Good afternoon, or whichever time of day you are currently experiencing. I was prompted to write today because I had kind of a tough weekend. It was a tougher weekend than I have had in quite some time, and it sort of threw me for a loop. I dealt with some unexpected triggers which I was unprepared to handle, and I experienced more than one moment of discouragement. Yesterday, I was really in the thick of it. I was at church when a wave of emotion hit me. I was frustrated. I was exasperated. I was angry. I was hungry. I was sad. So, I walked downstairs to the church nursery and I cried. I felt like a hot mess, an emotional wreck, a volatile, crazy person. I mean, for the love of God, I didn’t even have a reason to cry. I felt a wee bit ridiculous.
Since that mini breakdown, I have been doing some thinking on expressing emotions. At my sickest, I felt almost no emotion, except maybe anger. Anger if my meals were disrupted, anger if I could not complete a workout, anger at everybody around me if they dared get in the way of my self destruction. Other than anger and anxiety, I felt very little.
My college graduation coincided with the rapid, horrifying downward spiral of my eating disorder. The months leading up to it were the ones when I most severely restricted food and obsessed over exercise. The day of my graduation, my mom gave me this gorgeous blue sapphire ring, created with a band that belonged to my grandmother. She was visibly excited to give this gift to me, something she had put incredible thought and love into. It was a wonderful gift, but I responded with complete apathy. Besides, it was too big for my finger. It fits quite nicely now, I’m glad to report.
While I was working at summer camp last summer, we were trapped in a terrifying hail storm coming down a mountain, with approximately 25 4th graders who were scared out of their minds. It was miserable, frightening, and stressful. Yet, I felt nothing. I cut my leg on that hike and didn’t notice until hours had passed. I had never been more disconnected from my body.
Later in the summer, I made a trip to Scotland which was utterly disastrous. In retrospect, it was one of the saddest and most desperate times of my life, but I expressed no emotion whatsoever. I didn’t cry. I didn’t get angry. I didn’t laugh or smile. I didn’t feel.
Even in moments that were less miserable, like on the day that this picture with my dad was taken, I was not happy. I knew how to form the corners of my mouth into a smile, but it was the farthest thing from genuine. I felt like a body of water in the depths of winter, where the seaweed and rocks underneath are vaguely visible but only through the fog of the frozen surface. Under the starving girl, there were perhaps hints of a girl who felt real feelings, but they were all only visible through the foggy lens of starvation.
A turning point in my recovery was when I started to feel again. I laughed at something and meant it. I joked with customers at work instead of wishing they would shut up and get out (okay, I still wish that occasionally). I began to look truly happy in pictures. I cried in my therapist’s office, something I do fairly regularly these days. Essentially, I started to thaw out.
Life is emotion. It is crying and laughing and being afraid and letting each of these experiences flow through you. When I’m happy, I am truly happy. And when I am sad, I am sad. I might cry in the church nursery from time to time, and that’s okay. Recovery is frustrating. It is hard and sad and a lot of other unpleasant things. However, it is also worth it. I would rather have days where I feel like a hot mess and days where I feel full of joy than live an existence in which I feel nothing at all.