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My introductory assignment for my first class at NYU was to write a brief essay, about 1 page, that would describe a period in my life as if I were writing a mini-memoir. Here’s what I came up with. Most of you have read this story before, but it got a good grade so I figured I’d share it. TW: Anorexia.
My hair is sprawled across the rotting wooden planks as I watch the orange sky melt into the trees above me. How beautiful natural things are, I think, as I shiver. It’s below freezing, but in my own mind I’m well equipped for what I’m doing: mittens, burly snow boots, a hat with a hole for my dyed blonde ponytail. I’ve taken the hat off in order to feel the natural wood against my scalp. This exact scenario has been repeated every day for the last month, and it comes smack dab in the middle of a three hour run that will be consummated, upon my arrival back home, by a drink of water and a flurry of my prescribed medication. I’m not nearly as natural as I’d like to think.
I was anorexic. Every day, for as long as my body could take it and with absolutely zero fuel in it, I’d go on hours long runs down my local Ridgefield Rail Trail. It’s a sprawling and scenic trail that spans several miles, peppered with peripheral paths into the woods it’s wrapped in. I was running in January and February of 2018, a particularly cold Connecticut wintertime, and my boots carved deep holes into the thick layer of snow and ice that the path hosted most days. Each flighty step was a monumental task executed far too quickly to understand its weight, and I’d go many miles without stopping, but more importantly, without thinking.
Once I reached my desired pathway, I’d walk for a bit, but nothing leisurely. In my earbuds that clung to my frozen ears was blaring rap music; unknown artists performing poetry to a beat about their triumphs, hardships, riches, families (another world I could escape into). It was all escapism, really: the last surviving leaf encased in ice, the downhill stream that was only slightly faster than the dropping temperature, the lying on a makeshift wooden bridge, the standing atop boulders like a lion king. None of it was the nightmares that awaited me when I was idle, or in silence, or in bed, or worse, eating.
It became too much, as if it was ever appropriate or bearable. I lost too much (weight and spirit), and though my doctor had begged me to go into the hospital at about the midway point of my treacherous journey, my old flame of the moment had begged me to stay out of treatment: he needed me, like my abuser had needed me, like I’d need him after he abused me, long after. I didn’t have a choice anymore. I needed to enter into treatment or I’d die. Brandishing a scholarship letter and a frail frame, I begged Silver Hill Hospital to take me like I’d been begging the heavens to for many weeks. They rescued me.
In the hospital, I learned to comply. I was happy to; they were a kind, forgiving, and validating entity in my life in a time during which all three were scarce. I gained some weight, learned some recipes, nodded a lot, and was released when the money ran out.
Since my time at Silver Hill Hospital, I’ve gained back a lot of weight and sorrow, and have been in intensive treatment that falls just short of hospitalization. I think on my time at Silver Hill longingly, not because I need it but because I want to need it again. I’m teetering on the edge of illness again, and while I want you to know, Dr. —–, that I’m in extensive treatment and am being meticulously cared for, every day is a new and tested struggle and I’m doing the best I can.