09/08/2014 12:49 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Size of Being Buried Alive


At times I feel that I can't catch my breath. The weight of being buried alive is slowly squeezing the life out of me with each breath I take. If I could just dig or scratch my way out, I could breathe again. I would risk digging my fingers to a bloody pulp and bone if I could get out of this darkness and see light again.

It has been so dark in this box. I can't recognize the sounds I hear; every noise is muffled. This is not being alive; this is merely an existence. I can barely move. If only I could move my limbs. They ache under the weight of being buried. I doubt my sanity.

The insanity is that I built the coffin, I chose the materials from which it was constructed, and I dug the hole and climbed in. Someone let me the f--ck out of here! I don't want to be buried alive. I want to breathe freely, to see the brightness of the world, to hear sound in stereo, to move my limbs, to walk, to run, to dance. God, save me from this horrific fate. No human should have to undergo this pain and suffering.

My coffin is not made of wood; it is made of food. My hole is not in the ground; it is in myself. I didn't start digging the hole on my own (my mentally-ill mother and alcoholic father began digging the hole) but I did continue to dig it. Worst of all, I failed to fill it up safely, in a way that would fill me and nurture me at the same time. I am buried alive, without literally being buried alive under the ground. I am buried in fear, anger, hurt, disappointment, and self-hate. I am also buried in layers of fat. However, this is not one of those stories about a thin girl trying to break out of her fat body, where dieting is the answer. The food and the weight are, in reality, merely the symptoms of being buried. I have to dig myself out from under all of the fear, anger, disappointment, hurt and self-hate to get out of my coffin. The good news is I am alive, even if I am buried.

After all, 20 years ago I was among the walking dead. I walked around as if I was not of this earth. The world I lived in had its own laws of relativity. The language of the world I lived in was fat grams, calories, starving, bingeing, purging. The customs of the world I lived in were strange. For example, what type of day I was going to have depended on whether or not my fingers could touch each other when I put my hands on opposite sides of my waist. The forecast for the day had nothing to do with the weather; it had to do with the number the scale offered me as I asked the question, "How much do I weigh today, oh scale god?"

It was a world where I would rather be dead than fat, and so I was. "Be thin at all costs" was my mantra. There was no room for life-giving activities. I was trying to DIE-t. For every morsel of food that passed my lips, I tried to diffuse its life-giving force by starving, over-exercising, using laxatives or sticking my fingers down my throat and vomiting. My world was not life-giving. It was devoid of feelings, needs and intimacy with others and myself. My goal was to be skeletal. I delighted when my stomach was concave and my hipbones protruded. The smaller I shrunk the less visible I was, the quieter my voice. My needs were non-existent.

I did not even need food. Blood brought me back to life. When I last stuck my fingers down my throat to purge myself of all food and its life-giving force, I vomited food and blood. The blood reminded me that there was something more than being skin and bones. I needed to be alive; to feel things again, to not hide my mind and heart in the idle incessant chatter about how many calories were in a bagel, apple or ice cream cone. I needed to know what mattered to me besides the size of my body.

Clearly, being buried alive is better than being among the walking dead (although society would say I looked better when I was walking among the living dead). However, then I couldn't see anything but body size, I couldn't hear anything but my brain tabulating how many calories I had eaten or not eaten, I could not see past the numbers on the scale. Now that I am buried alive, I can see beyond the size and shapes of bodies, I can hear the words in songs, I can speak of my feelings and needs, I can breathe (although it is painful), I can feel my limbs (although they ache) and I can hope for brightness, sound in stereo, running and dancing. All I need to do is realize that I am so much more than the size of my body; and that the size of my life is not defined by the size of my body. I am a unique individual with all of my own strengths and weaknesses, which is okay. I have my own smile, taste in music, life experiences and I love to dance. Learning that I am more than the size of my body is allowing is about learning to love myself from the inside out through thin and thick times. Wishing everyone a large-sized day and a large-sized life!

If you want to read more by Karen Cigna, you can find her book "The Size Of My Life" on and you can follow her on her Facebook page "Size Of My Life."

If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.