Coping
AUTHOR Catherine Semerjian
EMAIL hsemerjian@home.com
DISCLAIMER I own nothing, don't sue
DISTRIBUTION Just ask
RATING PG
CONTENT: mild language
SPOILERS: None
SUMMARY We all have our ways of coping, some just aren't as healthy as others.

PROLOGUE

I'm standing in my apartment, my work done for the day. Yet I know there will be more work tomorrow and the day after and the day after. Not that the work is boring or unimportant - there's just a lot of it. There you go again, Sam, complaining to yourself. Not that you'd ever complain to anybody else. They're busy too, but you don't hear them whining. Oh, Josh does, but he's just being melodramatic. Suck it up, Seaborn, just do your job and don't open your mouth. If they can do it, you can. Life is hard, you'd think I'd have learned to deal with it by now.

Of course, life wasn't always as hard as it is now. Take high school for instance. I had Cordelia, my family, all of my friends around. Hell, I was even president of the student council. Politics entered my blood early, I guess.

Still, even high school wasn't a walk in the park. There I was, ahead two grades, hopelessly younger and smaller than everyone else, but I was in high school. It was where I'd wanted to be since walking into elementary school. Then as soon as I had my foot in the door, it was boring. I felt that I knew everything they were trying to teach me. I took every gifted class that school had and was still bored to death.

I started to fake being sick, sometimes missing a week at a time. It was just to challenge myself. To get make up work from all of my classes and trying to keep my mind from wandering on to things like booze or drugs. Those things were simply not an option, no matter how tempted I was, or how many of my friends were indulging. That stuff wasn't for me. Sam Seaborn wasn't going to be some booze head or junkie!

What I wound up being was something much worse.


PART ONE

Looking back on it now, it must have started in late grade nine. Most people were used to my youth and small stature and were cool with it. I even had a couple of prospects for a long term girlfriend. Always got to remember that most people accepted me - there's always that small portion who don't. The worst of it was when they cornered me that Friday afternoon. I still have a scar underneath my shoulder blade. That taught me that there are just times when you shouldn't fight back.

I went home that day, bruised a lot, bleeding a bit, but managing to evade my parents.

It was in my room, with my shirt off, standing in front of my mirror that I noticed that I was kind of chubby. Not enough for any of the bullies at school to notice, but enough to catch my eye. Figuring that it was just a bit of baby fat to get rid of, I embarked on my first diet at eleven years old. It was not only the first of many diets, but also the worst mistake I ever made.

My parents just figured I was becoming health conscious when I started checking all the labels for calorie content. That's not to mention how pleased they were when I offered to make my own lunches. They didn't realize that I was hardly touching any food. For a while, I was down to an apple and a water bottle per day. People complimented me on how skinny I was. A few teachers wondered why I was so pale, but no outright comments were made. I was in baggy pants before they were popular.

When Mom expressed some worry, I just assured her that I was exercising. That was a half truth at best. I went to the gym for hours every day after school when my parents thought I was studying at a friend's. It must have seemed pretty ridiculous; this scrawny preteen pumping iron with these huge, hulking brutes.

It was a trip to the doctor's office that did me in. The doc told my mom that I was thirty eight pounds underweight. He gave me these diet supplements and made me promise to come in for a month after this. But my parents stopped short of sending me to a psychiatrist - that wouldn't do in their social circle.

Right after coming home, I threw those damned pills into the trash, but I went to the doctor's office every week. That's me, dutiful to a fault. But the doc didn't see that I was doing the bare minimum to appease him. As soon as he was happy with my weight, he sent me on my merry little way.

But I wasn't happy. I could see fat everywhere on my body. It was always there, like some disease crawling over my skin all the time and nothing I did could get rid of it. That became my obsession, not school, not girls, not baseball, but getting to the point where I was happy with myself. Believe me, that point was a long way off. In my mind, I was fat, ugly and stupid.

As far as my parents were concerned, that doctor had saved my life. They were concerned with how they looked to their friends and having a mentally disturbed son was simply unacceptable. Then again, I hadn't expected any more than that out of them. They moved around the country as they saw fit, not giving a damn whether I was happy. They shipped Stephen off to some boarding school, ignoring his kicking and screaming. Separating us was worse than if they'd been abusive. But abuse wouldn't do because a bruise is something you can see. And they didn't really want to see me. If I was alive and pretending to smile, they didn't have to bother with me.

Although, periodically, they made sure they saw me eat. That was good enough for them. They didn't care that ten minutes later, I was on my knees in the bathroom, puking it up. Out of sight, out of mind.

It got easier once I went to Princeton. I had a single room and didn't see enough of any one classmate for someone to realize that something was wrong with me. In a class with four hundred students, as my logic went, no professor would have time to notice that one of them wasn't eating. Although, there was a week where I was so starved that I couldn't get out of my bed to go to class. That was a little scary, so I managed to get my strength back up through the occasional supplement here and there. But I was still fat. At six foot half an inch tall and being one hundred pounds even, I was still fat.


She had to be a psychiatry student.

Oh, I'd promised to dedicate myself fully to law, but Beverly just caught my eye and we had a lot in common. After a couple of dates, she would notice that she was the only one eating. She started asking questions, all the wrong questions. I dumped her, I said horrible things. She was like a damned pitbull and wouldn't let go till she'd gotten my little secret out in the open.

Bulimia.

I was a rich kid from California, nobody ever talked about bulimia. At one point, I was so weak that I probably couldn't have spelled it to save my life. But that was all right, because Beverly saved my life. Bless her soul, she didn't go to any profs, her support was what I needed. People have no idea how much caring for another person can do for them. She was my shoulder to lean on and remains a good friend to this day.


Beverly's support and my own realisation that I had a problem helped me to get through this situation. Stephen came back into my life, yet another psychiatrist, and he helped me through it. Funny, after all of the scrapes, I'd helped him out with in our lives, he had to save me from myself.

That's not to say I didn't have the occasional slip. After Princeton, Beverly and I drifted apart, but I could always call Stephen. He was there when I needed him, no questions asked. He was the best person in the world for me to talk to because he knew me better than anyone.

After surviving bulimia, the rest of my life looked like a breeze. I met Josh and Lisa (okay, so that wasn't easy) and my career took off. Law became my love, not the mirror. I coped with the stress in my life by going out with friends and having a good time, not worrying about what people thought of me. My self confidence began to reassert itself.

Of course, it's one of those situations where you're never fully cured. I'm just starting to find out now.


EPILOGUE

Thanks to Beverly and Stephen, there's no blot on my record marking down my condition, but its something I have to live with and it's just starting to rear its ugly head. Time has allowed me to look back at that period in my life with detachment. Part of me is revolted by my behaviour, but most of what I feel is sadness that it came to that. I felt so little control over my circumstances that I had to dominate in one aspect of my life. It is lack of control which I sometimes feel in Washington that has these caused these old inadequacies to surface again.

How to I know? Because I'm standing in front of my full length mirror. You know, mirrors are like vanity personified. They show you the best and the worst and don't bother to tell you which is which.

I've been standing here for about twenty five minutes, but I've only just started biting my lower lip. I'm a grown man, with a reasonable grasp of my faculties (according to Toby). Maybe it's time I considered a real diet. This suit does feel a little tight around the neck...

Or maybe its time I give Stephen a call.

The End

 

 

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