I want to share a story.
A story about my best friend from middle school, Kathleena. I’m a Junior in high school now, and it’s been nearly two years since she passed away. Tragic how the internet can be so dangerous and in ways you would never expect.
Let me explain.
We were so excited to start school; it was a time to make a friend group and the beginning of creating our “dream lives” that all the movies portrayed. Everybody said we had to have been connected in a past life. We just loved and understood one another, never even a slight bicker. Kathleena and I looked alike, too, but I remember her starting to change the summer before sixth grade– she was going through puberty. It made her look very different from the rest of the girls at school. Squeaky, high-pitched voices, flat chests, no acne, we didn’t even know that these things would change. Kathleena did. She had all these flaws that come with transformation. The girls would use her as an easy target on our first day. Making remarks like “pizza face” or insinuating maybe she shouldn’t eat her lunch, then walk away giggling
I remember one time especially. It was about three weeks into school, we had our little group, we had our classes, and things seemed like they were aligning perfectly with our minuscule vision. It was hard to see the pain inside her every day at that time. I can’t imagine what it would have been like, and I’m sorry to have been so young and naive. I was unwilling to stop the torment because they were our friends. I cared more about them liking me than protecting my other half. Laughter would come from both Kathleena and I as they remarked, “flap your wings, big bird!” or poke her belly as it hung over her jeans. I bet you’ve put it together like I did after she passed; they were never really friends at all. We were just puppets to the “wanna-be” popular girls.
The following year, we were 13. We became part of the junior cross country team at our school. Kathleena’s decision. I was never much of a runner, and neither was she. Kathleena had said it could be a way for us to get in shape and for her to “lose weight.” She got her period, but more weight she never wanted came with it. Growing up, she was always a little bit chubbier, but I would have never called her fat.
While we were running or at practice, she always seemed happy, as if this was something she just genuinely liked, and I adored that for her, but it was not meant for me. I quit after three weeks and one meet. This wasn’t enough for her, though. Her legs got muscular and thicker, making her more insecure and dejected. I told her we could try eating better, no more snacks and chocolate. Instead, let’s replace them with fruits or foods with nutrients, and she was on board. However, each day I watched her eat less and less.
Her excuse was “trying to eat less to suppress her appetite.” In those moments, I was a kid and still am. My mother was concerned for my health and well-being. She had told me she was scared for Kathleena, scared for me, and talked to me about something I’d never heard of: eating disorders.
Something happened the summer before eighth grade. We barely spoke. She never wanted to come out. I had no other friends and became depressed and lonely. When Kathleena did talk to me, it was only ever about how she was constantly running, miles on miles, or how she would drop weight. If the question came up, “how did you lose weight?” she’d sigh over the phone and say, “I don’t know… I guess with age, it just happens.”
“What do you mean ‘it just happens?’” I replied
“My mother told me that we shed our baby fat as we grow up. We get taller and just thin out.”
“It’s that simple?” I had questioned it because recently, I had been paying more attention to my own body– feeling insecure, not hungry, and questioning what was going on.
“YES! I promise. Why would I lie to you?” Little did I know then that she was. She just didn’t want me to be thinner, so she would never tell me her secret. Instead, she would educate me about an app she was obsessed with, “Picsgram.” This was a space online for people who struggled with their bodies, and other users helped with motivation. “It’s cool and fun, and people are always posting the coolest things to eat and make or how great they look. It’s a good thing to have inspiration for how I want to look!” she told me.
Sometime in August, she told me she just didn’t want to be friends altogether. It bewildered me and made no sense. Why is my best friend disowning me out of nowhere? What could I have done?
I was replaced. “I’m sorry, Rain. I just met two really nice girls over the summer. Her name is Ana. You wouldn’t know her, and she doesn’t go to school with us. So again, I’m sorry.” That was the last thing I heard from Kathleena before seeing her on her death bed.
The shock of seeing her on the first day of school still haunts me. I was so jealous of her for being thin and pretty and leaving me behind because I felt I wasn’t enough. It was strange, too. Her “best friends” were the ones gawking two years prior. Now, she was everything to them because she looked like them. Something could have changed. She could still be alive if I had just tried harder when she let me go. Suppose she would have just stayed and talked with me. I eventually met Ana and Mia. They were not as nice as they seemed. I kept all the files of their conversations on Picsgram because everyone wanted to say she was “crazy,” “it was suicide,” and “oh poor girl.” It wasn’t my friend. The girl who died was not Kathleena.
August 18, 2018
A1998: Hi, what’s your name? I love your profile here, and I can see you’re motivated.
Katie23: Hi! Thank you! my name is Kathleena, so my screen name isn’t really too anon, LOL. What do you do to stay in shape? I like to ask everyone I connect with because, as you said, I am motivated, and nothing seems to work how I want it to.
A1998: I see. I don’t do much, but maybe I can help you?
A1998: Have you ever tried restricting yourself? I mean, it sounds terrible, but it’s really not.
Katie23: I’ve tried it, but I get hungry. I looked up ways on the internet how to lose weight. One website suggested that I make myself puke. I thought it sounded kind of bizarre.
A1998: Well, it sounds scary. It’s not. You’re on the right track and don’t need my advice, though, sorry.
Katie23: Nooooooooo don’t go! I’m sorry if I sounded rude. I didn’t mean to. I’m listening.
A1998: It definitely helps. I do it all the time. I can eat whenever I want and just put it all back. No harm done to me.
Katie23: Are you serious? How do I do that?
A1998: It’s simple. There are lots of ways it can be done. You can put a toothbrush down your throat, mix hot water and mustard on a spoon, then drink it, chug a gallon of milk and go for a run. Eventually, you won’t need it at all. You’ll be able to pull the trigger with your own hands.
A1998: Where did you go? What did you eat today?
Katie23: I’m sorry I was eating dinner with my parents. Today I had two pieces of toast for breakfast, a turkey and cheese sandwich for lunch with a granola bar, and my dad made chicken and noodles for dinner. We’re making Sundays soon.
A1998: DO NOT EAT THAT SUNDAY. GO TO THE BATHROOM AND GET A TOOTHBRUSH NOW.
Katie did as she was told. She told her parents she was full from dinner and didn’t want dessert, went to the bathroom, ran the shower water, and got down on her knees in front of the toilet with a toothbrush.
Katie23: I’m finished. That hurt. Why did you tell me to do that?
A1998: It will get easier and better. The tears never stop, but the satisfaction comes. Don’t eat breakfast tomorrow. Have an apple and water for lunch, and eat dinner as usual. After, throw it up and do 100 sit-ups. I promise I’m only here to help you.
A1998: My name is Ana. It’s nice to meet you. Text me tomorrow and update me.
Kathleena would continually update her. Always report back to her—every single day. In one message, Kathleena confided in her that this made her happy and feel good.
September 28, 2018
Katie23: I lost only 5 pounds this month. I’m down to 100, but my goal is 89. What am I doing wrong?
A1998: You’re not trying hard enough. It’s been a month since we’ve started. Maybe you should try fasting.
Katie23: What’s that?
A1998: It’s when you don’t eat anything at all for long periods of time. You should be able to go 72 hours and remember only 500 calories a day, no more and less if you can do it.
Katie23: Fasting will be challenging. People are already noticing and asking questions. What can I do about that?
A1998: Shut them out. Act like everything is fine. For example, try saying you’d like to eat alone upstairs to your parents. Take the food to the toilet and rip it into tiny little pieces. Don’t forget to flush it.
Katie23: Okay, thank you.
Katie always was a people pleaser. She would do anything she was told, especially for someone else. She also believed everybody only had good qualities or her best interest.
October 1, 2018
Katie23: My parents know I’m throwing up. They contacted my doctor, and they wanted to put me away. I guess my dad was suspicious and followed me upstairs. He heard me.
A1998: Try doing it in a plastic bag. Put it in your closet inside of a mason jar. It’ll hide the smell.
Katie23: Anna, they took my scale. I was 97.8 today. I’m getting so close. I’m freaking out; why are they doing this?
A1998: They only care for themselves. I’ll mail you one to hide if you send me your address.
And she did. She was teased by the end of the school year, and those same friends left her again. She didn’t get to finish school because of how bad it got.
Before my first year of high school, I checked Picsgram for some easy and good breakfast to make before school. Kathleena appeared, a picture of her scale at 90 lbs. Unfortunately, she didn’t come to the first day of school.
It wasn’t until December 3 I heard from her. Well, not her, her parents. It was two days before my 15th birthday, and I was setting things up for a party with my family. They had told me Kathleena had wanted to see me in the hospital. “Why is she there? Is everything okay?” her mother’s soft sobs made tears swell in my eyes.
“No. No, it’s not. Her heart stopped. She’s 87 lbs. I haven’t spoken to her in two months. She wants nothing to do with me. I haven’t seen her eat in nearly five.” she paused and gasped for air. “About a month ago, we went into her bedroom and found jars filled with vile and water. Little bits of food, but hardly anything. She kept flapping around, and Ken held her down. I tried to put soup in her mouth. She cried in agony as we did it and told us she hated us.”
Though we hadn’t talked, I was so scared. I could see the image of a bag of bones crunching on the bed like an exorcism. It made me so mad I wasn’t there.
I told my mom everything. I apologized to Kathleena’s as we sat in the room and watched nurses pump whatever they could into her system to stay alive. I remember her waking up in the middle of the night and reaching over to me. She said, “I love you. I’m so sorry. Please be my friend again.”
“I will always be here, and I never left.”
I went home on the fifth to see my family. Thirty minutes later, I got the call from her mother. Kathleena’s heart stopped beating, and her soul went to the sky. It was the worst day of my life. It took me a week, but I went to her house to look back on the memories we had in her bedroom, and in our friendship. Something in me knew maybe I could find something in her room to connect me to when I wasn’t there.
Right in front of me sat an open laptop. There was no password, and it was on some chat screen.
December 1, 2018
Katie23: I DID IT ! 89! WOOOHOOO!
A1998: I am so proud of you.
Katie23: Thank you, I feel so good about it. I hid my scale deep under my bed. So my parents will never find it.
I stopped reading and checked. I found a box with my name, which held all our pictures and notes she wrote me when we weren’t talking. I found three mason jars containing fluid. One had blood in it, and the others had crumbs of food and mucus. Then there was the scale, pushed to the back.
December 2, 2018
A1998: remember to fast today!
A1998: Don’t lie to me if you eat. I don’t like liars. It won’t hurt me. It’ll hurt you.
A1998: You better not be eating.
A1998: You ate, didn’t you?
December 3, 2018
A1998: Where are you, Katie? Did you give up? Is being thin too hard for you?
A1998: Okay, I’ll leave you alone.
A1998: You’re scaring me.
December 5, 2018
A1998: Okay, please say something.
A1998: Katie, stop– you’re scaring me now.
A1998: … Hello
I went to message them, yell at them, and blame them for it all. The messages didn’t go through. For months I wanted to blame everyone in the world but her. None of those “friends” came to see her in a box, to say their sorries or mourn. They were having a party. I stopped eating and lost myself after losing her. I’m doing a little better now, it’s becoming easier to accept she’s gone.
Today is my birthday. I’m 17 years old. I made a new friend recently, and her name is Mia. I met her through Picsgram “M2002”
M2022: Hi! I love your profile. I may be able to help you look how you want.
Technology source :
Levine, Michael P. and Murnen, Sara K. “”EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT MASS MEDIA ARE/ARE NOT [pick one] A CAUSE OF EATING DISORDERS”: A CRITICAL REVIEW OF EVIDENCE FOR A CAUSAL LINK BETWEEN MEDIA, NEGATIVE BODY IMAGE, AND DISORDERED EATING IN FEMALES.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. Volume 28. Issue 1 (Jan. 2009). Pg. 9-42, Accessed 20 March, 2022
This article discussed how eating disorders are impacted by the media. The writer’s talk about how yes, there have been negative body image issues with femaisl for decades before the internet. However, the internet has an effect on these issues. Children at younger ages are now more exposed, and not readily, to raw and threatening material on the internet. This could have a negative effect in their future mental health.
Character source : To The Bone – Movie
Noxon, Marti, “To The Bone.” Netflix https://www.netflix.com/watch/80171659?trackId=255824129&tctx=0%2C0%2CNAPA%40%40%7Cc6a564e3-12f4-47d0-89a0-47d9a4e4bb2f-100534594_titles%2F1%2F%2Fto%20the%20none%20%2F0%2F0%2CNAPA%40%40%7Cc6a564e3-12f4-47d0-89a0-47d9a4e4bb2f-100534594_titles%2F1%2F%2Fto%20the%20none%20%2F0%2F0%2Cunknown%2C%2Cc6a564e3-12f4-47d0-89a0-47d9a4e4bb2f-100534594%7C2%2CtitlesResults 22 January, 2017
I love this movie so much and think if anybody wants to understand anything about eating disorders or the life of someone having one, I strongly recommend this movie. It’s very raw and the images can be triggering, so watch with caution; it is very sad. I would like to believe my character is more so based upon myself, but Ellen is a close second. She is close to my age and I too still struggle with this and can relate to the character in the aspects of what she is going through. It is truly addictive once one has body dysmorphia. This isn’t just a choice, it can and will physically and mentally take over someone’s life and ruin any positive relationships they may have; due to the hurting of others watching the other person basically kill themselves.
Setting source :
Sider, Sara and Jones, Julia. “How Instagram Led Two Teens’ Eating Disorders.” CNN https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/09/us/instagram-eating-disorders/index.html 10 October, 2021 This article discusses how two teens were almost defeated by anorexia because of the negative influences they faced on the platform “Instagram.” One teen went through such a tough battle, she seeked the accounts with “healthy lifestyles” and began to have hope in herself and body– soon, people began writing negative comments on her wall. This upset her and pushed her to restrict herself. Her parents even had child service visits because she would refuse to eat. They had to force her mouth open and feed her with a syringe. She nearly faced death, but this made her want to advocate against this serious and deadly illness. Apparently, 17% says this made their eating issues worsen (Sider and Jones) and Facebook platforms make 1 out of 3 girls feel worse about their bodies. The worst part of it all, facebook’s own research suggests that as teens seek out this information on losing weight, they are suggested pro-anorexia pages. The more these girls digest this information the more depressed they become while becoming almost addicted to viewing the content.