Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Write, write it out. Write till it's out of you. Write till the pounding in your head dissipates, write till you can breathe again.

It's Christmas morning and I just can't make myself get out of bed. I am twisted up in blankets, the covers pulled over my head and I can't find the motivation in my body to move out of my warm cocoon. This year, I have nothing to wake up to. Today is just another day. There is no one to celebrate with, no elaborately decorated tree in my living room, no child-like excitement for the piles of gifts that should be underneath it. No, this year, it is just me in a cold, empty apartment. Merry Christmas to me, I think as I groan and pull myself out of bed, stumbling to the bathroom to get ready for the day. I try to hold back the tears as I brush my teeth, wash my face, pull my hair back and attempt to look presentable. But I can't swallow down the sadness this time, can't be strong and get dressed and go out the door: I sink to the floor, wrap my arms around myself and let the sobs come. 


It's actually a good thing, she tells me, this ache in my chest. It means, she says, that I am feeling again. It's a sign that the heart I've kept hidden away for so long is actually still beating. 

What I'm realizing is that the loneliness that I feel, this deep, internal ache, is not new. In fact, I am becoming more and more convinced that loneliness is my mother tongue, that from a very early age I found myself alone and cut off from relationships. I learned the words of heartache and isolation intimately, a little girl fluent in pain, and attempted to numb myself by saying that I didn't / wouldn't need anyone. I held my heart so tightly to my chest, convinced myself it wouldn't hurt as much if I didn't feel the desire to be connected to other people. But the ache never left.


I'm sitting at a table in a treatment center with ten other women and there is a plate of food in front of me that I very much do not want to eat. The staff try to encourage me to move the fork to my mouth but I stubbornly refuse. I am not going to eat today.

And I know very well that what I'm doing goes against my values and beliefs and furthers me from the life that I want to be possible. It makes no logical sense to not eat when what I want is on the other side of recovery.

But this has never been about logic, has it?

Right now, I am not logical, I am a 12-year-old girl who is sitting alone in church again, wiping away the tears and wishing someone, anyone, would ask her if she is okay, a little girl who is determined not to feel the pain of rejection again. I feel all of her shame, her self-hatred, her blaming herself for her lack of friends and her social isolation. I feel all of her pain, so heavy, so overwhelmingly deep. And I do not want to eat. The loathing I feel for myself burns in my stomach, stealing away my appetite. Food is feeling and I'd rather not know how very alone I am in this big world, rather not feel the shame that runs through my blood like a disease. 

At my core, I still believe I am inherently, fundamentally broken. 


I am sitting in a dark apartment, lit by a single candle, curled up on my couch with a blanket draped around my shoulders. I am trying to pray, trying to connect back to something larger than myself, and I can't even speak the words out loud because I am so ashamed of myself, so sure that I am the broken one, that I am the reason that I am alone. I am too ashamed to even whisper the words into the universe in the darkness of an empty apartment. The shame goes so far back that I can't remember a time when I was ever honest with myself, much less god, much less another person. I want to hide, pulling the blanket around me tighter, wishing I could disappear into the darkness. 


I am so afraid that I will begin to eat and nourish my body and nothing else will change - that I will still feel so completely and utterly alone in the world. That I will choose to be human and have emotions and have to face my loneliness. But the irony is rich: to not eat cuts me off from relationships too. The Monster, too, takes away any chance of me having connection, yet I cling to It so I don't have to know / feel / sit with the depth of my own loneliness and shame. I go towards that which reinforces my self-hatred and further isolates me, instead of turning and walking away from self-destruction and trying something new. Fear is powerful. Fear of feeling, fear of facing the pain and shame, fear of being alone forever, and maybe even more - fear of this actually working and getting close to people and maybe not hating myself quite as much. 

My loneliness and my eating (or rather, my not eating) are directly correlated: when I lose myself in hopelessness that I will be alone for the rest of time, surrender myself to the dark messages that I am the cause of my aloneness, I cannot find it within myself to fight. I cannot bring myself to nourish my body, no matter what positive affirmations I may tell myself. 


"To be human means two things: you have emotions and you need other people," she tells me. 

I do not like either of those statements, but I believe her all the same. Allowing myself to turn back from ghost-girl to human has meant re-connecting with my emotions, feeling everything, and allowing myself to need other people. But even in this process of transformation, coloring in and fleshing out, I have avoided facing the loneliness. I haven't wanted to admit that it was there - telling myself there is weakness in needing, desiring, craving belonging and connection. I've spent years pushing it down, closing my eyes to my own pain and heartache. And now, it is finally, finally bubbling up,  resurfacing in my closed off heart after so long. 

It is painful but also - to my surprise - strangely freeing to be in this place. Trying to tie down my emotions and package them into a nice little box worked for a while, helped me survive for a period of time, but it simply isn't working any longer. Policing my desires felt safer, insulation from hurt, but I think it was actually oppressively heavy to deny myself human connection. I don't have a clear answer of how to proceed from here because to be honest, forging ahead into feeling and opening myself up to vulnerability and relationships is foreign and unknown and uncomfortable. But what I do is this: I have to do it. I have no there choice if only to be in line with my own soul. She told me once that at the core of my dissonance was my disconnection from relationships. I think I get it now, in a way that didn't fully understand at the time she said it. I owe it to myself to try something new. I don't think for one second that it will all suddenly become easy, that new insight and motivation will suddenly drown out the Monster's abusive demands and I will want to eat and take care of my body. That I will love myself and the depression will lift and all will be rainbows and butterflies. But it is something to hold onto, a compass, a guide in this messy process that is healing and recovery - and I think that all that I need right now. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

It's been a long time since I've felt this hopeful, I tell her, closer to the side of LIFE than DEATH, drowning a little bit less these days. But even with that, my heart and mind are still in chaos.

I'm doing the hard work of showing up everyday and eating my food and feeling my feelings and wrestling to find my own truths about who I am and how the world works. But the process of healing hurts: I am balled up on the floor sobbing, trying to catch my breath as the pain floods my body, because feeling my emotions again, not being numb to the world, allowing myself to process the heartache that comes from being in relationship with other human beings is hard. And I am not sure I am strong enough. 

"Have I made any progress at all since I've been in treatment?" I ask her, feeling like the tension will never end, that this is push-pull between hope and the siren song of sickness will be my forever fate. 

But I feel it, even before she responds. I feel the internal shift, from the first day I walked through the doors of the treatment center resigned to hopelessness and death, to the present, contemplating what my life could look like beyond this cage of darkness and depression and disorders.  

And I thought it would feel better: I though that finding bits of hope and nourishing my body - going against the eating disorder - meant I would feel motivated and happy, not enveloped by sadness and grief, constantly conflicted between the voice of the Monster in my head and my own true self. I though that allowing myself to be human, to feel again and let down my guard and allow people in would be bright & shiny, all rainbows and butterflies and happiness. But instead it's messy and gritty and doesn't fit easily into a nice clean box. 

So here I am, unmoored and unsure, with nothing solid to hold onto, no point of reference for direction. If this is being human, I don't think I want it. I don't want the heartache and the grief and loss, don't want the fear, ever-present and overpowering.

This is the most uncomfortable place to be, half in and half out, moving towards my values but not alive quite yet, still sleepwalking through my days. When does the good part come? When do I reach the other side - or am I fated to stay in this tug-of-war forever? Where is the light at the end of the tunnel - or will it always be taking steps forward in blind faith?

The heaviness pulls me under today and I want to lay down and never open my eyes again. Happiness seems like a myth repeated through the generations to keep up our spirits, a far-fetched illusion to get us through our days without falling into utter despair. This mixture of emotions, hope and grief, longing and fear, is throwing me into chaos. I need a compass / some guide through the fog, because I want to tear these feelings out of me, dig out the dissonance and chaos and replace them with peace and centeredness and purpose. It doesn't seem like I will ever find my way out of this. I feel lost and displaced, like an immigrant in a foreign land, no sense of where I am or where to go from here. I feel so very alone in this messy middle place.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

"Though your life felt arduous
new and unmapped and strange
what would it means to stand on the first
page of the end of despair?"

- Adrienne Rich

Day 1

It is a strange feeling, waking up with the daylight bleeding through a little bit more, hope seeming to be almost, maybe, within grasp. 

The struggle has not magically disappeared - the Monster roars loud and fills my mind and knocks me to the ground again and again. But the earth underneath me has shifted a little and as I try to find my feet, I am not sure how to navigate this new world.

I am scared because this feels a bit like freedom - a weight lifted off my shoulders. I have permission now to not follow the path I felt bound to, but to actually do what I want with my life, to pursue what I love.

And just like that, the urges come on stronger than before, a longing to delve into sickness, to go back to the thick bars of the cage where it was safe and structured and I knew what to expect, to fall back into other people's truths  - boxes that I don't fit into but that were comforting  nonetheless.

But this feeling, I could fall in love with this feeling. It is relief, my first inhale above the surface, my head just barely above the water for a few sweet moments.

What if? That what she said, right? To be curious?

What if - what if, just maybe, perhaps, I could create a life where I wasn't miserable? What if I could find a job that I love and actually be happy -- but I don't know, there are so many unknowns, questions upon questions, and oh good god this could go horribly wrong. 

But even in my panic, a lingering thought: what if it doesn't? 

Day 2

The high that came immediately after That Day has left and the newness worn off and I am left to face the Monster again.

"I can't, I can't do it," I cry, my whole body shaking. I want don't want to be in this body, I want to drag my nails across my skin as though I could claw my way out, tear through flesh and blood and cut my heart loose. 

"I don't want this inside of me," I say through the tears, staring at the empty plate, wishing I could run to the bathroom and empty out the contents of my stomach. 

get it out of you

The Monster's hot anger fills my head - it's all I can hear, all that matters right now. 

The closer I get to hope, the tighter the Monster's hold gets on me, knowing that hope is a threat to its lengthy reign. I am not sure I am strong enough to stand up to a Monster, not sure that this little bit of daylight shining in is enough to beat back the darkness. 

I want a cut-and-dry answer of what the future will look like, a promise that if I choose recovery and life, that everything will go smoothly from here on out. I want it to be safe and certain and contained. 

The Monster promises me those things: safety, certainty, containment. It sings a siren song of death - peace and no more fear, no need to face the great unknown and things I am not prepared for, no need to work a crappy job or worry about finances - become a ghost-girl, slowly fading into nothingness.

Growing up I remember the idea of sitting in a cubicle for the rest of my life felt suffocating. I knew very well what I didn't want to do. I couldn't see myself in an job lists I was given in school: What do you want to be when you grow up? the paper asked me. I have no idea, I whispered back, while writing down the answers I knew they wanted to hear. Fifteen years later and I am still not sure how in the world I will survive without settling for misery. The jobs my friends work at sound soul-sucking, and if those are my options, no thank you, I'd rather take myself out of the game now than face a lifetime of toiling at something I hate. I'm not going to live a half-hearted life - my soul won't allow me that. 

All I want is to turn back around and run towards familiarity, hide from the world, avoid and never face my fears, let the Monster have full control, succumb to the deathly siren song. But my soul won't allow me that either. 

So where do I go from here? My pulse clinging desperately to hope and relief and freedom, echoes of What if What if What if swimming through my veins. And I can't live against my own soul anymore, can I? That's been the problem all along. The more I try, the further into this purgatory I push myself, keeping myself in the very thing I am afraid of: living in misery for fear of living a miserable life. 

So, as impossible as it seems, I am finding some semblance of freedom here, albeit slowly and incrementally. It seems that the more I allow myself to walk in step with myself, the closer I align with my soul, and my own truth and stop living in the boxes that have been placed upon me, the more I feel like I am able to breathe again. The breaths may be shallow and the light bleeding through may be dim, but it is something.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

"I don't like this feeling," I tell her, "I don't want to 'sit with the tension,' I want to fix it, make it go away." 

She nods - understanding, not agreement - and I want more than anything for her to tell me the magic  cure, the one that will erase the struggle and stitch my broken, fractured self back together. But I know that she doesn't have that kind of power.

From one day to another, I seem to exist somewhere between worlds, drifting from Life to Death to Life again. I am making solid strides towards staying in the realm of LIFE, eating my food and weight restoring and taking my medication and going to therapy, but I am not at all convinced. 

I have been toying with the idea of hope lately, tossing it around, tasting it on my tongue. I certainly don't feel hopeful, but the idea of hope is a tiny bit more tolerable now than it has been before. But my mind runs ahead: what if it all falls apart - what if I choose hope and trust and step out into the world holding tightly to a naive faith that things will work themselves out - what if it all shatters to pieces? Everything about the future seems impossibly big and uncertain and scary. Am I supposed to blindly believe things will be okay in the end?


All of the destructive messages I've ever received seem to live in my marrow, my bones ringing with YOU DON'T DESERVE TO EAT / TO BREATHE / TO BE as I stare at the plate of food in front of me.

"What is true for you, Lindsay?" she asks me,"Not them, not what they taught you or what they believe. What is true for you?" 

I close my eyes.

Me, in front of a crowd singing and happy and very much alive.

I open my eyes.

What is my truth? The darkness and self-hate are true. They feel true. They must be true. What is my truth? I DON'T KNOW, I want to scream. I JUST DON'T KNOW ANYMORE. Or maybe, a more terrifying answer, is that I DO, in fact, know but I am simply too scared of what it means: I'm not sure if I can be okay with not hating myself. I am not sure I can navigate the unknown of a world in which I am not less-than. 

But living in a state of constant self-denial and prostrating myself before the gods and repenting on my knees for my very existence - is that how I want to spend my life? 


The answer comes out easily, like a heavy sigh, like I've been waiting to say it for a long time.


Today the depression hangs heavy and I barely have energy to get out of bed. Today I am not strong, today I am not determined. Today I am clinging to my safety valve, fantasizing about the end, because I am scared and I am tired and my brain chemistry is not functioning well. 

It feels so counterintuitive that to get out of this suffocating darkness, aside from nourishment and taking medication, I am going to have to start living my truth. That the despair looms larger and more  ominous when I live in the truths other people have placed on me: broken / dirty / sinful. 

And this is going to hurt, digging these words out of my bones / prying out years of pain. But it can't be worse than the pervasive numbness of depression, it can't be worse than the energy-sapping weight that makes every feat seem like a Herculean task. It can't be worse than what it is now. 

I am desperate, so I'm willing to try this thing, this "finding what's true for me" thing, this "working on not hating my self quite as much" thing.

I am still somewhere between worlds, still a skeptic of Life with a Capital L, a girl tip-toeing carefully around the idea of hope and fully noncommittal on the recovery thing. But I am desperate, so I am willing. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The room is cold and white and clinical.

This is not how this was supposed to go.

I am sitting on a hard, plastic mattress, staring at a blank wall while a nurse pokes and prods and hooks me up to machines.

I was supposed to be graduating.

The nurse places a small cup filled with pills in my shaky hands.

I was supposed to be finally walking that stage, diploma in hand, after seven long years. 

I tilt my head back and toss back the pills.

I was supposed to go on to grad school and become a professional artist.

The nurse hands me a thin white blanket because I can't stop shivering, dear god, I can't stop shivering.

No, this is not how this was supposed to go.


I am curled up on the mattress now, apathetic and cold and worn-down. I do not want to move / to be / to exist. I want nothingness to engulf me, darkness to weigh down heavy over me like a blanket.

The grief comes in waves: one minute I am breathing and the next, the ache in my chest has become suffocating.

And I can't decide what hurts more: that fact that I am not graduating after all this time, or that I did not actually love what I was doing?


She sets a plate full of food in front of me.

"I'm not hungry," I tell her, "I"m full up on sadness. There's no room in there for food."

"Food is life," she says.

I push the plate away.

I do not want life, painful and terrifying life, therefore I do not want food.


It's been two weeks filled with nurses and blood draws and above-average hospital food and something is stirring inside me and I want to shove it back down, down, down, and make it go away. It is a feeling that comes around when I sing, when I write, and when I create: a feeling in my bones of scraping up against something bigger than myself.   And I am afraid of it, afraid to be connected to life again. But I want - need - to keep singing and writing and creating. Something, something I don't quite understand is burning in my bones and it won't let go of me.

It feels like - I am scared to even say the word - hope? But I am terrified of it, of what it might mean to not be dying, to be fully present to my life. Death has always been my escape hatch, my "if things get bad enough" back up plan. Hope is too fragile, too unsteady, too fleeting to hold onto. Death seems safer. Hope: the word tastes foreign in my mouth, like it doesn't belong in this malnourished, scarred up body. I know hopelessness like the back of my hand.  But hope? No - no - I can't feel this / won't feel this / can't let myself go there. 


I broke down the other night as the sadness pulled me under, and the overwhelming sense of loss was more than I could bear. I wanted to call off this "getting well" thing, say no thank you, I'm done here, this is too hard and there's no way on earth that I'm going to make it out of this alive, much less happy and healthy. So the question becomes: to feel or not to feel? To face loss and be brave and move forward or run away as fast as I can? Life or death? They say things are rarely black and white but this feels like an exception to the rule. This tension is where I live, somewhere between the polarities: needing to sing / write / create - which anchors me firmly in LIFE, and a desperate longing to sink into hopelessness. And I don't want to face things: despite what anyone says, I am not brave, I am a coward, wanting more than anything to pretend that none of this exists. I have no idea what a life beyond my limited vision of the future could even look like. I am almost ready to give up right here, wave my white flag of surrender.


I am in my room, alone for a few short moments, and I try it -  it's been so long. No one hears me, I sing so softly that it's barely above a whisper 

Way down South the Mississippi calls my name

That's all I sing - I don't attempt more for fear of being heard. But it is enough: a Deep Breath in my lungs, a steady pulse in my veins. And I am being pulled against myself, against my own mind, back to life, whether I like it or not. Maybe it's survival instinct kicking in, that my body is rebelling against my brain, or maybe, that Thing that I brush up against when I create, that spark of Otherness in my bones, is stronger than I realized. Somewhere in the midst of all this heaviness, I think I want to give that spark a little bit of space to breathe and see what happens.