Another day lost to the rambling nonsense from the roaming mind of an overworked college student
. I spent my day walking the zig zag paths that cross campus, admiring the flow of people oblivious to my presence. That's the way it always is, just as I see no one who does not cross my line of vision, and then they are as quickly forgotten as not. It bothers me
sometimes, all the lives I see unfolding before me while knowing nothing more than the fact that they are there
. All the faces look the same. Ears to cell phones, headbands and pony tails, high heels, trench coats, mirrored sunglasses
. Too much eyeliner. The superficial things that strike me as I run between classes. Wow, he's taller than the tree he's standing by. Damn, her head barely reaches my elbow. Nice shoes.
Class ended early two times out of six today, and late the rest. Thankfully the second early (and final) dismissal was a notably long one, as I finished the day at 2:30 instead of 5. That was promising.
I wandered over to the caf to get some food, had to go all the way to South Quad since it was past normal hours. I waited patiently, hidden behind my sunglasses, then handed the chef-of-the-afternoon my order. He started a conversation, I followed along for a bit. I think my shirt's neckline was the object of his gaze, and perhaps the cause of interest in the first place. I tried hard not to look down, because I knew it couldn't be that bad. Being the stick that I am there's not much to show anyway.
My food was done faster than ever, and I drank my red Mountain Dew while reading Children of Dune, lost in bliss for two hours. It was the first time I'd touched a book of leisure in months. It was fascinating. I could barely tear myself away long enough to clear the table and head back to my dorm.
As I was rummaging through my hard drive (as I tend to do when bored), I came across an essay I had written for a long-forgotten humanities class back in high school. The purpose of it eludes me, as it does not seem like a traditional assignment, but here it is nonetheless. It matched the day's pensive mood:
At the age of fifteen, I was committed to a mental hospital in hopes of controlling several life-threatening disorders. The entire point of my treatment was to reevaluate the coping mechanisms I had been using in the past in order to deal with stress, worry, and other generally over-common teenage emotions. I had gotten so used to ruthlessly striving for perfection that anything less seemed to be complete and utter failure.
One day, I asked myself a simple question – why did I need to have such high standards for myself? My expectations for other people were relatively normal. I didn’t expect every person I met to have a 4.0 and be almost six feet tall while only weighing ninety pounds. I didn’t think everyone should punish himself or herself for eating more than fifty calories a day. Why just me?
I thought about what my childhood was like, thinking that perhaps the answer lay buried in half-forgotten memories I was unable to recall without a great deal of concentration. My earliest memories are of birthday parties, babysitter’s houses, and relatives sleeping on couches. I can remember my brother as a little toddler, waddling around on short, stubby legs and holding onto the coffee table to keep from falling. I remember playing Cabbage Patch dolls with my older neighbor, and trading their clothes until we forgot what belonged to who. I remember playing with GI Joes, hanging out of two-story windows just because my friend told me to, and picking my cat up from the Humane Society. I remember my grandpa dying in a car accident and moving twice and going to Disney World. There was nothing unnatural about my childhood, so I decided to look elsewhere.
What about communication with my family? Well, there really wasn’t any. I refused to talk to them for months while I was in the hospital. I only wrote letters to friends, wrote in my journal, and thought about how much of a failure I was at living. I tried to do homework until my lowered brain function wouldn’t allow it. Was I doing this to myself in order to tell them something? Was I trying to say, "look at me, I have feelings and I have needs," or was I trying to say something along the lines of "see, look what you made me do"? Did I need to be perfect in order to prove to them that I worth their time? I knew they loved me. I knew they cared. I knew they appreciated and admired my scholastic accomplishments. I also knew they were incredibly busy people who had tremendously important jobs and could never come home in time to cook dinner for a daughter starving for attention.
But was that really why I was sick? I didn’t want to place the blame on anyone other than myself, since it was due to my own decisions and actions that I had ended up where I was. Did I need to prove to myself that I was worth taking care of? By almost dying, was I trying to see how far I could neglect my basic human needs in order to see if I was really alive in the first place?
All these questions spinning through a mind barely capable of maintaining a heart rate; I spent my days in a wheelchair fearing a heart attack, thinking about why I couldn’t just give in and eat something. My pulse rate was dangerously slow; by blood pressure dropped to an average of fifty over sixty. I was bedridden, kept on IVs, and threatened to be fed through a tube if I did not start eating on my own within twenty-four hours. My body continued to waste away while I did nothing but think. I went to hospitals in three different states, saw dozens of doctors, but none of it was really happening to me. I didn’t speak, I didn’t react; I simply didn’t care.
Then I realized what I was doing. Why did I need to punish myself like this? Because I could. Because I had the control to make myself do whatever my mind wanted. I finally had complete power over what I did and what I didn’t do. So I thought to myself, why am I still here? I proved I can do it, and now it’s time to prove I can undo it just as well.
I spent five months of my life trying to find the answer to that question. Today, I am alive and healthy. I am one of the few people who can say I survived the disease that kills more victims than any other mental disorder. I am recovered, and I am happy. I can’t say the same for my fellow patients I went through therapy with. Not a single one of them made it. All are still deep within the clutches of depression, their eating disorder, and the misery they have come to call life.
Why was I chosen to survive? This is the question I will spend the rest of my life trying to answer.