GUYS I MADE IT
It’s almost October and I’m still trying to learn how to empty myself of the icebergs last winter left behind. Every time I pass one of those ads stapled to a telephone pole with the rip-off tabs swinging from the bottom, I’m reminded of how difficult it is to keep holding on when the weather feels non permitting.
I can’t say I spent my entire childhood sticking my fingers into light sockets trying to figure out if grief had it’s own color but I can tell you I spent my entire childhood trying to figure out why it did;
Why long car rides shaded me in swatches of cerulean and sea foam not because I was ever car sick but because leaving home made me nervous and why funeral lighting always reminded me of the bottled hair dye my Great Aunt Sylvia used to use to cover up the strands of gray that showed how quickly she was dying.
Last night, I discovered a birthmark on the back of my neck in the shape of someone leaving.
Today, my eyes look more antique than ember- more ink than charcoal- and, unlike the people whose hair changes colors with the seasons, I think I’ll probably always wonder if my eyes change colors with my cycles of sadness.
Yesterday, I took this photo:
The toes belong to the feet belonging to legs belonging to Benjamin- a two year old who neglects to adequately pronounce his r’s and likes to poop on floors.
To Benny, my sweet little wanderer, life will not always be kind. It will not always be gentle water wakes meeting shorelines but rather tsunamis made of rage. And stings. On days you bear your wounds, remember, one day, your bed will no longer feel like your only home. Remember, one day, you will love yourself completely, without restrictions or regrets- radically and with everything you have.
Do not apologize for this.
Remember, one day, you will stop wanting to crawl back into the womb and start willing to climb out into the belly of life, as new and as quiet as the day you entered it. Remember, one day, your spine will no longer be the only tool that provides you with posture. Remember, one day, your fingertips will know what it feels like to want to hold on instead of letting go, your rock bottom will eventually bottom out and give way to solid ground below; remember one day you will stop feeling like a coward for struggling while everyone else takes gulps of the shit you convinced yourself was corrupting your lungs.
One day, you will no longer feel like an echo but, instead, a siren that sings loud and clear.
One day, you will no longer feel like a gun is always pressed to your head but, instead, a bullet that knows exactly where to spit its fire.
Remember, one day, not every day will be the worst day.
Be present. Be light.
Should you ever find yourself bleeding, do not bandage it. Let it spill out, gradually, so you can know what it feels like to be drained, to be gutted and turned inside out.
Be heard. Be kind.
I hear that there are currently 88 recognizable constellations but there are many that have yet to be discovered.
Find them, Benny.
Explore the earth from end to end until you find the brothers and sisters of the Big Dipper and then, once that is through, explore yourself from end to end until you find the constellations of yourself you’ve never met before.
Be calm. Be resilient.
Always, sweet Ben.
Trigger Warning: I don’t think I’d really ever consider myself a perfectionist however, even as I type this, I find myself clicking spell-check five
Trigger Warning: Cliche people with cliche names and cliche motives don’t come with trigger warnings.
They don’t put trigger warnings on jaded men with receding hairlines just because they remind you of how light refuses to cease receding into nights, every night, or how we’re all thunderstorms and, eventually, there will come a time when we will have to part ways and recede back into the parts of sky from which we came.
They don’t put trigger warnings on the moments you realize you and the dirty laundry that has been laying on your floor for weeks now have both been wrinkled by the time spent, there,
on dirty floors.
They don’t put trigger warnings on middles.
There will always be befores. Before love. Before life. Before losing a hundred and two pounds. Before the material world invades your mind with rules about tampons and riot signs.
There will always be afters. After finding your other half. After death. Aftermath.
But there will never be trigger warnings on the gray matter; never any caution tape around the fleeting moments between the binge and the purge, the time you take hovering above the toilet seat wondering if your fingers will taste any different than the last time.
In moments of awkward silence, there will be no trigger warnings to help fillintheblanks.
There will never be construction cones surrounding the time you remember the instant you forgot pain could also be a verb.
For me, it was always a noun- always an object that burrowed between my bones like a lost little rabbit. But it had teeth and they always threatened to break my limbs. That, that was when I forgot pain was also a verb and instead remembered that I was a hyphen, a person in between feeling fine and feeling good and feeling great- a sort of
s e p a r a tion-
and I wanted to learn to join the joy and the sad, but my mouth was always a comma in which mild catastrophes and dew kissed breakfasts were always pausing to spill out.
One day, when you wake up remembering how this time, last year, you began fading into a much quieter version of yourself at the same time the leaves of early autumn did the exact opposite, remembering how your body, for a brief moment, felt like a foreign country without anyone willing to occupy it; one day when you wake up remembering how you used to let your dog off the leash so maybe it’d run into the street giving you a reason to run too, you’ll realize that there will never be an adequate amount of warnings to prepare you for this.
One day, when you wake up remembering the times you thought of windows like collections of tiny shards of glass finally understanding why pain and pane were homophones, you’ll wonder if a body unconscious is a body still. On the nights when the moon is more a word on the tip of your tongue than a saving grace positioned at such an angle in the sky that, for a little while, it almost seems believable that holy light is alive and well, you’ll wonder if living and breathing are really as intertwined as we are lead to believe.
To my mom and dad,
From now on, I will try to love the way the left brain loves the right brain if there even is such a thing. I will love like all my gray matter really does matter, like it’s more than just a scientific term, like my brain is capable of more than the grey it shades itself into every day.
I’m sorry you could never understand why I, like rainfall, wished to elope with the ground on days my brain felt like hurricanes but there are bees and yellow jackets that sting to know they’re alive and there are bees and yellow jackets that sting to inflict pain and I can’t promise you I won’t be both but I can tell you that even on days I can feel the storms rage inside me, I will wish to live twice as many times as I wish to die.
To my brothers and sisters,
I will not always be kind. I will not always be able to bite my tongue and hold back the fire living inside my mouth that threatens to turn every word into a burning building but every individual cell will still do its best to put out the flames until this body is not hot but warm.
Until this body understands that, sometimes, spitting fire is worse than swallowing flames.
Trigger Warning: May I always see my own beauty without having to break any bones.
Trigger Warning: May I always be a series of riptides that never learn how to flow in the same direction.
Trigger Warning: May I always be full of opposites; may I never be perfect.
Trigger Warning: May I be flawed and flowing in the wrong direction if it will only teach me which one is the right one. May I always be riptides and never tsunamis. I may be monstrous and aching but I never want to tear myself apart.
Sometimes I will be unforgivable. Sometimes I will be one stumbling, heaping spoonful of an apology that no one will know how to swallow and I can’t promise you there won’t be bruises. I will always be bruises. I will be full of holes that others will do their best to fill, but the truth is that maybe I can’t be saved.
But that doesn’t mean I ever have to stop trying.
Trigger Warning: I am worth trying.
I am worth stupid silly laughter, sunburns, embarrassing pictures. I am worth inner thighs. I am worth the pulp at the bottom of the orange juice carton although I was never pulp.
I will never be the last thing left at the bottom of anything. I don’t deserve rock bottom. I am not leftovers. I am not disposable.
Trigger Warning: I am worth trying.
Trigger Warning: I am worth trying.
I am worth trying.
I cried when my first dog, Belle, died. Like me, she was a hand me down from people who had less time than love for her and I think that’s why our souls understood each other; why a part of me died when she stopped breathing. I spent hours trying to study her, unravel her; I spent years trying to reprieve her, to revive her and although, during those years, I had no storms chasing me, I found refuge in the way she curled herself around me during crisp summer nights. I guess, in a way, it makes me selfish for wanting her to live forever but she grew old quicker than she should have and before I had the chance to understand how sad loss could be- we ran out of time to say our goodbyes.
I cried the night I could feel my dad giving up on me. I grew up admiring the way the world spun in his eyes and the way the Grand Canyon weaved puzzles in his palms but that night- the night I got too drunk to remember my name yet hardly drunk enough to forget that he was an ex soldier- I saw no evidence of an Earth and all proof that he had waved a dozen white flags long before I even had the chance to sober.
Not even the strands of the leftover buzz could muffle the sound of you forgetting me; erasing me.
Have I ever told you that I once saw Jesus in a McDonald’s bathroom stall? His skin was made of porcelain and his sins, made of stainless steel manufactured in China. In bold purple Sharpie, the door read “Eat acid, see God” and, although I’ll never admit it, that night I realized the teen spirit bleeds out in more forms than one. Holy scriptures of adolescence, psalms of hormone-driven emotion etched in pencil and teen angst somehow understood that we were all sinners searching for a way out-
That we were all flawed in some sort of way and that we may possibly never know if all dogs really go to Heaven.
I cried for eternities the night I became painfully aware of my imposition on space; that I took up more of it than I probably ever deserved.
I had every intention of stripping that night of its darkness but after hours of desperately trying to scratch the stars away from the sky with my fingertips, I realized that I was incapable of stopping my world from dying so, from then on, I chose to move my body gently and eat slowly; to swallow Eucharist in the smallest of pieces and nibble timidly around the cores of apples in the case there were grenades hidden within their cores. I learned how to read labels, to walk on the edges of my toes; I learned how to control, calculate, and categorize-
buffering the awkward matter between reality and the world as I had wished it would be. Food kept me sane; kept my worlds from colliding.
“Lex, you’re so bony!”, my mom would tell me as she laid rubbing my back after long days of work. I swear, it seemed like she worked forever. Her hands, cold yet never harsh, made maps through my spine and pit stops at my hip bones, knocking hard on them to make sure they were real. Making sure I was real.
“Bony, bony, bony!”
My mom was right, though. I was never a particularly large kid- my knees jutted out farther than they probably should have and I often found myself wavering at the lower end of the BMI chart during my yearly physicals. However, her phrase- my hip bones- later became the gauge of my progress- my worth- as I shifted from preteen to teen.
And I hope she never knows that.
I’d never blame my parents for my insanity. After all, when one tells you to jump from a mountaintop, you don’t close your eyes and let the wind take you just because.
But me? I was born with too much fire and a hopelessly desperate need for adrenaline so, truthfully, I think I’d always sort of wondered what it’d feel like to fall, to be wisped away in a cool breeze just like the ones you read about in romance novels.
On nights when I cursed gravity for concreting me and the gods for making my feet too heavy, I found myself grazing the planes of the body that laid beneath the heavy sheets and thick night air, searching for those
On mornings when the air smelled of dew and cheap coffee and I prayed to the skies that I would have the power to be less needy, I found myself studying the way the shower water trickled down my stomach and over those
You could tear into these words, rip out their roots, and chop away their stringy structures; you could dislocate these words, feel your fingers through their rhythms and peel away the alliteration that binds these letters together.
You could consume these words, feel the predicates dribble from the corners of your mouth as you crunch them out of existence; analyze these words, call out their “important” images and themes and crush them into powdery debris as you ask yourself, “…and how does that make you feel?” but none of that could ever erase the fact that this world is a perplexing place. In one motion it creates the most beautiful, freeing moments and in the other, it kills your dogs and makes you hate yourself for not being invincible. I used to cry over real things, you know. I mean, real, “Holy fuck!”, life-changing kinds of things. Now, I cry when I get stuck behind sleepy trains or when my pants don’t fit or when my apples are bruised or when other things that will never matter happen and I hate the world for messing up when it
I like how I think that I can chase the universe and the universe, me.
I chase my trust issues with Jäger and run myself into warm highs because, truly, I’ve never been one to embrace the cold but, sometimes, I like that. Maybe I like how I’ll always be in search of myself.
I like how the dark has always made me kind of nervous.
I remember spending many nights alone when I was younger because my sister had friends and I was weird and I remember laying on the top bunk, waiting. And listening. And searching. And I would yell for my dad even in the hours of the night when the silence was louder than the rest of the world and he would come into my room. And he’d listen. Sometimes I’d talk for only a few, fleeting moments-sometimes I’d talk for more- and then he’d walk me to the bathroom never because I had to go but because he knew that it made the dark seem less violent; less crippling.
I swear, I could remember it like it was yesterday. There was something about the way he stumbled with his tired feet and heavy eyes that made me feel like we were both just trying to survive. He never hated me for having irrational fears. He never failed me.
Typing this makes me question why I ever stopped loving him.
Maybe, sometimes I talk when I’m not supposed to and maybe, sometimes the meals I find myself eating end up finding their way down shower drains or shady gas station toilets which, in turn, end up reducing me down to even shadier gas station floors but,
I kind of like that I’ll always be a little fucked up. My palms are stitched together by life lines and callouses and tiny little scars that no one will ever understand and my trash can is filled with Diet Mountain Dew bottle caps and other bullshit but, if that means that someone else’s palms won’t have to be stitched together by the same damn things and their trash cans won’t feel the need to drown in bottle caps and old bullshit then,
I like that too.
Maybe I like that I rush things.
Maybe I like that I see the world differently.
Did you know that,
the same stars can make multiple constellations?
I would let the darkness of all those nights swallow me whole, I would fill my trash can with more bottle caps than it knew how to hold and reduce myself down to a thousand gas station floors; I would write these posts day and night and afternoons and dawns and other times of the day the earth dissolves in if I knew it could save a life.
I like the idea that all my fears could change the world.
Last night, I went to bed obnoxiously hopeful; I was determined to wake up bright and early and make myself an egg white sandwich with apple slices.
This is the part where we laugh.
After a long and restless night that felt more like a midlife crisis than anything else, “bright and early” ended up being more of a “What is life?” and the egg white sandwich with apple slices ended up being more of a slightly under-toasted whole wheat English muffin with reduced fat cream cheese. It was gross but it was safe and that’s what I needed in that moment.
As I sat picking away pieces of the bread, watching its edges crumble in small pieces onto my plate, I couldn’t help but think, “Me too, English muffin. Me too.”
In that moment, we were both crumbling.
You see, the human body is mostly comprised of four main elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen, with the majority of that in the form of
One oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms held together by tiny covalent bonds.
Maybe that’s why I’m so easily molded.
Maybe that’s why I’m so painfully transparent.
You see, to be honest, I miss a lot of things about how my life used to be.
Not that my life used to be novel-worthy or anything like that but, it was simple. And it was enough. At least for a while. I miss when playlists understood me, I miss the way that, sometimes, I’d forget how to breathe when I told a good story, I miss bacon and eggs, I miss the way Sparkling Grape Juice made me feel like a cool kid, I miss when pouting still solved problems; when the melodramatic tragedies of my life played out on playgrounds.
I miss using night lights, I miss the way I used to loose things in the couch cushions and, yes, I realize that was a typo but I also miss when mistakes didn’t bother me so much; when personal errors didn’t feel so devastating. I miss yelling “Shotgun!”, I miss sifting creek sand between my toes, I miss the way I used to imagine how life would be after I parted ways with Earth. I used to imagine my bones being pieced together with some sort of paste or Scotch tape; threaded together and tossed back into space until someone happened to slip across it. I imagined outstretching my arms and embracing the sky only to be thrown back by its growls and plunging, headfirst, into the mud and stone and clay because, when it’s your last day, you don’t worry about grass stains.
I miss the way it felt the first time I saw my mom in a dress. I was four and newly adopted and although, now, it only feels like a vague memory faded by time and tears and Band-Aids and late night conversations, I remember it nonetheless.
It was a polka dot dress.
The dress was as new to me as she was.
As I hid beneath our wooden coffee table that wobbled awkwardly on its antique legs and smelled slightly like dust and musk, I saw the very edges of her dress breathe as she did and although she stood at just barely past five feet, she was a
Sometimes it’s hard to find words to articulate the magnitude of your emotions when you realize you’ve become nothing more than a shell of the person you used to be. For every day that I let go of this eating disorder and realize just how hollow and empty this disease has made me; I am realizing more and more just how many moments I truly took for granted. As I mourn the loss of the eating disorder- my coping mechanism and sense of purpose, of real importance for so long- I also have to mourn the loss of who I used to be.
And that makes me sad.
But I guess that’s okay, right? I mean, after all, the human body is mostly comprised of four main elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen, with the majority of that in the form of
One oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms held together by tiny covalent bonds and family recipes and Captain Morgan and perfect staccatos and mistakes.
The brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery bullshit: 31%.
I am water but hardly an ocean.
A significant fraction of my body is precipitating and evaporating; readily
I am water.
Therefore, some days I am weak.
And that’s okay.
A while back, a very sweet and dear friend of mine, Laura, gave me an eating disorder workbook during a time in my life when I had really been struggling with my disorder. Since being back in Illinois, I really haven’t had much time to look at it or, rather, to make time to look at it. However, for some reason, the other day, I had decided to give it a shot.
As I skimmed its pages filled with charts and tips and self reflection exercises, I came across a single question that I not only think one must ask themselves when pursuing recovery but, also, a question I think a lot of skeptics ponder when approaching this situation.
What is your eating disorder like for you?
It took a while for me to fully comprehend the question. I analyzed its letters and syllables searching for an alterior motive but, I found none. It was a simple question.
What is your eating disorder like for you?
I guess I could have answered this question a few different ways. Perhaps I could’ve created a pie chart illustrating the different parts of my day, perhaps I could have made a list of
somewhat depicting the pros and cons of my disorder, or perhaps I could’ve answered the question by simply stating, “Shitty.”, because it truly is. But the fact of the matter is, as much as I would have liked to have answered this question with socially frowned upon profanity, the truth of it is, my eating disorder is far more complicated than that.
My eating disorder is tiring; more than tiring.
Six letters of a word that could never do my eating disorder justice.
My eating disorder is sleeping past noon, past one and two, past the stiff knees, heavy arms, and the thick white morning air just so I can buy myself a few extra hunger-free seconds.
As my body screams for me to get up and to welcome the new day, my mind tells me otherwise; to fight against all unwavering laws of nature. To wait until the hunger passes.
My eating disorder is walking back and forth, up and down, tapping feet and fingers, knocking together knees and hearts
because the seven extra calories I consumed in the homemade cookie I took a bite of earlier will kill me. And don’t you dare try to argue this with me. They will fester like toxic sludge in every impurity of my being, clinging like disease to healthy red blood cells, until everything I’ve worked so hard for is lost and I am nothing but just that.
My eating disorder is sitting in my room watching The Biggest Loser, chain smoking the life out of my last few Newports hoping that the radio waves and Nicotine will be enough to fill me up; enough to say, “No thanks, I already ate.” Because although breakfast and lunch are the easiest of the three meals to skip, dinner is, by far, the hardest. I feel my stomach fold and reach and cave in on itself and although I know I should eat, I know that I can’t.
My eating disorder is quietly exercising in my room long after everyone has gone to sleep.
50 leg lifts.
While the house hums with sweet dreams and muffled snores, the voice in the back of my head the Bible had warned me about long before I even knew what sin was is screaming,
“You fucking fat ass!”
“You are a worthless piece of shit.”
“You will never be perfect.”
Although I want nothing more than a simple rest as my eyelids fall heavy with sleep and my joints, slowed with late night exhaustion, I know that I must feel my demons of the day weep alongside the sweat that falls from the outer edges of my hairline and into the carpet of my 4 by 4 room.
My eating disorder is seeing the disappointment in my friends’ eyes and at the very corners of their mouths when they ask, “Do you want to come to the mall with us?!”, because I tell them that I’m too tired for a day out. My eating disorder is hearing the dissipating enthusiasm in their voices when they ask, “Do you want to come to the mall with us?”, because they no longer hold expectations. My eating disorder is watching as my friends, one by one, come around less often and hearing nothing that resembles, “Do you want to come to the mall with us?”, or, “Hey, wanna hangout?”, because they aren’t the ones who fell for the calories. They aren’t the ones
My eating disorder is no longer being able to taste the binge food. The handfuls upon handfuls of pasta and pizza and chocolates and Flaming Hot Cheetos; the massive breakdowns when the hunger gets to be too much and hating myself for letting it get this far.
It’s the bathroom rituals. “Wash hands in hot water and soap. Rinse. Repeat. Take off ring. Wash hands again. Pull back hair. Purge.
Make everything come up.
Taste your memories. Taste your fears. Taste those greasy mistakes.”
I taste my damage.
“Put back on ring.”
My eating disorder is feeling lifeless clumps of the hair that my mom once twisted into big, shiny braids run down the back of my neck, weaving in and out of my shoulder blades and thoracic vertebrae, into the shallow water that pools at the very tips of my toes when I take my morning showers and knowing that I am very much so weathering just not quite sure what from; the starving or the purging?
My eating disorder is trying to cease the seemingly never-ending war between mind and body; my body is crumbling, begging for more while my mind degrades me for asking in the first place. For wanting what I cannot have.
It’s opening cabinets just to close them again because what’s inside is nothing safe. Although I was never particularly good in anatomy, I will dissect my meals until I know every part of its DNA. Although I was never particularly good in math, I will add, subtract, multiply and divide every calorie until I know every part of its formula.
It’s knowing that food can never make me feel whole yet still clinging to the idea that maybe, one day, it might because I know that somewhere along the way, I lost pieces of myself.
It’s counting down the days until Christmas not because I’m excited for its festivities but because I must be #skinny4xmas; I must be stronger by then.
It’s feeling my throat sting as I take drags from my menthol cigarettes because I forgot to cut my nails before I shoved my fingers down my throat the night before.
It’s convincing myself that I do not need food; that my stomach, instead, is applauding me for being invincible. For being brave.
It’s wanting to tell you more about what my eating disorder is like but neglecting to find the words to fit into sentences that fit into paragraphs that fit into the big picture of it all because I am still too embarrassed of everything that my eating disorder truly is.
I don’t want to tell you that I feel as if though I have lost control of everything I thought I had in life.
I don’t want to tell you that, if I could, I would’ve stopped myself from letting it get this far; that I would’ve asked for help.
I don’t want to tell you that I miss my dad.
I don’t want to tell you that most days, I feel hardly strong enough to fight for recovery.
I don’t want to tell you that I wake up already tired.
I don’t want to tell you that I would give anything not to feel.
And I definitely don’t want to tell you that even now, as I sit here typing this, I am hungry. I am tired and I am hungry but I will not eat until my legs can hardly hold me and my eyes can hardly focus because
what my eating disorder is like for me.