Still Empty

I paused in front of the mirror, turning, inspecting the fabric and its uncomfortably close relationship with my skin.

Every curve outlined.

Every flaw accentuated.

No matter my apparent need for them, I had grown weary long ago of compliments. Compliments served only to fuel both my previously shattered ego and the irritation that was born, in my eyes, from the giver’s pity at seeing an average-at-best girl thinking less than average thoughts about herself.

Ugly. Hideous. Disgusting. Fat.

I had two lovely, healthy boys, one of whom I had nearly lost twice before his first breath had ever been taken.

I should be grateful, not disgusted.

Some days, I’d catch a glimpse of what others had always told me was there. On those days, I wondered if every action by another was for that reason alone: my own personal double-edged blade.

People only love you if you’re beautiful. Thin is beautiful.

Followed quickly with, He only wants to fuck you; that’s why he said those nice things/was being helpful/held the door for you.

So what if he does? My alter ego countered with petty logic meant to shut me up. It must mean you’re pretty.

I scoffed at myself, the internal war still blazing. Always an inferno.

The other days?

I look like hell.. they’ll all be judging me.

On those days, my eyes were always averted. Face, made up or not, masked by a baseball cap. A baggy shirt and pants drifting aimlessly across my frame, the shame riding over me in waves for not being “better” – for being lazy: hair undone, clothing that always ended in jeans and a sweatshirt instead of the form-fitting cuteness that screamed for people to look at me.

I didn’t want them looking at me on those days.

On those days, I could never be the person society said I should be.

And I could never measure up to the standards I had set for myself.

At my lowest points, my battles with myself turned to numbers and those numbers became my life. They were the be-all and end-all of everything that, in those moments, I was striving to become.

102 – BMI: 16.46

Not good enough. You’re still fat. Those jeans you used to wear don’t fit you right. It isn’t because your body has changed shape after having children; it’s because you are F-A-T.

I peered at my reflection in the mirror, blue eyes as empty as that to which the rest of me had long become accustomed. But… below 17 is considered anorexic. You said 105 was good enough. We could quit at 105.

No. My chin jutted out in determination as I stood taller and sucked in my stomach. 100 is the new goal. We can be done then.

My BMI stopped declining at just below 16. I was unconvinced, even at under 100 pounds, still seeing the fat in my reflection, still destroying myself on a daily basis for what I thought others must surely be thinking about me.. and for what I was thinking about me.

But beyond all of the doubts and self-deprecation, beyond any number I could ever hope to see staring back at me from a scale or a tape measure, no matter my opinions or those of the voices around me, I was still empty..

My hard-earned 99 pounds of misery..
At 5’6″, my Body Mass Index was 15.98.
To give you an idea, that’s slightly less than Kate Moss
and slightly more than Calista Flockhart.
In other words: Not Healthy.


This post is a non-fiction response to a prompt by The Red Dress Club. I honestly believe that finding myself pregnant with Baby Boy #3 is the one thing that saved my life.

I may not see myself as “beautiful,” but I do finally see myself as a human being… and one who is entitled to all of the flaws that entails.

Physical beauty.

It can open doors – and can also shut them.

Write a scene in which a physically beautiful character is somehow impacted by that trait. If you are doing non-fiction, you can write about yourself or someone you know.

Word limit is 600.


About Caitlin's Concepts

Mom to 4 boys and drowning in a sea of testosterone!
This entry was posted in Life, Red Writing Hood, The Red Dress Club and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Still Empty

  1. Kristina says:

    I hope you can find a way to stop the soundtrack that is always there. Find a way to unstick the play button.

    There can be more voices that you hear…like “I love you mommy”.

    I hope you can heal.

    Yes, it is possible to survive the voices that teach you to hate yourself. The hard part is to find a way to thrive.

    I really hope you learn how to thrive.

  2. kir says:

    Oh wow. That was so powerful, achingly hard for me to read. You are so amazing for sharing it, for being able to bring those feelings to us and offer them to us.

    I have 2 very good friends who suffered with anorexia and it almost killed them both, lots of rehab, lots of therapy, both got better after they found out they were pregnant. It seems that our children can save our lives.

    Thank god you are ok, that you are here to tell this story. That you are here to read how incredible I believe you are.


    • It is definitely a hard overcome.. and I have moments of wishing again for perfection. Deep down, though, I know I will never find that in my own mind, so I can’t take the dangerous walk down that road.

      I’ve googled my brains out trying to find why it is that pregnancy would halt it in me and not in others… I think because my ED is linked with depression and it’s been proven that pregnancy raises serotonin levels. I felt human and, well, let’s face it, pregnancy means “fat” is ok. 😉 75% of me has breastfed my children for the health benefits it provides them; the other 25%? To have an excuse not to fall back in.

      I am so glad that your friends were also able to dig their way back out of that awful place. I, myself, won’t venture to the side of therapy or rehab.. I believe myself to be stronger and more stubborn than this disease. I may be wrong, but, for now, I’m ok. =)

      Thank you SO very much for your wonderful comment!! ❤

  3. Sheri says:

    This is very well written. I commend you for unveiling such a private part of your life. Hopefully this will help others. We are only as sick as our secrets. Once we can open up and speak honestly about things, we can start healing.

    • Thank you, Sheri… =)

      I completely agree.. in a sense, it’s almost like the more people know, the more of a sense of accountability it gives to the one sharing. I hope that it does help.. though I know from experience that sometimes speaking out about an ED can also trigger it more within those that are deeply entrenched in the illness. It’s a very difficult path…

  4. MamaRobinJ says:

    Hard to post, yes. But brave and beautiful? Yes.
    You’re right, that’s not healthy. I’m so glad something stepped in to help you get better, and I hope by writing about this and reflecting on this you can move a little bit farther past it.
    What I see in you is strength, and in strength there is beauty. And you ARE beautiful, in all ways. You just need a little fat on ya, as do we all. It keeps us safe.

    • Not healthy, defnitely.. still, when I look back on the emotions of it, I know that I felt more “beautiful” in those thin days. It never crossed my mind that people could be looking because I was so thin.

      My strength is my stubbornness; my unwillingness to let something else control me that way.

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for your comment. ❤

  5. I love your words my dear, but wish the story did not have to be told.

    I’m so glad your third pulled you away from the precipice.

    Thank you for sharing. You have educated me so much on a disease that I couldn’t not grasp before – my only exposure in health class – not understanding the mental image or how one couldn’t eat.

    • I’m glad that I could educate, actually, even on something that most people would rather not know.

      There were many phases of my ED, which is why I was always considering myself ED-NOS (Eating Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified). Binging, purging (in various ways), restriction, excessive exercise… none of them all too pretty. That’s always what made it hard to truly always feel pretty, because if anyone truly knew what I was doing to myself? They would be mortified.

      Thank you so much for your comment and for your help in putting this post together. Your input was and is greatly appreciated (and used! 😉 ).

  6. varunner says:

    What a raw and emotional piece. I’m so glad you’re in a relatively safe place now and out of the darkness. I hope that even after Baby 3 you find yourself able to maintain and be healthy. (((hugs)))

    • Thank you… yes, I do struggle with the mindset sometimes. And there are times when I have to calorie count to make sure I’m eating enough.

      It’s not exactly ideal, but the alternative is much worse. I’d like to believe that, this time, I can/will win. 🙂

  7. Carrie says:

    Raw and emotional. I am glad baby #3 was the catalyst to bring you back to accepting yourself for the beautiful person you are.

  8. jeleystorey says:

    Slowly exhaling after reading this. I read it over and over, looked at the pictures, and am so without words. Understanding with complete compassion but not truly comprehending your reality of then and now. Seeing you now, knowing how far you have come amazes me. Pictures of you pregnant in another post, smiling and glowing-healthy. Much much, much more beautiful. Children are a stopping-point. Because we would do anything to make them happy. And losing their Mother is not conceivable. You are a wonderful Mom. And you are beautiful. Much prettier in shapely clothes than the jeans, over-sized shirt and baseball cap. Stay strong. Thank you for sharing and educating. Be gentle on yourself, as you have asked us of your post.

    • Thank you for this comment.. it’s amazing & perfect. I’m glad you see me that way even though I don’t always feel that way..

      I’m working on it, and a work in progress is the best I can really ever offer as there’s definitely no cure for the twisted mindset that an eating disorder brings with it..

  9. Frelle says:

    i love your bravery, and you are beautiful. all the way down into your soul. I too hope you can thrive. *HUG*

  10. Andrea says:

    What an incredible post of sharing. I held my breath as I read on. I flinched and inhaled intently when I saw that second photo. It breaks my heart. And yet – here you are – so strong. I am crying for what you went through, but also for the incredible way you’ve persevered. What a beautiful gift to be given from your baby. What a beautiful way for you to share with us all. Thank you. I am so glad to know you and know that you are STRONG. Whether you know it all the time or not, you are. You’re an incredible survivor. An incredible woman, mother and you are – above all – you. And you’re here. {Hugs}

    • Oh.. tears! No making me cry! It’s forbidden.

      Thank you so much for this. Truly. Comments like yours help to reinforce my desire/need to share this experience. I don’t always feel strong or even remotely capable of persevering, but that others still can see it is an amazing motivator.

  11. Wow Caitlin. Funny I saw your tweet, and my first response in my mind when I saw your picture, what a beautiful girl. Then I come and read this post. I sure hope you discover the reality of your beauty. You are an amazingly strong woman to share this and I am glad you did. It is so important to me to try and understand the pain in this world…to climb within other’s skins. You allowed that with this post. The problem, after I find that pain, I want to help heal it. The very best I can offer is prayer…not sure if you believe in it, but I do, and you will be in mine.

  12. Galit Breen says:

    This is so transparent- I have no words. Just a lot of love and admiration for where you are today and how you got here. So much love to you, my dear friend.

  13. lori says:

    So brave of you to share your story. We all have our secret stories, but they are put to good use when we are willing to shed light on our dark places. You may never even realize how many you help by sharing your story. I am thankful baby 3 save you 🙂

  14. Erin says:

    Ouch, this hit a little too close to home! You are so brave to share and in such an honest way! And I know that no matter how many times or how many ways someone tells you that you are beautiful, you will never hear it until it comes from within! I admire your strength and I am so glad for #3 coming along. You’ll make it to where you need to be and your biggest supporters will be you and your children! *hugs*

  15. Stacey says:

    You are so brave to put it out there like that. I can feel the struggle that you must have gone through. I am often too hard on myself and forget to give myself credit for the beauty I have. I think this is an excellent reminder, especially for mothers, that a changing body does not equal an ugly one. Great writing.

  16. Thank you for sharing your story. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been.

  17. Nancy C says:

    I, too, am in awe of the intensity and bravery of this post.

    It’s so painful to see how we hurt ourselves….because so many of us do. I have to stop myself from smiling when I see my ribs or when my clavicle juts out.

    Because being hungry isn’t beautiful. Living and loving and wearing our skin is.

    And thank you for letting us know about this stage of your journey. We will support you if and when you need it. It sounds like you are maintaining your recovery, which is such a joy to read.

  18. Vinobaby says:

    Raw…exposed…touching…dangerously beautiful. I feel privileged I was able to see this ragged patch of your soul and admire your bravery and strength enabling you to bare it to the world. I hope you can stay healthy and realize how beautiful you truly are.

  19. Jackie says:

    I am so glad that you’re on a path to a healthier life and that you’re able to stay on it as well.
    This post was incredible and had to be difficult to write, but cathartic at the same time. It’s very open and raw and I thank you for sharing this with all of us.

  20. Jennifer says:

    The inner strength that it takes to fight this battle daily, literally takes my breath away and I hope that you never forget how strong you are. This line really stood out for me, “100 is the new goal. We can be done then.” And it was the ‘we,’ I think because it highlights so clearly, so painfully the double vision that dysphoria creates. This was so honest, well written and the pictures well placed and you so, so brave.

  21. Lilu says:

    So brave, so beautiful. I admire your courage. This took me close to tears as my sister is going through what you just depicted… It gives me so so much hope to read how you are getting onto a healthier life, a better life. I have had the same sort of double vision, though not in the same case. I can relate to a lot of this. So well written. Thanks so much for the read!

  22. SoberJulie says:

    This is shockingly close to home for me as well. Mine was alcohol but my internal dialogue was much the same. I have since dealt with my “demons” and changed my thought structure, thanks to God!
    I thank you for sharing this deep place in your soul with me, I’m here for you whenever, however you need sister!

  23. Guinevere says:

    Found you via @SoberJulie… Very much appreciated this post. Perhaps pregnancy alleviated your ED also because of the high, stable hormone levels. I had no fibromyalgia or migraine during the second and first part of the third trimester of my pregnancy… High estrogen and progesterone (particularly the latter) are reputed to give a sense of relaxation and wellbeing.
    Also appreciated how you portrayed your ED as playing straight into your desire for approval at all costs. This is one of my largest character problems and one I’m always asking to have removed from me… Writing helps me serve others and saves me from myself all the time. warmly, G

  24. I have struggled with the desperate need for approval from others but it surfaced in other ways. I am not brave enough to share yet. So standing in awe of you for telling your story. So clapping in approval because women will be helped or informed thanks to your willingness to share.

    Until I finally came to the realization that I was ok just the way I was whether people approved of me or not I suffered. God gives me value and worth and I see in me who He created me to be. I want this for you too.

  25. jessicaanne12 says:

    This made me cry. Both because what you went through and because of how your pregnancy helped you. So beautifully written and raw. Thank you for sharing.

  26. That inner voice is so painful for so many of us, isn’t it? And as our brains lose nourishment, we get disordered thinking which just perpetuates the entire thing.

    I have heard that voice. I have. I have been fortunate to be able to tune it out and have not experienced the depths that you have.

    Thank you for sharing such a raw and honest post. Our children really do save us, whether they know it or not.

  27. Jenny Feldon says:

    beautiful, haunting, and so very brave.
    prayers for you at every turn, that the road gets easier and that healing comes quickly.
    isn’t it amazing how our little ones can save us from ourselves, even before they’re born?

  28. Mandyland says:

    This was such a brave, honest post. One that hurt my heart to read.

  29. tsonoda148 says:

    First of all, beautifully written. Sadness, despair, delusion……downright scary. I’m so glad you’re better. Thank you for sharing this most personal of struggles with us. You are beautiful!

  30. CDG says:

    Denelle, this is painful. Brutal and yet? You can speak of it, you have found a light to follow out of it–there is beauty in that. Remember this voice and the light if your demons try to return.

    And remember that you’ve shared this with all of us, and we’re here for you now.

    • There are times when the voices are stronger than others.. I’ve done well at pushing them away so far. I think part of sharing means offering a sense of accountability.. scary, but somewhat necessary, I suppose, all things considered. =/

      Thank you so much for your comment, dear. xo

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