Monthly Archives: May 2016

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Letter to my Past Self

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Dear Summer,

Feel your body, your muscles. I don’t mean touch them. Just feel them, being there. They are so strong. They feel so right– so comfortable and relaxed. One day, you will lose that feeling. Your body will be constantly tense and tremulous, and your muscles will constantly ache like you’ve just run a marathon. Your limbs won’t move the way you want them to. So feel them now. Your body is so at ease. Your strength and dexterity are such gifts.

Wiggle your fingers and toes. That feeling of control over your body will leave you soon. The fingers will move on their own, sometimes, and sometimes, they won’t even be able to grip a pencil. It sounds strange, I know. You don’t have to believe me. You’ll feel it soon enough.

Stand up and walk. You are not dizzy. You are stable and poised. Your legs make strong foundations. There will be days when you cannot walk at all. When you stand, you will grow dizzy, your eyes will become dark, and you will fall. You are strong now, and you will be strong then. Remember this.
Go for long walks, whenever you can. Always take the scenic route. People watch. Crunch the fallen leaves beneath your feet. It sounds clichéd, I know, but you will not always notice these things, or perceive them as you do now. Pain colors leaves gray, and makes walking a struggle.

Stop for a latte, with real milk. Buy a croissant with it. You love them both, and soon, they will make your stomach turn. Everything will make you nauseated. Things that everyone else eats regularly will make you violently ill. Everyone will tell you it’s because you have an eating disorder.

Stay out late. Refuse to have a strict schedule. Instead, have things to do and people to see. Study sometimes. Sit in class and love learning. Then go out. Love your friends– do fun and stupid things with them. One day, you will have little energy or focus for these things. Anxiety will prevent you from leaving the house, at all.

You love school. Notice how much passion you have for education. Don’t let it leave, even when your abilities become compromised. Life will try to rip that passion from your weak, battered hands. Don’t let it. Learning gives you purpose.

Listen to good music. Drink good beer. When you’re sick, your headaches will warrant silence, and beer will become nauseous to you.

Notice how clear-headed you are. You can read and write for hours. Soon, it will feel like a concrete wall sits in your head, separating you from your thoughts. When you reach them, they are cloudy and unformed.

Stop scolding yourself for how much you’re working, how intensely you’re studying. You are not lazy. You are not stupid. Your time and your experiences are precious. You are forgetting to enjoy the gifts around you because you are busy twisting them into responsibilities, and check-marks on a calendar. The calendar is unimportant. Time is fleeting. Your life is already full.

Stroke your hair. It is healthy and thick. Soon, it will begin to fall out. You will look in the mirror and cry, telling yourself you’ve lost the last part of your appearance you took pride in, the last part of you that didn’t look shriveled and sick.

One morning, you will black out completely, and fall into the wall in your bedroom. You go to the doctor, and she tells you it’s stress. It’s not stress. Don’t listen.
Your arms and legs are weaker now. You have to park closer to buildings. When you come home from work, you sit in your car for a while, because you can’t imagine having the strength to walk to the front door. Don’t lose hope yet. Hold fast to the strength and dexterity you still have. It will be even further diminished.

You’re dizzy all the time, now. That episode where you blacked out happens every day. Your stomach hurts all the time, too. You can’t focus in class. Your muscles cramp up so badly you have to lie in a fetal position for hours at a time. You feel like a zombie. Food makes you vomit and gives you migraines. You have little energy, but you can still sleep. Soon, you will have insomnia, too.
You are scared. You think you have MS or Lupus, or even cancer. Something is terribly wrong, and the doctors won’t listen to you. You go to a new clinic and they tell you to stop eating wheat and get more rest. You are a young girl with emotional problems. You are not sick. Remember, Summer, you are okay. The doctors are wrong. You are strong and smart.

You think everything is gone, your life is all wrong. It’s not. Love everything you loved before. Keep living. Reach out. Don’t hide. This is not your fault. Remember, Summer, you are okay. You are strong and smart.

Don’t pity yourself, and don’t ask for pity. Notice the “disabled” people around you, and commend them for how strong they are. Think about how sad it is that all the healthy people are so oblivious of their able-bodied privilege– hope that they savor some of the beauty. Your eyes have been opened. Things you thought belonged to you were never really yours, and now you hold fast to all the fleeting gifts coming into your little world. Be grateful. Those gifts may stay, or they may go.

Always write. Always smell the coffee. Always pet the dogs.

Love,
Summer

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Recovery

I am in recovery. I’ve finally learned that recovery has very little to do with everything I’ve been taught with which to equate it. Recovery is not prescribed therapy, diagnosis, food, or drugs. It has to do with the absence of those things, but also the presence of them, all together– pieces of a contentedly imperfect whole. Recovery has to do with my ability to acknowledge those elements of my life, then place my focus elsewhere. My freedom comes from a lack of obsession toward any one of these so-called “cures”. My happiness comes from my aptitude for life alongside, but not compromised by illness.

I take minimal medication. Two drugs help make my symptoms bearable, and neither are addictive or have dangerous side effects. I don’t expect to find a miracle drug that will solve all of my problems, nor do I rely on the comforts of antidepressants or pain killers. I don’t find the need to numb myself to make life bearable. I no longer assume that I need a diagnosis to make progress in treating or accepting my situation. A label would make my illness understandable to the rest of the world– not to me. I no longer dwell on what I can and cannot consume. Usually I eat for health, sometimes I eat for enjoyment, and both are okay. I no longer waste my time with restrictive therapy diets. I now eat, and move on, with or without pain or other symptoms.

My illness is restrictive, but it doesn’t eliminate all opportunities for enjoyment and fulfillment My limitations determine the ways in which I act and experience life, but they don’t prevent me from finding ways to do so anyway. Once I realized this, my life took a huge turn. I no longer need to focus on fighting my illness before I return to life. I was spending so much time fighting my demons, I didn’t have the awareness to realize I was actually worshiping them. Now, my obstacles move with me, and I with them. I accept them, and continue to live and learn.

Lastly, I don’t think I will ever be recovered, nor do I need to be. My recovery will be a lifelong process, and my illness may or may not ever leave or subside. However, the world has too many beautiful things to offer for me to lose myself in negativity.

Illness is still difficult to cope with. I still have bad days– that’s okay. My symptoms are not optional. My suffering is. True suffering comes from my interpretation of my circumstances. I can easily chose not to harbor resentment, not to feel hopeless, and not to blame myself or anyone else. Instead, I choose to appreciate my challenges, and continue to love the life I’ve been gifted.

Friends are the best medicine.
Friends are the best medicine.