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