In June 2008 I received an inch-think leather journal from a family who had written a Wordsworth poem on the inner cover. This journal became the one that would hold more watershed moments than I could have possibly imagined on that sticky Mississippi June night, and from cover to cover depicts the story of the first phase of my eating disorder.
That’s right folks, I just got down and dirty with secrets in the first paragraph.
So, the journal entry that you see down below was the first thing I wrote in that leatherbound book–A journal that would later travel to Poland, to an eating disorder treatment center in the most desolate part of Texas, and—
There I go giving too much away again. Let’s just get started.
You should know this: My church’s high school senior banquet was no joke, y’all. We were smack dab in the Bible belt, probably somewhere near the belly button part of the buckle of it–and everybody from the person who just joined church last month to the gray haired lady who once changed your diapers gave you cash money or an adorable dorm-appropriate gift. We were royalty that night. And for our group of seniors that year, 5 of us girls had spent 17 years in cyclical battles of hatred and adoration for each other. We were sisters, plain and simple, and our time had come.
For me, though, this banquet was far from what I had for years expected it to be. Two months past my initial diagnosis of anorexia, I was in a whirlwind of self doubt and confusion, still trying to grasp for the normalcy I craved. As the nutrients I needed were once again flooding my body, things were changing–even my hair had started to thin. I’m no doctor, but it seemed like even the physically dead parts of me were falling away, making room for healthier hair, healthier thoughts, and a healthier Allison. My clothes were almost fitting me again, but I wasn’t even sure how to wear them. At my high school graduation my dress hang sagging from my bony frame, and I shivered from head to toe all day long.
Every day was a struggle. I believe this was at the point when the doctors had instructed my mother to fix every single meal for me. So, this meant no dates with my boyfriend where food was involved, no staying the night at a friend’s house, and absolutely ZERO exercise. I had quit my job, and the cardiologist had all but ordered me from going to college in the fall. If I was a good girl and ate my protein I could move into my dorm 2 hours away and begin classes as planned in January.
So, on this night, June 1st, I found myself at our church banquet. OUR banquet, the one where pictures from infancy to present played to a Corey Smith song and even the one month old church member cried. And yet, I was emotionless, the same way I had been throughout all the typical “senior stuff.” You see, eating disorders have a way of doing that to you. They strip you of the elemental human things that are yours–you no longer feel what is yours to feel or behave as yourself. You do what the disorder says, and you cry when you must go against that voice reminding you that the buttered roll is out to get you. Your emotions emerge when, and only when, the disorder that you’ve clung to for pseudo-stability for so long is threatened. When those emotions take control, the regular ones no longer have room to emerge.
At 17, I was void of real emotions, trying to be a “good girl in recovery,” and trying desperately to remember what it felt like to feel. And yet, this was a turning point. I’ve never even told the sweet girls mentioned in this post, but their faces at the banquet that night is what opened up my heart to courage and hope that I hadn’t felt in months. Though I had no idea how much more of my story I still had to live, I knew on that night that my story is one that would one day need to be told.
June 1st, 2008:
Tonight, the tears finally came. Not the pitiful tears of desperation that have streamed from my face so often lately, but the nostalgic tears that Ive been expecting for a while now. I was almost beginning to think they were never going to come. I really did since the beginning of time expect to have a deep feeling of having lost something loom over me at the end of my senior year. I went to my last football game–it never came–my last day of school, class night, and senior breakfast–but it wasn’t there either. Even graduation day and grad night was at the time just simply something else to endure. It’s like I’ve put myself through so much emotion the past two months that once this got here, I had no true emotions left within me. I felt void and empty. But just now, as my head hit the pillow and my thoughts ran wild with every youth trip, silly song and funny face I’ve shared with these people over the past 18 years, the tears came.
As I saw the faces of Kayla and Olivia tonight as the realization of my leaving dawned on their faces, I knew that my feelings of worthlessness I’ve been having lately hold no value. Because, somehow, somewhere along the way, I did something right. I impacted the lives of those junior high girls that I’ve come to adore so deeply. All the hurt, pain, and downright crap I’ve endured the past year is not in vain if I can ensure that they never have to endure that same battle. They have so much ahead of them that I wish I could take on myself to aleive future heartbreak and pain. But I know they have to learn their own lessons, jump their own hurdles, and overcome obstacles solely created for them.
So, as those tears finally came, I saw myself in the eyes of my precious “Kay-mac” and “Liv.” I saw that junior high girl with half her teenage years still before her. And then, I saw me, and the person that stares back in the mirror. That’s when I knew. My story is no good if left untold. They all need to know the hurt and pain I went through; I pray I can tell them with an honest and genuine heart, so that in 4 and 5 years they can be crying tears of nostalgia and joy and peace instead of those of desperation and pity. Help me to be strong in my weaknesses, Lord, and help me to share my strength. Real world, here I come…
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest in me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor. 12:9-10