**Trigger Warning: Eating Disorders, Suicidal ideation. If you are feeling triggered please call your local suicide hotline.
I remember the evening I bought the dress, it was 2013 and I was thumbing through a sale rack killing time before a psychology appointment and halfheartedly looking for new work clothes. I had just lost even more weight and my current wardrobe was swimming on me. Fashion was in an awkward place at the time, but amidst all the paisley and puffy pirate sleeves, suddenly there it was.
I lifted the pretty little number from rack to get a better look, it was white with silvery grey flowers, just the right amount of elegant but still work appropriate, it was perfect.
As I stepped behind the curtain of the tiny change room my body was tingling with simultaneous anticipation and dread, I stripped to my underwear and caught a glimpse of a woman in the mirror, it was a strangely pleasing view, she was slim enough to count her ribs and see shoulder blades clearly through her skin, but it was still possible to ignore the overt cheekbones and pass of her sunken blackened eyes as the result of too little sleep.
This reflection of course, wasn’t my own. No, I was a puffy, flabby and fat women, but then throughout my life reflections had seldom ever seemed to belong to me and this one looked preferable to the one in my mind and was certainly acceptable enough to borrow for now.
I re-evaluated the dress on its hanger for a moment, oh my god a size 6, clingy fabric, would it even fit? I felt a surge of anger for a moment, how dare I consider myself small enough to wear this kind of thing? Who did I think I was? Delusional fool. Surely someone had seen the size tag as I walked in, I had tried to cover it with my hand but they must’ve noticed, I could hear murmurs from outside, they were probably scoffing at my tenacity for trying to wear something this small, placing bets on how fat and ridiculous I would look.
Squeezing my eyes shut I slipped my arms in and pulled the dress down carefully over my body, I slowly opened my eyes and looked critically at the mirror; it fit.
The fabric clung tightly, accentuating all the right parts of the finally ‘perfect’ figure staring back at me, visible collarbones? Check. Hip bones protruding through fabric? check. Part of me wanted to yell ‘suck it!’To the people I imagined were laughing at me from outside the change room.
I grabbed clumsily at the ‘fat’ bits on my arms where the muscle had wasted away wondering if I could perhaps slice them off with a knife myself without using anaesthetic when I got home. My fragile psyche was breaking down along with my body.
I think I knew deep down that I couldn’t physically lose anymore weight and survive, chest pains and almost fainting were just part of my regular day now, but no matter what, I knew I couldn’t gain any weight. I couldn’t go back there again, I had reached stasis, this was it.
My psychology appointment that evening was awkward, while I had been chronically suicidal for years, this was different somehow. I wasn’t sad or angry or frightened or even numb anymore, I was eerily peaceful; I guess I was just done and I had reached an acceptance of that.
My psychologist knew intuitively all was not well despite my lying about it, but she couldn’t actively legally do anything about it in that moment because I was an adult and I had denied feeling suicidal.
Much later I found out she had contacted my doctor after I left that evening about her concerns and recommended I be hospitalised.
It’s funny because I think back and wonder if I was partially waiting for someone to jump in and forcibly save me from myself, still waiting stubbornly for the same mystery rescuer that hadn’t come when I was going through this the first time as a teenager.
Nobody had forced me to do anything I didn’t want to do in regards to my anorexia, either time; even when I had clearly lost all self control.
While I was terrified of the consequences help would bring and grateful for retaining autonomy over my life, this lack of intervention made me feel somehow unworthy of being helped.
I was an adult now and expected to know what was best for me, but I didn’t, I had never processed or healed from my first experience with this Hellish disease and inside I was still a frightened little girl.
The next morning I put on my new dress terrified that I had somehow gained weight magically overnight, it still fit. I was relieved but also exhausted and far from happy, the familiar depression and fatigue of simply living washed over me as I inspected today’s reflection, the girl in the mirror wore the right shoes with perfectly styled hair and makeup but her dull eyes hinted that she had given up too.
Outside it was overcast and drizzling, a grey day to match my grey mood. As I kissed my family goodbye, left the house and drove towards work the cracks in the world around me began to break through completely, I saw the tree, took a deep breath and looked down at my outfit. I knew in my heart it was to be the last dress I would ever wear; this was now my suicide dress.
*If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide please call your local suicide hotline Lifeline in Australia phone 13 11 14