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Mental Health Art Exhibition

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The Pantry
Anorexia and body dysmorphic disorder

One day Keira woke to find herself physically chained to the walls. Beside her, a red velvet box that contained a key and some chain links. It was Callie, the beautiful sexy girl that had thrown her the box with the links that Keira had slowly and over time linked together to form a chain. Keira’s body image had defined her sense of self-worth, and now no other role model was visible to her. 

Keira didn’t want to share her complex emotions and feelings of low self-worth and poor self-image with anyone. She didn’t want to announce how much she hated herself and how she felt ugly, inferior, and insignificant—like a dark minute shadowed figure behind Callie’s imposing self-assured beauty which dominated like a tower and cast a shadow on everyone else. 

Keira didn’t want to say how her overachieving parents and society inadvertently made her feel useless and unimportant and that she thought no boy would ever love her, so she sealed those emotions in a zip locked bag and placed them in the red velvet box. She put the box in the food cabinet together with the sugar, the pasta and biscuits and calories. She locked the padlock on the pantry cabinet and placed a red apple on top. Finally, she would be in control of something—she would be able to control her hunger, her emotions and she could control those that got too close to her. 

Keira walked to the corner of the room and locked her handcuffs, threw the key where she couldn’t reach it and went to sleep. The last thing Keira saw before falling asleep was Callie and the red apple. The first thing Keira saw upon awakening each morning was the red apple and Callie watching over it, making sure she only took one bite at a time.  Many had tried to unlock the padlock on the food cabinet. They looked endlessly for the keys to her handcuffs, and some had even tried to cut the chain that was holding her prisoner, but no one succeeded. 

Each day that went by, Keira felt a ring in her chain was missing, which was constraining her more and more. Each day she had less movement, each day she felt more chained and boxed in. One day she reached out for the apple, she wanted to eat the whole apple; she was hungry, she was frail, and she was tired, but she couldn’t reach it. That chain had shortened, and now she could no longer move around, she was confined to the corner of her own exclusive room and that’s where she fell asleep each night alone and hungry.

Keira was accustomed to the cold metal on her skin. The chain had become part of her skin now, but when she woke one morning, the metal felt different, it was bigger and rougher. She opened her eyes and realized she wasn’t touching her chain but a pair of bolt cutters. She closed her eyes again, maybe I’m dreaming. She brought her hands to her eyes and felt her hands were light. There was no clicking sound, and there was no cold metal around her wrist. She looked at her hands and saw the handcuffs had been opened, who came into the room? Who unlocked me?

She picked up the bolt cutters and cut the chain around her ankles. She held on tight to the metal bolt cutter, the metal feeling had been part of her body for years, except this metal was no longer holding her prisoner but was setting her free. She walked over to the food cabinet and unlocked it. She opened the draws and saw all the delicious food, sugar, pasta, biscuits and next to them all those raw emotions she had bagged up and locked inside. She noticed her father at the ajar door. Keira’s father looked at her and smiled.

“Honey?”

“Dad, are these yours?” Keira handed her dad the bolt cutters.

“Yes, I left them in the room for you a long time ago. Look at you! You are so grown up and so beautiful.”

“Did you unlock me?”

“No, you unlocked yourself, we just gave you the tools.”

Keira had never noticed the bold cutters in her room. Her father took the bolt cutters and guided her daughter to the family room. Keira looked back at her room, fearful of Callie watching, but couldn’t see Callie anymore. Keira was puzzled, did I make her up? Callie never existed, did she? Where have I been all these years?

Keira held her father’s hand; it was comforting. She closed the door behind her and never looked back in that exclusive room that had kept her prisoner all those years. 

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