Missing the Vulnerability that Was Our Oxygen

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetI miss treatment.

I get it, that’s probably a weird thing to hear if you’ve never experienced any sort of treatment.

But oh man, I miss it.

I miss waking up everyday to my very best friends.

I miss grumbling on gown mornings and everyone waiting in line to pee because heaven forbid you get weighed with a full bladder.

I miss gathering in a circle with everyone and praying before we started our day.

I miss being first table at breakfast so that I was for sure to able to get vanilla yogurt instead of nasty plain.

I miss the structure of my entire day being planned for me and knowing what to expect.

I miss a nurse giving me my medicine in a little paper cup.

I miss sitting in group four times a day curled up in my Disney blanket.

I miss making art in every free second that I got.

I miss nap time. Literally. 18 years old and I got to take a nap everyday. #blessed

I miss sitting in the rocking chairs on the porch and just dreaming of life post treatment.

I miss complaining of how disgusting Hermacita was but secretly loving it when she showed us attention.

I miss therapy sessions in the nap house (still no one knows why it’s called the nap house).

I miss looking for totem teddies at afternoon snack (I never got one till post discharge).

I miss watching the first 30 minutes of Mamma Mia every afternoon.

I miss the feeling of not being picked to do culinary group (HECK YEA, two free art hours!).

I miss playing Contact at dinner.

I miss doing Food & Feelings in pig latin.

I miss the excitement seeing the RPA walk back to the nurse’s office and knowing that she was going to get the box of our phones for phone time.

Heck, I miss my phone being locked up in a box all day and having only an hour each night to talk to friends and family (no social media though!). What a break from the real world.

I miss Phreddy updates at Community (or ommunity-cay as we liked to announce it as).

I miss finally being able to take night showers.

I miss everyone cuddling up on mine and Mandy’s beds in Dragon and having our nightly pow-wows before we were yelled at to go to bed.

I miss turning on the sound machine before we went to sleep.

I just miss it.

I miss the comfort of being there.

I miss the comfort of being able to fully feel my emotions, and having no shame if I randomly burst out into tears in group or at dinner or during phone time or even just sitting on the couch.

I miss being with people who get it.

Those girls were my people. Are my people. Most people aren’t lucky enough to have a good group of girls surrounding them in treatment. But man, I was blessed to have met so many beautiful souls, most of whom I still talk to and am close with today. They’re still my favorite people I have ever encountered in this life. No exaggeration. They are my people.

But I miss the comfort of our yellow bubble. I miss knowing that I always had 15 other people that I could talk to when things got tough. I miss the community.

Glennon [always] says it best. “I tell them that the first time I peeked out of my cage was in the mental hospital. Since it was a smaller world with gentler rules, I felt safe being vulnerable. People wore their scars on the outside, so you knew where they stood. There were no representatives there. It was such a relief to stop acting. There were rules about how to listen well and speak kindly. We learned how to dance and paint and write our feelings instead of eat and drink them. We held hands when we were afraid. I cried when I had to leave.”

Yes.

I miss living without a representative.

I miss simply being me,

emotions

and

all.

I miss being in a place where crying was okay.

I miss being in a place where no one thought twice if you were having a hard day.

I miss being in place where I was not expected to be happy.

I miss being in a place where I was not guilted or shamed if my day was cloaked in depression.

I miss being in a place where I didn’t feel like I had to apologize for being in a bad mood.

I miss being in a place where I was surrounded by people who were in the mess of it all with me.

I miss the vulnerability that was oxygen to us.

We lived with our hearts on our sleeves and we loved each other so big.

Because we saw each other for ALL that we are. Every single part.

They loved me when I low-key looked like an alien.

They loved me when I was depressed.

They loved me when I cried each week after family therapy.

They loved me when I was sassy in Food & Feelings.

They loved me when I refused a meal.

They loved me when I started smiling again.

They loved me when my refeeding belly was oh so big and beautiful.

They loved me when I sang Annie non-stop.

They loved me when I spent my birthday in treatment.

They loved me when they finally saw the real Sarah Beth for the first time ever.

And they loved the real me too, just as much.

I just miss being in a place where there was no faking it. No mask-wearing. No stuffing emotions down. Emotions continually poured out of each 16 of us, and though it could be overwhelming sometimes, it was so, so beautiful.

Nothing is more beautiful that living completely open.

And we did that.

And I miss that.

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Dear Ed,

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Today, May 5, 2017, is my one year in recovery. One year ago I walked through the doors of Carolina House and was admitted to their residential program. You can read a blog post about that here (and you can find all my blog posts tagged treatment here too if you’re interested). Reaching the one year mark is weird and hard, but oh so joyful. So today, to celebrate my one year of starting to kick Ed (my eating disorder) to the curb, I’m writing him a letter. If you have never experienced an eating disorder, it may seem weird to you that I personify my eating disorder and call him Ed.  Just roll with it, friends. When there’s something in your head screaming at you, you want to be able to somehow separate it from who you are. So my eating disorder is Ed. And here’s what I have to say to him.


Dear Ed,

I remember when we met. I was 13, and my friend introduced me to the wonderful “comfort” that you bring. First I let you into my life because I wanted to lose weight. Not that I needed to, but I thought it would prove me worthy enough to be friends with the girls at school. Simple enough, right? No. You already had your foot in the door, so you soon began to demand your way. You quickly became my best coping skill, because even though you were slowly beginning to suck the life out of me, you numbed the pain of depression and took the place of self-harm when I had to cope in a “socially acceptable” way, aka not eating. Because dieting is normal and okay for a 13 year old, right? Wrong.

It’s been a long haul with you, Ed. Five years. You saw me throughout half of middle school and all of high school. When I think of my high school years, I don’t remember hanging out with friends during class or on the weekends. Instead, I remember skipping every off campus lunch so that I could sit in the hallway alone – I mean, sit in the hallway with you – and not eat. I remember not going to a single school dance (well, I went to my senior prom for 15 minutes – that counts, right?) because I had isolated myself so much that I had no friends to hang out with. I remember sitting in class, not paying attention to the lesson at all, but instead tallying up calories in my planner and planning my “meals” for the week.

To you, those things might sounds fun. Those are the things that you thrive off of. But to me, those are horrible memories. You took everything from me. Everything. Every good memory that I have since the age of 13 is tainted by you. My first cruise? Tainted. My first prom? Tainted. Every birthday? Tainted. Every event in my life that should have been completely happy and free? Tainted. You took everything from me, and even still, you wanted to take my life. And I’m over it.

I’m over it because I still have the 13 year old girl inside of me who still thinks she’s fat. Who cries when she looks in the mirror. Who wants to crawl out of her body when she feels food settle in her stomach. I’m over it because 13 year old me should have been a happy seventh grader, but instead she was taught to hate herself. That 13 year old girl grew up to be the same 19 year old girl that I am today. And this 19 year old still feels the 13 year old inside of me. And the 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18 year olds. I feel all the brokenness. All the jagged pieces that don’t know where to fit. Some days I handle it really well. Some days I can kick you in the balls and go on with my day in freedom. But some days I’m crippled. Because 13 year old me is crippled. Or maybe it’s 17 year old me that’s crippled. But regardless, you broke me for so many years and I’m still trying to fix that.

I want to be able to love myself. Shocking, I know. You told for some long that it’s not possible. But I’m learning that it is possible. It’s more possible to live a successful life of loving myself than it is to live a successful life with you, because guess what. No one can live a successful life but also be tangled up in their eating disorder. But living a life of freedom and happiness while pursuing self-love is so completely possible, so that is what I’m after! I’ve made a lot of progress in the past year. I’ve eaten fear foods and made them my b**** (curse word sorry BUT SO TRUE). I’ve exercised because it makes my body feel good, but I’ve also stopped myself from exercising when I realized I was obsessing over the calories being burned. I’ve bought clothes to fit my new, beautiful recovery body. I’ve let myself cry and be mad at you/my body/my treatment team/food/the world. I’ve screamed. But that’s all part of this thing called living. It’s a new phenomenon to me, because you didn’t let me experience real life. But let me tell you, this life thing is pretty cool.

I know, I know, it hurts to die a slow and painful death. I know because that’s what you were doing to me. While I was malnourished and dying, you were thriving. The closer I got to death the more alive you became. But guess what. My recovery kills you. And it’s a long process. Some days I’m suffocating you, but other days I seem to have you on life support. The life support days are becoming few and far between, thank goodness. Each day I’m able to suffocate you a little more, and this is the control that I need – the control that you claimed to give me, but never did. Even though I claimed to love you for five years of my life, I know that I don’t love you. You love you. I hate you. I want you dead and gone. I want to live, so that means you have to die.

I don’t like you. I know that sometimes I say I’m going to rekindle our relationship, but we never get past the first date. Because it. ain’t. worth. it. You have this thing about making me seem like I’m the bad person, but let me just tell you, YOU are the bad one. You’re the murderer, the thief, the stalker, the crazy ex boyfriend who just won’t let go. And I am done.

I wrote you a letter very similar to this while I was still in treatment. In it I told you, “I’m fighting you now. I won’t stay victim anymore. I won’t give in to your every demand. I’m fighting for life and health, not thinness. So you have to move out of my mind, my values, my meals, my life. I’m changing my life to a life without you.” And WOW past SB was killing it. A life without you is the best life that I’ve ever lived.

I’m glad that I started kicking you out of my life a year ago. I’m glad that the only thing left of you is the occasional overnight bag. I’m excited for when you’re completely gone, but I know that recovery is a process and that healing is not linear. But just let me tell you, just because you have an overnight bag packed and ready to go does not mean that you still have power and ownership over me. YOU ARE GONE, SIR. You are powerless over me because now I have power over you.

So, just to remind you, you suck. It’s not me, it’s 1000% you. Five years with you was not fun, but this past year without you has been amazing. So don’t bother coming back. You’re still not welcome here and never will be again. I still hate you, and you’re still a scum-bag. You’re a bully, you’re controlling, and you deserve to die. I don’t need your fake love anymore.

Goodbye, Ed.

Sincerely,

Sarah Beth

PS. Did I mention that I hate you?

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