#8: I forget sometimes how hard I hustled to reach where I am now.
I forget sometimes how hard I hustled to reach where I am now.
And because I have forgotten,
and also forgotten the concentrated time period and twenty-four-seven hour person presence support,
I attribute my “lack of progress” to personal failure.
But good things happening does not measure progress. That's how I refocused this week.
There were many nights I was stuck in this head space, and, together, foster sister and I would pull my head out of its sand.
I’d shake all the granulated rocks out of my ears,
cry out all of the sand in my eyes,
dismount the castle above me,
and then we’d process what it’s like to constantly compare myself to others.
“What’d I tell you about worrying what ‘other people’ think?” she’d say.
Or she’d say, “What does that have to do with you?”
She knew how to speak to me in a language, with the tone I understand.
The first abusive relationship I escaped was three-years-long, and it’s only now that I feel he does not live on my shoulders, in my ears, standing on top of my toes.
I remember what it was like at first to live in his absence, realizing that separation is actually a slow shift from a physical freedom to a freedom from his head space. And I'm still trying to separate.
It's why my Brain struggles to translate my Body's experiences into linear, verbal talk. My awkward is very clear. My communicated understandings are not. Quantifiable contact ceased, and it was only our separation's beginning. I did not notice qualitative changes until I consistently experienced a better quality living, which we're reinforcing slowly over time.
The first years post separation, Ellie, my primary therapist at the time, started untangling verbal silence, physical numbness and deafening hypervigilance to the most minuscule environmental shifts: a leaf falling,
degree decrease in room temperature,
wiggling papers by vents,
quiet, pacing footsteps on the other side of the wall,
the smallest shifts in her body language,
I was teaching my body we were not his body.
This is what it is like now with mom.
When I wake up in the middle of the night and I have fallen out of bed, I get back, in and say, “Body, we do not have to hide behind the bed anymore because she is not home to yell at us.”
When I wake up in the night from a terror and freeze seeing headlights play flashlight tag with the kitchen table flower vase I can see through the doorway, though I am still lying in bed, I say,
“Body, you do not have to scream, ‘GET OUT OF MY FUCKING HOUSE’ in the middle of the night, and you do not have to trace the shadow bodies with your eyes, and you do not have to slow your breathing to see if her voice is talking in the living room, because she cannot visit. It was a feared sleeping story.”
Body, Brain and I are still working together to stop checking, rechecking, checking, rechecking to make sure the apartment door is locked.
I say, “Shoulders, lower. Stomach, loosen. You locked the door already.”
I say, “Brain, imagine your thoughts as leaves going down a river. How saturated is the stream? And if the leaves clutter the dam, then this probably really is the sixth time we’re getting out of bed to make sure our $115 key-less door entry pad deadbolt is locked.”
But see, in past weeks when I’ve used my skills to correct what is still hurting, I’ve forgotten that it has been over ten years now since the first, three-year-long cycle stopped,
and it’s been less than ten days since I blocked the emails,
and not yet ten continuous days of adequate nutrition.
So I say, "Body, this is not a reflection of an incompetent work ethic, poor self-motivation, faith in Christ, morality or forsaken character development. This is the wreckage that abuse produced.
And then, I’m not so much disappointed as much as grieving, and not so much grieved as treatment fatigued.
There is no Paid Time Off in eating disorder recovery. At least, time off does not pay recovery well.
I must also remember that, though my rich, empathetic compassion is exactly why I am so good at what work I do, it is easily manipulated, and my identity is still entangled with manipulation, which means that when there is an opportunity to overextend myself to absorb other peoples’ responsibilities, I tend to take it. But the fact that I know I give well and others frequently affirm that strength in me does not mean that compassion's rarity is my problem.
“At what point did we become so powerful,” I ask my eating disorder, “that world suffering can be solved with accepting a day’s starvation?"
"And at what point did withholding basic needs from humans become a wrong needing to be made right in every dignity-deserving human, except yourself?”
When I sprained my other ankle this week, slipping in heavy rains that even storm warnings forewarned, I say,
“Ankles, this is not your fault. If cars slide on the roads, ambulances and firetrucks avail all these great puddles’ passengers we see, then that unmarked step's height change made that step dangerous. You were not 'unaware of our surroundings.'”
“At what point, ankles, did you absorb the responsibility to order the rain clouds?”
So I get to the end of today, and I think that maybe...
even though I am still in a difficult space to which I am (crudely and need to stop) continuously calling “the shitshow that is my life...”
maybe this is still the very, very beginning,
that I will never be able to order my steps,
that I am actually very glad not to have that responsibility,
and I can finally put those cards in the mail that I keep telling myself I don’t deserve to mail,
because I still have something positive to offer other people, but really the concept of "working" is not even the point. I have the freedom to mail greetings. I like to mail greetings. I find it exhilarating to think of ridiculous messages to write on postcards, envelopes and folded, cutely priced card stock. Those whom I love never expected my greetings, and will receive them thankfully. Now, the only person withholding those greetings is me.
Photography © natalie rose eddings