I remember how Natasha hated looking in mirrors. How mercilessly she would pinch and tug at her skin, committing aggressive acts of punishment for each imperfection she found. Bruises stained her arms and legs, marring her translucent skin. Natasha was always cold, and she delighted in it. Even on the humid summer days, she would wear sweaters and shiver ecstatically with accomplishment. I remember my palpable jealousy, my admiration of her fragile beauty, of her weightlessness. She was free, bone-thin and gravity defying. That was before I realized what she was sacrificing.
It started with the cereal diet, then the sacred heart diet, then the laxatives, and the prescription drugs. Sometimes she would eat an apple a day, sometimes half an apple. Eventually, she lost all feeling. All the while, none of us said anything. We were all gymnasts, dieting was a permanent fixture in our lives. More than that, we were a sisterhood, kindred spirits forever connected by our passion and madness for the sport. No sacrifice was too great for the love of gymnastics. To betray Natasha would be to ruin her happiness and her dreams, to keep quiet would be an ultimate _expression of our love.
I suppose every girl wakes up one day, painfully aware of every curve on her body. For gymnasts, that day comes earlier and lingers into each coming dawn. Yet, I could never bring myself to anorexia. Perhaps I was strong – perhaps I was weak, because Natasha was certainly the strongest individual I knew. She saw perfection carved in her skeleton, she saw her future just beyond each pound she lost. And what a brilliant future she had. I am certain that she would have made Nationals the year her parents took her to an institution in Arizona. When Natasha came back, she was healthier, but more depressed. She wanted to fight this disease at home, with her friends and family to support her. Just like everyone else, I was skeptical. I did not protest when she was sent back to the institution. Even as she begged and swore that she was going to fight this disease – none of us believed her. We had given up on her a long time ago.
I tried to console myself, to tell myself that doctors and psychiatrists would know how to treat her better than any of us could. But the truth was, no one was brave enough to face her disease, to face reality of her possible death. I wanted her out of sight, out of mind. I gave up on her. I didn’t trust her, I undermined her strength and will to change, I didn’t realize that everyone is an individual and doctors are not miracle workers. So I suppose she did the same, she gave up on herself. Natasha tried to commit suicide.
Love is trust and faith, in all circumstances. Love is never giving up. Even in the most devastating conditions, never doubt the power of will, never doubt the human capacity for great change. This I believe, I believe that people must love, unconditionally.
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