“I don’t get many things right the first time. In fact, I am told that a lot. Now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls brought me here. And where was I before the day that I first saw your lovely face? Now I see it every day. And I know that I am, I am, I am the luckiest.”- the Luckiest, Ben Folds Five
Dearest Wee Bee,
I know I write every single year on this date…like clockwork, February 15th approaches and I do my best to try to make sense about what, exactly, happened that day. Why February 15th, 2008? Why then? And, why me?
This year though, I have to admit that I’m finally realizing that words are not really enough. But I do wonder, are they ever really and truly enough? Can they capture a feeling so intense that you yourself cannot even name it, let alone explain it?
How do I explain how I felt, all those years ago? I remember an intense fight deep inside, struggling back with everything I had against an insidious voice that kept telling me I wasn’t good enough, that I was too much, that I wasn’t deserving of anything except shame. I remember exhaustion, weary right to and through my bones. I remember that I was getting tired of fighting something that felt like a losing battle (although this definitely does not mean that I was ready to give in, or give up). I was free-falling, a term to describe what happens when someone is battling against ED and the body simply can’t, in spite of everything that it tries to do, hold onto weight any longer. With every bit of weight that my body was losing, ED was winning. I’ve never admitted that before, Zoe, but it seems, that in hitting eight years free from ED (in my case, in the form of anorexia nervosa), the mirror is finally reflecting back the truth. And it felt, increasingly, as though ED was, quite possibly, the only way. Not because ED was a choice (believe me when I say that ED is never a choice– why would someone choose to dance with a partner as abusive as ED? The answer is simple: we don’t), but because it was so hard to keep fighting against something that seemed determined to claim my body as its own.
And yet, the clearest memory I have from this time is a voice in my head, whispering, chanting, sometimes screaming, as I walked outside in the extreme cold, bundled up in layer upon layer upon layer in a desperate attempt to feel the tiniest bit of warmth in my chronically chilled body. “You’re not going to die, you’re not going to die, you’re not going to die…” Over and over and over, these words kept me company. Over and over and over, I fought, not to die. My own self, buried deep in the rubble and ruins, was begging me not to die.
There is a difference though, Zoe, in fighting not to die, and in choosing to live. On February 15th, 2008, I chose to live. And it is a choice that I make, every single moment, of every single day. Choosing to live was the hardest thing that I have ever, ever done in my entire life. Choosing to live meant the possibility of feeling; meant the possibility of falling; meant the possibility of failing. And that felt so very, very scary.
Well, eight years in, I am here to say that while it still feels scary from time to time, it mostly feels so incredibly wonderful that I can’t even begin to describe it. Feeling joy, feeling pain, feeling sadness, feeling happiness so deep that it bubbles up out of my belly? Incredibly wonderful, all of it. Falling means that I have taken an incredible risk, and now have the opportunity to dust myself off and leap, again. Such an incredibly wonderful gift to be able to fall. Failing? Failing means that the universe is saying: nope, try a different path, a different way. Kind of like with ED. I was losing, and the universe pointed me in a different direction. I’d say that that’s not only incredibly wonderful, but also incredibly lucky. And while I can’t say why, exactly, I am one of the lucky ones, I can say with one hundred and ten percent certainty that I am determined not to squander this gift, this luck, this chance at a new life. Those who came before me and those who come after me, in this battle against ED…I owe it to them, to you, and most importantly, to me…to keep choosing life, every single day.
I am so, so lucky, Zoe. Eight years ago, I was given a second chance at life. Not everyone is so lucky. Not everyone wakes up and looks in the mirror and sees her lovely face, every day, and truly believes that it is lovely: not because it’s conventionally or unconventionally beautiful, but simply because it is her one and only face, that she fought for and won, on that cold morning, so many years ago. Not everyone turns and looks over at the wee bee snuggled beside her, and smiles because she realizes that not only is her own face, filled with laugh lines and beautiful scars, lovely, but so is the littlest face smiling back at her.
I am the luckiest.