sarah leying

United States

hi there! i'm sarah — chaser of sun/starlight, portrait photographer, junior & training in classical piano. words are my everything.


Message to Readers

Writing this was incredibly painful for me. I have left out many details, many heartbreaking conflicts and relationships torn apart, many food fears and behaviors. I left out the funny moments in recovery, too (yes, they do exist!) There are a few reasons for this: firstly, eating disorders do not look or always act a certain way and I'm not about to contribute to a mold for others to fit into. Secondly, describing my old behaviors is far too painful and triggering at this time for me, and it can be extremely triggering for others (I developed many of my fears when reading about others'). Thirdly, I’m learning to let go of trying to prove how sick I was to others and just move on. And lastly -- I quite honestly got tired of typing (and seeing) the word "screamed" from the conflicts I had with those trying to keep me alive.

This is all to show you that recovery encompasses so much more than "just eating". It is truly, painfully setting yourself free from the thing that has kept you 'safe' for so long. It hurts and it feels contradictory and confusing and sometimes infuriating. But it is worth it.

*** note on title: weight = the force of gravity on your body. Nothing more <3

Letting Go of Gravity

August 8, 2018

She was on the phone, her voice shaky but polite. Yes, that’s me, thank you so much for calling me back — then she closed the door and I couldn’t hear anything else. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to. The fact that I had been left alone with at the table said that my mother had given up hope that I would eat at all, and even if I did, she wouldn’t believe it. At least not without looking under the chair cushions, checking my pockets, searching through every trash can we owned, and making sure no one had flushed the toilet.

The idea of simply eating the meal in front of me became more impossible with every passing second. Anorexia embraced this and spoke twisted encouragements into my ear while the real Sarah sobbed because I was so hungry and weak and tired — too tired to fight back. It was ten o’clock and I’d been at the table for two hours. A mixture of intense self-hatred, self-pity, and frustration rested heavy and unwelcome in my chest.

Sometime in early December, I had stopped living. Said cessation of my life came the moment that I acted on the thoughts violently swirling in my mind. My parents didn’t know, and frankly, neither did I; I was never able to look at myself and think, “You, Sarah, have a serious eating disorder.” Instead, a vague entity that lay in my “food issues” blurred the lines between rationality and my desire to grow sicker and sicker.

I remember the anguish of lying awake at night and knowing that a line had been crossed. I was playing a dangerous tug-of-war with food, controlling it in every minute aspect, but I hadn’t realized that somewhere along the way it had lured me far past where I wanted to stop. Ten more pounds, and I’ll start recovery — but the compromise became one-sided. You’ll get help when you’re eighty pounds. Maybe seventy.

I had become so skilled at lying that I lied right to my own self and believed it. Of course it would never be enough. Of course every five, ten pounds was just a stepping stone to dying. There was a day when I looked at the scale and although it showed that ten pounds of my body had shriveled away, I felt no sense of accomplishment or relief — only an overpowering need to be less. The desperation that I felt at seeing the trap I could not escape from on my own weakened my eating disorder enough for the girl inside to make a decision. On Valentine's Day, I sobbed through the story to my mother, took a tiny step into the waters of recovery, and that was when the disorder turned ugly.

It felt hunted, backed into a corner, angry and appalled that I dared turn traitor — I still recall those emotions vividly. Anorexia had taken over my identity. I was so frustrated that I could no longer separate myself from the voice inside my head, and I took it out on my family. My father and sister became prisoners in their bedrooms because I could not be around them; anger and anxiety settled over our home, an ever-present and stifling haze. My mother would sit with me for hours each day supporting me through those painful meals and snacks, begging me not to listen to the eating disorder talking to me, and I would scream back at her in panic and helplessness, unable to block out the noisy thoughts. Over and over again at the top of my lungs until my throat was on fire — This is me. You keep saying it’s the eating disorder talking, but listen to me. This is Sarah talking. I hate you. I hate you. Then the abuse would turn towards myself. I still don't know which was harder for her to bear.

That morning, though, there was no screaming in our house. Just the murmur in the background of my mother talking with the intake coordinator for a nearby inpatient treatment center. The merciless torment inside my mind had lowered to a whisper, but I knew that the instant I touched food it would reappear with a vengeful fury. A sense of betrayal flooded my soul as I slumped at the table — I was angry. Angry with recovery for promising me my happiness and instead giving me this half-life that was hardly worth living. I was so nutritionally deprived that in that moment, I had no ability to see that it was my illness and not recovery that had dragged me into this consuming struggle.

I am grateful that I was able to struggle onwards at home that week. I am indebted to my mother for pushing me through both of our pain. I had to embrace what felt wrong to my brain, ride the waves of anxiety, extend love and empathy to myself and to my family farther than it had ever had to reach before. I was blindly clambering up the ladder of recovery, surviving on the bits of willpower that came in rare moments of clarity. Sometimes other people held onto my hands to keep me from falling when I so desperately wanted to let go. Some days I missed rungs. I have slipped so many times. But I am still climbing, and I am beginning to unfold.


See History

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  • sarah leying

    thank you both, annie & invisibl3 — your words mean so much! <33

    about 3 years ago
  • annie_cheng

    This is so raw, and it is the vulnerability that you show throughout this piece that makes it so beautiful. Really amazing job :)

    about 3 years ago

    Glad you're doing better - never stop climbing.

    about 3 years ago

    Glad you're doing better - never stop fighting.

    about 3 years ago