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.