matter – something that occupies space and has mass
anorexia – believing that you do not deserve space in the world, and therefore that you shouldn’t have mass
(circa the beginning of January 2017)
I chase my taekwondo instructor, Mr. David, through the forest, trying to mimic his graceful stride. Dry leaves crackle under our feet as I push my body into a rhythm of sweat and exhausted muscles. Just finish. Focus. My vision blurs into a tunnel of trees and dirt trails, of white shoes kicking back crinkled earth, of giving my best and for what.
The truth is that I’m disintegrating. I am a skeleton, bits of me unraveling in the wind as I pursue life on a never-ending path.
I think back to the events of today.
“I failed you,” my mom cries, her eyeliner smeared. “I should have raised you to be Christian. At least then you would have an anchor to your identity and your value.”
I don’t quite know how to write this, except to say that it’s a harder truth. Today there was a breach in my privacy, a first questioning of my writing and the darkness behind it. Someone who cares about me delved deep into my Tumblr blog and all of my misery it holds. The result: a well-meaning cascade of emails involving my former school counselor and my parents, people on the radar of my explosive and insidious mental health issues. Yet someone important was completely left out of the entire transmission, someone on the frontline of my health – me.
Mr. David leads the challenge against a giant hill rising up out of the trail. I taste bile, choppy breath rubbing the inside of my throat sore. I can feel the redness coloring my face as sweat drenches my surface area. Why is this so hard? I scream on the inside, feeling the ghost-tremors of a long-forgotten athleticism. My left foot is numb from a bandage that painfully cuts into my flesh.
“I have to stop!” I finally give in, panting. Mr. David turns, concern in his eyes.
I am glad that there are people out there who are concerned about me, though I am also furious. I feel betrayed; there are rigid boundaries I patrol in regards to what my family knows about the true state of my mental health. It’s a scary place, a dungeon that even I am afraid to venture in. Why would I want my family to brave those dangers too? I’m an adult – if my writing upset someone, why wouldn’t they speak to me directly?
I collapse on the side of the trail, wiping sweat and hair and grime from my forehead.
“It’s too tight. The bandage is too tight, Mr. David.”
For the first time during our life-giving training sessions, I feel ugly, and worthless, and incapable.
I try to understand why my secret box of dark expressions was given to my parents. I reassure myself that the nameless person who opened the lid was only doing so for my own protection. But I feel like a bag has been pulled over my head as I’m suddenly guided through sharp turns and shoved through an open door. Ripping the wool from my eyes, I realize that I’m falling down quicksand and into a blackhole. I’m trapped with nowhere to go as the sun pulsates onto my head and I scream and scratch at the door, desperate, helpless.
My Tumblr blog was really my only outlet for the very hard things, the very dark things. Now it will never be the same, all because of the concern from a faceless voice who cares about my wellbeing. The harsh scales of life seem sometimes like they will overcome me.
My legs feel dead, the circulation of blood and breath finding blocks of panicky ice. Even a passing thought about standing sends tremors of anxiety into my tired, twitching muscles.
My dad is in my room, upset. “Why didn’t I take you to Sunday school more? I must have made some huge mistake as a parent.”
I am left so confused about myself and my future and my beliefs, lying in bed as I fight back tears.
“It’s fine Dad. It’s fine. I’ll be fine,” I plead.
Mr. David has a sixth sense about my emotions. Right now, as I sit on the forest floor, I am a little girl with a trampled spirit. I’m hugging myself, emotionally, spiritually, falling into an all too familiar shell of self-preservation, of humiliation, of vulnerability.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper, guilty for having to stop.
He starts re-wrapping my bandage, holding my outstretched foot with utmost tenderness. Suddenly the moment overwhelms me; in all of my blinding confusion about the greater meaning of life, here is an angel. Here is my Christ, not washing my feet but bandaging them.
I think back to all my anger towards myself, the raw self-hatred that I vented onto my other blog.
“You could be a good runner,” Mr. David says. My sad heart catches a slightly quicker beat.
I blink a few times, processing this request. I don’t understand. Why does this man believe in me so much? Why does he believe in me in ways that no one else believes in?
I don’t have time to understand why or even to think about it. Soon I am standing up, legs pumping against the earth of the forest, treading over leaves, lungs burning again, bandage cutting into my flesh. I chase Mr. David, this angel who somehow, for some reason, sees my potential in the great wide world.
love – giving unconditional value to another’s mass and space