This piece is featured in the collaborative project between WhyNot and Project See and B for Propel Youth Arts WA 2024 KickstART Festival in Western Australia.

Words by Rachael Burns (she/her) 22 WA

Content Warning

The following piece may contain themes that might be difficult to read or triggering to some readers. Readers in need can seek support from the following services 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or Lifeline (13 11 14) – visit our Creating a Safe Space page to see a full list of support services.


“Have you gained weight?” You ask.

I stand staring at my thighs that rub in ways they never used to, pinching the flesh over my stomach that before was taught, acutely aware of the skin spilling sloppily over the sides of my lacy bra.

A guttural sickness. Shame. Disgust.

I shrugged, though I knew the answer better than I knew my own name. I thought of the misery packed behind such a simple inquisition. How plain and unappealing it is to live a life where the most pressing topic of conversation is of the shapes and angles that comprise one’s physicality.

I thought of all the questions she could have asked instead that will forever loom.

What secrets have you never shared?

Who would you call if it were if it were your last day alive and what would you say?

When was the last time you bled, and did it hurt?

What perfume reminds you of your mother?

What toys did you play with as a kid?

Do you still sleep with soft toys?

What does the smell of sunscreen remind you of?

What lies were you served on a silver platter that you gobbled right up?

Who dressed your wounds when you were hurt?

Do you think about falling when you’re standing on a balcony?

What colour would you be and why?

What posters did you hang on your wall in your teens?

Do your artworks still hang around your family home?

Do you feel like you’re alone in this world?

“Well, you look good,” she says. “I’m glad to see you’re doing better.”

And just like that, you add fuel to the fire.

A fire that has been blazing for what feels like a lifetime. A fire that has inflicted so much pain and suffering and torture and sacrifice. A fire whose heat is so insufferable even those trained to face it cower in fear. A fire so persistent I question if it will ever truly be extinguished.

This beast has the power to ravage the already blackened battleground and expose the terrors buried beneath, in turn resurfacing parts of me I fight every day to destroy. The part that sees food as no more than a number. The part of me who’s phone is merely a calculator, who still sees movement as a prison and who’s search history is cleared daily. The part raised in a cruel and misaligned world in which food

technology teachers call sugar ‘the plague’ and line up the class from slimmest to heaviest.

This beast has the power to destroy the fragile foliage planted over brittle bones and clumps of hair stuck between fingertips and piles of blankets and baggy clothing and cyanotic skin.

I hold back tears and bite my lip, knowing you can never possibly comprehend. Knowing that there are no words to describe the feeling of being halfway.

Halfway along a winding, treacherous path. Lost in the midst of a jungle never before ventured – alone and frightened. Indeed, the crispness of the air and the depth of colours is something of a marvel, yet the unknown and inherent danger that surrounds is by no means a safe place to rest. Patches of serenity are enticing. A moment of peace I once never thought possible that offers a safe place to rest. But rest must be sporadic as without forward motion, it too can become a trap.

Halfway between “you look like a ghost,” and “I can’t even tell by looking at you.” Halfway between the whirring of feeding pumps and the hum of my second-hand Hyundai Getz as I drive home from my favourite cafe. Halfway between meal plan B and midnight snacks ‘just because.’ Halfway between whispers of ‘it’s all for attention’ and ‘don’t be dramatic.’

Halfway between where I was and where I want to be.

A place somewhere in the middle, where attention spans have run their course and sympathies have been stretched thin yet there is so much further to travel.

Though the pain has eased, it is still present. This crushing weight on my shoulders feel lighter and my arms far stronger. Alas, it pins me down, nonetheless.

I plaster on a smile – the kind reserved for the best of intentions that still stab me in the heart. I force a terse ‘thanks’ through my cracked lips and stare once again at the foreign flesh growing on my thighs.

And the conversation continues, trailing off to another menial discussion I have no interest in hearing. I nod and laugh, though I’m not hearing what you’re saying. I wonder if you care. I wonder if it even registers to you.


Illustration by Jodie. You can find more of her work on Instagram @jodie_ellin

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