunken to nothing, n yes i had bones, but i saw fat, i wasn’t happier, it didnt show the clear shape of me as a person, the person was vacant. In order to have meaning to life you have to be engaged in it, an eating disorder prevents that, there is nothing special about it in the end, the special things lie inside us and we only find them when we start filling the void instead of starving an empty space inside ourselves to hide within. Thanks so much for sharing this, u are a very special lady. xxxx

    Comment by Tabi | March 24, 2010 | Reply

    • Oh, my darling Tabi, it’s so true what you have said. your words moved me immensely, because we are like sisters under the skin…I remember just bones and a shrunken brain not so long ago…and it did not make me special or solve anything. What makes YOU special is proven SO vividly by your beautiful and eloquent words. Never, ever stop fighting, please.

      Comment by Jen Kamerman-Jenkins | March 24, 2010 | Reply

  5. Oh honey, I love this, and I love you. I NEED to hear this. I should print this baby out and take it to my therapist. I was not that long ago sitting in her office, fists clenched, tears streaming down my face, screaming at her “I don’t HAVE bulimia…*I *AM BULIMIC. IT IS WHO I AM”. My single greatest fear of living in recovery is without this. Not only who I will be but What Will I Do? What will my goal be? No, eating disorders are really NOT about getting thin. Those of us who have them know this. We take all our shit and focus them onto our bodies and the food. But it’s much eaiser to worry about carbs than sexual abuse, no? So if I can’t focus on Getting Thin Enough, my life’s Goal Forever…then what the hell do I do with myself?
    Who am I, and what do I do without this thing that is MINE for more than half of my life, well over fifteen years?
    This is scary shit. But thankfully I can say dying from it is scarier now, and I didn’t feel that way before. Before I welcomed it.
    Thanks for sharing your gift of words with the world, amazing Jen. And know that YOU deserve as much love as YOU give others, too.

    Comment by Laura | March 24, 2010 | Reply

    • I know exactly where you are…I’m so focused on not feeling that I have to put all of those feelings SOMEWHERE, right? I think the crisis-based life I’ve lived doesn’t work…but I’m truly not sure what does…I guess I can admit that now. It’s so hard to be just “present”. And I so understand about it being your identity for so long…well over two-thirds of my life as well. But we are brave. We can do this. I love you, too. If you ever fall down, or even wobble, I will be there to pick you up. It just might remind me that I’m worth the trouble, too.

      Comment by Jen Kamerman-Jenkins | March 24, 2010 | Reply

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