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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

atonement







I cried for the entirety of our fifty minute therapy session, crumpled tissues piling high next to me, after she asked me what it was exactly about the eating disorder that I did not want to go back to.

As I described to her in between sobs what is is to survive ten years of violence inflicted upon your own body, something inside of me seemed to break. Remembering the nights of raw throated agony as I kneeled before a toilet bowl to pay my penance for my sins / the days of primal hunger as my stomach burned and my muscles ached, there was a sense of sheer terror that I would ever return to that life of suffering.

And yet it pulls at me, the Monster, always calling me backwards towards sickness, towards dying, towards pain. It roars in my head that there is something unclean running through my veins that must be dug out; that I have, merely by existing, perpetrated the greatest of all crimes, transgressed the laws of the gods, and I must spend the rest of my days on my knees repenting.

I have spent a lifetime, all of my short twenty-six years on this earth, atoning for sins that I have never even committed.

Are the gods satisfied yet?

.....

"Maybe," she says slowly, weighing her words, "maybe, you have suffered enough."

I grab another tissue and hug my knees to my chest.

It is deeply violent to deprive your body of the necessary calories it needs to survive, to heave and convulse before a toilet bowl altar, to run until your body is on the verge of collapse. What is it to live through trauma that is of your own making? What is it to live through such extreme violence at your own hands? 

For so long I have numbed myself to the reality of what I was doing, but I felt the gravity of it all in that moment, telling her about how I used to lay in bed, counting my too-slow heartbeats to make sure I was still alive, all the while praying that I was not. Because, I tell her, to wake up and live another day meant listening to the Monster's orders, being a slave to Its sadistic whims and I couldn't bear that one more day. 

I choke down more tears. 

Reliving those days, those haunted days, brings up gut-wrenching pain.

Yet I have begun to listen to the Monster again lately, buying into Its silver-tongued promises and rose-colored visions of safety and control. I know better, know that the life it offers is a life against my values. 

But

It's just one snack. 
One run.
One meal.
One day.
One week.
One life.

And I can feel myself falling again, spiraling into the dark place where I cannot choose for myself but can only obey / obey / obey the Monster. 

This is not the life that I want. I don't want to go back to living as the dead, to walking around half-girl, half-ghost. I am terrified of being forced into living against myself again, committing violence against my body, directed by my mind. 

She tells me that I have a choice in this, that I am giving away my power too easily, and I don't know that I believe her. I want to, but it doesn't feel true. 

.....

Just eat your food, Lindsay, I tell myself, eat your damn food. 

I am sitting at a restaurant with friends, smiling and laughing and talking as though I were not starving myself to death. 

The full plate of food in front of me makes my stomach growl and the hunger pangs grow stronger. 

I can hear the therapist's voice in my head, Think about the life that you want. This is not what you want. 

But the voice of the Monster is loud and strong, and I feel small and weak in comparison. 

.....

"I don't know how to want to eat," I tell her. 
"You won't want to," she says, "You just have to go through the motions for a while before it gets easier." 

I open the door to the refrigerator, close it, and then open it again. 

I do not want to eat.

But I am so very tired of pain, always pain.

I am so very tired of dying. 

I am so very tired of the hellish existence of my eating disorder.

I make no promises for tomorrow, I tell her. I’m not committing myself to recovery and rainbows and sunshine. I don’t know that I am even capable of beating back the Monster for any extended length of time. The Monster’s grip on me is tight.

But maybe - I hesitate before continuing - maybe just for this one meal, I have suffered enough. 


Monday, August 7, 2017

She calls me in tears, telling me she's started using again and that can't stop, and all I want in that moment is to save her. I want to fly across the country, throw out all the drugs and make her promise to stay clean.

But I know it doesn't work that way.

"Am I destined to live in this cycle forever?" she asks me, "Relapsing and then going back to treatment only to relapse again when I leave?"

As I lay there, curled up on my couch, I don't know what to tell her. I want to pretend like my struggles are gone and that I am somehow beyond where she is. I want to convince myself I am not in the exact same place, wanting desperately to go back to my demons, to be pulled back into a vicious cycle of sickness.

.....

Sitting in dark, empty apartment after the phone call ends, I pull my blanket around my shoulders and wait for the overcast Sunday skies to break into rain.

I've been flirting with death again lately, letting myself slip here and there, justifying it all by saying it's just one time, what does it really matter?

I know where this path leads, know that this ends in shivering cold misery and obsessive weight loss, that it ends in hospitals and feeding tubes and months and months of trying to undo the damage. Maybe that's the point, though. Maybe that's what I am subconsciously moving towards.  Because I miss it. Yes, In some twisted way, I miss being sick.  I miss living in a mental fog, not being able to think straight or concentrate on anything. I miss lacking energy, feeling faint, feeling like I was on a high when I didn't eat for days. And most of all, I miss dying.

On the spectrum of life and death, I have hovered on the side of death for the past ten years. There was something comforting in not having to face the world, in hiding behind sickness and death. Not having to deal with pain and past trauma, not having to feel, not having to know what it is to be human; the eating disorder was a safe haven, a protection from a terrifying world.

When I existed in a too-small, fragile body, it felt as if there wasn't room in my body for the pain. As though the less mass I took up on the planet, the less space there was for the hurt. As though I could starve myself small enough to not feel, starve myself small enough to rid myself of my trauma.
.....

Despite all of the hard work I've done over the past few months, all of the intensive therapy and self-reflection, the pull is strong to go back to what was killing me. The siren song of the disorder is lulling me towards the water's edge, calling me deeper and deeper in, lulling me towards drowning.

"There are so many good things in your life," the woman tells me, "you have so many opportunities that are life-giving. You have to be healthy for those to happen. You can't have both sickness and your dreams."

She is right that I cannot have those things without being healthy, but being healthy is strange and disorienting. Being closer to the side of Life is uncharted territory and I'm not sure that I like it. I long for the familiarity of a dying body. I don't know how to live in this new place, a place where I use my words to be heard rather than my physical self.

I am so afraid of being okay, of not being in crisis, of stability and health.

I am so afraid of having the power in my own life.

.....

"You spend all your time escaping and avoiding," says the therapist, "and you're never really present in your own life." 

I started to run back to the eating disorder a few days ago, deciding to relapse and let myself lose control to the Monster again. I would have kept going for as long as I could hold out when a friend reached out to me and asked to talk. In that moment, I had a choice to make: to show up for my friendships, to be fully present and have deep, meaningful conversations with people I care about, or lose myself in the haze of starvation, becoming a ghost of a woman again, never really there.

I chose, this time, to be present.

There is something to that, I think. The most powerful moments in my recovery process have been when people have been fully present with me in my experiences of suffering and pain, walking alongside of me through the darkness. There is something there, something important about the idea that presence brings healing.

But for myself, I have avoided presence like the plague, running from anything that makes me feel my emotions, and when pushed to an uncomfortable place, dissociating to protect myself. The eating disorder, in it's desperate attempts to avoid the present moment, has caused me to become so disconnected from my own self, from my body and my own internal experiences.

But what I want - meaningful connections with other people - requires me to show up. It asks of me what I am most afraid of doing: experiencing the range of human emotions in all of its messy glory. It asks me to stop running, always running, from pain.

This healing isn't one sided though: I am healed through the presence of others as much as through my own home-coming to my body and emotions. It is in this dual relationship of fully embodied presence that I am beginning to mend, bit by bit.

I don't know if I'll ever stop missing the sickness fully, or ever really get over the desire to go back to it. But I believe deeply in the power of presence. Not as a magic cure, as if such a thing existed, but as something to hold onto in the midst of the storm. 



Saturday, March 25, 2017

"You seem... brighter," she tells me, as we sit across from each other in her office. I am sitting cross-legged on a blue couch, fidgeting with necklace that I was given up graduation from the treatment center. 

"I've felt it too," I say, "Something has shifted."

It's been two weeks since I left treatment, two weeks of fear and uncertainty and change, but, somehow, two weeks of staying the path of recovery. 

This is a strange new world, like emerging from a fog and not remembering what it felt like to be able to see clearly, trying to navigate this landscape with new eyes. I am used to stumbling around in the dark / I am used to the phrase "you can't see it now, but there is hope" / I am used to having to trust the words of others, having move forward despite not knowing or seeing or tasting freedom myself. 

But in this place, this uncharted territory of recovery and health, I feel an unexplainable sense of peace and centeredness. 

There was a time in the not so distant past when the very idea of hope seemed dangerous, too delicate to trust, too flimsy to grasp onto. The word itself tasted strange on my tongue, like it didn't belong in this worn-down body. And somehow, somehow I am here, now, letting hope, that scariest of words, flood my being / run it's wild course through my veins. It's not that I'm suddenly sunshine and rainbows about life - that will never be my story. But hope doesn't seem quite so foreign now, quite so terrifying and far off. 

I'm not sure how to live anymore. 

Ten years of the disease and suddenly it's like I've woken up from a dream to find myself in Life again. There is no roadmap for where to go from here, how to learn to take my first steps again, speak my first words, start over in the process of being human. 

I should be more afraid than I am right now.

There is so much that could fall through, go terribly wrong. This is a place of complete unknown, territory I have never treaded before. 

And yet I feel an overwhelming sense of calm. 

I am finally living in line with my own self, my soul no longer in chaos or dissonance from living against my very heart. 

That's not to say I'll never struggle again, or never fall back into the waiting arms of the eating disorder.  I am not naive enough to believe the fight is won. The temptation is still present at every meal and I don't know that that will ever fully go away. But the pull of Life is stronger right now, and it is resurrecting me.

I don't remember the last time I felt hopeful, the last time I felt grounded and at a peace, but I think I might just like it.

Monday, March 20, 2017

her office is dimly lit with a small fountain on a table in the corner and a red blanket on the chair and it is all supposed to soothe me, all of the ambience, supposed to make me feel safe and at peace. But instead what I feel is the sadness and the fear and overwhelming sense of dread that I will relapse as soon as I discharge from the treatment program.

"the thing that's missing, lindsay, is a willingness to tolerate the fear," says the therapist and I stare at the carpet and nod. It's not new information that she's telling me: I know full well that I am running, making bargains with the devil again in an attempt to not feel the panic about what's in front of me. And I am trying to prove her wrong, trying to eat when god knows it is the last thing I feel like doing, trying to move towards my future when every last inch of me wants to let the paralyzing fear overtake me. I am doing the right things, acting opposite to my emotion, using my "skills" and reaching out and moving in the direction of Life, but I remain unconvinced that this whole recovery thing is worth it.

I cross and uncross my legs, avoid eye contact and squeeze a stress ball that I grab from her basket of gadgets.

It will be worth it, she promises, it will, Lindsay, but my god, how am I supposed to trust that? how am I supposed to go on in blind faith that things will turn out okay? all I can see in front of me is chaos and uncertainty, things that seem to be falling apart. Everything that once anchored me is is not enough to hold this together / hold me together.

The problem I run up against is that I want evidence, I want indisputable proof that this is worth it, but the only way I get that evidence is by moving forward and living despite the uncertainty. It is a dilemma I face every time I contemplate recovery, the wall I hit when I move out into the world: this overwhelming, all-consuming fear that life is not, in fact, worth living. I want to know that if I am about to throw all of my energy into this thing, put every last bit of my fire behind this, that it is going to be worth fighting for, that on the other side of this is a life that I will want to be present in.


.....

I know the life that I want. I know the life I dream about living.

But I am in the unbelievably frustrating place of knowing and not having, holding a vision of the future but being forced to live in the painful present. The present is the part I want to escape from and not face: the only way out is through: I don't want that to be true. I want to have a way to get to the life I dream of living by going around the hard stuff, avoiding the scary moments and hard decisions and discomfort.

And I know that that isn't how any of this works. I know that by facing what I am afraid of I am paving the way to the life that I want. But the fear: dear god, the fear. It threatens to choke the life right out of me, squeezing the air out of my aching lungs.

.....

Today is heavy.


It's been one week since I left the treatment program and I can barely drag myself out of bed to make coffee because that sounds like it would take too much energy. The world looks grey today and the fear is pressing on me like a weight and I am desperately trying to remind myself why it is important to eat and breathe and live. I want to crawl back under the bed covers and hide there forever.


I have a choice to make - to stay in that which is safe and comfortable and risk-free and never have to feel the discomfort of fear and heartache and shame, or to confront the fear head-on and potentially move into a meaningful life. I know what my heart is pushing for, know what answer my truest self would give, but I don't know if I am brave enough to choose it. 

It's been a long, lonely week, living a life that is not quite recovery but not quite sickness either. The self-destructive voices call me backwards, pulling at me, promising me relief and numbness to the fear and chaos I feel. So far I've been holding them at bay, finding little reasons why I can't starve myself today. But I'm not sure how much longer I can hold out, how long those little reasons will be stronger than the Fear, stronger than my desire to escape / hide / avoid / not feel. I feel like I am on the brink, teetering between worlds, between falling back into the disorder and falling headfirst into my life. It seems that all it would take is a little push in either direction to send me over the edge.

.....

I remember telling her just a few weeks ago that I wanted my power back, saying that I was tired of having a life controlled by other people. I remember how good it felt to imagine a life of my own, outside of their beliefs and words and strict ideas about who I should be. It feels like that piece of me, that deep, guttural place, gets buried when I'm faced with fear and uncertainty about the future. Suddenly, all of the work that I've done gets thrown out the window and I am turn myself over to be a prisoner to the Fear. 

But I'm doing it again, aren't I? Giving over my power to someone or something else? When I was younger, it was family and religion, and later it was the eating disorder, and now, now, it is Fear that has the power over my life. And I am so tired of not choosing my own life, worn down and worn out of giving myself over my power to that which doesn't deserve to be running the show. I want to "belong deeply to myself," as the the poet Warsan Shire wrote, to be my own person and no one else's. 

I don't know how to stop being afraid. Right now, fear is large and monstrous and clings to me like a shadow. I don't know how to get rid of that, dig it out of me and throw it far, far away. All I know is that I must begin to live anyways, in spite of the fear, to spite the fear, to refuse to be ruled by anyone else by my true self. I don't even know what that looks like really, except getting up every day anyways, getting up when I want the world to stop spinning, getting up and trying again, throwing out the pills and the razors as back up plans, and continuing to live.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

"What does it look like for you to have the power in your own life?" the therapists asks me. It's been a week now since I last thought about death, a week since I sat with the pills in my hand contemplating silence and nothingness and stopping the fight altogether. 

And I think of the lines from a Marge Piercy poem:

"She must learn again to speak
starting with I
starting with WE
starting as the infant does
with her own true hunger
and pleasure
and rage."

I don't think I've ever truly known what is is to be control of my own life. I lived for years under the oppressive weight of other people's beliefs, controlled by fear and shame and swallowing down my own thoughts and desires as I tried to make myself less. I remember the nights of guilt-induced sickness, trying to rid myself of the sinful parts of me. And I wonder what it is to live free from their reign, free from the grimy fingers always pulling on my skin, tugging me back, back into their dark world. I wonder what it is to not be owned by anyone, Monsters or men, except myself.

.....

"I can't stop," I say. "I have to lose weight / self destruct / set myself on fire. It helps, oh god, I know it shouldn't, but it helps." 

As I began to move towards Life and recovery and hope, the fear's grip on me got stronger and the Monster roared louder and I grabbed hold of the eating disorder as tightly as I could. I found comfort in the arms of rules and structure and certainty, respite in letting someone else run the show. There was an escape in allowing The Monster to be in the driver's seat. But sweet Jesus, for the sake of all that is good and beautiful in this world, I have to say that I am so very, very tired of being told what to do. I am tired of my body being passed like an offering to the gods, of being bound and tied to the altar and burned alive as a sacrifice. I am tired of belonging to everyone else, tired of being the main course for their never-ending appetites.

I want, I think, to determine my own life: not let their twisted words rule me forever, not let the messages of shame haunt me till I die.

For years they told me I was tainted and broken, taught me to make myself small and shrink away from thinking too much of myself lest I commit the sin of pride. Their words wrap around me like heavy chains, the weight of them sinking me to the bottom of the sea. I am drowning in these voices that lay claim to my soul. What would it mean then, to live out my own truth? To cut myself loose and swim to the surface? What would it mean to taste the first breath of air in my lungs as I live in alignment with my own desperate heart? 

My own power: it is so unfamiliar to even consider it, such strange and uncharted territory that I'm not sure which direction to go. I'm not completely sure I want to be in control. Holding the reigns of my own life is simultaneously liberating and terrifying.  And it comes on suddenly, the sickness nostalgia, the rose-colored images of what things used to be: memories of hospital gowns and feeding tubes and a cold burrowed so deep in my bones that no amount of heat can make me feel warm -- and I miss it, miss disappearing into thin air, miss the safety and support of treatment, miss the days of not having to face the problems of the Real World because I was too lost in a fog of the disorder. The glazed over, sugar-coated images of what life was like inside of the disorder are tempting, drawing me in and towards that world of the unwell -- but somehow, despite it all, my heart is pushing pushing pushing for something else. It is desperately beating inside of me, pulsing to be free and owned by no one, no words, no beliefs, no Monsters. 

.....

"You can't avoid life forever," she says and I want to argue with her, tell her that I am, in fact, capable of long-term avoidance. But I know that is not what she means: she and I both know that I can hold on to this disease till it inevitably kills me. She means that if I want to live, with a capital L, I will eventually have to face what I have been consistently turning away from in favor of the disorder, looking directly into the eyes of that which terrifies and paralyzes me. 

The only way out it through 


Over the past few months, I have clarified the direction I want me life to go in, analyzed to bits the motivating and grounding forces in my life, and yet when theory comes to action there is a disconnect: of course I want Life and hope and happiness / I do not eat my food; I want to travel and sing and have a family / there I am, kneeling before the toilet again. It seems that no matter how much work I do in therapy, the Monster is always stronger, more desirable. And just like that I begin to sink into despair again,  believing that I will never get out of this dark place, believing that this is all there is, as good as it gets - and dear lord if that's the case, I want off this ride.

I am fooling no one: I am not happy here. I am in chaos, my bleeding heart incapable of being ignored, but me, here, still trying my hardest to stop it up nonetheless. I am denying who I am with each meal skipped, each bruised bit of skin, each bloodied blade. I am suppressing that spark of light, that Something Else that comes around when I sing and write and create. She calls it passion (I call it magic) and says that it is what makes life meaningful and that I should pursue it with everything inside of me. The spark pulls at me, pulses through me, calling me back to surface. In each small moment of inflated lungs I feel a tug of hope, a reminder that this is what I was created to do: create. When I refuse my own identity as an artist, suppress my creativity and return to the eating disorder, I betray my own soul.  How long can I - will I - keep denying who I am?

My own power: there is no "taking back" to be done, since it was never mine in the first place. But coming into my own power, owning myself for the first time in my life: where in the world do I even begin? To be powerful, to be a free agent, to have autonomy and belong to me and me alone / this is what I want, what I long for in my most honest moments. It begins with food, of course, and kindness towards myself, since that goes against every message They gave me and the Monster's loud raging voice. But it's going to be so much more than food and not destroying my body. It's going to be embracing a family of choice, surrounding myself with a community because I deserve more than isolation and loneliness. It going to be practical things like being proactive in taking steps towards building a future life that I would want to live in. It is owning my artist identity and pursuing my passions with ferocity.

When I think of power, I think of Toni Morrison's words about love: "Don't think I fell for you, or  fell over you. I didn't fall in love, I rose in it."  There is a rising that must happen if I am to become my own: a rising into an identity that I have been running from, a rising to face the lingering, ever-present Fear, a rising into self-possession and a stubborn refusal to allow anyone else's beliefs define my actions or self worth. I don't believe that deep down I want to continue to be dragged along, bound to their truths forever, a slave to the messages that they gave me. I must rise, must become, must liberate myself somehow:

: if only I knew how - how to motivate myself to stop listening to the old tapes that play in my head, how to treat myself with respect and care, how to find safety in something other than destruction. It seems that no matter how motivated my mind may be, the Monster is stronger, looms larger, fights dirtier. I may know that what I want is liberation and wholeness and agency, but that doesn't suddenly mean that I am free, doesn't guarantee that I am strong enough to fight back and escape the clutches of the Monster. Here, in this place, I feel enslaved to the disorder, to living against my values and beliefs and desires and passions. I don't know what will get me out of this place. I am dying an internal death as I obsess over calories and how much I've walked and How Little Can I Eat Today?  I don't know how to claw my way out of the trenches this time,  I don't know how to tune out my demons; I only know that the longer I go on, the more desperate I feel - the more my heart screams in my chest, pounding, raging against my ribcage to be let loose. I don't know how to get free, I only know that I need it.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

I can see the moon through the slats of the blinds, my fingers moving across the keyboard that's pushed up against the window, my voice soft and low as I whisper-sing my pain out into the night.

In between verses of songs of lost-loves, I am swallowing down tears that are fighting to get out, trying to keep myself from drowning in the sadness. This love that I've lost, I'm not sure I ever had. 

They say that relationships are always messy and families especially so. But does it always hurt this much? It came on like an explosion: unexpected and sudden and me, hiding in the corner like a scared child in the debris-laden aftermath. 

I don't know what I did wrong, where I went wrong, what I could have done to cause such a seemingly irreparable rift between us, but it seems to always come back to me: me, the broken one, me, the stubborn, hard-hearted one, me the one unable to let people close.

Last night I sat with a bottle of pills in my shaky hand and considered swallowing them all, considered ending this right here, right now. Changes are coming this week, likely difficult and life-altering changes, and I would rather not give my family that power over me. I would rather take it into my own hands then let them decide how my life will go. There are moments, fleeting thoughts of how they would regret treating me this way if I were gone / see my sickness and pain for what they are instead of using my disorder as their scapegoat for the family's dysfunction, a "fine, I'll show you," mentality. The thoughts of death come on strong and forceful, and it took every ounce of self-control to pour the pills back into the bottle. I know, even as I look longingly at that bottle that it's not death I crave so much as escape from feeling powerless to the whims of other people, to their push-and-pulls on my life, to their narratives of my journey, to their distorted perceptions of who I am. 

Waking up today to the bright light of morning I can barely move my weary body, much less force food down my throat. The world feels too heavy today for my two small shoulders to bear. I want to lie down and give up. 

She tells me that not eating will not solve the problems in my relationships: but it will, I think, it will if I do it for long enough, enough for my frail body to give out and end this battle. 

There is a Monster inside of my head and monsters outside of it as well. Death then, in some twisted way, seems to be the most logical way out. It is the ultimate grab at power: no one gets to have a say over me or my body, no one gets to move me around like a pawn in their games. To quote the poet Warsan Shire, "I belong deeply to myself." 

But there is still a logical voice somewhere in the caverns of my mind, though it is often overshadowed and shouted down by the Monster, that says that allowing my decisions to be dictated by the decisions of others, living my life only in reactions, is still giving over my power to them. That belonging to myself means something more than escapism and numbing, more than destroying myself to prove that they don't own me. 

I don't know then, where to go from here except that eating and self-care have to be weapons, have to be not a sign of powerlessness but of agency and refusal to play by their games. I have been letting their beliefs about me sink me under again, that I am the prodigal, problem-child, broken and bitter and cold-hearted, and the sadness and weight of it all takes me to the bottom of the abyss again. By moving towards death, I have been letting their words, their beliefs own me. Wholeness and health, then, are living in line with myself and my truths, defying their story about who I am. The changes are coming over the next few days and I want to run away, self-destruct until I no longer exist. I am frightened and angry and scrambling for something to hold onto, some way to not be controlled. But surrendering my power to them, letting them define who I will be and whether I live, is not that way. They don't deserve that power / they don't deserve to decide my fate / don't deserve to have their words echoing in my brain, the messages of inadequacy and failure carved into my heart. 

Until I am back on solid ground again, until I can find motivation inside of myself to nourish my body out of care and compassion, I eat as a refusal to be defined by anyone but myself. I eat in defiance of their ideas of me, the ones that say I don't deserve good things, that I am not enough. I eat until I am the one in control again, I am the one - me and only me - deciding what happens to this body and in my life. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

It's 8:00 pm on a Wednesday night and I'm already in bed, too bone-tired to attempt to continue with an semblance of productivity. My head is pounding and my mind struggling to form coherent thoughts through the fogginess, the direct result of my recent lack of self care. When I began to feel my anxiety rising and my fear about the future coming on like a flood, my first instinct was to set myself on fire / self destruct rather than feel / burn my body to the ground rather than move towards the unknown. 

"It just doesn't fit anymore, Lindsay," she says. "You're trying to fit a square peg into a round whole. It's why you're feeling so much dissonance: it doesn't fit." 

We're sitting in her dimly lit office and I am anxiously tapping my foot and staring at the floor and wiping away the stray tears that escape my eyes.

I desperately want her to be wrong, want to know that using the eating disorder will function as it always has and that I can starve myself without any amount of conscience setting in. That I can use my tried and true destructive coping skills without falling into chaos and despair. But I know better: I know that I have too much awareness of what I believe and who I am to not feel utterly hopeless when I go against my values and beliefs, when I cut myself off from the things that I am passionate about, that which is life-giving and life-affirming. When it's 2 a.m. and I am lying on the floor of my apartment in the darkness wishing nothing more than to not exist, it's not because I truly want to die. It's because I am betraying every part of my heart, every last part of it, by giving in to the disorder. It's because I am disobeying my own beliefs about how human beings deserve to be treated; it's because the Monster shuts off / stops up every creative valve, everything that brings me LIFE. 

"But I don't want to eat. I want to lie down and give up." I tell her, choking down a sob and reaching for another tissue.
"I don't believe you," she says. "I believe that your eating disorder wants that. But you? You want to live."

I think, despite the abusive voice in my head telling me otherwise, that she is probably right. That I do want a life beyond this: a life of music and writing and art, a life of friends and loving community and relationship. 

But my mind is not suddenly free, no longer a battleground, no longer in tension. I am still in a constant tug-of-war between me with a Capital M, and the abusive Monster in my head.

So here I am, trying to find some catalyst to move me to action, catapult me into recovery, rather than passively allowing myself to drown again and again. But I know it's never worked that way, not once.  Motivation, for me, has never fallen out of the sky - I have always, for a time, had to act against my own mind, choosing movement before the internal fight and fire were present. "Opposite action," she says, when I tell her I want to feel it before I do it. "You just do it, Lindsay." 

It's too hard to think clearly right now, my mind hazy from starvation and medication withdrawal, but I trust her, and that is something. It is something to know that if I continue to go down the path of self-destruction and sickness, it is a deep betrayal of who I am and everything I hold dear. It is something to know that the eating disorder cuts me off from art and writing and singing, causing me an internal death. It is something to know all of this and then be able to choose: sickness or life, food or starvation, hope or despair. 





Wednesday, February 1, 2017

It's February in Texas and the weather is perfect today, sunny and mild, and I'm sitting on my porch wondering how my internal state could be in such opposition to the beauty outside of me.

Today the war in my mind is loud, raging, raining fire and bombs and screams of death and destruction. the Fear has tightened it's grip on my heart, squeezing till all the passion and hope and life are drained out and pooled in some dark, unknowable corner of myself. 

There's a plant on my porch directly across from me that I forgot to water for months: it is dry and cracked and withered, and and I look at in kinship, a fellow barren, beat-down life-form. "Me too, buddy," I say to the plant, "me too."

I understand what it feels like to want to lay down and give up, to be tempted follow that siren song to the edge of the cliff, even if I know I will be dragged under that dark water in the end. This place is one of uncertainty and dis-ease and I run back, like a scared child, to that which I know is safe and secure, all the while knowing that it will destroy me in the end. This is the place where I must decide, choose sides / this is what everything has been leading up to: do I go backwards, throw myself back to the waiting arms of the eating disorder? Back to a life of sickness that is predictable and numbing and cuts me off from my soul? Or do I break the cycle by moving towards the Fear, towards the giant grey unknown space in front of me to that which could potentially bring me LIFE - and, in that same breath, potentially also bring chaos and pain? I am afraid of everything that is in front of me right now and my instinct is to become small and disappear into nothingness and not face that which looms large in my mind. 

I know the "right" answer,  know the logical arguments, and, if I'm honest, I even know what my soul is telling me to do.  But the Fear, the Fear, always the Fear: it eats away me, ripping through each argument with a solid dose of panic and BUT WHAT IFs. I am stuck in the in-between again, stretched thin between doing what every cell in my body believes is right and giving in to the overwhelming, far-reaching, all-consuming Fear.

I am frozen in time : frozen in fear : unable to move past this

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The world has gone mad, it seems.

It is my first week of the step down from a "higher level of care", being weaned off of the treatment center slowly but surely, going only a few days a week rather than living there twenty-four seven. It is also the first week of a new, potentially fascist president, and it seems that all of my fears on a personal and societal level are being validated. These days I find myself hiding in uncertainty and fear, making a home in paralysis and overwhelming anxiety, too incapacitated to accomplish anything meaningful in my life.

I am afraid of everything, from relapsing and being in the throes of the Monster forever  to fear for my friends facing discrimination and oppressive policies. I've been told that fear is a healthy response to change and transition and potential danger, but this angst is eating me alive. I am deteriorating : disintegrating : crumbling under the weight of this.

I am not sure how to turn myself to stone to protect my heart from the corrosive effects of fear and feeling everything so deeply.

They throw out catchy phrases like, "feel the fear and do it anyway" but the words fall flat when I am faced with this new reality: facing a world that is terrifying and strange and where I may not be strong enough to stand, and simultaneously facing a world where injustice abounds and my friends need me to stand and be strong enough to fight for them.

I feel myself pulled back into the tension once more, finding myself caught in the middle of the spectrum of LIFE and DEATH. And while I've made so many steps in treatment anchoring me firmly on the side of LIFE, this Fear with a capital F claws at me, yanking me back towards the darkness, back towards self-destruction and despair. 

I don't know who or what to turn to: What do I hold onto these days? What's pumping air into my lungs? What will be the story of my survival? 

I close my eyes and take a deep breath and pull my fuzzy purple blanket up around my shoulders and think of how I got to this place, how I started eating again and how I pushed through each meal and how I began to heal my own wounds.

And I remember the staff at the treatment center bringing over a keyboard to the hospital so that I could play, so that I could sing. It was my antidote to the meals that I thought were going to kill me, it was my refuge after difficult conversations in family therapy, it was one place where the anxiety dissipated and I felt at peace. And I remember reading my spoken word pieces to the therapist, feeling confident and grounded for the first time in ages. I remember writing till I felt like the pain was out of me, till it was on paper and I could breathe again.

There is an Andrea Gibson poem that says "We have to create. It is the only thing louder than destruction." 

That is my answer, at least for right now: not turning my heart to stone, but creating. I have to create.  I have to. I have to pursue art with everything in me, dive into that which is holding me and pulsing through my veins lifelifelife. 

No cheesy platitudes will help right now - the fear is too strong and the world too bleak. But I can create, countering destruction and uncertainty with the best weapons in my toolbox.


Sunday, January 8, 2017

"Liminal space: the space in-between, the transformation period, the point between wound and healing, the space between an inciting incident and the protagonist's resolution, a period of discomfort and waiting."

I'm sitting on the concrete sidewalk in an empty parking lot across from the treatment center. It's 70 degrees outside in Texas in  January and I sit with my face towards the sun, soaking in the rays, breathing in fresh air and wondering, wondering where in the world I go from here.

Next week I begin my transition from the treatment center back to my real life outside, back to a world that I'm not sure I can handle. This is the place where the rubber meets the road, where words and theory become action. This is where I test out my own strength, try standing on these shaky legs and see if I can walk. I know that I am not the same person who walked in through those sliding glass doors two months ago. I have done so much deep, core work within these hospital walls. But what if that isn't enough?  What if that doesn't translate to action, what if I fall flat on my face and don't get back up again?
.....

"What was different this time around?" she asks me, a well-meaning question that I have yet to find a good way to answer. She is right to be skeptical that this time will be any different: I've been in treatment many times and subsequently relapsed many times. She is right to wonder. I mean, what the hell, sometimes I wonder those same things myself. But I also know with certainty that things inside of me have changed the last few months. I'm not quite sure how to begin to describe to someone the internal shifts that have taken place over the past seventy days, how to tell her that the world looks a little different now, how I am a little bit different now, how you explain to someone an intangible internal movement back towards LIFE, a resurrection of sorts, a profound transformation of a once-ghost-girl. I'm not fixed or healed or recovered, but I am more integrated and centered and whole. I am not happy and sparkly sunshine and glitter, but I am grounded and anchored and living more in line with my soul. I can't give her what she wants, straightforward, objective evidence that I will not relapse again this time, that this time the treatment will stick. I can't give her the answers she craves. But I don't think healing works like that anyways. It's rarely nice and clean and boxed together perfectly into easy answers. I can't give her what she wants, but what I would tell her is this: after years of feeling fragmented, I finally am beginning to feel like I am stitching myself back together. The dissonance that once consumed me has begun to die down, and I am finally - Jesus, finally! - beginning to feel whole.

.....

I am living in the liminal space, no longer in chaos, feeling more cohesive and aligned than before, but not on the other side of this war yet either. I am a girl in the in-between, stuck in the tension of what is and what is not yet, caught in the middle of a life that I want and the life that I have. I feel the constant pull and the dull ache and the growing pains of Becoming. But it is more tolerable now. I feel like I should be more afraid than I am. The fear is still there: of the change, of the unknown, of being alone, forever alone, and falling back into the throes of the Monster. But I am also not nearly as afraid as I expected I would be. Here, in this space, for a few moments, I almost feel at peace.

... And just like that, my mind starts spinning again, the peacefulness interrupted by all of possible scenarios of how things that could go terribly wrong. I long for certainty and structure and to know that I will be okay / deep breath / but thing is, I do know that. I know that I will be okay, and the image comes back to me, the image that has held me for a while: weaving. This is the image I turn to repeatedly when my mind starts to run wild. My statement of faith says that I believe in a a god who takes the messy, frayed threads of my life and weaves them together into something whole and beautiful, moving each piece with care and intention. It's not that I believe that everything happens for a reason - I don't - but it's that I believe that she-who-is can take the darkest threads and work them into this masterfully crafted tapestry. That she takes the messy threads that I hand her and weaves them together for beauty and healing, both in my life and in the entire world. My friend calls it "tenacious hope" to believe that things will work out, that we will all be okay and that god is in this somehow. Maybe it's naive, but I have to hold onto that stubborn, tenacious hope. It carries me, holds me, guides me and gives me fight to keep eating my meals.

So as I continue to walk in this liminal space and until I reach the other side, may I remember my truths: I am not alone. I have people around me who care about me me very much. she is with me, always, guiding, empowering, encouraging, holding. I am loved, deeply and without exception. I am part of creation and deserve kindness and care and reverence. she is weaving these threads into something magnificent. And finally, no matter what comes, I am going to be okay.