Eating Disorders, Adolescence, & Overcoming Bullies

Sarah McMahon
7 min readMar 12, 2023

[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]

“Sarah,” my teacher drones, not looking up from his attendance sheet. I numbly chirp, “here,” and continue staring out the window. I’m wearing jeans and my boyfriend’s hooded sweatshirt. My boyfriend goes to a different school, nearly an hour’s drive away, so I’m only able to see him on weekends. I enjoy the space between us, as well as the social capital that having a boyfriend grants me. In adolescence, the hallmark of a cool girl was wearing an oversized sweatshirt that smelled of Axe body spray and teenaged boy sweat.

It’s only the third class of the day, and I’m exhausted. I was up at 5:00 a.m. to run on my treadmill in the basement before showering, making breakfast, and driving to school with my brother, who is only a year ahead of me. The landscape outside is bleak and colorless. The temperature has not risen above ten degrees for a week, and the snow outside has become hard and icy and dirty. I dislike winter and I dislike sitting in class and I even dislike going to basketball practice after school, even though there is nothing else to do in this town.

I’m in my Sociology class, taught by a particular teacher whose approval I desperately crave. I craved the approval of most figures of authority; teachers, coaches, my parents, any adult who I happened to come in contact with. And the best way that I knew to win approval was by being smart and conscientious and good at sports and quiet. I was a good kid, a good girl, with a devilish streak inside of her that was quieted by too much exercise and not enough food.

At the beginning of the year, when my teacher handed out our books, I noticed that the first name written on the inside of the front cover was dated 1980. The book was nearly 30 years old and falling apart. I was so tired. So, so, tired, and I had two more classes until lunch, when I’d eat a baggie of carrot sticks and a peanut butter and banana sandwich. I wasn’t eating enough for the amount of activity I was doing, and that’s exactly what I wanted. I liked the dead feeling in my legs as I sat in hard, uncomfortable classroom chairs. I liked doing something that I knew none of my peers were doing; running a bunch and slowly, deliberately starving myself thin. I liked that none of my teachers or…