If someone had told me what my first week of January would look like at the beginning of December, I would have thought they were mocking me. At the beginning of December, I had full-on crisis tunnel vision while in the middle of an anorexic relapse. I was about two pounds away from being medically classified as underweight, and felt completely helpless as a stronger antidepressant failed to break through the toxic atmosphere I was steeped in. It was like being stuck in the smallest room of a burning house with all doors barricaded by burning debris. To the right is an actual photo of me last month.
While systemic health issues like depression, anxiety, anorexia, and the accompanying physical fallout don’t go away as soon as your circumstances change, I can say this: alleviating the point-break stressor in your life makes it a hell of a lot easier to manage the rest of them. I knew my situation was causing a ton of problems (physical and mental), but it wasn’t until I finally had an exit plan that I realized its full impact. Over the past year, I forgot what it was like to feel (really feel) things like joy, fulfillment, and belonging – which meant I also forgot the weight of that absence. As I began to transition to a healthier environment, I noticed how much easier it was to do things like:
- Wake up
- Interact with humans
- Literally everything
I’ve started singing in the car again, and finding joy in cooking dinner again, and reading again, and smiling (and meaning it) again. I didn’t realize how much I didn’t feel like myself until pieces started coming back. Honestly, it was a little A LOT scary to see how my insides had been scraped clean to leave nothing but the veil of a person I didn’t know at all – and see how I didn’t even notice as it was happening because the trauma was so immense. Even as fragments start falling into my lap, I feel confused about how to put them back together. All I know is it feels good to feel something other than numbness or pain, but there’s still a whisper of trauma that reminds me of all I’ve lost these past few months.
Traumatic experiences are like chemical reactions: they fundamentally change the components involved into a new substance that is almost impossible to revert to its original state. A few people have told me I am more like the “old Katlyn” now that I have entered the healing phase of this experience, but I don’t feel anything like the Katlyn who entered that chemical reaction. I feel like an entirely new substance, and while healing will bring back things like joy, fulfillment, and belonging, it won’t change the fact that I’ve been changed by my experiences. Instead of a reversion, I think I’ll call what I’m experiencing a “rebirth.” I’m reclaiming some of what was taken from me and restructuring my pieces into a more resilient alloy of old and new.
Going through the chemical reaction of healing will take a lot of time, especially since I’m navigating secondary chemical reactions of healing from anorexia, healing from depression, healing from anxiety, and getting to know this new person I am. Many All of these will be lifelong processes (something I’m still getting comfortable with since I’m very much a scratch-things-off-the-to-do-list person), but I am excited to see them begin now that I’ve found the fire escape.
Sometimes the most terrifying part of healing is simply showing up. Healing from a traumatic experience is hard work but, when I think about the strength it took for me to keep showing up and doing my best in spite of the toxicity around me, I know I can do it. Because facing a toxic situation head-on while you’re trying to survive on so many different fronts takes a lot of fucking strength. Waking up and getting dressed when you’re so depressed you don’t even feel human anymore takes a lot of fucking strength. Eating a meal when your anorexic voices are telling you you’re “better” now that you’re even skinnier (even though you know you’re not healthy) takes a lot of fucking strength. Breathing your way out of a panic attack at your desk when all you want to do is implode or scream or cry or hide takes a lot of fucking strength. If showing up and doing the work is what I need to do to heal and become this new alloy, I am ready. Because I am fucking strong. I survived as the world seemed to be burning around me, and I’ll survive what comes next too.
From the flames, I am born again.