Happy Anniversary

It’s my anniversary. It’s my anniversary and I really need a hug. On October 20, 2016, my dad drove me and my mom to the Louis Armstrong International Airport at 4 o’clock in the morning to catch the 6 AM flight to Miami. I packed an apple and 5 nuts for the plane, the bare minimum needed to keep me alive till my intake meeting at 11. My mom and I boarded the flight and I started my new journal.

I recall being in the middle seat. Or maybe the aisle. Just not the window. The journal’s cover had a blue top and a white bottom and in the center, a capital B. It was Kate Spade. It’s now on the top shelf of my bookcase–my bookcase back home in New Orleans–filled with letters to my mom, letters to my dad, letters to my body, letters to my mind, letters to my eating disorder, letters to myself, and other “therapeutic opportunities” my team at Oliver Pyatt gave me.

I remember the text from my tap teacher that came in at around 9 while my mom and I were at baggage claim. It said something like, “Sending lots of love and good vibes today.” I remember in that moment feeling so far away. It was 9 am in Florida, only 8 am back home. But already I was in a different world. Already I was gone.

I remember the letter from my acting teacher, written on the stationary I’d given him. It said, in small scrawl, “Bella- You are a beautiful human. Even though you are far away, remember that you are always with us and we are always with you.” I read it on the plane and cried. I still have that letter. It’s in that journal, too.

I remember feeling stunned, that this was where I was. That one year earlier I’d sat in a conference room with these same people, toying with the idea that I maybe had a problem. Never did I imagine that I’d end up where I was.

I remember the Uber to the office, Umi greeting us at the car. She hugged my mom while I stood and watched. They’d been corresponding on the phone. She gave me the OPC tote bag. She gave me the OPC water bottle. I signed tons of forms but didn’t read a single one. They contained all the rehab rules I’d soon learn the hard way, like no ice in the water bottles and no jackets during meals.

I remember the mini van ride to the center. I remember being numb and silent. I think I wore braids. I think I wore braids and my Victoria’s Secret sweatpants. It could’ve been the black Lulu ones, too. I’m sure I wore my hoodie, my grey Steppenwolff hoodie, the one that would soon be taken away from me, forbidden to envelop my waist.

I remember…the small room downstairs. The small room with two chairs and a window and a couch. The strange nurse who I never saw again telling me to only mark unexplained weight loss on my form. We knew where mine had come from. My vitals were low, my temperature cold, but that was normal: I was an eating disorder.

I remember her searching my bag for medicines, confused when she confiscated my supplements, yet to discover that every part of my lifestyle, not just nutrition, would be seized from my control.

I lay on the couch in that small room waiting, tears falling on my mom’s lap. In an hour she’d be gone, and I’d be upstairs, thrown cold-turkey into the fire.

Someone led me up. I don’t remember who she was. She said, “You won’t have your phone during program hours. You’ll turn it in each morning.” “Right,” I replied. She stuck her hand out. “Wait, like right now?” “Like, right now.” I felt a rush of tears come on. There was no grace period here, I realized, not even on day 1.

Danny was my RC. That stands for Recovery Coach. She met me at the top of stairs and took me to the bathroom. She fussed, but didn’t yell, when I accidentally flushed my own toilet. She understood it took time to adjust. I could’ve cried right then and there. Already I was fucking up.

I’d missed lunch time with the other girls so she fed me my pork salad alone. I asked her about her tattoo, mostly to be polite. I spoke to her like we were equals, not getting that I had no rights. She said, “it’s so hard when you girls leave, you have no idea.” I replied, “I know,” as if I was there to counsel her and not the other way around.

And so it began: day 1.

I will not go on.

But I need someone to know what this day is and was.

I need someone to say “I see you.” Someone to say “I know.” Someone to hold me when I flash back, when I exit the present moment.

Someone, anyone, please remember. Sit here with me and just remember.

I am not okay. I am not okay. Today I am not okay.

I’m grateful that my life is different. I’m grateful that I’m one-year clean (Tuesday, October 16, marked one year of weight stabilization). I’m grateful for my progress, yes. But today I am not okay.

In closing, I would like to say that the opinions expressed here are entirely my own and may not resonate with everyone; take what you like and leave the rest. If you liked what you read here, I invite you to share it, as these messages are for all.

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