starving the pain

i was twelve when i stopped eating,
hungry for big chunks of life, but nothing
really satisfied– i broke,

staring at my budding breasts,
but different than the boys in school did–
and i wished to be invisible

most people think at twelve
you don’t know much about the world,
i knew enough to hate it–

and it was so easy– i just stopped
& everything with me disappeared,
menses, breasts, the pain,

i was a warrior in battle, riding on the wind,
about to win, and ready to knock over
everyone who came too close–
i built tight walls with food i
never touched.

It was winter when we visited my grandma,
small and fragile,
lying in that bed in hospital,
lungs filled with water &

i struggled,
wrecked by weakness i could hardly stand
nor cry or scream or suffer,
not even hating the injustice cause

i’d already died

and in the rearview mirror saw my face
but didn’t recognize–

That day, the warrior dropped

and left me nothing
but thirty kilo skin and angst with lungs still breathing,

somehow– i survived

and on my long way back
i wept for days


so yes…anorexia is a part of my story..
join us at dVerse Poets pub for Open Link Night with Joe Hesch tending the bar this week…doors open 3pm EST.. looking forward to seeing you there..


83 responses to “starving the pain

  1. That age, it’s so easy to feel like one is being put in a world one doesn’t want to be in, to feel so out of place and wrong. Not easy to read, the emotions and scenes are intense and vivid, especially also the personal scene of the narrator looking at grandma.

    Glad that you survived.

  2. There are not words for how close to home this hits, I lost my grandmother at 13 and also struggled through anorexia. The wanting to be invisible lasted until college for me. It’s like you’ve written my secrets. Brave and magnificent Claudia.

    • “It’s like you’ve written my secrets.” I like that, Anna. I think that is a marker of a great poem. You feel like you wrote it yourself, or as if the poet took a look inside your soul and wrote about you.

  3. stings claudia…itis an uncomfortable age, everything changing and our bodies are often alien to us…it a different way guys can go through similar…i have hated the world though…brave and personal for sure…very nice write claudia…

  4. Thanks for the honesty about your struggles. It is a good thing that you learned to get past it. I worry about how many young females struggle with this intense issue.

  5. I’ve got chills from reading this. You go right to the heart of the disorder. Anorexia and bulimia are such tragic diseases and I’m so grateful you were able to emerge from eating disorder the beautiful person you are. A few years ago a friend and co-worker succombed to bulimia. It was so hard to watch and be a part of. Thanks for the courage (and words) to share this.

  6. Hi Claudia,

    You are great because you decided for life. Many young girls and also boys struggle and do not see a sence for life. This age is a hard time for some of them. I hope they get enough help and assistance from their parents or other adults. I can feel with these kids because my son tried to end his life last year. I am so happy that he is still living with us.

  7. This is so sad, and you bring out that terrible angst of teenage, anorexia, so exceptionally well…I’m just past my teens, and I have to fight these tensions, the social awkwardness, confusions, conflicts every other day…this is like reading a page from a journal I’m too scared to write.

  8. I think you know more at twelve than you do at twenty five, sometimes. You just don’t know what to do with it all. Excellent, heart-deep piece, Claudia. Facing the past is one of the hardest things we do in life–your words are full of bravery and grace.

  9. Yeah so many at that age have no idea what to do, male or female. Really brought forth your struggles and glad you put it to rest. As who else would the cat have to pick on every now and then..haha

  10. So your battle was against nature? I guess it all comes down to control. I think a lot of young girls go veggie now for the same reason, control where they feel none. Claudia this is so real, I love it.

  11. Thank you, Claudia–such truth you explain here so well: at twelve also, I knew enough about the world to HATE it.

    I like: “Somehow–I survived, and on my long way back…”

    At age 12, already an alcoholic–with all its depression and other untreated symptoms–somehow stayed alive. Now sober in Alcoholics Anonymous 37 years, I am happy and free, no matter what happens outside of me.

    God kept us alive, girl. And He assigns us our job each day, whatever that may be. He is our new employer. Enjoy each moment, Claudia, they are indeed gifts!

    Love and PEACE!

  12. Excellent capture of teen angst, philosophy, idealness cast upon us, well preteen here. But yeah so much is so heavy and can weigh so heavily upon us at that time. Love how you captured it and really carried it through such a strong poem. Thanks Claudia

  13. I can’t tell you how this moved me, except to say that your explanation was not required.
    i built tight walls with food i
    never touched

    Yes. Strong, profound work. Thank you.

  14. so sad honey …..I’m a natural skinny who doctors sometimes label as anorexia ….equally frustrating visiting dieticians and forcing down supplements all the time ! must have been a horrendous time for you and your family …..but you made it ! great poem thank you for sharing something so personal x

  15. These are my favorite lines, Claudia:

    “and it was so easy– i just stopped
    & everything with me disappeared”

    “about to win, and ready to knock over
    everyone who came too close”

    “That day, the warrior dropped
    and left me nothing”

    I loved the connection between the young and old, mirrored faces in pain.

  16. Wow. I’ve never been close to anyone with anorexia, but I can feel your pain and honesty bleeding off the page. Very powerful write. Thanks for exposing the issue for others to see.

  17. Claudia,

    I commend you for the raw honesty of this piece. Your poems always cut to the bone, and I thank you for sharing them. My anorexia came with second marriage and step-children, my attempt to control just one thing in my life. I survived. I’m so happy you did, too.


  18. Everybody sees this sad..I don’t

    I see it as a smart persons revolt. And as acceptance to being flawed …coming to terms with the human condition young.


  19. Thanks for bringing this to light, Claudia, in your ever poignant way.

    I was very close to two women who struggled with anorexia. Not only is this condition an extremely difficult and potentially life threatening disease for the individual to deal with, but heartbreakingly sad and difficult for her codependent loved ones, who must also deal with the situation every day.

    It’s about control, and while the sufferer may feel some sense of control by slowly starving herself, the loved ones, unfortunately, only feel helpless.

  20. wow, Claudia. Thank you for reaching so deep and sharing that with us. I have never been “anorexic” but I believe had I continued starving I would have been. I just loved food too much to continue the path I was on. Food has always been a comfort thing and I have struggled with my weight all my life, up and down so I can imagine how easy it would be to fall into. But I also understand there is a more of an emotional thing to anorexia than just the weight issue if at all the weight issue. I respect you for sharing this part of your story, I applaud you Claudia for surviving and being here to tell it! Thank you!!!


  21. this broke my heart… but i am so glad you made your way back.
    i especially love the circle you drew from your 12 year old self to your grandmother…powerful, haunting image.

  22. You brought to mind a young student I knew who was taught by her mother…”that her body was all she had to offer the world”…the tears still flow when I think about her…she was not quite 12 and also anoexic with a serious learning disorder.

  23. This comes too close to home for me. Brings back all the pain of my late partner and her then (denied) anorexia, until it couldn’t be denied any longer. So pleased you overcame your thoughts and began to see with more clarity.

  24. This is so real, Claudia. Thank you for that. I suffered from eating disorders, too. You are so brave to write about it and you have captured the feelings perfectly… so happy that you can help many through your writing.

  25. You have come so far Claudia. I admire your ability to poetically speak of your trails. And to do so in such a lyrical manner. You have a beautiful heart which shines through your words.

  26. Even when wearing your mournful voice the rhythm of your words never fail to impress…never fail to resonate. We rise and fall and rise and fall. At the end of the day, we call it life. Lessons learned and cautionary tales.

  27. Wow! I really felt this one. I know what it is like to hate the world at 12 years of age.
    I felt like I was a freak of nature, nothing made sense. I am glad you survived those years and ultimately thrived.Thanks for this beautiful, poignant piece!

  28. Very lovely. The transitions smooth. There is a freshness in the honesty in this poem. You present to the reader a anatomy of physical life that’s practically taboo when a child. Again, your honesty, however poetic–refreshing.

  29. a deeply moving poem, Claudia – not my chosen path to invisibility, but two sisters started about that age, twins… only one survived.

  30. the day the warrior dropped.

    oh, love, my heart bled.

    because my warrior dropped too, and He and i are still putting this broken soldier back together again.

    this is rich, dear.

  31. You put a face to this illness and tragedy, one which frankly I couldn’t understand.

    A lovely share which i appreciate very much. I am glad you made it through.

  32. i was 6 yrs old when i first starved myself,this was during a time when loved ones were sick[my mom and sister]and other loved ones died[grandmother and great grandmother].i was good at fooling people that in school they were noticing lunches were thrown away without being eaten so they gave good eats awards[i have several and shows how clever i was].after about the 3rd time my mom talked stopped me until i was old enough.when i was around 13 i started again and would off and on until i was 34 when i found out i have a genetic auto immune form of arthritis.ankylosing spondylitis.the yr 2009 i lost the ability to walk.i now walk with a cain.i have taken meds that blew me up to be 175 pounds if not the last months i lost some weight now i weigh 157 pounds.but because of meds i no longer can starve myself.i so want to but i remind myself that some meds need food.i wake up late so i skip becomes a part of you and your soul.i struggle with pain and i struggle with my weight.there are way too many who suffer with this.thank you for this poem because it touched home for me.i even cried.thank you!

  33. I don’t know too much about anorexia, but understand it is about trying to control something in your life when everything else around you seems beyond control. I know from some of the things I’ve written, there is a certain healing, a certain strength that comes from expressing the secrets, the harder truths from our past.
    Thanks for sharing this little piece of yourself with us Claudia. And bravo for coming back from such a hard time.

  34. Amazingly intense and heartfelt. There is nothing more beautiful than to epxose one’s pain for the workd to see. “angst with lungs still breathing,” One of those lines I will always wish I had written.

  35. Hard to understand why girls victimize themselves… but you did a great job here. Very moving. I watched a movie once, called Saint Ralph. I LOVED it. His mother is dying and he is going to make a miracle happen. This isn’t the same thing, but he really tried to control his body and his actions. Let me know if you watch it and like it…

  36. life transition/metamorphosis –from the child to the adult– physical & mental, a tough passage. Well depicted here. ”thirty kilo skin and angst” and survival.
    It’s strange, we don’t receive an education on growing up and life, but only the academics.

    good piece.

  37. Claudia, I wish I could hug you. I am so proud of the woman that you have become. This is rending and knowing that it comes from within makes me ache for the child. Your pen wrote a bit of beautiful, confused Claudia of past days to share in verse. Wonderful.

  38. I have read your poem and all the comments following. You are my heroine in so many ways. You write your experiences, your pain so beautifully and honestly. I admire that. You are ‘out there and open’ not hiding behind any facade and you write YOU. I admire that. I lived with a bulemic for a while, before I knew what bulemia was. I have seen anorexics (I am sure they are) exercising at my YMCA when they have little skin on their bones. This gut-level poem touched me once again. So glad you overcame anorexia and that you are YOU and that you give to all of us as you do, as ONLY you can.

  39. You caprure the most intimate moments with honesty and sensitivity – who you were told so authentically that real humanity shines in the telling. I wish I could open up the way you do here, telling what was and thereby telling who you are.

  40. Yes…adolescent angst does eat away at us…whether it be anorexia or some other emotional or physical manifestation. A courageous write, Claudia. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  41. wow, Claudia…and look who you are today 🙂 such a fighter! Adolescence really sucks…and I would never want to relive it; it takes too long to overcome it. Thanks for sharing your story with such a beautiful write.

  42. I lost my Grandmother at twelve. In fact I fell asleep with her and woke to find that she had passed after a long battle with osteo. And I too, for many reasons, wanted to slowly make myself invisible, so, not long after, I stopped eating and nearly achieved my goal.
    and like you…”somehow– i survived

    and on my long way back
    i wept for days”

    And sometimes I still weep 🙂

    This poem is very real to me. It speaks for a part of my soul. You are an amazing writer Claudia!

  43. I read this yesterday, Claudia, and it has hung in the air all day. Your description..being under the slack skin of this illness…is illuminating and deeply affecting. You seem to have chosen precisely the right words and made exactly the right choices about how to present the illness and the presence of life and death. The hospital scene and your face in the car mirror are rising off the page.

    A remarkable piece…. wonderful that you could write it down to share and help a deeper understanding of what it means to be anorexic…. and 12.

  44. Today seems to be my day for unearthing amazing poems. I felt so much sorrow in this and a tear or two leaked from the reservoir to mark this as another truly awesome piece from you.

    I need to go and find some happy poems now 😉

  45. Such gripping words, their power to bite, clamp down and hold on to the reader’s heart. The suffering is painted so sparingly, but deeply, here. Thank you for this piece, Claudia.

  46. “i built tight walls with food i
    never touched.”

    “That day, the warrior dropped

    and left me nothing
    but thirty kilo skin and angst with lungs still breathing,

    somehow– i survived

    and on my long way back”

    Beautifully written, Claudia.

    I can relate from an ‘opposite experience’ kind of standpoint. Overeating is something that I struggle with everyday since I turned 21. Like anorexia, it is an emotional response using food as a weapon to tackle other deeply embedded issues…conscious/unconscious. I’m glad that you survived to tell your story so beautifully though painful, in words. I hope I survive too. I live in hope:) I know I’m the only one that can help myself.

  47. I love the voice this speaker has. It is just right. I hear so many of the young girls I’ve taught and met. I hear myself (substitute drowning for drought of flesh). I really do love reading your writing–as so many have mentioned … economy of words, simple yet effective images, rooted in reality. Makes it easy for the reader to understand but not easy to digest. Thank you for another beautiful word portrait.

  48. You convey that 12-year-old so well that I think she was me! She wasn’t, but there is enough in there of the way all young people are, that in the personal you’ve touched on the universal. A heart-rending poem! Wonderful that you are distant enough now from those events to be able to write of them so powerfully.

  49. The older I get the more it’s all about food. Eating for nearly everyone is some sort of disorder. It’s as though human’s programming has all gone whack. We don’t know whether to eat everything in case there’s a famine, or eat nothing for fear of rejection or because we’re changing, or because there’s ridicule one way or another.

    My friend Ron’s mother was terrified of being overweight. She wouldn’t let anyone see her eat. He decided to smoke rather than eat so now with this devastating illness, he may starve because the range of foods he has allowed himself is so narrow and his ability to take enough in is so diminished. It’s a heartache situation that I have to deal with every hour. It’s devastating.

    I am immensely grateful you returned from that brink to be the healthy and beautiful woman you are. What a treasure to have you in my life. I truly cherish you.

  50. Thank you Claudia for allowing us a glimpse of such a personal part of your herstory. So glad you have survived, and so strong. There is always so much power, depth and insight in your words. I guess pain somehow molds us and sometimes the result is art.

  51. A difficult subject to write on but you wrote well and with courage and honesty. So the warrior is still there having so much of courage to write poem about it so honestly 🙂 Commendable

  52. Younger than myself, when I fought this battle, but I so do understand it. I never realized how thin I’d become until seeing a photo taken after I’d married…not a pretty sight. But when I looked in the mirror, going through it, I seemed beautiful…at least to me. Very well written.

  53. thanks for sharing. this condition is directly related to our culture, specifically our corporate culture that teaches us in images as soon as we can open our eyes and stare at the tv and later magazine photos. the culture invents diseases and offers their products as cures. these powers have got to go. and they will, one way or another.