Writing Selfishly

By Nicole Oliveira

I feel the exhaustion in my bones.

        I feel weighed down.

    I feel tired but not sleepy.

    I want to eat but I’m not hungry.

    My joints radiate with some kind of ominous feeling. It feels heavy.

    I don’t have enough energy to hold my back up, but I know I shouldn’t slouch.

    My jaw is clenched and I notice it every now and then.

    It will hurt tomorrow if I keep doing it.


        But if I let my mouth soften I might scream.


            I might cry.


Screenshot 2020-01-15 15.55.00
Art by Jane Jackson


I might collapse from the weight of everything I’m holding inside.

I’m told I’m doing the best I can, that I’m doing a good job, that no one dislikes me.

But it doesn’t change the fact that I punish myself. 

I am hard on myself and I really can’t help it.

It’s almost more exhausting to actively think of not doing so.

    It’s a catch-22.

    What do I do?

    That rhymed.

    Maybe I should give poetry a try.

Screenshot 2020-01-15 15.55.03
Art by Jane Jackson


My therapist told me to keep a food log.



I started the day with a croissant and hummus.

I only took a bite. 

My stomach was burning.

This is how my body has signaled to me that it’s hungry. 

I decided on an almond croissant even though I know it has too much sugar for breakfast.  It has little to no nutritional value, but I ate it anyway. 

I was so hungry.

I was swallowing the gooey chunks with so much voracity, my throat hurt after devouring 

It took under a minute. 


I’m not a coffee drinker, but I had two cups while working the register.


I felt lightheaded but lighter. The thoughts weighing me down vanished for a few hours and all I had to think about was handing customer’s coffee cups and pretending to be interested in their sweaters or earrings. 


Photographs by Nicole Oliveira


I had a pretty carb-heavy breakfast which means no bread for lunch. A sandwich is out of the question. 

I was going to have soup, but dairy is not the wisest choice. I had to eat a salad even though I didn’t want to. 


The pang is there. I can feel it gnawing at my stomach. Anxiety and hunger are two of the worst possible combinations. 


I inhaled half the salad on my way to class. On my way up the hill, I felt guilty about it. 

My bloated stomach reminds of the possibility of weight gain. I feel fat. 

I’m not. I know that. I’ve gotten better. I shouldn’t police myself like this. 

If I love my body I should nurture it with healthy foods. I shouldn’t beat myself up. I still do. 

I don’t think that means I don’t love myself. I’m learning. I get frustrated with how slow I move. 


I ate more of the salad. 

I didn’t finish it. If I did, I wouldn’t have allowed myself to have dinner. 



My clothes were sopping wet. I forgot my umbrella. I need to change, but first a snack. 

What’s quick? What can I grab before I have to head out again?

We have vegan scones—only two out of half a dozen. It’s five pm. I’m late to the game. 

I settle for a banana and torn pieces of white fluffy bread with Tofutti. 


I can feel the pounds nestling into my sides. Suddenly, my stomach seems to spill over my jeans more than usual. I feel grotesque. 

I’m trying to feel beautiful.



I cried in front of my professor. I was feeling emotional. Food could be a good comfort. 

I’m not one to turn down free food when I have less than a hundred dollars in my checking and savings accounts combined. 

Since I ate two vegetable spring rolls, I should have a salad for dinner. If the plate my housemate made for me has too many carbs, I shouldn’t eat it. 

It’ll all go to my stomach. I can feel my flesh becoming softer, mushier, oozing out of my gut. 

I won’t feel good tomorrow. 


After a long day, I couldn’t hold back. I gave in. My will isn’t strong enough. 

My mind says to stay strong. My stomach rumbles. Breadcrumbs are so good. 

My body is fueled, but I don’t feel good. Physically I’m okay, but I feel wounded.


I’m getting tired of ripping the band-aid off every time I think I’m better. 

Photographs by Nicole Oliveira


I have to admit to myself: I’m in love with love. 

I want to be loved. 


I need a cure. I crave the intensity–or maybe I don’t? 


I deserve to be loved, or so I’m told. 

But I’m not sure I believe it. 

Maybe subtlety is my friend. It’s really fucking sad to love someone and not be loved back. 


I want to be breathless, overwhelmed, 

lost in how much happiness has found its way into my open, festering wounds. 


4:51 A.M. 

I’m feeling okay. Things are looking up–I hope. The sun comes up eventually. Today I won’t let small things sour my Wednesday. It’s still dawn.


The day is not lost. But yesterday still hangs over me. 

It nudged me awake until I could no longer fall back asleep. 


I didn’t do what was expected of me. 

I didn’t eat a balanced meal.

I didn’t sleep enough. I forgot to take my makeup off. 

I didn’t drink enough water. 

I haven’t taken my Prozac in two weeks. 


Was that person being condescending earlier or was I reading into it?

Why do I continually diminish my feelings?

I didn’t have the energy to address it even though I wanted nothing more than to speak up—to let out the repressed thoughts I couldn’t verbalize but felt very deeply. 


I have to call the pharmacy again. It is with a deep sense of failure that I dial that number.


I’m not ready to go off. 


I’ve gotten the sudden urge to wear a babydoll dress


I don’t like shapeless clothing, loose clothing, clothing that mocks my womanhood. 

I’m already thin, devoid of “womanly” curves.

Lately, I’ve wanted nothing more than to envelope myself in a swath of frilly cotton or linen. 

The girlier the better. 


I feel helpless like a baby, but trapped in a body that tells the world otherwise

I’m unhappy. 

I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night. 

My lips are still tense. They refuse to soften even if I try. 


I’ve realized something recently:

When SAD sticks around every season, it’s just depression. 


This time it feels more menacing, but surprisingly considerate.

Maybe it’ll smother me with sadness rather than let me suffer. 


We’re still getting to know each other, so only time will tell. 


But the physical symptoms are beginning to manifest. 

My forehead is tense. 

The skin between my brows is constantly pinched.

I sulk a lot. 


Lines are beginning to settle into my face. 


I’m in need of a good cry. 

I’m in need of physical intimacy: a hug, a hand, the warmth of a body.


I’m in need of unplugging, of being a formless blob floating in the ether. 


Turning off my phone isn’t enough. The trauma follows me. I want nothing more than to reach into my chest and tear a gaping hole through my rib cage. I’m hoping hollowing myself out will help me feel lighter. 


Good cries aren’t always enough. I’ve ceased to find relief in the uninhibited flow of tears. My eyes are weary and a good cry leaves me gasping for air, choking on my own thoughts. 


I try to get up, but I don’t have the strength.

My muscles are slowly atrophying.

I’m weak, but I’m also not. I’m trying—so hard. 

I want so badly to feel happy, to feel calm. 


But I can’t get up. 

I’ve never felt so fragile, like a gust of wind could unravel me. 

I can’t stand being this vulnerable, this frail, this helpless. 

The vulnerability is no longer beautiful. It’s no longer poetic. It’s just painful. 


Words cannot describe what the mind conjures. 

Words cannot describe trauma. 

Words cannot describe feeling unsupported, abused, gaslighted. 

They will never be enough. 


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