TW: This essay discusses eating disorders.
By Jenna Robino
I am 20. I live in a one bedroom apartment all by myself, right next to LAX. I’m practically a terminal I’m so close. It’s my sophomore year at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. I am a theater major. No minor. I have no idea what I want to do after college, I just like acting and playing different characters. In high school my graduating class voted me “most likely to be on SNL,” so I decided I’d stick with it, and here I am.
Let me close my window. They’re double-sided because of the noise from the planes. Yeah, that black stuff is from the exhaust. I’m sure it’s going to cause some sort of health problem down the road.
One of the reasons I live here, by myself, is because I have a problem. At night, I turn into a food hungry monster and no one’s food is safe. When I had roommates, living in the campus dorms, I would sneak into their rooms when they weren’t there and steal food: handfuls of cereal, candy, a granola bar. If there was one of anything, of course I didn’t take it. I was a thoughtful thief. Whatever I scored, I’d bring back to my top bunk, stick in a container and hide under my pillow.
My roommate Sarah always had a stash of homemade chocolate chip cookies from her mom. Yeah that didn’t go over well when I finished all eight of them while writing a term paper. Couldn’t stop at two could ya? Sarah was at a campus meeting when it happened, and well, when she got back she was forgiving about it, but it created a lot of awkward energy between us.
I was overwhelmed by school – memorizing plays, writing papers…there was so much pressure to be ON all the time. Food was instant comfort, it got me through my school work. I remember eating an entire box of Lucky Charms to get through a 15 page paper.
I’d stretch my stomach like a giant balloon about to burst. I could feel the food rising out of my mouth. When this would happen, I’d tiptoe into the communal bathroom, run the faucet and stick my finger down my throat heaving hearts and stars and four leaf clovers. Some disgusting pot at the end of the rainbow that was.
I was terrible at purging. I hated this fact. I MADE myself throw up as much as I could. I needed a clean slate again. This pattern continued, it gave me a feeling of control – this one thing was mine and no one could see it but me. I was great at being other people in acting class, I was great at keeping this secret.
So I thought the best way to avoid these awkward situations was to live on my own. Here. Everything would be better here.
But things haven’t gotten better.
“Girl found in kitchen underneath a muffin pile, must have
choked and passed out.”
This headline keeps playing in my head of how the EMT is going to find me one night. Like puking, I can’t even kill myself, and I eat more because I hate being bad at that too! I’m hoping to ruin this stomach and get a new one. Well, it’s that time – 3am, and you know what I am going to do? I am going to put on my most un-rape-able outfit and walk across quiet Sepulveda boulevard to the 24-hour Ralph’s grocery store to see my usual food friends: honey teddy grahams, whole milk (for creamy delicious teddy dunking pool parties), white trash wonder bread, overpriced organic peanut butter, a roasted chicken, and maybe a blueberry muffin or two, I only eat the tops, ONLY if they are fresh, and maybe ritz crackers…for the peanut butter. Variety is the key to this great binge. I must point out, HALF of whatever I buy tonight will be tossed. I have SOME self-control. When I return, I will sit on the white linoleum floor of my alley kitchen facing that open window looking out at the twinkling lights of the landing planes, and begin to form one wonder bread ball after the next, leaving the crust out, and pitch that dough ball into night’s abyss. When my arm gets tired, I’ll toast the bread, and while toasting, I’ll start dunking those teddies into a tall glass of milk.
I eat to pass out because I don’t want to feel. I eat to punish myself for not dealing with the pain, with school, with feelings of hatred and not wanting to live.
When I wake up it’s a terrifying face that reflects back at me in the medicine cabinet mirror. I don’t recognize myself. I just see a loaf of sadness before me.
It’s been a semester filled with nights like these. I think I need to leave this place. I think I need to call my mom. I think I need home right now.
Today, Jenna is living out her dream job as a working actor in NYC where she lives an inspired and creative life. Her relationship to herself is strong and loving. She wants anyone reading this to believe loving oneself IS POSSIBLE. Jenna is living proof that LOVE WINS. It always will.