Poetry & Art

How I learned to love my stomach in five acts

*Content Warning: This piece contains references to self injury and eating disorders, which may be triggering to some.*


I was 14 and tried to take a pair of scissors to the hill
that was supposed to be my lower belly because
the boy pointed to a picture of me
reaching my arms up, exposing an inch of skin
and said I guess we know Sarah doesn’t have a flat stomach
The tip of the scissors slid down my ribs
that now seemed to protrude too far out like a
wave frozen at its peak.
The hill and the wave were at war over whether
I was too fat or too thin.
Too scared of blood and pain and what my mom
would say at the sight of blood stains splattered on the
white tile, I starved myself instead.


For two years,
the hill only seemed to grow into a mountain
as the space between it and the wave sunk
like quicksand, formed a cave that made
the nurse ask if I skipped lunch and the child hug me
and ask if there was a baby in my belly
and I still couldn’t get anything right
I couldn’t even get an eating disorder right
I couldn’t get being fat or thin right and 


recovery didn’t come at the bottom of an Ensure bottle
but 8-years-later at the hands of a woman
with hair the color of sand and a tattoo of a haunted house
and I was warned it would hurt and I hated to admit
my curiosity at how it would have felt to make the cut
and she asked What do forget-me-nots mean to you?
My last client got those flowers on her arm for her grandmother.
Isn’t it funny they renamed the myosotis flower for Alzheimers?
and I told her it meant nothing,
I just thought it was beautiful, was desperate to feel beautiful,
and this seemed less permanent than an incision. 


It hurt enough that I shut my eyes so I wouldn’t see
my stomach ripped open and my guts spilled
out on the table and dead weeds bursting from the hill
but when I looked down I was still whole and
my wave of a ribcage trembled at every jab of the needle
and I feared it would unfreeze and crash
and it did
but it didn’t hurt.
A burst of flowers and lavender washed up from the wave
onto the hill my doctor said made me a fertile woman,
the kind an evolved man is attracted to by default. 


I couldn’t wear a bra while healing the garden and
when it could survive on its own I didn’t put one back on
because three times a day I nurtured the stomach I spent years
wanting to amputate with a drop of coconut oil and unscented soap
and in those two months I learned to feel
how I wanted to feel about my body
in the shower as I slid my fingers along my belly and
liked the way a blue forget-me-not floated above the hill
as if it was about to land softly and form its own new garden
and everyone who saw the greens and blues and purples
exploding from the wave said
That’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. 

by Sarah Chapin

I'm 28-years-old and live with my spoiled tuxedo cat in Connecticut. As an anorexia and orthorexia survivor, I dedicate my writing to spreading mental health and eating disorder awareness. I also love writing about feminist topics, social justice issues, and healthy relationships. I earned my MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Bay Path University. Along with working on my own writing, I tutor writing at the college-level.


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