At the end of my sixth grade year I was still a pretty hefty individual. At roughly four and a half feet tall, I weighed in at 135 pounds. Now, I'm not sure what a healthy weight is for that age and height, but I'm pretty sure that wasn't it.
That summer I lost a total of 50 pounds.
At first it seemed okay. The weight began to come off, the gut began to shrink, and people began to tell me how good I looked. So we have a little positive reinforcement to push things along. Whatever I was doing seemed to be the right thing.
But I didn't know what I was doing. I just didn't have an appetite for much of anything. There was no hunger. And because I didn't feel hungry, I didn't eat. For the better part of three months.
Again, this wasn't a choice that I made. I didn't wake up one morning and decide to just stop eating. That's not how my 12-year-old brain was working.
What did happen was that I spent so much time in school being picked on because of my weight that my fragile, pre-pubescent self esteem couldn't take anymore. Something inside my brain just switched off. When I should have been hungry, I wasn't. At a time in my life when I should have been growing like crazy, I wasn't.
Soon, all those family members and friends from church who said I was looking good began to wonder if something was wrong. It didn't take long at all for my parents to enter panic mode.
I felt all right. As far as I could tell, I was just finally losing the pounds that had caused me some pretty horrible emotional anguish. At least as horrible as sixth grade can get.
I look back and I realize I should have probably just developed thicker skin, that I shouldn't have let those kids get to me. But it's easy for me to look back with that attitude. I'm older now and I've been through more. Things that bothered me then wouldn't bother me now. Things that seem petty and childish to an adult can make or break a 12-year-old's psyche.
I returned to Woodrow Wilson for seventh grade in the fall that year. All the kids, friends and bullies alike, had a hard time recognizing me. The change was that dramatic. Several people asked me repeatedly if I had been sick. As far as I knew I was still okay and I felt fine.
I was wrong.