Tomorrow is the 26th time I'll celebrate the day I was born. Although I don't usually like the number "6", or the date (13th), I have something I'm eager to celebrate- the opportunity to live for another year. See, in my 25th year, we almost lost me. I don't say this because I was diagnosed with a terminal illness or because of a horrible accident. I say this because in February 2019, I started disappearing again- a pattern I learned from living as a ghost, pale and empty, through the last half of my 24th year, haunting my family's home. When I started starving again, I didn't quite piece together the story line; I was erratically unaware of the fears that would follow. Just like before, the weight started melting off, slowly, unnoticeable at first, and then all at one time. It was as though my body was competing with my mind, calling it's bluff on my desire to grow smaller and smaller where the panic couldn't find me. Everything I loved about myself went after, dissolving into the darkness where a skeletal, terrified version of me with stringy matted hair and sunken eyes hid, begging to be forgotten. My mind raced on loops of all of the worst things that could happen to me and I was convinced that I deserved what was coming- my destiny of suffering. So, with the soundtrack blaring "I don't wan't to die", or, "No one can save me," life spun out of control and I did what I know how; I started to run. One of the fun quirks about intrusive thoughts is that the more you engage them, the louder they become. That effect combined with dehydration and malnutrition created a sort of tunnel vision which built on itself and left me stuck.
Now, seven months of several rounds of partial and residential hospitalization later, I'm preparing to step back into my own life. Sometimes, during morning coffee, or sunny artistic afternoons, or in between laughing fits with the people I love the most, I forget how close it came. I forget the sound of my mother's voice cracking over the phone when she said she wasn't sure if she'd ever get me back. The truth is that- during that era- the one of loss and apathy- I'd accepted the only thing I knew to be certain, which was that this was the end of everything. Life would never go back to normal. I'd long ago grieved the tragedy of my early death, the end of all the things I'd once hoped for, and grieved the girl who was once known for a resilience and determination, passion and empathy, unmatched. This illness came after my values, and nearly took everything from me. The one thing I'd decided was a certainty was wrong. Months later, as I prepare to celebrate my 26th year, I understand renewal in a way I haven't in birthdays past. I understand that in starving out all of the horrifying parts of life, I lost the magnificent parts, too. This January, the first month of a brand new decade, I am celebrating a new year- #26- filled with the endless possibilities of magical, terrifying, mysterious, euphoric, devastating, and exciting things; celebrating the endless possibilities of everything.