Rebirthday

I died on August 29th of last year. My heart stopped, and anorexia killed me. I was technically dead for three minutes.The doctors didn’t think I would make it. I was too far gone. The defibrillators weren’t working; my heart was too damaged; I would never recover from anorexia. Why bother trying? They called my cardiologist to tell her patient had died; she told them to try one more time.

They did, and that’s when the miracle happened. That’s when my heart started beating again; that’s when my lungs started breathing again. That’s when I opened my eyes; that’s when I learned to see. There were sparkles on the ceiling and jewel-drops in my eyes. There was a buzzing in my ears and a million voices in my head; I could hear them all clearly, and they were telling me the truth–the cold, hard, cement-stairwell truth: They told me I couldn’t go on like this; they told me I had to recover. 

And they were right; I knew they were. I couldn’t go on like this, and I didn’t want to. I had to make a change; I had to do this once and for all; I had to recover. 

And so on August 29th, 2016, after ten long years, I finally began my recovery journey. I sought the help of a dietician, psychologist, cardiologist, gastroenterologist, psychiatrist, general practitioner, and liver specialist. I underwent extensive physical and psychological therapy. I gained thirty-eight pounds. I got in touch with my emotions. I learned to eat and exercise in moderation. I found freedom with food and within myself. I broke away from anorexia, and I came back to life.

I was reborn on August 29th of last year. My heart started, and I beat anorexia. I’ve been alive for approximately 525,600 minutes. I survived. The doctors saved me; my heart conditions are now managed with medications; I am recovering from anorexia. Who would’ve thought? I made it out alive, and you can, too. 

Darling: A Letter to My Present Self

Darling,

I know you like it–that feeling of hunger, that stomach-scooped-out kind of bliss. I know fantasize about it–the chalky taste of your fingers down your throat, the way they filled you up when you were so, so empty. I know you dream in it–the heavenly haze as you ran and ran, the world blurring, your legs burning. I know you reach for it–the sour raspberry taste of the quasi-legal diet pills, the big red capsules that stuck in your mouth. I know you long for it–that beautiful thin physique, that scary-low scale number, that delightfully dangerous BMI. I know you miss it–miss it more than the world, miss it because it was your world.

But I also know that you remember–that you remember dropping out of school, that remember being uprooted from your home, that you remember going to the hospital after overdosing on diet pills, that you remember having a heart attack, that you remember being technically dead for three minutes, that you remember what it was really like to be anorexic.

It wasn’t glamorous; it wasn’t pretty; it wasn’t romantic. It was a miserable, dark, agonizing, cold, lonely, hell and you are lucky to have made it out alive. You danced on the brink of death for too long, and now it’s time to move on. There’s nothing there for you, so take your broken heart and come with me; we’ve got a life to live, a world to see, a person to become.

Never, Never, Never Again

There is a chill in the room. It prickles underneath my skin, pulses through my veins, and penetrates the layers of my skull. My lungs tense and tighten; chilled and constricted, they call for air. Carefully, swollen feet hit icy floors and I rise. My knees crackle, clenching, and quickly I glance down at my toes to make sure they haven’t burst. I can feel my heart throbbing–ba-dum-ba-dum-bum–in my ears. Each beat (or cluster thereof, thanks to my PVCs) is reminder: I did this to myself; I gave myself heart disease.The guilt is overwhelming. It’s self-defining, all-consuming, everlasting. It eats me alive, wrapping me in a cocoon of cold, crunching the hope from my bones, gnawing the life right out of my heart. It kills me, and I let it.

Irreversible, permanent, forever. It’s not going away, my cardiologist says, the condition and the guilt. You can’t fix a broken heart–but you can learn from it. You can get up every morning, and you can open your eyes to the world. You can survive with this, and you can thrive with this. You can change the world, and you can change yourself.

And so I promised her, never, never, never again. Never again will I starve, will I supplement, will I slice, will I shrink; never again will I exercise my way to the emergency room; never again will I purge for an impossible peace; never again will I diet to an unwanted death; never again will I let anorexia be my life. 

A smile, a nod, a hug, a tear. 

There’s a warmth in the room now. I take breath; it rattles like gravel, but my lungs fill with fuzzy air. I slip my yellow flip-flops on, and I hardly notice my blue toes. Suddenly, the grey walls surrounding me don’t seem so grim. I feel can my heart dancing in my hands—ba-dum-ba-dum-bum. Each beat is a reminder: I survived; I beat anorexia.

Fight Back; Bite Back

I’d always found the the American Heart Association’s slogan a tad ridiculous. ‘Life is why.’ ‘Why’ what and what’s so great about life? ‘Nothing’, I thought, obnoxiously answering my own rhetorical question. Life was a chore, an obligation, a dull movie that never ended, a tiresome trip that went on far too long. I took it for granted, but who can blame me? That’s what you do until you die.

My heart stopped on August 29, 2016; I was technically dead for three minutes. I collapsed in a stairwell after eating a candy bar. Presumably, the sugar from the Snickers was too much of a shock to my system; it sent me into ventricular fibrillation, which resulted in cardiac arrest. That’s what they said in the ER, at least–that and that I was lucky to be alive.

My psychiatrist showed up. She ran in, her hair messed up and things flying out of her purse. I could see the tears in her eyes. I felt so guilty, and as quickly as I could, I explained to her that I thought the extra calories would behove me and that I was really trying to go above and beyond my meal plan. She interrupted my ineffectual rasping with a lecture; I needed to follow my meal plan exactly and I was lucky to be alive. Okay, I guess.

My cardiologist came bearing tacos, which she handed, confusedly, to my psychiatrist. I tried to wave, but my hand just flopped feebly in the air. She asked me how I was, outlined the adapted course of treatment, and told me I was lucky to be alive. I didn’t say anything; I didn’t have anything to say.

The doctors were right. I didn’t know it then, but I’m beginning to realise it now; I am lucky to be alive. After all that I did to my body, I shouldn’t be here; the starvation, the overexercise, the drugs–they should have killed me; they did, yet they didn’t. Somehow, I survived, and somehow, I’m here now, alive.

Life is a gift–an awful gift, but a gift nonetheless. I’d be lying if I said it’s all sunshine and rainbows from here, but I promise you, it won’t be this terrible forever. Things will get better; you can get through this. You just have to fight back; you just have to bite back.