Silence

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about everything I’ve gone through and the things I continue to struggle with. Endless strings of white lies and half-truths cover up my past and hide pieces of my present. I am ashamed of myself and afraid to open up about what I’ve been through and the emotions that still suffocate me.

When I was sixteen years old I was hospitalized for anorexia nervosa. Right off the bat, my parents established it was to be a secret. They told my track coaches my hospitalization was for dehydration when I wasn’t at practice. When anyone asked what was wrong or how I was doing, my parents would speak quickly in white lies to hide my true condition. When I returned to school, my mom made it clear that the attendance office didn’t need to know my reason for hospitalization, and to let her know right away if they tried to question me. My parents were only trying to protect me, but establishing my eating disorder as some sort of deep dark secret hurt me more than they would ever imagine.

My treatment didn’t help much either. I listened to my doctors and did what they said, however I still wasn’t trusted and honestly I felt like more of a prisoner than a patient. I often found they would test the limits of my emotions and even more often I would find myself ignored when I cried. I was required to have a constant one-on-one, therefore I never had a private moment to express my emotions, nor did I have a single person I felt comfortable enough to confide in.

My outpatient treatment wasn’t much different. My therapists sat me down with my parents on either side of me and scolded me: I was bad, I was guilty, I was responsible, I was unworthy. Righteous and unsympathetic, my therapists established themselves as figures of authority. I became ashamed, depressed and even more broken. More so, I became even more unable to open about my eating disorder.

Ever since, my weight has fluctuated up and down, but the shame remains constant. I am ashamed of every extra pound and soft curve of my body, as well as every dark depressed crevice of my broken mind. Today my eating disorder resembles bulimia a little more closely than anorexia; after years of starvation I guess my iron willpower finally gave out. 

I can’t bring myself to seek out professional help. I still have nightmares about returning to treatment three years later. I can’t talk to anyone about it. I get so upset and moody and friends, my parents, coaches and professors will practically beg me to open up to them and I just sit there in silence. It feels like I’m physically incapable of forming the words. I just can’t talk about my eating disorder-let alone admit I have one.

That’s how things have been for the past few years: mood swings, weight fluctuations, skipping social events and shying away from clothes that reveal my figure. I’m not exactly sure what I look like anymore. I don’t know if I’m skinny or fat or muscular or just plain average. I don’t know if I’m eating too little or too much. I don’t know what normal is. I don’t know what confidence feels like.

I feel trapped in a life of abnormality. I can’t go a day without counting calories or exercising or scruntinizing every curve and contour of my body in the mirror. I can’t open up enough to get help. I can’t even open up enough to get sympathy. I can only remain closed- I can only be silent. 

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Fraud

I’m two weeks into the fall semester of my junior year and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it.  I’m at the same school, in the same program, surrounded by the same classmates but everything seems so different.  I’m rested.  I’m not overwhelmed.  The storm inside my head has been relatively calm.  I’ve even loosened up enough to allow myself to go out twice since I’ve been back.  This eased state of mind terrifies me.

I’ve been very anxious since I began my college education.  I would stay up late night after night, studying until I could hardly keep my eyes from shutting.  Then, I would pour myself a cup of coffee and press on.  I spent the past two years like this.  Pounds evaporated from my body until skin and bone were all I had left, and I didn’t bother putting on makeup or wearing presentable clothes.  Rather, I dressed more strategically, layering on all sorts of tights and sweatshirts and coats to keep myself from freezing to the bone in the frigid winter.  I looked more like a scared little girl than I did a young woman.  I felt more like a scared little girl than I did a young woman.

While the state of mind I spent the first half of my college education enduring held me captive in a perpetual state of emotional turmoil, the idea of continuing my education without such a mindset is unsettling.  While I was incredibly unhappy, my grades were nearly impeccable.  Driven by anxiety and self doubt, I would study day and night, doing whatever it would take to achieve stellar marks.  At one point during my freshman year, my lab instructor even referred to me as “the girl who gets hundreds on everything”.  Comments like this make me squirm.  Receiving a good grade always makes me feel a little sad.  All I can think about is the extremes I push myself to, the despairs I collapse into, all for a mark on an assignment or exam.  Honestly, I don’t believe I’m actually smart.  I’m nothing but an anxious perfectionist- a fraud.

Everyone in this program is brilliant.  All my classmates seem so knowledgeable, confident and ambitious.  They have their shit together, and they still find time to have friendships and happiness.  I’m not so brilliant.  I’m the polar opposite of confident.  I don’t have friends and I haven’t felt much happiness since I began my college education.  My classmates are truly and genuinely intelligent.  I, on the other hand, simply get anxious.  The past two years have been grueling as I’ve slaved to the irrational worries spinning in my head; however I’m afraid that if I finally quiet my mind, my cover will slip and it will finally be revealed what a phony I really am.

I’m not quite sure what I’m more afraid of at the moment.  I worry that this is only the calm before the storm, that my anxiety will return in full strength and drown me in its illusions of doom.  At the same time, I’m afraid of not being afraid.  What if I can’t do this without being fueled by anxiety?  While I want to be happy and have friends and enjoy college, I also want to be smart.  I want to pass my NCLEX and be a good nurse and maybe even get into a good grad school.  I just can’t find a sense of balance, or a sense of acceptance for myself.

It should play out to be an interesting semester and an interesting year.  Hell, it should play out to be an interesting rest-of-my-bachelors-degree.  I can’t help but wonder if I’ll ever be successful, if I’ll ever be happy and if I’ll ever make it.  I guess all I can do is be kind and gentle to myself and to the world around me.  Maybe then, I’ll find acceptance in the world and acceptance in myself.

Thank you all for reading.