There is no magic cure, no making it go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn’t matter anymore.
— Laurie Halse Anderson
As said on the homepage, I am Maria Hromcenco, a 10th-grader and recovering anorexic. Please subscribe to get notifications for my posts! They will cover various topics, including advice for parents and friends, ways I deal with body image, and many other tips I found to have helped (and continue to help) me a lot. 🙂
It’s almost my one year anniversary since discharging from Renfrew’s residential center, where I was located for two months.
A LOT has changed. I look back at myself before the onset of my anorexia and during it, and I cannot recognize that person. I mean, I can; but it is someone extremely different from me now.
I’m proud of myself. It’s usually really hard for me to be proud of myself for anything, but I can say with confidence that I am SO proud of myself. I almost died that fateful summer of 2019; and though I’ve been through countless hardships this year, I’m still going strong.
I remember being at Renfrew for 8 weeks, and each week feeling like a different eternity. I remember begging my therapist for extra time in the computer lab to do schoolwork; I remember doing homework for AP Calc AB and literally learning everything on my own, straight from the textbook; I remember doing my first physics exam the same day I had a challenge meal. I am proud of myself for persevering in my rigorous classes despite not having physical teacher guidance and extremely limited time on the computers— and navigating this while simultaneously going through one of the hardest periods of my life.
I am grateful. So very grateful. I was walking with my mom the other day, and we were talking about how it felt for all of us around this time last year. Oh, it was awful. I was terrified and freezing cold; my parents had to bring me blankets and warm clothing almost immediately after they dropped me off at Renfrew. I was in a wheelchair, my fingers were constantly being pricked to measure glucose levels; I was given huge tablets of literal sugar and boxes of orange juice to bring up the sugar in my blood. 3 AM vitals— every single time was orthostatic, and thus the chugging of gatorade commenced. I was SO cold.
Maybe week 2 or 3 into my stay, I was talking to my therapist about my measured discharge date. She had said it was estimated to be around December. I remember having a literal meltdown. I was accepted on August 28th or so; if I had left early December, I would’ve been there three whole months (luckily, I was discharged late October).
Now, I feel joy every second I step outside and see the gorgeous nature around me. I am so thankful I feel warm and can go back to wearing dresses when it’s snowing outside; I am so grateful I can have all of those fun Autumn drinks and treats. I’m able to wear fall outfits that I like, without constantly being insecure in my body. I have enough nutrition to have mental-space for pursuing my passions and extracurriculars. I have discovered a huge love for philosophy.
This whole post is kind of like a congratulations to me. I don’t normally tell myself “I’m proud of you”, but I’m doing it now. When I was in the hospital, I was looking down my journey and it felt like a long tunnel— a musty, cold, dark tunnel, with a tiny little circle of light in the distance. And I DID IT!!! I made it to the light!!!
I’m looking at my past self, and I am hugging her. I am embracing her frail and weak body, and kissing her worried forehead. I am telling her that it will be okay. In fact, it will be more than okay. It will be brilliant.
And this goes out to everyone who is on this journey to recovery, from anything really. You will be okay. I promise you it is worth it. I promise you with all my might that it is going to be beautiful. It won’t be easy— but LIFE isn’t easy. In order to live life, you need to take risks. And the risks associated with fighting simply pale in comparison to all the benefits you reap.
You can do this.
“Life can be magnificent and overwhelming – that is the whole tragedy. Without beauty, love, or danger it would almost be easy to live.” – Albert Camus
I lay in the dark slumbers of night, eyes peeled open, staring unyieldingly at some blind spot in the corner. The perpendicular lines of the walls gently meet with the wooden floorboards; their geometric shapes clashing with the soft fabric of the transparent ivory gauze. The fabric of twilight.
It is pure, smooth coal; I gulp air, and it travels seamlessly down my throat, hesitating slightly at the uvula before brushing past as it tumbles along my spine.
The harsh glare of my phone contrasts with this satiny atmosphere. Its blue light dilates and contracts my pupils in a hypnotic rhythm. Just as I’m about to shut it off, a video catches my eye.
It is a documentary about a philosopher, just turned ninety-seven and facing his encroaching death. I click it.
As the video ends, I look up at the ceiling of my room. It seems that during the clip, my surroundings had been gradually transforming, culminating into one pinnacle of shock as I strain my eyes into the abyss of cool shadows. There is a pulpating form, undulating in its slimy black grease. I am surrounded by this form, drowning in its movements. Death is grazing me with its fingertips, I think.
I will be gone one day. Everyone will be gone. What a cliche, depressingly basic thought. Still, I am submerged in fear. My breath is gone, as if a chilling wind has swept it away— yet, the room is still.
It is no longer a room, but a swamp of murky ink.
Death is the only certainty of life. The only facet we can be sure will occur. So why am I gasping for air at the very thought of it?
Never had my fresh, young mind considered the thought of being gone. This inexperienced brain of hardly sixteen years can scarcely fathom it.
But this night, I come under the mossy fingernails of Thanatos; the piercing claws of Poe’s raven; the hollowed sockets of a bleached skull.
Why can’t I embrace you, as a friend, as a lover? I think silently— for words have disintegrated, proven unnecessary in this dusk of mystery and feelings. They have no purpose when confronted with inexplicable emotions of timeless pursuits.
I will never be fully accepted, nor embraced, Death replies. You may believe you have come to terms with me, but I will forever slither back into your ears, your lungs, your veins; solidifying your blood, coagulating your thoughts. My movements are not once anticipated.
Laying in my bed, drenched in sweat and tears, I sigh an exhalation of esse. My eyes droop downwards, struggling to peel and say farewell to the suffocating presence of certainty. But there is no need; eternity is an omniscient being, as close to God as one can ever get.
I feel as though I have progressed in my recovery SO much.
School and real life, though wonderful, seemed to have almost distracted me from myself and my internal problems; quarantine gave me the chance to finally face the greatest challenge of all… me.
Now, I am exercising in a healthy way— to feel strong and powerful, rather than for the satisfaction of my anorexia. Each time I am able to lift a weight or build muscle, it feels like I am laughing in my ED’s face: “You thought you could get rid of my energy, you thought you could kill me— but guess what! You can’t! I’m stronger than you!”
I am also facing past fear foods on a daily basis, and they hardly feel scary anymore. There are still traces of the ED voice, telling me lies and negative words, but I simply shut it out. It’s like background noise— unpleasant at times, but generally just a bit of white noise that my mind blocks.
That being said, I still struggle. I have plenty of bad body image days, at times I compare myself to others (both externally and internally), and I catch myself buying into the exhaustingly hypocritical and false “beauty standard” that celebrities perpetuate. AND THAT IS OKAY! Do not feel bad or disheartened if you find yourself having thoughts or emotional responses to triggers when you thought you were well into recovery. The former’s existence does not dictate the truth of the latter.
What matters is your response to these thoughts, and the actions you take.
If someone has accidentally said something triggering, sit down with them and discuss it. They most likely did not mean to hurt you in any way, but if they don’t know what they said wrong, they cannot fix their behavior. It can be very hard to talk about, but it is the only way to help others support you.
If you are comparing yourself to others on social media or elsewhere, try to visualize a pleasant experience. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a meadow or a peaceful garden, or wherever you feel at peace. Think about all of the details present, and then picture yourself doing something you love. Don’t focus on how you appear; just concentrate on the actions you are taking and how they make you feel inside. This visualization technique often helps me greatly.
Another thing you can do if you are stuck in a comparison loop is to acknowledge the photos’ surface-level content. Realize that the photos a person is posting are just snapshots of a moment, and are not accurate representations of the person themselves. Try to focus on the person’s eyes, smile, or other indications of their inner emotions. Instead of comparing or being jealous, instead you can compliment them! By saying out loud, “wow, I really love their eyes/outfit/etc.”, or commenting on their post, both you and the person receiving the compliment end up feeling really good. The karma will also come back to you in the future! Giving positive energy to the universe increases your chances of receiving positive energy back.
Finally, what I have been doing is practicing SELF-LOVE!!! I will probably make a whole separate post about this, but a brief overview of what I have been doing is making a daily list of what I love about myself, what makes me confident, and what I was proud of accomplishing for the day. I urge you all to do the same! Stopping to really think and write this down is not vain or narcissistic in any way. In fact, it brings your internal self joy and helps put your position into perspective.
To end this mini rant about self-love and struggles, I want to thank everyone who has sent me messages about my blog and recovery. To hear that my experience and writing has helped others makes me incredibly happy. When I first had the idea to create this blog in a hospital room at the very beginning of my long road to recovery, I could never have imagined that I would be making tangible differences in someone’s life experience. That is the ultimate goal of this blog! However, I am not perfect either; hence the name imperfect recovery! I am always ready to help or talk if you need the support of someone who has experienced the same things as you.
I know everyone says this, but the screen time on my phone has become absolutely baffling; honestly, it makes me sick to my stomach. Almost every time I go on Instagram, it ends up leaving me in a worse headspace than I initially had before logging on— and yet, the detrimental cycle inevitably continues.
Whether it be about comparing my productivity, preparations for college applications, bodies and selfies, nutrition accounts, superficial levels of intelligence put up as a facade, overwhelming news, and petty arguments between people; all these things and more made me absolutely nauseated afterwards. However, I continued to hang on. I have this fear of missing out, of being left out or behind, because I am not constantly active in group chats or replying to stories. But I must remember— this type of interaction, though reinforcing relationships, is hardly their defining characteristics.
At first, this challenge was quite difficult. I kept having the urge to pick up my phone and scroll, or catch up with my friends. However, it quickly became my new norm. It was such a relief to not have headaches after the constant bombardment of news or posts, and my head was much clearer and better able to focus on the present moment. This new age of technology and instant gratification makes for very short spans of attention, and a drive to continually look towards the future. Having a break from Instagram’s reinforcement of this was wonderful, allowing me to be more present.
Deleting Instagram was like running away to the Walden cabin with Thoreau. I escaped the ideas of the masses, and was able to hone in on myself and my individual thoughts. Thoreau even writes: “…There comes a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion…” What he means here is that humans need to discover themselves; they need to figure out what we are going to do in this life. However, none of us have a complete understanding of this from birth, so we often fall into conforming to other people’s behaviors and actions. This tactic, although very easy to do, is imitation; and effectively, as Thoreau says, suicide. As Stephen West from Philosphize This puts it: “…imitation is suicide…you going around doing your best imitation of what the people around you are doing in the interest of avoiding a difficult conversation with yourself…is effectively suicide…suicide of your individuality. No, self-reliance preaches a sort of radical non-conformity…” By leaving my main source of social media, I was able to become more of an individual. But the fact remains that objectively, this break was rather short— however long it may have seemed to me at the time. I firmly believe that I must continue taking these breaks in order to radically redefine how I view myself and my place in this world.
Unfortunately, my situation makes it very difficult to go completely without Instagram. Almost all of my interactions with my friends take place via its dms, I run a business where I message people through it, and I have an art account from which I take daily inspiration. All in all, I truly missed my friends, and from my hiatus realized that there are quite a lot of opportunities to spread positivity and empowerment on this platform.
Therefore, what I have taken from this is to:
Limit my time on the app
Limit where exactly I am spending my time and energy (focus more on messaging with my friends than mindlessly scrolling)
Actively use my platform to spread positivity and empowerment, whether that be through complimenting on people’s photos, reposting meaningful quotes, checking in on people, and overall making my stay less toxic and more joyful.
Another piece of advice I found to have helped me: Whenever you have the urge to scroll/open an app, instead opt for a breathing exercise.
All in all, I learned a lot from this seemingly minuscule “experiment”. I realized that often, Instagram is a place for me to avoid myself. And I confirmed my suspicions that I should restrict my time on this and other unnecessary electronic applications (albeit gradually, and not entirely cutting them out, as this is near impossible and not very practical)
I hope my ramblings were interesting for you to read 🙂
I have always struggled with positive self-image. I believe most people in this world have. But though this is the case, it does not mean that it is something to strive for and normalize.
I feel like I constantly need to be achieving something. Instead of allowing my accomplishments to sink in, I seem to be elated for a split second, and then run after another goal to conquer.
This also seems to apply to body image. Although my body image was very good during quarantine, recently a couple of my friends came over for my birthday. I absolutely loved having them and enjoyed every second of it; but afterwards, looking at the pictures my mom took, I had a breakdown. Not seeing my peers prevented me from comparing myself— so when I finally did see them, I became more prone to this detrimental comparison. Looking at myself in the camera, I began to nitpick every detail— my hair was too long and limp, my stupid braces, my weird nose, etc. The problem was, my family and friends didn’t see it this way at all. I got so many positive messages from people telling me I looked beautiful, and my family members said I looked like an angel. These positive messages only confused me more; why were my close ones lying to me? The conflict between my self-image and that which external factors were telling me contrasted to an absurd degree. It made me angry at myself… for being angry at myself.
The strange thing is, my self-image changes drastically. At some points, I look at myself and think, Wow! You are SO talented and smart. You have achieved an enormous amount of things already, and your desire for knowledge is incredible. You look absolutely beautiful and strong. And I believe it.
But other times, I look at myself and think, You are so stupid. Look at all of these genius people around you— you are nothing. You are worthless and you need to work harder; you are ugly and gross, and how could you ever DARE to think otherwise?
This disparity of my reality is what frustrates me. How can I go from one viewpoint to another so easily? Which one is the truth? Can we even attain a reality if we view it through such flawed lenses as what comprises our human senses? Is there such a thing as reality, if everyone— including your own self— has these disparate mindsets?
Switching the topic a bit, I’ve recently been obsessed with Albert Camus. When I study a certain person’s work or philosophies, I begin to adopt their mindset. This is definitely what has happened with Camus; I’ve read The Stranger and The Plague, and have just begun reading The Myth of Sisyphus (DEFINITELY recommend all of these).
Though some people may immediately write off his ideas as depressing and miserable, I tend to strongly disagree. These people fail to dive deeper into his philosophies— they are lazy in their beliefs, and instantly judge. Camus’ ideas are actually of the opposite nature. He supports Absurdism, the “conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life, and the human inability to find any in a purposeless, meaningless or chaotic and irrational universe.”
However, this is not a reason to despair. “A meaningless universe is actually an opportunity to free ourselves from the shackles of hope and experience existence more fully” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hJZEq61KeM). This idea took me a while to truly grasp. Though I try my best to learn with an open mind, it is incredibly hard to overcome subconscious judgments that spring from the ideas you are raised, or “nurtured”, with. I am by NO means finished processing this idea, and I don’t think I ever will be… and that in itself is beautiful.
Here is a great video to watch about Camus’ take on life:
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
Anyways, what is my point in going off on this tangent? It is that the universe is absurd (at least from Camus’ perspective). It is random and arbitrary, and there is no reason in it. But that is not a cause for despair— it is not a cause for philosophical or physical suicide. It is instead a reason to create our own morals and values, to fully commit to living our own life.
A meaningless life means that these standards of beauty, these pre-written societal paths of accomplishments and set roads to some distant point, are fallacies. We are free to revolt against these constraints, and throw ourselves into our lives. If there is no afterlife or transcendent morals, why should I set myself to harsh expectations? To become what Camus refers to as an absurd hero, I must live life to its absolute fullest, despite the absurd.
To me, this applies to my self-image in that I must rebel against the ever-clashing realities I am constantly barraged with, and instead live my life fully and joyfully. I must make absolutely the most I can with it, instead of restricting myself to what society tells me to do or look like.
This is very hard to properly apply to situations, but I will not give up trying or thinking. My absolute favorite thing is when I am able to connect seemingly distant philosophical ideas to concrete conflicts present in my life or immediate surroundings. It makes their application and reality so much more tangible.
I hope you enjoyed this philosophical approach to some recent thoughts about self-image! The more I learn about philosophy, the more I realize how intrinsically connected it is with our human reality. Philosophy is not elitist knowledge of abstract, unusable ideas; but rather, the study of innate human nature and behavior.
This quarantine has been incredibly stressful for everyone. People have been struggling to sustain themselves both physically (job, food/supplies, etc.) and mentally.
For me, almost the entirety of quarantine has been filled with terrible anxiety and worry.
I needed an outlet for my stress, and so I poured it into preparation for my AP tests and working on my college application. I devoted hours to studying and stressing over my extracurriculars; every extra moment I could spare was used to pore over stats and college reaction videos on youtube, and I found myself spiraling as I read through unending lists of writing and science competitions.
This was terrible for my mental health. Constantly comparing myself to others made me feel as though all my accomplishments were insignificant; as if they were meaningless when contrasted with others’.
I found myself isolating. Every evening, I would shut myself up in my art room and draw. Whenever someone walked in, I felt this terrible sense of anger and irritability. I would immediately snap and tell them to leave me be.
Sometimes the anxiety would get so bad that I would physically tense up; I just felt so scared, so stupid compared to other people. I felt as if I wasn’t doing enough.
As if I wasn’t good enough.
I constantly pushed myself to do better and better, making the false promise that I would feel much happier once I achieved my goals— and yet, once I achieved them, my pride was incredibly brief and subsided almost immediately. After I accomplished something, I put it past me and moved on to the next thing on my list.
After the AP tests, I thought I had finally calmed down. However, this was not the case; I was still constantly worried about doing more. I even ventured onto College Confidential, the most toxic and debilitating forum out there. I self-isolated and recoiled from human connection.
As you might expect, this was terrible— not only for me, but for my family as well. The anxiety wasn’t 24/7 anymore, as it was before the exams, but it was still very prevalent, and prevented me from truly enjoying the present moment.
I recently started listening to this philosophy podcast called Philosophize This by Stephen West. I absolutely adore it, and I can’t recommend it enough.
This podcast got me deeply interested in philosophy and thought.
Most of the philosophers, at least from the early Hellenistic period, all sought one goal— eudaimonia (happiness/wellbeing). Initially, I listened to their personal methods to reaching welfare from an outsider’s perspective, purely from interest.
However, very recently I realized that I needed to apply their thinking to my real life. Laozi, Leibniz, Spinoza— all of these great thinkers spent their entire lives seeking the answer to a virtuous life. In order to genuinely thank them for their work, I was morally obligated to further their knowledge and attempt to insert it in my personal experiences.
However, I didn’t truly synthesize this until yesterday. Yes, yesterday! Yesterday, I wasn’t happy or content at first. Again, I was looking to the future, worried about things that might not even happen. My future-oriented way of thinking had made life fly by much too quickly, without me being able to properly appreciate it. I had been comparing myself to Yale graduates and national scholars, frantically scanning research papers published by high school students— and, as you can imagine, I was in distress. The only way to explain my emotions is that I was spiraling. I was spiraling into a dense whirlwind of comparison, self-doubt, and trepidations. The “goblins” of panic were coming out.
Then, I decided to take a walk. I took my notebook, a pen, and my phone, and I went to a nearby meadow.
I put on my adored philosophy podcast, and I walked and relished in the outdoors. The sun-drenched blades of grass, the whistles of nature, the hot concrete stairs on which I rested completely overwhelmed me. I suddenly felt a sense of nostalgia, of childhood summers entrenched in carefree innocence. I paused my podcast, and I decided to take notes on the plethora of concepts I had been listening to for the past couple of weeks. I started with Rene Descartes.
I cannot begin to express how incredible that sensation was. Finally, after months of agony, I was once more connected to the present.
I have always felt disconnected from my body. Even in elementary school, I would constantly tell my mom how I’d stare at my hand and repeat “I’m real” until I got completely shocked. It felt as though I had been living through someone else, or through a fictional book or movie; and when I forced myself to acknowledge my current existence, I was shocked and perturbed. In middle school, I would feel like I was looking down at my body from above; like my mind was separate from my physical existence (this reminds me of the great thinker Avicenna and his flying man thought experiment, but that’s a story for another time 🙂 )
Anyway, I have always struggled to be mindful and in the present. And now, more than ever before, I found myself continually looking towards the future in doubt and self-hate.
So you can conceive my relief when finally, finally, I was grounded. I was sitting, and I was writing about Rene Descartes, and I was breathing.
When I came home, my mom had a talk with me. She told me that she had been angry with me all day due to a fight we had yesterday. I started crying, she started crying; we didn’t want to fight. And it was at that moment that I realized I had to make a change. It reminded me of Family Happiness by Leo Tolstoy— I didn’t want to lose such a precious relationship as I had with my mother because we couldn’t express our emotions properly. I love my family, yet I was constantly tense and isolated, and so I took it out on them. I realized that it had to STOP immediately, or else I would permanently squander my most valued bonds and connections due to an act of sheer folly committed in my teen years.
Later in the evening, I was again writing about Descartes in my notebook. And I came upon this quote of his:
“Divide each difficulty into as many parts as is feasible and necessary to resolve it”
And another one:
“We ought to give the whole of our attention to the most insignificant and most easily mastered facts, and remain a long time in contemplation of them until we are accustomed to behold the truth clearly and distinctly”
Here, Descartes is saying that in order to solve a problem, one must break it down into the smallest pieces they can and then behold the truth. These smaller pieces are much less complex and easier for our minds to manage; there is less opportunity for error, and we are able to perceive the truth more clearly.
Normally, I would just read the quotes and thoughts of these philosophers without truly processing them. I thought, I don’t have any of the problems that these thinkers wish to resolve (again, my subconscious ideas of perfection, and my instinct of wanting to believe everything is completely okay).
But in this instance, I decided to apply his philosophy to my life. I thought, and I thought deeply. And after breaking down my constant anxiety, fears, and self-doubt, I reached the conclusion that I was at war with myself. My internal dialogue was a hostile, bloody war-zone, and I was tearing myself apart. I self-isolated and cringed from touches and hugs because I couldn’t even live with myself, much less be able to open up to someone else.
I realized that I need to find inner peace. This may seem cliche, but I could care less.
My goal is to find peace with myself. I need to accept and genuinely love myself in order to be profoundly happy.
I thought of Laozi, and his ideas of Taoism. Taoism (or Daoism) mistrusts conventional knowledge. After all, its most firm belief is that humans will never be able to truly comprehend the “Tao”.
“…who rules the realm with knowledge, is the terror of the realm…”
“…forget about knowledge and wisdom, and people will be a hundred times better off. Throw away charity and righteousness, and people will return brotherly love. Throw away profit and greed, and there won’t be any thieves…”
I initially scorned this controversial stance of “anti-learning” and “anti-knowledge”. I thought, what a simple and stupid way to attain virtue! Not desiring to learn? That’s ridiculous.
And though I retain my curiosity and thirst for knowledge, I also realize how wrong I was with this rash black and white judgment. The initial stem of all my anxiety was, in fact, a trepidation of how vast the knowledge of the universe is, and fear that I would never attain it in its totality. The Taoist approach to simply letting go (“flowing”), and honing in on yourself, has incredible merit. Allowing to “forget yourself, and you will never be forgotten”— meaning, do things truly for the purpose of helping others, and not to make yourself look better. I was constantly needing to be productive, and feeling guilty if I wasn’t. I was forcing myself to do things solely because I thought colleges would like to see them on my transcript. If I did something for my own happiness, I either rejected it as a waste of time, or tried to alter it so as to fit my conceptions of what productivity entails.
Taoism advocates, at least to me, that we should indeed thirst for knowledge, but only for the right reasons.
In my therapy session today, I was able to really hone in on this idea of peace and doing things with intention. My therapist helped me lay out some points that would recenter me on this journey to self-acceptance, and help me track my progress:
Genuinely loving myself/being less harsh
Being focused on the present moment
Being mindful and calm
These are all with the purpose of soothing my innards, and establishing a calm in the torrent of internal doubt and fear. Some further tactics I developed during the session were
To practice gratitude
Utilize grounding techniques when I “spiral”
Go through the senses; body scan
Become present and mindful
Write out the shame circle
Get outside, take a break
Look at it with fresh eyes and compassion
Say thank you to compliments and let them actually sink in; absorb them
This journey to peace is a long one, with an undefined answer. I tend to gravitate towards black and white, which is why philosophy is so interesting to me— it forces me to realize that there is no black and white, almost always regardless of the issue!
Rather than looking upon daunting tasks with fear and preconceived anxiety before I even begin, I must instead relish in the unknown. For how depressing would it be to discover the absolute truth of the world? Us humans are characterized by our relentless curiosity and desire to learn more. If we reach the end answer, our purpose would be void. So, I must embrace this unknown knowledge; and delight in the fact that I have so much left to discover. And I must do it for myself, and the betterment of my mental state.
It makes my stomach clench, calling forth a sense of unbearable nausea, to think of those mossy stone walls. They appear well-kept, valued and historic— but the sin lay in our quiet knowledge, unbeknownst to outsiders. Hidden beneath the cracked plaster lie unfathomable depths of hushed angst, desperate pleas, unabating yearn. Frack the gravel— its pebbles mix with briny droplets of liquid longing. The quintessential Pennsylvania landscape; trees piling atop one another, a draping forest (don’t try running away, you won’t make it far), a viridescent meadow of gentle grass. A field of tears, dents in the turf formed from lengthy phone calls— the singular connection to the realm of natural existence. The change of people, perpetually flowing in and out— the passage through eras, different periods of history. 8 weeks, 8 units, 8 contrasting vestments of power. Every morn, 4 AM; the baring of virgin eyes in pure dusk. The mortal struggle to thrust on a thin nightgown, papery and cold. Bare, gelid skin underneath; hairs sporadically stick up in minute clumps. There ensues a blurry field of vision, a desperate groping for glasses. A slew of fluorescent lights coalesce with the heavy swirlings of slumber.
And then the descent.
Agonizing dread steeps into every crevice, kafkaesque shadows lurking in the dark cardinal corners of the waiting room. The phone rings, chimes permeating throughout the array of medical spaces. Suddenly, they call your name. Steady thumps, beating upon the carpeted floor. The swift click of the door unlocking, the bustling of the weary nurse. Needles, heart monitors, plastic covering upon the seat, finger pricking… and the sharpest sting of all, the scale.
The recurrent words, endlessly repeated each morning— “Looks like your blood pressure is orthostatic! Would you like blue or orange gatorade?”
As dreadful as it was, as arduous and exacting— I owe my life to it. I owe my joy, my love, my jubilation; I am deep in the debt of life.
The people. My friends, communally sharing these experiences. Only they can understand. They have witnessed the menu rotations, they have heard the counselors gossip. I shed keen tears of unencountered emotions— their eyes absorbed, their ears paid heed. They know exposures and passes; we sang songs and practiced witchcraft. The modish pinkhouse, the droning lantern flies; brief snippets of outside humor spreading like wildfire. We premiered The Notebook in the stained ivory walls of the DLR; our friendship bracelets, artfully handcrafted in group therapies. The unending wait in the medicine line, the fear of missing appointments; our mailboxes, chock full of reminders. These individuals are intrinsically threaded in the ligatures of my veins, weaving a veiled tapestry unrevealed to any other.
And I miss them.
How can I miss these people, these brief moments of connection; and despise the environment, dreadfully repulsed by the thought of returning? Contiguous memories, speckled as stardust upon my sloping lashes. Chasmic connections, unparalleled to any other; petrifying, loathsome circumstances—