Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"Ms. B" Assigns the Narrative Speech

This week, my college students are giving their first speech--the "narrative speech."

The assignment:
"A personal narrative is rooted in everyday experience. It talks about you, the significant events that have occurred in your life and how you have been affected by those events. It should not be a series of jokes. It can be a funny story, an adventure, a brush with the law, a tragic event, a happy moment, a lesson learned, or a family tradition. Give a literal account of the event or provide key points to develop your story. Choose a moment or event from your life or share something that has happened to a family member that changed your life or the way you think about something. You may use a series of stories IF they are related. Keep your “life-changing” moment APPROPRIATE and ETHICAL."

This is the first time I've ever assigned a narrative speech, but I'm impressed with the stories that my students have told so far! Some of my students have such compelling life experiences! It's really bringing some diversity into the classroom.

Another thing I hope to accomplish with this assignment is to get the students to see how similar and different they are. Hopefully, by the end of these speeches, it will have brought our class a little closer together.

While listening to their experiences, I couldn't help but feel inspired to write my own "narrative speech" on a life-changing moment. I've had A LOT of epiphanies in my time, but as I began to write, this one was just the most obvious and vivid one in my memory. It just kind of flowed out of my finger tips organically. I hope it inspires you to write about/ponder your own "life-changing" moments. Or, at the very least, it gives you a better idea of who I am and my fitness journey :) Enjoy!

Broken Bricks, Silence Intact
On a cool October day in Charleston, I passed an old friend on the sidewalk. I don’t mean a “Hey what’s happenin’? Let’s get lunch sometime!” kind of friend, but rather, a “Holy *$%#, is it too late to cross the street and dive into that bush?!” kind of friend.

I felt my jaw hit the brickway as she passed. I’d recognize her anywhere—swathed in her trademark stylish baggy clothes to obscure her protruding china-boned frame. Her fine hair, though well maintained, is noticeably thinning, and is coiffed into a stringy fluff or simply pulled into a ponytail. Sunken eyes tell of nightmares riddled with insecurities. Although it looks like she’s undergoing live-saving chemo, I know this girl is not being saved. She is killing herself.

I tried to keep myself from staring but I was transfixed on her sad eyes. I wanted to say something, but my mouth remained paralyzed shut. As she passed, I could only cast my eyes down to the tiny brown fall leaves fluttering on the sidewalk. I imagined her fluttering away. My ex-friend, Ana, short for anorexia.

I don’t specifically know how we fell in league with each other. Growing up, I was always the chubby girl. So I hid my insecurities in my academics. Books substituted for looks. If I couldn’t be a perfect ten aesthetically, then I would be a perfect-A student.

In seventh grade, my English teacher pronounced to the class that I would “someday be a great beauty.” By eleventh grade, I was wondering if she was a nut job or if the “great beauty” mechanism had just not kicked in for me yet. Meanwhile, as pressure to take SATs, make good grades, and get into a respectable college mounted, so did the issues in my personal life. My boyfriend of two years left for the army. Oh, and he meant to tell me that he didn’t love me anymore.

That’s when my friendship with Anorexia started. I had always heard of her—how she was a fabulous friend and a perilous foe. Ana didn’t reject me. She took me in her arms and transformed me. She enabled me become the emptiness that I felt.

We didn’t lunch. Instead, we pretended to nosh on dry cereal then say we were “sick” or had to go do some work in the library. We had the best excuses. Every night we would compare notes. One, two, three, four visual ribs today! And only 300 calories eaten! Ana introduced me to a new friend, Mia, short for Bulimia. Our trio was unstoppable. We were told how fabulous we looked and how we should be models. No one dared tell us we looked sick. No one said anything.

However, there was a dark side of our friendship. I was always ravenous. Some days at around 4 P.M. my body would just shut down for want of food. I would sit on the couch paralyzed with hunger waiting for dinner to roll around at six. I had monstrous irritability. One evening I started an epic battle with my little sister over borrowing a pair of shoes. I had a mental breakdown over a damn pair of shoes. I had no un-imaginary friends and no life.

I realized my self-destruction one June afternoon when the beach vacation pictures were picked up from the drugstore. I expected to find a picture of me looking slim and foxy on the beach—instead, I saw death camp survivor—no, a death camp resident. I didn’t even recognize myself. At 115 pounds on a 5’10 frame, I was no great beauty. I was death warmed over. I was going to die if it didn’t stop.
It’s easy to gain weight when you don’t want to. It’s a lot harder when you have to. It took three doctors and almost three years to fully recover from my break-up with Anorexia and Bulimia.

No, I did not really know the girl passing me on the street that day. As far as I’m concerned she was just another soul lost to the disease, disabled from reality. I can pick them out a crowd blindfolded and backward. What struck me the most was my silence. Inside, I wanted to scream “Don’t you know what you are doing to your body?!”

My battle with anorexia and bulimia has left my metabolism in disarray. I have also developed hyperglycemia, persistent anemia, and stressed bones. These days, I have no problems talking about my disordered past and lamenting the long-term effects. But, no matter how much you warn someone, they will still get third-degree burns to find out the fire is hot.

October 20th, 2010 is National “Love Your Body Day.” It takes a hell of a lot longer than a day to love your body, but it only takes seconds to tell someone you love to get help for theirs. Look for the signs and don’t let that person silently starve.

To the estimated eight million people out there struggling with an eating disorder: You can hide this disease from those around you, but you cannot hide it from those of us who have been there. Help is there when you’re ready.


  1. That was one powerful narrative. Thanks for posting it.

  2. Thats an incredibly powerful narrative. It takes a lot of courage to survive an eating disorder and to speak about it.

  3. B,
    You are beautiful inside and out!! I love you for who you are and I am thankful to have met you when I did!! You are who you are now because of the past!! I'm glad to see you share that with others because they will see in you what I do!! I love you forever and always!!

  4. What a captivating Narrative. I struggled with anorexia as a teen so this really hit home. Beautiful story.