Two years ago, July 13th of 2014 became one of the worst days of my life. I was 20 years old and I had just returned from what should have been an amazing weekend. I had traveled with a friend to see my second Sara Bareilles concert during her Little Black Dress tour. My friend is also a fan of Sara and we had been planning this weekend for ages. Once I had a ticket, I immediately began counting down the days until the concert. When I had planned the trip, I was in a much better place mentally and physically. Looking back, no one could have ever imagined that things would go the way they did. After I finished my sophomore year of college, things swiftly went downhill and my eating disorder was spiraling further and further out of control. Unbeknownst to me, I had undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was consistently starving myself, exercising past exhaustion, sneaking around and lying about eating meals, and obsessively counting calories…doing anything to escape the pain I was feeling.
That trip was filled with struggles, pain, and heavy depression. I was falling apart by the millisecond…and no one truly knew. Hiding it had become “easy” by then because of how deeply entrenched I was in keeping my secret from others. My depression was so high and I was swiftly becoming dangerously suicidal. Secretly, I had told myself that I would hold on until the concert and that after I was free to end my life, if I chose to do so. Post seeing the concert, I felt like there was nothing else that I had to live for. I was so exhausted in every way possible. My body was giving out on me more and more. Just walking a few feet felt like running a marathon. My mind could not escape from the negative and self-destructive thoughts. I felt so empty, numb, and dead. Of course, I felt dead…I was slowly killing myself.
Once we got back home, I had become more determined to harm myself. I ended up overdosing on pills. This happened while I was alone and it was terrifying after I realized what I had done. Thank the Lord, my friend encouraged me and supported me to call 911. The cops were less than sensitive towards me. I was in severe abdominal pain and they began to snap at me for not being able to easily answer their questions. Thankfully, the EMS came and once the police had left, one of the men said, “I’m sorry those cops were being such dicks!” Looking back, that does give me a bit of a chuckle… Most of what happened after is a blur. I remember hearing the words Intensive Care Unit. That is when the fear truly set in. Holy shit…I had hurt myself that much. I tried to rest that night and it was difficult. However, the morning brought a blessing into my life. My day nurse ended up giving me an amazing gift. In my faith, I do believe that God sent this nurse to me because He knew I needed her.
This nurse was funny, sweet, and so great at what she did. She asked me if anyone had explained to me why she had been assigned as my nurse. She told me that she had battled anorexia when she was younger. Now recovered, she wanted to help me in any way that she could. I was not quite ready to talk to anyone about my eating disorder and it still gave me a sense of comfort knowing that she understood me. I was able to stay entertained by her silliness while I waited to be cleared to move to the general medical floor. Without my phone, a book, TV, or anything else, I was bored out of my mind. Eventually, I was moved onto the medical floor and began my wait to be moved up to the psychiatric unit.
One of my most distinct memories is meeting L the dietitian for the first time. She came down to my room to discuss my eating disorder with me and explain that I would be on a meal plan. According to her, I gave her the biggest death stare. I definitely wanted her to get the hell out of my room. She terrified me, in my mind/the eating disorders mind, she was trying to harm and torture me. I was displeased knowing that I was going to have to see her daily. These days, she is one of my favorite treatment persons I have met throughout this journey. She is phenomenal at her job and cares so much. She has helped me so much over the years. I am forever grateful for her love and support.
Being on the psychiatric unit terrified me. J, who became one of my favorite nurses, did my assessment. It went alright until she asked me the dreaded question, “Have you ever been abused physically, verbally, or sexually.” I nodded and stared at the ground. She asked me what happened and I quietly told her. I settled into my room, as best I could, and I tried to not panic. Dinner that night felt like hell. I sat, staring at my plate, while the food grew cold. Eventually, I burst into tears and I curled up into a ball on my chair. I knew no one, I felt so alone, and I was terrified of it all. That night, I was given the blessing of another nurse who is a beautiful soul. She came to check in on me and she could tell how scared I was. As we talked, I began to cry and she sat there comforting me and telling me that everything was eventually going to be alright. Later on, I could not sleep and I sat alone in the day room. Building up my courage, I walked over to the nurse’s station and asked if I could talk to my nurse. I told her about how I had been raped and that the first time I had said it out loud was that day. She told me of how she was also a victim/survivor of sexual abuse. That made me so sad, but I saw how she was a strong, brave, and thriving individual who had also been through abuse. It gave me hope that living a full life after trauma could be possible for me.
Looking back, I was given so much support and grace during my first time at the hospital. The nurses, nursing assistants and occupational therapists worked so hard to help me feel comfortable. They showed me that there were people who wanted to help me. They are wonderful individuals and I cannot thank them enough for all they have done for me. These memories are difficult to look back on. Things were so painful and I felt like I had been shattered in an infinite amount of pieces. It is easy to look at that time with sad lenses. I am working daily to view those moments in a better light and recognize that two years ago I began my journey of recovery. Perhaps, back then, I lacked a real desire to recover. I did not want to let go of the anorexia that was killing me. Still, two years ago I set sail on this path of recovery. In these past years, I have been in and out of treatment, relapsed countless times and gotten to a dark depressive place again.
Most importantly, in these past years, I have learned more about myself than I ever could have imagined, I have conquered mountains I never imagined I could climb, I have earned valuable friendships, I have been able to decrease the amount of panic attacks and flashbacks that occur, I have truly laughed and smiled, and I have kept going. Many months ago, in PHP, BM asked me to yell out something that I was proud of myself for. She wanted me to yell it loudly, with enthusiasm and passion, owning my own accomplishments. Standing there, I stared at her for a long time. We stood silently as BM waited for me to speak. Finally, I softly said, “I am still here.” I looked up at BM’s face and I could see and feel the emotion on her face. She hugged me tightly and repeated to me, “you are still here.”
These past two years have been challenging beyond belief. I have gone through more than I could ever have anticipated. This journey will be one I will be on for a lifetime. Right now, I am still battling to escape this recent relapse. Recovery is not a straight, easy, or gentle road. Thankfully, I have learned that the road is still one worth traveling on. You and I..and the whole world have survived 100% of our worst days. I know I will survive my next one as well.
As Rupi Kaur writes –
“And here you are living despite it all”