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.