The Hunger: A Q&A with Rachel Freeman
**Content warning: This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences in recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.
Rachel Freeman is a special education teacher, poet, creator, and lover of life. She is the author of The Hunger, a compilation of poems about identity, body image, and eating disorder recovery.
Here Rachel shares a few of her poems, as well as advice for others struggling with an eating disorder.
What role has writing had in your life and recovery?
I have been writing since I was seven. For a long time, I felt misunderstood and struggled to connect with same-age peers. I was always drawn to people older than myself, people who had life experiences I could learn from. This made it challenging to sustain long-term relationships and talk to people in my age range. I began writing short stories and poetry to help express myself. I shared my work with very few people because I felt ashamed I had such thoughts. I just wanted to be understood and seen for my essence, not my outward appearance.
As a child I modeled. I remember losing out on a print campaign because the casting person said I was “too pretty” to model their clothes. At the same time, I was working for another well-known 90’s brand, and the photographer once commented on the outfit I was wearing. I vividly remember him pointing to my midsection and saying to the wardrobe lady, “Put her in something else. It doesn’t look right in that area.” I was 10. I was confused.
So many people feel voiceless and powerless if they do not look a particular way. Again and again, their voices are silenced by a society which tends to perpetuate “norms” that are not, in fact, normal. I began to understand that “normal” was dealing with body image issues, finding balance, and questioning experiences from my childhood about identity, religion, and other ways society conditions us to think. I learned that my disordered eating was a coping mechanism related to the lack of control I had when trying to fit within the norm.
Which writers inspire you?
I love Shel Silverstein. All-time favorite! I love reading unknown writer’s works. I enjoy following random people on my feed who write from their heart and show vulnerability. I am also very taken by song lyrics.
Tell us about The Hunger, your collection of poetry.
I wrote this compilation during my eating disorder recovery. It literally sat for 10 years before being published. For a very long time, it was my struggle and I held tightly to the narrative.
However, with time and a healthy mindset, I began to realize it was not something only I dealt with. When social media, photoshopped images, accessibility to beauty tutorials and exercise videos, and overnight celebrity based on vanity were birthed at exponential rates, it was time to release my work.
Can you share a sample of these poems?
It’s ever changing
Just a number
It grows and shrinks
As we hunger
Searching for meaning
Live in the moment
Do what is right
Fat Is Not a Feeling
I still carry it –
The pain I feel.
Around my waist.
If I could love who I am, not what I see,
Then I wouldn’t mind being me.
However, I cannot get passed how I feel,
Even though what I feel is not real.
Ghost of You
I caught a glimpse of her today –
The girl I used to be.
I laughed, joked, and smiled
When I kind of felt like me.
I want to feel that way again
And not hide away in my room.
I know what I need to do,
But it is easier to focus on the gloom.
I do not want to go on living this way,
Hiding all my secrets from the ones who are close.
I am scared to let people in
And give up on what I have come to know most –
Walking through this life, as a living ghost.
What advice do you have for people currently struggling with an eating disorder?
Take it one meal at a time. Remember that food is fuel. Just like a car needs gas to go, the human body needs food in order to function. When we do not nourish our bodies, we become disconnected from all purpose and rational thought. Our bodies are vessels. Food does not only fuel the being. Feeding the brain and soul is paramount in recovery, especially during trying times, such as now with COVID-19.
We are living in a strange time. We could have not prepared for the struggles we are currently facing. There are new potential triggers. New ways to reframe our thoughts around food and body image. This time is creating space for voices to be heard and come together for the greater health and collective healing we are seeking.