My Friend Ed

Sam Cohen

My name is Samantha. Actually, my name was Samantha; I have been going by Sam for as long as I can remember. The three syllables were just too much — I hated the attention of the whole eight letters.

Since grade school, I have had conversations with myself in my head. I call these conversations, “Sam v. Samantha.” I, Sam, my true self, hated Samantha, who I felt was separate from the real me. She was ugly and fat and stupid, but she was the person I thought everyone around me saw.

These conversations used to be about what color headband I should wear; Samantha would argue that I would look ugly in navy blue. But Samantha got older and stronger as I did. She grew meaner, but somehow I got used to her screaming. Samantha’s presence was almost comforting, until she brought her friend, Ed. As soon as I met Ed, my world changed.

Ed and I became so close that sometimes I had a hard time distinguishing Ed from Sam. Eventually, he banished Samantha. He changed my life. He changed our life.

I don’t mean this in a cliche way… my life literally changed. With Ed, I felt like I was in complete control over my thoughts and feelings, which I loved. It was addicting. Ed taught me to starve. He taught me how to purge and gag over the toilet. He taught me that food was numbers and nothing more. I had never felt more confident. I was so happy to have Samantha out of the picture that I was oblivious to the destruction wrought by Ed’s control. Ed made me so competitive, that I was envious my dog weighed less than me. If I saw a model on my social media feed, I would politely ask to be dismissed from class and take a trip to my favorite handicapped stall. I would spend the whole period there.

As Ed and I became closer, though, I began to think that everyone around me was jealous of our relationship..

People in my life started to tell me they were worried, but I would just roll my eyes. “I am the happiest I have ever been,” I would tell my lunch squad. I think they thought I was on drugs. At times, I would feel high. I enjoyed the immediate relief after a purging session, or fainting after standing up too quickly. I felt in control. But I wasn’t, Ed was.

The closer I got with Ed, the further I got from Sam. Days began to drag out and Ed became louder than ever. Ed told me food was the enemy and forbade me from poisoning my body with it — or, really, Ed’s body.

Ed kept me up so late every night. He admired the white polish on my porcelain toilet. He admired the clumps of hair that would fall out after I brushed my hair. He loved our weekly trips to CVS to spend $40 on laxatives. But no matter what, I still felt like I was letting him down and I hated it. Ed was my priority and only concern. My parents were worried. I was no longer able to attend soccer practice because my body physically could not handle the exercise. I felt useless and weak. The lock on my bathroom door was removed. I wasn’t allowed to eat at family dinners with my loved ones. I had to eat in a separate room with Kerry, my registered dietician, over facetime four times a week. Ed and I hated her. What a bitch.

She ended up saving my life. It took over six months for that reality to set in — that the more weight I lost, the more of myself I lost. That I was not only losing myself but also everything around me. My privacy, my family, my menstrual cycle. Ed just kept on taking and taking and there was nothing to gain.

To this day, Ed is still here. He is mean and ignorant and annoying, but quieter. Ed and I broke up and I am moving on. The screams are slowly getting quieter. And the days are slowly going by.

But sometimes I find myself missing the comfort of the cold porcelain surface against my forehead, or the burning sensation in my esophagus. Sometimes I even crave the feeling of pure exhaustion after burning more calories than I have consumed in a day. Sometimes I want to reach out to Ed.

But I am stronger than that. I know better.

My recovery has been a long process. Some days are worse than others. The guilt after meal time still creeps its way up my throat occasionally. But I am trying. I chew up those thoughts and swallow them, and that is the first step to getting Samantha back.

Yes, Samantha.

I missed her. I missed her laughs and her smiles and her selfishness with a balance of uniqueness. It is healthy to feel insecure at times. It is a part of growing up and finding yourself. After all, I am in high school. We are all made different. I am still learning to accept the true Samantha. I hated Samantha because I was focused on “perfection” — another three word syllable that I now hate instead of my own name. Samantha wasn’t