Category Archives: The Weight of Her Words: Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2011 Poem Series

The Weight of Her Words: “Falling Awake”

I thought it would be appropriate to end this week’s series with a poem about recovery; about what it feels like to finally let go and venture out into the world without the protection of your eating disorder. At first, it is terrifying, to be sure. But as it gets easier and your world gets bigger, you begin to realize all the things you were missing- or never even noticed.




Falling Awake


Suddenly the world is wide open

I find I’m no longer confined


To the tiny hell I had constructed

The walls I’d been hiding behind


I’m moving into something unknown

This is so unfamiliar, this light


Compared to the darkness I’m used to

I was blind and now I have sight


I’m baffled by all of this beauty

The vibrance and movement out here


The feelings I’m feeling are frightening

In fact, all I’ve known is fear


But now my senses are stirring

With new and intriguing sensations


Sometimes if I let myself breathe

I touch in on momentous elation


After so long I’m finally here

Though of course, the change came with pain


It was worth it to finally find freedom

The losses don’t compare to the gains


It’s a little like falling awake

Coming out of a hypnotic sleep


There’s a chasm between dying and living

And I’m ready to take the leap



© Sarah Henderson 2010


The Weight of Her Words: “Reality Bites”

Today’s poem is about what it means to really start to integrate the things you learn in treatment into your self, into your life. It’s about recognizing that no one else is going to do that for you; that the only way to truly recover is to work from the inside out, as opposed to letting therapists or parents or anyone else solve the problem for you.




Reality Bites


What’s this fear you have of letting go

This fear of moving on?


Why not cede this mad, tyrannical game

In which you’re an ambivalent pawn?


It grips every part of your body and brain

It pins down your spirt as well


You’re bound by the rules your own mind created

This is your custom-built hell


You want to do better, you wish that you could

So in comes your treatment team


All this will help, you say to yourself

All is in place– so it seems


You convince your new doctors, your family, and friends

That this time you really will try


You’re completely sincere– in that moment at least

It’s the most honest kind of lie


Sometimes you’re working, surrendering more

And then it’s not just for show


But other times when you say that you’re trying

“Trying” really means “No”


Most of the time what you’re aware of

Is the reality that you are faking


But there’s always the undercurrent of

The mistakes that you are making


But can I really call them mistakes?

No that’s not what they are at all


For each time that I hit a crossroads

I choose to stand up or fall


But that choice  never felt like a choice before

I couldn’t see it for what it was


I let my conscious Self fade away

To possessed by my precious chaos


The statements I’ve heard about healing my life

Over and over again


By people that I know mean very well

But the redundancy made my head spin


“You’ve got to stop puking, you’ve got to start eating

Don’t worry, you won’t get fat


There’s no reason for cutting and why all the pills?

Please stop this and start that”


I know that you love me, I know that you care

But you know that I’ve heard this before


What’s so special about this time?

I’m still not alive at my core


That’s where my work is– of this I am sure

That’s what I have to explore


That place has been shut up for too many years

It’s time that I tear down that door


I have done much to focus and learn

But it seems there is more work to do


It’s all about choices, and struggles for power

And seeking out what is true


Apparently there is only one way

To stop picking wounds that are sore


It’s to live in their pain and discomfort

Until they don’t hurt anymore



© Sarah Henderson 2008



The Weight of Her Words: “Trial and Error”

Today’s poem is about those times that so many eating disorder patients experience when they relapse right out of treatment. It’s difficult for the people around them to watch, and it’s difficult for the patient herself to experience. Relapse is almost always an inevitable part of the recovery process, however- it doesn’t mean the end of the road.




Trial and Error


I’m lost, I don’t know what to do

I’m killing Mom and others too


I fill them with this single dread:

That this latest lapse will leave me dead


I can’t say I don’t fear that myself

For God’s sake, that’s why I’m getting help


But they think that I’ve lost all I’ve gained

They can’t see how much I have sustained


I admit the behaviors are back

But now I have skills I once lacked


I can reach out for help when in need

And that helps the urges recede


I can go to my safe place inside

Where every danger and threat just subsides


I can ground myself in different ways

To keep myself here in today


Just because things look the same as before

Doesn’t mean I’ve lost all I worked for


Doesn’t mean I won’t try anymore

There are options I’ve yet to explore


Please hear me when I tell you this truth:

I know that I wasted my youth


Just swear you won’t give up on me

I’m still working to set myself free


And the best way that you can assist

Is to trust as I try to persist


© Sarah Henderson 2007


The Weight of Her Words: “The Keeper”

This poem details the personal relationship I had with my eating disorder- which I suspect was wholly unoriginal, and is something many can identify with.




The Keeper


I can’t seem to run, I can’t seem to hide

From this voice that is constantly screaming inside


So loudly roars, so sharply it shouts

It drowns all other aspects of my psyche out


There’s nothing but this, the specter in my head

It wants to protect me, but it wants me dead


It will stop at nothing to save my inner child

It’s so cognizant but so in denial


Tyrannically tranquil, it keeps me intact

It’s made up for everything that I have lacked


Distraction, identity, nurturance, choice

Discipline, power, control, and a voice


So many needs met in one thing that was mine

It and I slowly became intertwined


It grew up with me, my body and mind

It gave me freedom but kept me confined


So contradictory, complex and clear

With no concept of health I stay bound up in fear


I can’t seem to bear to let go of this friend

But if I don’t, she will be my end



© Sarah Henderson 2005

The Weight of Her Words: “Crazy Weights (A Game)”

This poem sort of mirrors the manic feel of being caught up in a serious eating disorder, as well as how suddenly things can go wrong.




Crazy Weights (A Game)


Put it on, take it off– the objective: To win

You drop and you rise, then play again


When the weight is put on by some hospital staff

And the choice is being made on your behalf


It’s agony, torture, you just wait to break out

Through the whole thing you shriek and you pout


As soon as you’re gone there’s nothing to lose

Except for the fat that they have infused


Time to step up– new here are the rules:

You must cut your food into molecules


You must check the scale at least every hour

With every pound lost you will have more power


Throw up every calorie over the line

Know where your boundaries are, keep them defined


Run, lift, and stretch, come on, keep it up!

Remember the goal here, you’d best not fuck up!


But oh no, it’s beginning to complicated

The stakes are becoming elevated


Your body’s rebelling and you’re getting sick

You’re starting to hear the game’s timer tick


But if you’re going to die, by God, you’ll be thin

Come on now, come on, there’s still time to win


Keep working, keep running, they can’t make you stop

They’ll try but they know you’ll run ‘till you drop


But in the end when your body gave out

And your family was left to deal with the doubt


Could they have done better? Could they have done more?

Were there symptoms or signs they might have ignored?


If you were alive then you might feel regret

You might want to say sorry for all the upset


But now you will never receive that chance

Because you decided to dance this mad dance


In the end was trying to “win” worth the cost?

For it wasn’t just you– everyone lost



© Sarah Henderson 2008

The Weight of Her Words: “Anorexia” and “Bulimia”

I thought I’d begin this poem series with the way I began. These two, short poems were the first I wrote in my first poem collection Whispers; they were also the first poems I ever showed anyone. Written at age 15, here are “Anorexia” and “Bulimia.”





Ice and bones fracture similarly

One heals once broken/ cracks melt against memory


Simple, cold wet drops remain

As tears of a child’s forgotten pain


Shivering, quivering on the edge of a lid

Eyes and thoughts close, as lips forbid


Broken, in silence, this child will forgive

But melt to her bones, in order to live


© Sarah Henderson 1999







Safety and harm exist as one here

The shallow you seek brings depth to fear


It’s a hell you built with knowing hands

You built it by breaking your body’s demands


Filling only to empty the flesh that burns hot

This pre-woven tale ties a satisfied knot


In a life so diseased that death is a cure

Blood and acid make water pure


You shudder from truth, so blindingly bright

When you know it’s deserved, hell will feel right



© Sarah Henderson 1999