It is all worthwhile.

To All You Women Who Inspire Me…

So has you may know, today is International Woman’s Day – now, in full honestly, this is a day that I have never given as much thought as it deserves. As an emotionally-stunted twenty-two year old girl with an immeasurable laundry list of confidence issues – I have never once felt that such a day applied to me. And honestly, I still don’t know that it does.

All that being said, these past few years have really opened my eyes to what incredible woman I am surrounded by in life and there is not a day that goes by where I don’t think of them.

I lost my father when I was in high school, and while I would give anything in the world to have him back – there is something that I am grateful for. There is a silver-lining. I have always felt this – that out of the people I know, I am, and was, incredibly lucky and blessed even when the my entire world was crumbling beneath me.

Why is this? It is because I truly have a family that is not only beautifully close, but that is full of people show such incredible strength and kindness in everything they do. I am surrounded by beautiful humans that I can look up to…. beautiful and amazing woman who do deserve to be recognized.

Now, I’ve never been good at talking to people face to face — my brain moves to fast and my mouth can’t keep up. I am a coward, but there are so many things that I want to say – that I need to say, and I think the only way that I can do so is in my (albeit sloppy) writing.

So, here we go – a little list of some of (but not all) of the woman that I keep in my thoughts every day. Woman whom I want to be aware everyday that someone thinks that they are incredible… and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Okay.. enough stalling.

To my Aunt LuAnne,

I can’t even begin to tell you how many conversations my mom and I have had about how wonderful and amazing you are. You are such a caring individual and you do so much for all of us. I am so grateful. I am so grateful for how much you care about my mom and how I know that you see how amazing she is. I am so grateful for those times that you picked me up from high school when I was having a bad day and needed to leave early. I am grateful for how much you care about our family, our whole family – and how my dad no longer being with us hasn’t caused any distance. If anything, I believe that it’s brought us all so much closer.

I am grateful for how loved you have always made me feel –  I am grateful for the conversations that we have had about my dad on those drives home from school.

Finally, I am grateful for all that you did for Grandpa – bringing him meals or having him over for meals. Every time I would go over there he would mention how you or Aunt Joan had just seen him (often the day prior) and how happy he was because he knew “all of you were so busy.” I am grateful for all of the things you did for him in helping him and giving the push that he needed to take initiative in his own life and health. He always told me how happy he was to have you and Aunt Joan and Aunt Patty as his daugthers. “They’re good ones, those girls.”


To My Aunt Joan,

You are honestly someone that I think about every single day without fail. I truly find you amazing in so many ways and I really do look up to you. You have been handed so much in life and yet you remain the most positive and vibrant person that I know.

I spend a lot of time thinking about that interview I did with you for my documentary project last year – some of the things with said have stuck with me in such a way that I know that they will be there forever.

One of the things that you said when you were talking about how incredible Grace was  (and forever will be) was the fact that she literally never lived in anywhere but the present. She wasn’t plagued with the anxieties and doubt and self-depreciative thoughts that almost all of us humans are weighed down with. We all walk around with invisible ankle weights adhered to us – we must remain grounded. We must follow the system. Security over passion. Well, Gracey was able to feel that passion every moment of her life. When she was sitting in her chair watching PowerPuff Girls, all that was there was he and her favorite show. The only things in her world were things that brought her joy – her shows, her food, and, of course you and Julia. You always went above and beyond to be with her as much as possible and gave her a beautiful life full of nothing but joy. I think a lot about how much I want to be like her. One of my goals in life is to never lose that childlike wonder that kids experience when the world is new and exciting and beautiful. Clouds become bunnies and dinosaurs cars – a thunder storm where you can see the bolts of lightning is exhilarating. We live in such a beautiful world, such an incredibly beautiful world – but at some point, as we grow, we are expected to forget that. Welcome to the “real world,” “grow up.” Gracey never lost that joy in everything around her, and the way that you expressed that in my documentary is something that will remain with me for the rest of my life.

I also so admire your unwavering confidence in yourself. To me, you are someone who is so unapologetically who they are and it is incredible. You are able to bring so much joy into your life because you don’t let the voices of self-doubt control your life. You believe in doing something great with your life – no matter how long it takes. I appreciate my conversations with you so much because I so desperately want to get to that point. I have things that I want to, no, that I need to do, and the are not in any ways the “safe” route to go.. And for so long I have allowed that negative voice control my life. I have allowed it to tell me that there is nothing remarkable about me and that I need to grow up and stop thinking I can make my life beautiful and extraordinary. Truly, you are the only person who, when I voiced these thoughts to, responded with enthusiasm.. Belief. I will forever be grateful for that.

I think you are remarkable and I hope that you accomplish each and every one of your dreams. You radiate positivity, and that is something that we all need to be around.

To My Cousin Kelly,

I don’t even know where to begin with this one honestly. I could write a whole novel on just how much I love you and your family and how unbelievably lucky I feel to have you in my life.

You’re someone who has always been a big sister figure to me, but that role expanded ten-fold after my dad died. You and Bob took me out and created our designated Tuesday “Biggest Loser” and fro-yo nights. I don’t remember a lot from that year, but I can honestly say that those nights meant the world to me and are some of my precious memories.

You also visited me in the hospital (and even had to pretend to be my sister to get in). I know that it couldn’t have been easy for you, no one wants to be in a hospital especially with someone who was the way I was at the time. Even so, you came and watched movies with me and french braided my hair just like you always had. Having you there made that terrifying time so much more bearable. I felt guilty that you came so often, and still do – I know it probably wasn’t number one on your list of things that you wanted to do… But I just hope you know how much it meant to me.

There was also something that you said to me one of those nights:

“You know, you’re starting to get your sense of humor back. You’re starting to seem more life you again.”

Just writing that our made me tear up, and I know that such a comment probably shouldn’t be as impactful as it was – but it was something that I so desperately needed at the time. Thank you so much. Thank you for always being there for me, even when I definitely didn’t deserve it. Thank you for making me feel loved and like being me is okay.

You are such a strong person, one of the strongest I have ever met (Aunt Evie is #1 on my list haha) and I really do aspire to be life you. You have created such a beautiful life for yourself and I am so happy for you – I am also so grateful for bringing Bob, Jack, Connor, and Jamie in my life. I love all of you with absolutely everything I have.

Thank you.

And finally,

My amazing mother,

My mom is someone who will never accept how wonderful that not only I think she is, but how wonderful everyone things she is. Seriously, I have had so many conversations with my grandma and my aunts about how wonderful she is, but she’ll never believe that. My mom is someone who would do absolutely anything for everyone – she is always there to answer my anxiety-driven texts when I decide that I must be dying at least once a week – she is always there for the people around her. She thinks she doesn’t do enough for me and my brother and for everyone – but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

My mom is such a beautiful person, inside and out. I mean, this woman, who already works long shifts in the hospital, spend her off-days driving between Sloan-Kettering in New York City to be with my dying father and LIJ to be with her dying daughter. I have caused her so much pain and she still loves me and, somehow believes in me. She loves me and my brother so much and we are so blessed to have her.

My mom lost her husband, the person she was supposed to be with forever — meanwhile, she had(and has) a mentally ill child on her hands. The fact that I am in a headspace where I can sit and write this right now is a testament to just how amazing of a mother that she is. Over the years, she has helped me go through over five different therapists before finding one that actually helps me. She has gone above and beyond for me in every way.

She wants to be the perfect mother, I think. But, that’s not something that’s possible. However, she is so close. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about how lucky I was to be born as her daughter. She is a strong, caring, beautiful, funny, smart, interesting, and creative individual who deserves to take care of herself and her own happiness. She deserves the most beautiful life that the universe can offer, and I hope that someday I can become someone that can help make that happen for her.

Oh, she also has really good taste in music – always a plus. She also has a beautiful voice.

But seriously, none of these words can even begin to describe my mom – but I know that those of you who have met her can agree just what an incredible person she is. She will go to the ends of the earth for not only her immediate family, but also for the friends and family of those she cares about.

I want to see my mom in a state of joy, no matter how fleeting. Every time she laughs, really laughs, or makes a bad joke (definitely got my lame sense of humor from her) I can feel my heart lift ever-so-slightly. She always says that the happiness of her kids is her happiness, but I think that I can speak for my little brother in saying that our happiness also comes from hers.

Some other people worth mentioning:

My 8th grade homeroom teacher, Mrs. Clarey: She is someone who, for some reason, seemed to see something in me, and I will never forget that. I wish that my brother had had the opportunity to be in her class.

My 10th grade health teacher: another person who seemed to care about me without any reason to. Granted, she had to view my food logs when I was at the height of my anorexia – but even so, she made me feel seen and like I mattered in some way. Thank you so much, for everything.

My dance teacher from when I was in elementary school-highschool: yet another person who, for some reason, cared about me and made me feel seen and who was a beautiful human being who cared deeply for her students and their well-beings.

My cousin, Jill: I’ve always looked up to you (lame confession: I actually wrote you on the dedication page of a book I was writing when I was like 7). I think you’re such a cool and vibrant person and I have always and will always admire and look up to you.

My best friend, Shannon: even though I barely see you, I seriously love you with everything I have and have no clue how I would have gotten through Tampa without you. Some of the happiest memories of my life have you in them and I am so happy that I got to meet you. You are beautiful and smart and worthy and deserving of all the love and happiness in the world. I know for a fact that your life will be beautiful. You have such a good head on your shoulders and I admire you in so many ways. Thank you for being my friend.

I hope I didn’t overstep in any of these and will definitely delete it if any of you want me to…. I just wanted you all to know how I feel. I love you all. Thank you for everything.


Into Nothing

today, I have something a bit different to share… a little bit of creative non-fiction. last semester, I took a Non-Fiction 2 class that was focused on memoir writing and this was my final submission. It is not an exaggeration to say that the class changed my writing, and, honestly, my life… and it was not easy. In this class, I was pushed to ask myself questions that I did not really want to know the answer to and to look at my life though a different lens. as much as I have shared on this blog before.. there’s something about article-ish/diary type writing that feels less terrifying than this.. even if the topic is just as personal. There’s something about creative writing, both fiction and non-fiction that feels so deeply personal. It is something that I do not share with those I know. There’s also something about memoir writing that feels so completely and utterly self-indulgent.. there’s something about making yourself the main character of a story that makes me uncomfortable. Like, who am I to think I matter? That I am central? I’m not. But then again… shouldn’t we all be the main characters in our own life stories? How sad a fate is it to end up in a supporting role in your own life? And how many of us subject ourselves to that role, myself included? Anyway, not that that’s relevant…

What I want to say here is that, by sharing my stories in my own voice in the way that my brain remembers them… I don’t want to do so because I find my stories utterly unique or dramatic or important or interesting… they aren’t any of those things.. but they are mine.. and I want that to be enough.

**NOTE: Memory is a shaky thing. I hesitate to even post this on a platform in which those who were witness to this time will see because I am sure they have a different memory of it than I do. At the same time, I have learned through non-fiction writing that your memory of an event, even if the memory is false, is still valid — your memory shapes a part of you, regardless if the memory is 100% true. We all have truths, and none of them are identical. Still, they are fundamental in building us as people. Anyway, I’m sorry.


“Do you want to see your weight?”


My mind is moving too fast to understand what it is that the doctor is explaining to me. I hear the words emergency room, immediately, and danger. I hear my mom’s voice. I feel nothing. I feel everything.

I run.

I don’t know where I am going, but I do know where I won’t. There is no way that I’m going to the hospital. They can’t make me.

Well, I guess they technically can, I’m a still a minor. I haven’t even been sixteen for twenty-four hours yet.

Still. I need to get out of here.

I rush through the waiting room of the pediatrics office. Past the small, chunky television that’s probably older than I am, past the plastic red chairs full of runny noses and tired parents, past the statues of Snow White’s seven dwarves that rest on the shelf above the coat rack. and out the heavy glass doors. I run towards my mom’s car, punch in the code to unlock the doors, and throw myself inside. I try to catch my breath as I cover my face with my ice cold hands.

My fingertips are blue.

Still hyperventilating, I pull my cell-phone out from the pocket of my fleece and dial my home phone-number.


Upon hearing my dad’s voice, the dam that I’ve been trying to hold back my terror with breaks and the tears come flowing like a mighty river.

“They want to take me to the hospital,” I say.

“Well maybe that’s what’s best.”

I’m hysterical now, ugly gasping sobs rocking my entire body.

“I can’t do it,” I yell.


“I can’t!” I hear myself scream — my voice no longer sounds like my own.

“You’re okay,” Dad says. “Listen, just go. You won’t be there long and you’ll be home with me soon.”

Will I?

My world goes black.


“Oh, happy birthday.”

I look up at the source of the unfamiliar voice — a man, maybe in his thirties, wearing scrubs and holding a clipboard.

“Thanks,” I mutter, trying to figure out where I am.

My fleece is gone. I’m in a blue hospital gown.

When did I change clothes?

I notice that I’m seated in a wheelchair and go to stand up.

“You need to sit back down,” the man with the clipboard says.

“I can walk.”

“It’s not safe for you to do that right now, you need to sit back down so we can transfer you.”

“I walk all the time,” I say, but sit back down anyway. “Where’s my mom?”

“She’s right out there,” he says, pointing through the window of the small room that we’re in, “in the the waiting room.”

“Waiting room?” I look down at my hands, they’re shaking.

“Yes, you’re in the emergency room. We took you back here for an EKG.”

“Oh,” I say, “I’ve never been to an emergency room before. I don’t remember getting here.”

Clipboard Man smiles at me, “You’ll be transferred soon.”


An hour or so later I am sitting on a cot with my mom. I hear the squeaking of non-slip shoes moving quickly across linoleum. I hear laughter, crying, hushed voices, frantic tones. I hear the mechanical beep beep beep of monitors.

There are papers in front of me with names of foods and words like exchange and supplement. There’s a nurse standing before me, telling me that I’m supposed to check off the foods that I like best out of every category: meal, snack, drink, treat. I have to write in any food allergies I have (and then provide documentation or proof of some kind that I am, in fact, allergic to dairy).

My mom is sitting next to me with her hand floating beside my shoulder, not touching me, but still there. I’m confused and terrified and tired and really freaking cold.

Something they don’t tell you about starvation is the cold — the all-consuming cold that no amount of blankets or hot baths or space heaters can combat. It feels like your bones have been turned to ice and your body is being frozen from the inside-out. It’s a kind of cold that makes it that you can’t even think straight, there is nothing but frozen fingers and stiffened joints. Every small movement is met with biting pain.

Here, in my open-backed hospital gown and paper thin hospital blanket, the pain is all I know. My mom talks to the nurse. I hear her mention my dad’s stroke and stress. That I’m this way because of the stress.

I want to scream. Please don’t say that this is because of my dad. This has nothing to do with my dad. I’ve always been like this, it just didn’t matter because I was fat. It’s only real now because you can see my bones.

The nurse hands me three foam-like adhesive pads and shows me where to stick them, one in the center of my chest, one on the right-hand side of my lower ribcage, and one one the left. I stick them on, the nurse sticks a wire into the pads, each producing a distinctive click. I’m handed the grey box that the wires are attached to, I am told something about the wires and my heart and the IV that’s in my arm. The nurse walks away and I stare at my hands.

Eventually my mom has to leave, visiting hours are over and I need to stay here on my little cot in the middle of the busy hallway of the Long Island Jewish Hospital’s pediatrics ward until a room opens up.

My mom hugs me and I feel her run her hands lightly up my back in the motion that I have come to know as The Rib Count — both my mom and my dad have been doing this for a while now, hugging me out of nowhere just to get a feel of my bones. Seeing how many there are, how much they stick out.

Seeing how bad it’s gotten.

The morning after being admitted, I am taken to the ward’s Day Room — a large room with a big rectangular table, cabinets full of art supplies, kids toys, a couch, a television, a sink, and three old boxy computers — for breakfast. There, I meet R, a tall sixteen year old with fluffy dark hair and a bright orange bracelet that reads: FALL RISK. I meet L, a seventeen year old ballroom dancer from Queens, and T, a fifteen year old with hair the color of sand and a feeding tube up his nose.

Food is brought to the table by a member of hospital staff — and we are off to the races. We are given thirty minutes to finish everything in front of us, even having to go so far as licking our margarine containers and overturning our juice cartons to prove that there is not a drop left. The hospital staff member watches each of us like a hawk, frequently calling us out for acting out “behaviors.” No, you can’t eat any of your cereal dry. No you cannot cut up that banana and put slices of it in your cereal. Take bigger sips of your milk. Stop looking at your apple like that. If you don’t eat that last bite, you’re going to have to drink an Ensure.

After breakfast, we are told that we can’t leave the room for twenty minutes. R goes over to the art cabinet and grabs some beads. L stays at the table. I sit next to T and pull out my Nintendo DS.

“What ‘cha playing?” T asks, leaning over to look at the screen.


“Cool! Can I watch?”

“Yeah of course.”


Later that night, at dinner, T is seated on the couch again, watching the news while L, R, and I are forced to eat real food. T’s lucky, he just has the calories flow into him — he doesn’t have to think about it. Although, I think that would freak me out too. Not having any control over anything I put in my body.

Not that I really do now.

Suddenly T jumps up, and rushes over to the sink, he retches violently, vomiting up whatever little sustenance his emaciated body contained. Was he making himself do that? Could you even purge with a feeding tube in? The hospital staff-member watching us jumps up and grabs him. There is more commotion, other staff-members are brought in, and T is escorted out of the room.

L, R, and I sit in silence. We can’t finish our meals, it’s too overwhelming. L stares at his tray until time is up. R has tears in her eyes.

I never see T again.

“I heard he got transferred to Princeton last night,” R tells me.

Our sitter-of-the-day gives R a look that says, watch it.

“Princeton?” I ask.

“It’s a super intense inpatient facility for eating disorders,” R continues, her voice a bit quieter. “I mean, you’ve gotta be really bad to wind up there.”


I feel a twinge of jealousy.

Later that day, I examine myself in the mirror of my hospital room. I lift up my sweatshirt and stand on my tippy-toes to get a good look at my body from the waist up. I see bones that I didn’t even know I possessed covered in yellowed skin. I see a head with sunken eyes and a chapped mouth, both of which are far too large for the face on which they sit. I see dirty-blonde hair hanging limply over a skull, the hair-line is receded and patches of it are missing all together.

Is this what I actually look like?

I shut my eyes tightly and open them again to a completely different reflection.

The creature in the mirror is no longer a human skeleton with skin, in fact, it doesn’t even look human. I see cheeks, bulging and drooping like a bull-dog’s. I see mis-matched eyes on what looks like a melting face. I see boxy shoulders on a stocky-frame. I have never seen another human being that is shaped like this. It is all so fundamentally wrong. It’ is disgusting. I am disgusting.

I don’t know what I look like, not really. I have never known what I look like. I will, for years to come, go to my mom and ask her to explain to me what I look like. Am I wide or narrow? What shape is my face? What do I look like? Please explain to me what I look like. My reflection is never the same.

I have a vivid memory of myself at around seven or eight balancing on the ledge of the bathtub in my parents’ bathroom. Standing like this is the only way that I can see most of my body. I look at my naked body and pinch my thighs. I punch my stomach. It’s all wrong. I don’t look like a person and it scares me. I can’t recognize what I’m looking at.

I step down from the tub’s ledge and lean against the sink to get my face as close to the mirror as I can.

“You don’t exist,” I say to the thing in the mirror.

My body has never felt like it belonged to me. I feel like I’m somewhere I’m not supposed to be — somewhere that it’s wrong to be. I am too aware of it because it doesn’t feel like it’s mine, it doesn’t feel like it’s me. This body takes up too much space. It has always taken up too much space. This body is too big and I am too small. I am a giant — the mere existence of this body is an imposition on the world. I am a speck of dust — the world is too vast for someone like me. I try to scream, but my voice is too small to carry. I’m right here, please notice me. Please. Don’t you see me? Wait, no. I don’t want you to see me. Not like this. Not at this size. Please look away. I’ll be back when I get rid of this body.

I have another memory of myself, one where I am nine and in hysterics on the living room floor.

“I want to go home,” I scream. I scream this again and again and again.

My dad calls me dramatic. Tells me to stop with the theatrics. I’m making no sense. I just want attention. I need to stop being weird. People won’t like me if I’m weird.

I bang my head against the floor. I’m aware I am, in fact, home. I know what I’m saying makes no sense. I also know that I can’t stop. I’m homesick for a place that doesn’t exist. I don’t belong here. I don’t belong anywhere. I don’t exist. This isn’t real. I need someone to tell me that it’s okay. That I’m okay. I need feel someone’s arms around me to prove that I am real.

Since I am admitted on a Friday, I have two days before I need to start Day Program. It is explained to me that Day Program is where I will spend the day with other anorectics, both the two that are currently inpatient with me, as well as other who have been released to outpatient. The day starts with “school” (wonder how that’s going to go), then lunch, cognitive behavioral therapy, snack, and more group therapy.

“Sometimes,” R says. “We get to go outside for like, fifteen minutes. It’s nice. You can’t stand though. We just have to sit there. Apparently standing is burning calories.”

The first day of Day Program arrives and I am seated at a long wooden table with six other patients. I don’t say a word during Program, though R and L both attempt to make me a part of the conversation. I hear sad stories, real reasons for people being here. There is M, the eleven year old with the bushy hair and the past of abuse. There is V, the thirteen year old who screams during snack, throwing her muffin across the room — her background is one of extreme parental neglect. L has his dancing, and the pressure of staying thin in the dance world while also needing to maintain “being a real man.” R is an athlete.

And what am I? What reason do I have to be here? What am I supposed to say? That my family loved me too much? That I had too good of a childhood?

I have no past trauma, I have no good reason. No real right to have to feel the way I do. I had a happy childhood, I just wasn’t a happy child.

I was always unhappy and I had no right to be.

Don’t you know how much better you have it than most people? Stop it. There are people with real problems. I know, Mom. I know, Dad. You guys have told me so many times. Every time I broke down. And now I’m here. I’m here with my made up problems and I’m making you sad.

My mom visits me at the hospital that night. She gets here with just thirty minutes left in visiting hours, the kind nurse at the desk tells her that she can have an additional ten minutes with me.

It looks like my mom has aged ten years since I last saw her. She’s pale, and there are dark circles under her eyes. She’s been trying to get here every night, but it’s been hard. My dad went into the hospital just hours after I did. I don’t know much except that the hospital he’s at is in the city.

My mom’s entire life has become hospitals. She works as a nurse in one, then spends her days off dividing her time between two more.

“I’m so sorry that I haven’t been here more,” Mom says, laying next to me on my hospital bed. “I’ve been a bad parent and I’m sorry.”

I hate when she says things like this, when she uses the tone that tells me I’m hurting her. All I do is hurt her. It would be better if I didn’t exist.

I think back to last year when she finally saw all of the cuts on my arms. I had never seen her so angry.

“Why are you so mad?” I asked my back against her locked bedroom door.

“Because you’re hurting my child. No one is allowed to hurt my child.”

“It’s really okay,” I say, smiling. “K’s been here every night. We watch movies and she brings crossword puzzles and I’m getting really good at them!”

My mom hugs me again.

“You really don’t have to come here at all,” I say. “I’m okay. I’m doing really well.”

I meet Madison on my fifth day in the hospital.

I first see her in the hallway, a tiny girl in a hospital gown with twig legs, and bare feet. She holds on to her I.V. pole like she needs it to hold herself up as she is guided down the hallway by a nurse.

The nurse seats her across from me at the breakfast table. I smile and say hi, she just looks at me. Her blue eyes look cloudy, like there’s no life behind them at all.

Madison is eight years old, the same age as my little brother. She hasn’t eaten a solid meal in over three months.

She drinks her strawberry Pediasure through a straw. I hear the thwp, thwp, thwp of her tongue hitting against the straw, stopping the flow of liquid between each miniature sip. She drinks in the same manner that one would expect a newborn drinking from a bottle.

She drinks in the same manner as me.

How can someone be so sick at eight years old?

I think of myself at eight, smiling in pictures with my hair falling in ringlets down to my waist. Of the Central Park Carousel, of curling up next to my dad every night to read Harry Potter. I think of the little girl who had no reason in the world to ever be sad.

I think of myself at eight with my finger down my throat on Easter Sunday. Screaming. Beating myself over the head with an encyclopedia until I saw spots. Begging for someone to actually see me. I think of a little girl being told how much worse other people have it, of the fact that she had no right to be miserable.

I look at Madison and wonder what things have been like for her, how she got here. How she, at eight years old, came to wear her pain.

There comes a point where anorexia can no longer be ignored. When it can’t be written off as a result of stress — when it can no longer be about anyone else but yourself. Our internal pain is worn on the outside — our protruding bones dripping with sadness and desperation.

Anorexia is a disappearing act. It begs to ask a question — a final desperate plea.

Will you finally see me if I disappear completely?

Upon finishing my meal, I head over to the art supplies closet to grab some construction paper and crayons. I write “GO MADISON!” in big bubble letters and hold it over my head.

“You can do this!” I say, jumping up and down.

Madison looks up at me, her expression unchanging.

This little girl probably think I’m out of my mind, but there’s something in me that can’t leave her alone. I want to hold her close and hear her pain. I want to hug her an never let go.

I dedicate the rest of my stay to Madison. I finish my meals with time to spare and cheer her on as she tries to finish her Pedicure within the thirty-minute window. I talk about her during Day Program (for some reason, she doesn’t join us downstairs), and draw her pictures. I am now The Perfect Patient and Dedicated To Getting Better. I tell my doctors that I don’t have anorexia, that I’ve just been really stressed out since my dad’s stroke in January and lost a lot of weight.

I am “totally better.”

And I am totally playing the system.

Despite my making a fool out of myself on the daily with my signs and cheering and jumping around, Madison has not said a word to me. Occasionally she’ll look up from her Pediasure, and sometimes she’ll even give me a small smile. I am doing my best to try and appear better for her — to help her. She doesn’t deserve the hell that is an eating disorder. She deserves to be a normal eight year old. She deserves to be happy.

On my tenth day, I sit in Day Program and draw manatees and talk about how I’m going to Florida in two weeks.

“It’s my favorite place in the whole world,” I say. “Once I’m there, I’ll be completely better. Everything’s okay when I’m there. It’s just the winter here, I get so depressed.”

L raises his eyebrows at me.

Erin, you realize you’re not getting out of here by then, right?

Suddenly I’m crying.

It’s true though, isn’t it? I look around the table, at R and L and M and V. None of them have been here for any less than three months, and none of them seem to have any reason to believe that they’re getting out soon. I want to believe that I’m different. I want to believe the lie that I’m the weight I am because of the stress following my dad’s stroke. I want to believe the lie so badly yet that lie makes me angrier than anything. That lie is what my mom told the doctors when I first got here. I wanted to scream. No, this has nothing to do with my dad. I’ve been this way for years. This disorder is mine. No one caused it. It’s no one’s fault. It belongs to me. It is the only thing that truly belongs to me.

On my thirteenth day, after breakfast, I am told I am being discharged — and not only that, I am not required to continue with Day Program as an outpatient.

“Wait, you can’t be serious.” I wait for my doctor to tell me she’s kidding. I had begged my mom pretty much every day since arriving here to ask that I be taken out of Day Program — that being around other anorectics did more harm than good for me. I was told no every single time, that it was a requirement for both inpatient and outpatient.

“I am,” my doctor says. “Your cousin will be here to sign you out after Day Program.”

K’s going to sign me out? That’s weird. We had to lie and pretend she was my sister just to make it so that she was allowed to visit me when I first got here. I’m surprised that they’d let her sign my discharge papers.

I spend the rest of the day on cloud nine. I tell R and L that I’ll miss them and that, even though it’s against the rules, we should all keep in touch once. At lunch, I smush up most of my brownie and hide it in a napkin. This is the first time I’ve actually hid food since being here — but hey, I’m getting out anyway. I wouldn’t eat this stuff at home anyway.

When there is about an hour left in Program, I get a text from my mom.

Daddy has cancer. K and B will bring you to hospital here when pick u up.

And just like that, I learn the real reason why I am getting out after only thirteen days (apparently the fastest release they’ve had here), and why I’m getting out of having to go to Day Program as an outpatient. Did my doctors know about it? The Programs staff? How long have they known? Why is my mom telling me this now? And over a text?

“Erin, no phones,” Lynette, the main sitter for Program snaps. 

“My Dad has cancer.”

And now everything is dead silent.

R reaches for my hand, I pull away.

“C’mon guys,” I grab the “Apples To Apples” box (a game we finish most of our days with), “let’s play.”

When I get back to the pediatrics ward that evening, K and her husband, B, are already in my room. They greet me as they pack up my clothes, laptop, and schoolbooks, into one of B’s old yellow camping bags.

I wonder how long they’ve known.

K comes over and hugs me. I tell her I’m okay and thank the two of them for picking me up. I need to be stronger, I can’t break now.

After all, this is all my fault. It has to be. I was supposed to die, but now I’m not, so obviously God decided to take my dad instead. It should be me. Things would be better without me around. My family needs my dad. My brother needs a dad.

Suddenly, I remember Madison.

“I’ll be right back,” I tell K and B before heading to the nurses’ station.

“Hi. Sorry. I know it’s dinner time, but would it be okay if I said goodbye to Madison.”

When the nurse opens the door to the Day Room, Madison is sitting next to a blonde woman who I assume to be her mother.

In front of her is a tray of food. Solid food.

“Um, hi,” I say, trying to hide my excitement. If I comment on the food, it’ll probably make Madison not want to eat it. “I’m Erin. I know you probably don’t know who I am, but I’m getting discharged and I just wanted to say goo…”

Before I can finish my sentence, Madison’s mom’s arms are around me.

“Maddy talks about you every night when I come visit,” she says. “You’ve been like a big sister to her. Thank you for being here for her. Thank you so much.”

My eyes well up, I don’t know what to say. I had no idea, Madison still hasn’t said a word to me in the entire time she’s been here.

“She’s been like a little sister to me too.”

Madison’s mom writes her phone number down on a piece of paper and tells me to keep in touch.

Before I leave, Madison’s mom hugs me one more time.

“Take care of yourself, okay?”

I’ll try.

The moment I exit through the heavy doors of the pediatrics ward of Long Island Jewish Hospital marks the end of my first life — the Time of Denial. I have lived my life in a state of denial, trying so hard to deflect my own pain. I’m fine, I tell them. I’m okay. Please don’t worry about me. Other people have it so much worse, my pain isn’t real. I have denied my own needs — the need for a kind of love that I didn’t deserve, the need for acceptance, the need for sustenance.

The need to stay alive.

One of my final and most precious memories of my dad is that of a conversation that we had just days before I went into the hospital.

“You know Erin,” he said, holding onto the doorframe for support. “This isn’t your fault. You didn’t ask to get sick anymore than I asked for this bleed in my brain. It’s the same thing, and it’s neither of our faults.”

My second life will be the Time of Mourning — of mourning the loss of my father, the one person who was finally starting to see me — the me that is not the smiling girl in the photographs nor the diagnosis written on my medical records. I was just Erin, a regular human being, and that was okay.

In the years to come, I will mourn many things — I will mourn the loss of my identity, my anorexia. I will hold my dad’s hand in the hospital and make him a promise that, at the time, I don’t even know that I want to keep.

We’re both going to get better and be home together soon.

I will mourn the loss of my disorder in the way it once was — my own little cocoon keeping me in, and the rest of the world out. I will slip and fall often, but I will always get back up. I will find myself in limbo, not quite sick but not quite recovered — and I will feel worse than I had in the deepest of my disorder.

I will mourn the years that I have lost, and the years that I will continue to lose to my disorder.

I will mourn the girl with the protruding bones.

I will mourn the girl with the melting face.

I will mourn the sad eight year old with her fingers down her throat.

I will mourn the girl whose dad told her that she’d be home with him soon.

I dream of living in a world that is more than black and white — where there is not just skinny and fat, happy and sad. Where perfection is not the goal, where being a human being is okay. Where I am me and I exist and that in itself is enough.

There will be days where the simple act of picking up a spoon will feel life-threatening, and there will be a days the voice in my head telling me to starve is completely silent.

The will be days where I want to end it all, and there will be days where I will take in this incredible world of ours and wonder how I ever wanted it all to end.

I will try my hardest to stay a float, and I will try my hardest to forgive myself in the times where I start to sink.

**Memory is a shaky thing. I hesitate to even post this on a platform in which those who were witness to this time will see because I am sure they have a different memory of it than I do. At the same time, I have learned through non-fiction writing that your memory of an event, even if the memory is false, is still valid — your memory shapes a part of you, regardless if the memory is 100% true. We all have truths, and none of them are identical. Still, they are fundamental in building us as people. Anyway, I’m sorry.

The Cage Called Anxiety

Let’s talk about the prison that is anxiety.

I have spent the bulk of my life in a cage of my own creation – a safe and small space – a barrier between myself and a world that is too vast and terrifying. A world where I am not in control. The cage grew smaller and smaller with each passing year – less light shining through, less room to move. Everything was so unsafe. I couldn’t cope – so I isolated myself more and more.

We all have areas in which we feel most comfortable – some larger than others. No two comfort zones are the same – but there is one element to them that is universal.

The inability to step outside of your comfort zone reduces (and sometimes even completely eliminates) your ability to grow. Life is growth – each day you are a different person than you were the day before. If you are not growing, you’re dying.

My cage of comfort is monotonous, isolated, and unfulfilling – but it is safe.

Still, can you call that living?

When I was eighteen, I decided I was going to not only poke an arm or a leg through the bars of my cage – inching out into the real and scary world.

I was going to going to light it up with dynamite.

I decided that I was going to be a new person – a person that was everything but myself. I moved over 1,000 miles away, I lived in a dorm room with two other girls, I joined a sorority, I majored in science.

And then I promptly fell apart.

It was unsafe.

**I can only write from my own personal experience – and that is one where the world has always terrified and overwhelmed me to the point that I can’t breathe. My fight or flight response is always in high-gear, and I bet you can guess which of the two is my go-to.

Since my panic and anxiety disorders date back to my very early childhood, I can’t speak for anyone who is neural-typical, one who doesn’t struggle with anxiety. One of my biggest fears around writing about the topic of mental illness/mental health is that of sounding like the dreaded “special-snowflake.” I don’t know how anyone’s brain works but my own – however, I do know that, no-matter what, every single one of us struggles in some way.**

Okay, back to comfort-zones, anxiety, and other fun topics.

When you are dealing with severe anxiety – regardless of the type – the wall that you put up to protect yourself from anything and everything that makes you feel even slightly uncomfortable tends to be thicker than that of others. It’s not just a matter of “Oh, X makes me nervous,” but instead it is that of complete, paralyzing, and all-consuming terror – terror that is, more-often-than-not, disproportional to the situation.

Some fun and not at all embarrassing examples from my own life include:

  1. While in CVS, I accidentally bump into a woman as she is turning around. She snaps at me, “Are you an idiot?” (to this day, not sure how bumping into someone is related to intelligence.. but hey). I apologize, with a very embarrassing amount of tears already filling my eyes, and then promptly begin shaking so violently that I need to sit down… in the office supplies aisle of a CVS on Lexington Avenue. I cry, curled up in a ball, on the floor, while my brain yells as me. You’re an idiot. That woman thinks you’re a rude, bratty kid now. That woman hates you and you will never be able to maker her not hate you. You should die. …That escalated quickly.

I then, still shaking, pick myself up and, buy a mini-stapler. That CVS is now unsafe. I will never enter it again.

2. I dropped my phone – the screen cracked. Now everyone will think that you’re irresponsible! Why are you crying right now? It’s a stupid phone. You are a disgusting child. You should probably die. 

3. *While conversing with anyone ever* “Hello,” says the person. How do I respond? What do I say? No, that’s wrong. No no no no no. They probably hate you anyway. Crap, they just introduced themselves and you already forgot their name? You’ve just been staring at them for at least ten seconds now. Why are you so awkward? No, you can’t answer yet, you’ll say the wrong thing. You should probably die.  

4. You left your phone off of airplane mode while you were sleeping last night – you’re going to get brain cancer now. There’s nothing you can do about it. You have destroyed your entire life. Your head hurts. No, now your chest hurts. Heart-attack? Probably. You’re going to randomly drop dead at any moment. You need to prepare yourself. How do you prepare? Oh my God, I’m going to die. Wow, I’m being crazy. Everything is so scary. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Stay home, it’s safe here. Wait, how does staying in your house prevent a heart attack. Ssssshhhh. Just go with it. Oh, you probably shouldn’t try to talk to anyone either because you’re awkward and they hate you. Wait, how did I get from leaving my phone on to here? 

5. This is my personal favorite -*Cannot find specific spoon* There are many spoons that look just like this spoon, but this spoon has a tiny scrape on it and if I use any other spoon, I’m going to die.

Obviously, I can find a lot of humor in my anxiety – I know that I’m being ridiculous, I’m aware – but that doesn’t make it any better.

The thing about any form of mental illness, or any other form of disorder, is that they’re well…  disorder. Your brain doesn’t function the way that it’s supposed to. You can’t cope the way that you are supposed to. You are in sensory overload all the time. And you (or maybe I should say I… Don’t want to speak for ya) want so badly to be understood, to be comforted.. But how can a healthy brain even begin to understand thoughts that are not inherently natural to have? It’s no one’s fault that they can’t understand, and it is unfair to treat anyone as such.. Still, I do believe that is our duty as humans to at least attempt to understand others – no matter how “crazy” you feel they are.

Here’s the thing… there are many times where I feel like if I go to class, or a certain store, or talk to someone, I will die. This may sound ridiculous to you, and you would be right. But that doesn’t change the very real emotions that I am experiencing.

Any and every true feeling that a person experiences is valid – it is not up to anyone else to deem whether or not the feeling is warranted.

Even if the thoughts aren’t true – the all-consuming terror that they create it. Remember that.

You know when you’re watching a scary movie and you know that something bad is about to happen? You feel your heart skip a little, maybe you clench your fist or your jaws, your senses are heightened.

Imagine feeling that all the time.

When it comes to mental illness, both the sufferers and the allies have responsibilities, this is important to remember. Those who do not struggle but wish to be allies are responsible for attempting to understand, to not pass judgement, to comfort.

What they are not responsible for, however, is pandering.

This is where the responsibilities of those struggling come in. The world is unsafe, trust me, I get how terrifying it is – I pretty much live in isolation because it’s all too much.. But I’m working on it.

The world is not responsible for bending itself to fit what makes us comfortable. The real world is filled with triggers, and it is our responsibility to learn to navigate these triggers. Now, this isn’t to say that you just need to “suck it up”.. not at all. The goal is to learn to handle things… slowly. The fight and to try, but also to be kind to ourselves and to know our limits. It’s easy to just completely turn in on yourself and lock yourself up in a glass castle all by yourself where you can be in total control, you can be “safe.”

But that’s not living.

It’s also easy to guilt yourself. To listen to the voice in your head that is tell you that you’re just making excuses for yourself, that you don’t actually have an issue and are just making this up because you’re a lazy loser and poor excuse for a person, that you are making this up to get attention (you say to yourself as you are alone, curled up in a ball, hysterical, on the floor of your dorm room because going to class is too scary). This can lead to some bad situations, damaging ones where you push yourself to the point where you are more than uncomfortable. You are unsafe – not physically, but mentally.

Me moving to Florida in a desperate attempt to “cure” myself (aka, escape being me) was more than uncomfortable. It was unsafe. It’s like jumping into a burning hot bath without first inching yourself in bit by bit so that you can get used to it and not scald yourself… It doesn’t end well. I wound up having severe panic attacks every single night. I relapsed into my eating disorder.

As with most of the things that I write here, I’m not really sure what the point is that I’m trying to get across. I just think that it’s important for those who don’t deal with these things to hear about them, even if that means sharing the very shameful contents of my mind when I’m having an episode. These things are real and we need to try and understand each other. People aren’t meant to be alone, we are social creatures – and dealing with a mental illness, especially ones where you isolate yourself (which often leads to pushing away your loved ones or often flaking on plans with friends until they no longer talk to you) can make a person feel more alone than they ever thought possible.. and os they continue to spiral downward. It is also important for us, the people who deal with mental illness, to meet our loved ones half-way, to push ourselves, to want to recover. To communicate how we feel, what’s going on, what your limits currently are.

Maybe if we all help each other, everything will be a little less scary.


Bumps Along The Way

*small note before reading - I don't know if
 any of this post is coherent in any way, 
shape,or form... so I apologize in advanced. 
Well... Now that I've totally talked this 
thing up, let's get readin'!


A year ago today I did something that was, arguably, the more terrifying thing I have ever done.

A year ago I hit publish on my post Disappearing Act where I opened up about my eating disorder. The opening up wasn’t the scary part – I tend to have a bad habit of sharing way too much via the internet. No, the terrifying part was that, for the first time, I hit the “share” option that allowed the post to be seen by people that I knew in real life. Upon hitting the publish button, it felt like I was forever changing the way every person who has ever met me sees me. All of this being said, publishing that post is one of the best decisions I have made. The intention behind the post was to not go on and on about my insignificant self (which I have been doing for almost 150 words not…yikes), but to let those suffering know that they are not alone, and to educate those who don’t understand eating disorders in a way that would allow them to view these very real diseases in a more understanding and compassionate way.

So here we are a year later. What’s changed?

I can’t say that I remember what I covered in “Disappearing Act” (I kind of just typed it and hit publish without re-reading it, i.e. talking myself out of posting it), so I’m not sure where I left it or how much I shared about one of the most universal occurrences in recovery.


The road to recovery, regardless of what from, is not a straight path. You don’t just decide to recover and that’s that. No. Mental illness is mental illness, just as an addict is an addict – just because you are no longer practicing harmful behaviors does not mean that you are no longer sick. No.

Something that they don’t tell you about recovery is that it is an ongoing fight. You can be weight-restored (if being underweight was a symptom of your illness… remember, weight does not an eating disorder make, weight is merely one of the many symptoms of eating disorders) for years and still fighting at every single meal – every bite, every calorie.

I know it sounds overdramatic, and there are exceptions to this rule – but by going off of my own person experience and the experiences of others I know, but it’s true.

And relapse doesn’t always present in the same way. Just because I’m not eating X amount of calories every day like I used to does not negate slipping backwards. One may no longer restrict as low, yet their intake of food starts to slowly get smaller and smaller. “I’m fine,” they can say. “Remember how bad I used to be? This is nothing. Everything is fine.”

And sometimes we really and truly believe that.

Have you ever heard of the concept of the “transfer of addictions”? You stop restricting your calories as low, but begin to spend hours upon hours in the gym. “I want muscle now!” You’ll explain. “I’m healthy and fit. I’m lean not sick.” You’ll say as you weigh out every gram of food you  eat as you need to track your macros.

That is not recovery. More often than not, a person will begin to recovery – really try – and then jump ship. They won’t know they jumped ship though, and most of the people in their life won’t either. There are so many cases of a person recovering anorectic developing a binge eating disorder – which is, by the way, a completely valid and dangerous eating disorder. It can take such a long time to notice these new unhealthy behaviors – you need to gain weight, you need to eat a ton of calories. This is fine.

This is just one of many examples of invisible relapses.

One of the scariest parts about relapsing (or never  really fully committing to recovery – just convincing yourself that you are) is how much it feels like failure. Recovery is a very scary place to be – you are fighting so hard, but the fight is in your own head. The people around you say that you’re doing so well. You’re healthy now. You’re so much more fun than when you had your eating disorder.

All of this is being said while you scream in your head BUT I’M NOT OKAY! PLEASE HELP ME! – You never say this out loud of course. You smile. Everything is okay now. Pretend everything is okay. These people are counting on me. I can’t let them down.

I can’t be a failure. Not again.

I don’t know if there is ever a time that a person is more fragile than when they are in recovery. Being in recovery is like slowly thawing after being frozen for such a long time – it takes a long time to thaw, but it doesn’t take much to crack the ice and have it all fall apart far before you are ready.

Okay, that analogy sounded way better in my head… What I’m getting at is that a person in recovery is essentially made of very thin glass – the smallest touch, even an accidental one, can cause the whole thing to crash down.

Only this time you ‘don’t look sick anymore’ you’re ‘recovered.’ I find that the relapse, or even just the minor bumps in the road to recovery are far more difficult to handle than the full-blown anorexia was. As deadly as anorexia is – it actually develops as a way to keep yourself safe. You get to live in your own little bubble of self-destruction. You think about nothing outside of your disease, you feel nothing outside of your disease. It is a comfort of misery. Hey, I’m falling apart – but at least I’m too numb to really care.

Now I’m not numb anymore. I’m in sensory overload. My exoskeleton has been ripped off, exposing the rawness underneath. Every little touch hurts – you feel everything. The entire world becomes a trigger. It’s too much. I’m scared. I can’t handle this.

So you turn back to what you know – your safety. You romanticize being at your sickest in the most twisted way – you know it was horrible.. But you also miss it.

Now you are in limbo, not quite recovered, not quite relapsed. This is where I am right now, and to be perfectly frank, it sucks. It’s all too much and I hate myself and I’m scared of everything and I can’t look in mirrors and I don’t want to go outside – I also can’t return to the way that I used to be. I know better than that. I don’t want to die and I know that, with an eating disorder, you either recover or you die. Yes that sounds morbid and dramatic, but it is the complete truth. Always remember that when you feel yourself slipping – regardless of what it is that you are recovering from.

Wow.. I don’t even know what this post is really about. I wanted it to be about relapse in recovery and how falling backwards  does not make you a failure.

Recovery is a lot like the myth of Sisyphus*. You have this impossibly large burden to carry with you (your illness), it doesn’t just go away, you keep it with  you and fight every day to keep pushing forward – to fight the distorted thoughts from the sick mind – you push and push and push until you get to the pinnacle – recovery.

And then the boulder rolls right back down the hill.

But you try again. You let yourself fall with it a bit. You’re so tired and you have been fighting for so long. You tumble down. You relapse. You feel like a failure – too sick to exist but not sick enough to get help.

Well here’s the thing – if you’re reading this right now, it means that you’re still here. You have hoisted that burden back up onto your shoulder and have started up the mountain again.

This is recovery – this is strength.


*If you don’t know the story of Sisyphus, in a nutshell – basically he betrayed the god Zeus. Now, if you know anything about mythology, Zeus has a sick sense of humor. You don’t want to mess with him because he will destroy you. Sisyphus disclosed on of Zeus’ secrets, and for that he was condemned to push a massive boulder up a hill – once he reached the top, the boulder would roll back down the hill, hitting Sisyphus on the way down – over and over again for all of eternity.


When You Feel Like You Are Sinking…

One of the biggest lies that childhood cartoons (that’s right, I’m looking at you Looney Toons) taught me was that at some point in my life, I would encounter quicksand.21 years later and the closest that I’ve gotten to quicksand was seeing it in that sub-par Indiana Jones movie with Orlando Bloom. 

Still, though I’ve never found myself slowly sinking into quicksand while walking the streets of New York – I feel myself sinking. We can call it mental/emotional quicksand. It feels like everyone is moving forward in life while I am stuck in place.

And the more I try to fight it, the deeper I sink.

Excuse me for the melodrama. 

The thing with writing the blog is that it feels incredibly egocentric. Why would anyone care to take the time out of there day to read about my feelings? There is no good reason – and I do not expect any person out there to take any particular interest in my life. The thing is, sharing the inner workings of my mind is not exactly my favorite thing – it is terrifying and feels shameful. But with that comes the thought that if, by talking about all of the craziness that goes on inside this head of mine – if one person can see something and resonate with it. If one person can feel that they’re not alone in thinking or feeling the way they do… That is all I want. And the best way I know to do that is by putting it all out there, warts and all, and hoping someone who needs it sees it.

Okay. Back to the whole quicksand thing.

I’m not that self-centered as to think that I am the only person who feels as if they are falling backwards in life while those around them are moving forwards. Tell one person that you are essentially having an existential crisis and they are likely to tell you, “No one knows what they are doing in their 20’s (or teens, or even 30’s these days). You’re not supposed to.”

Then why does it feel like everyone has a grasp on what they are doing but me? Why is it that while I see people getting into medical school, landing careers, getting their first apartments, etc. that I, seemingly, can’t even make a simple phone call to schedule a doctor’s appointment for myself without my voice shaking to the point of it almost being unintelligible from anxiety? Why is it that I am overwhelmed to the point of complete and utter collapse over my college coursework when there are people who work full-time, or even part-time and take more classes than me? Why is it that other people who suffer with anxiety can hold a job while I can’t work a simple part-time job without having a panic attack in the middle of my shift and having to quit in complete and utter shame (mind you, this was a job I honestly really enjoyed). 

I know, I know. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I get that… But this goes beyond just falling into the comparison trap.

This is about disappearing for a little while.. Losing time… Thawing. Waking back up.

I often have trouble accepting the age that I am. Not because I think that 21 is particularly old, but because, to me, being 21 makes no sense to me. A majority of my life beginning in my sophomore year of high school (when that eating disorder I mentioned in a way-too-much-oversharing post earlier this year first got bad) through my senior year of high school.. i.e. the bulk of my teenage years.

It’s hard to explain this feeling to someone who hasn’t experienced it, but I know that there are many out there who have. One of the best descriptives of this feeling (phenomena?) that I have heard was said by author and musician Mishka Shubaly and my favorite podcast, The Rich Roll Podcast. Both the host of the show, Rich Roll (super inspirational and aspirational ex-lawyer and author of Finding Ultra) and Mishka are both recovering alcoholics and, in this episode, they were having a conversation about addiction. Here, Mishka (a man in his 40s I believe) was talking about how he felt like he was the age he was when his alcoholism first took hold of him. It was as if he had been asleep for a long time and was just waking up and needed to experience life starting at the age where he was last truly alive. 

Now, to the skeptical mind, this may sound like a simple excuse to get out of growing up, accepting responsibilities, etc. Honestly, when applied to myself, I feel it to be an excuse. I often question whether I actually have an anxiety disorder or an eating disorder or PTSD (this diagnosis is the one I doubt the most), or if I’m just trying to get out of doing things that I don’t want to do. Logically, I know this to be false. I’m not the kind of person who lacks drive and motivation. At least… I think I’m not. 

For so long, I feel that I have been asleep. Frozen. That any and everything that made up “Erin” was shoved into some box in the back of my subconscious while mental illness came to the front and took over. For so long, my identity has been “anorexia” or “anxiety” or “depression.” They became who I was. All I was. I didn’t (and still sometimes don’t) want to let them go and heal because I don’t know what I am without them. 

I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what I’m like. I don’t know what I like. 

I know being afraid of people. I know being afraid of food. I know feeling empty. I know being obsessive about exercise. I know being somewhat reclusive. 

Think of the mind like The Upside Down from Stranger Things – only here, there is no demogorgon. Instead, there is a whole different monster – this monster is mental illness. This monster is what has consumed all of what made you, “you.” This is the monster that has stolen away all of your light. This is the monster that has trapped you. This monster is anorexia. This monsters is panic-disorder, this monster is PTSD, this monster is depression. This monster is any and everything that has stolen the true, beautiful, and crucial “you” from this world and has hidden you away. 

But you know what this monster isn’t?

This monster isn’t you.

I feel like I am only just waking up. I feel like I am only just becoming ‘me’ again. The thing is, I have no idea what constitutes being ‘me.’ The last time I was ‘me,’ I was 15 years old. 

I have a lot of catching up to do.

When years and years of your life have been taken from you by whatever it is that consumed you – it is not your fault if you feel that you are falling behind. You are not there yet, and that is okay. 

In all actuality, you really are still that little person that felt so scared/alone/out of control that they had to retreat to the back of their subconscious and let something else take over. Protect them. Act for them. Exist for them.

I can see skepticism or chalking all of what I am saying up to the perceived laziness/entitlement/immaturity of the millennial generation – and I can completely understand that mentality. This feeling of losing time only to wake up one day still the child that you were when you first disappeared, unable to cope/function in an ‘age-appropriate’ way, is a feeling that is inexplicable (though I’m trying really hard here with this way too wordy blog post). 

But just because it doesn’t make sense to most people does not mean it is not real.

Just because you are not where society deems that you are supposed to be at any age does not make you a failure.

Just because you feel lost and scared and alone and unable to ask for help out of fear of being told to just ‘grow up’ or that ‘you’re an adult now’ doesn’t make your feelings and troubles invalid.

Of course, with all of this and my saying that you need to be gentle with yourself, be patient with yourself, and allow yourself to go through the phases of growing up that you were “supposed to” have gone through years ago – you, we, still need to put ourselves forward.

However, you can push yourself forward without dragging yourself down. You can move slowly, tread lightly.

The more you thrash about. The more you beat yourself down. The more you try to run and catch up with the others faster than you are able to..

Will only cause you to sink.

You Always Have A Choice

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances

– Viktor Frankl; Man’s Search For Meaning

The first time I heard this quote by Holocaust survivor and philosopher, Victor Frankl, was in religion class in my junior year of high school. Now, let me just say that this was definitely not my favorite class, I also probably wasn’t always attentive during it as I should have been. However, when reading Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, when reading these words for the very first time – they were all I could think about.

Just to give a quick breakdown of the book so you understand the full extent of what he is saying here – Frankl was a prisoner in not one, not two, but three different concentration camps during World War II. This was a man who was dealt what was probably the worst hand imaginable. His book chronicles his time in the camps, but not in the way that you may think. While he definitely brings attention to the unfathomable cruelty that those in the camps face on a daily basis – he instead decided to focus on something else.


This quote by Frankl is so meaningful because out of everyone, he had one of the most valid reasons to become bitter and hateful towards the world. To give up on hope. To give up on beauty. How can this truly be a good world when people are being whipped and beaten and gassed and starved?

If you choose it to be one.

In the concentration camp, Frankl was literally stripped of every right, every ounce of dignity, every bit of humanity. He had nothing but the right to choose the way that he would allow what was happening to him effect him. He chose to find beauty in the little things – maybe a joke shared while sipping the meager ration of “broth” offered to the prisoners, the clear blue sky so vast and magnificent as he marched towards the trenches for a long day of grueling labor. To Frankl, this right, this choice to decide who you would allow your circumstances to let you become, was a matter of life or death. Give up on yourself. See the world as nothing but darkness? You lay in you bunk and allow yourself to slowly shrivel and die. Choose light? Choose to find even the smallest glimpse of beauty in the most horrific of situations? Hey. You have a shot of getting out of here alive.

And that’s just what he did.

There is no single person on this planet that never experiences any type of hardship. Loss. Grief. Trauma. Sure, some of us seem to get a little more of life’s crap thrown at us than others – but none of us get through life completely unscarred.

There are too many times where I see people being excused for treating others badly because they are “going through a hard time,” or “have been through a lot.” Now, I’m not talking about snapping at someone accidentally while having a bad day. We all do that. It’s fine. What I am talking about here is going out of your way to make other people miserable. Trying to inflict the kind of pain on others that you have felt from whatever event(s) has/have occurred own life.

There is always a choice. No matter how hard and bad and ugly life gets – there is always a choice in the way that you react to it. The person that it makes you become.

Here’s a story for you –

When I was in middle-school a friend of a friend (who I had only met once) texted me telling me how I was a waste of space, how no one would ever loved me, how I was a “masochistic martyr bitch” (to this day I still am unsure of what that meant), how everyone would be happier if I killed myself, blah blah blah.

To be perfectly honest, this didn’t effect me once. Maybe it was because I was already majorly depressed and just accepted everything she said as the truth without batting an eye – or maybe it was that this girl had met me once. This wasn’t about me. It was about her.

I remember talking to my dad about it. I was so confused. He told me how the girl’s dad had died a few years prior and, because of that, it was effecting her in a way that allowed her to act like that.

This both confused and troubled me. I never really understood the reasoning of “He/She has been through a lot” for treating others as though they are nothing. I understand that bitterness, anger, resentment – these are all easy to feel when life beats you to the ground. Trust me, I know this all too well. It is easy to allow yourself to stay in your misery and to want to bring all those around you that you perceive as happy down to your level. I get that. I do.

I just don’t understand why this is seen as okay behavior.

In my eyes, in even the darkest of situations, you are in control. Yes, life throws things at you over which you have no control. You do, however, have control over both your response to it and how you allow it to change and form you as a person. You have the power to take the worst of the worst and allow it to make you better. You have the power to let the amount of darkness you have experienced allow you to see how much light there is. You have the ability to let all that is gone and lost to allow yourself to see and find a newfound appreciation for what is here and gained. You always have that power.

Now, this isn’t easy. Like I said earlier, it is a lot easier to let life defeat you. To become bitter and angry. When you allow yourself to be angry at everyone and everything in this world – you avoid dealing with the real issues. You’re not really angry at your friend for going to that party without you. No. You’re angry at your dad for leaving you at a time that you needed him most. Of course you won’t admit that; you probably won’t even know it. So you lash out and then use the excuse of your having “been through a lot.” But what you’ve been through isn’t what is causing you to lash out – your attitude towards what you’ve been through is.

It’s easier to let yourself sit in a room with all the lights off, convinced that the world is a horrible place and that there is no point in trying to pick yourself up and go back out into it. Yeah. It’s so much easier.

And so unfulfilling.

The hard stuff is turning on the lights. Allowing it in. Allowing yourself to see past all of the ugliness that you have experienced and see all the beauty that this world has to offer. It’s hard to let yourself be there for the problems of others and accepting them instead of internally grumbling about how you have been through so much worse. The hard stuff is allowing yourself to heal. To move on. To begin to slowly tear yourself away from the person you lost, the illness you had, the hardships you experienced. It is hard to allow yourself to see yourself not as a victim in need of attention and consolation but as the one there to give the attention and consolation. It is hard to allow yourself to let go of being the one that everyone panders to because you have “been through a lot.” It’s hard to allow yourself to just be normal. To not be the one who has been through a lot – but to be the one who has been through just as much as everyone else. It’s hard and it sucks a lot of the time. There are so many times where people treat me normally and I want to scream “Wait! Don’t forget about me! I have an eating disorder! Remember? My dad died! Remember?” It’s scary to allow yourself to be whole and healed after you have spent so much of your life as being the broken one.

But you’re not the broken one anymore. You are the one who took the hardships in your life, regardless of what they were, and accepted them. You have not only accepted that you have not had it as hard as some, but also that you have had it harder than others (I guilt trip myself a lot with this since I don’t really think I’ve been through a lot). You have detached this from your identity. You have de-specialized it. You have stopped it from being your story – it’s only a single chapter in the book of your life;

And you get to choose how the rest will be written.


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When You Feel Too Much

Let’s talk about feelings.

Each and every one of us experiences emotion in different ways. Yes we all feel the basics: happy, sad, angry, excited, nervous, etc… But the ways in which we experience these emotions and how we react to them vary greatly.Same goes for the world.Each and every one of us lives on the same planet. Yes our environment greatly impacts the way in which we experience the world – but we still all live in the same one. Again, the way we see and react to the world on us varies greatly.

So here we are, all of us humans bumbling around on the earth, feeling all the feelings – going through life, some of us like to keep our feelings to ourselves, some of us wear their feelings on their sleeve. Regardless, who a person is, their mentality, their heart… No matter how hard they try to keep it in, it seeps through their skin. It surrounds them. I know that talking about a person’s aura is completely woo-woo and ridiculous to a lot of people, but whether you believe or not, it’s hard to deny that we have an instinctual sense of a person before we even speak to them. If a person is sad, we can normally tell, or if they are worked up. If someone is generally not a good person, we tend to get a bad feeling about them – and if someone is a good person, we tend to feel safe around them without even really knowing them.

Some people are more sensitive to this – these auras are whatever you want to call them – some people are entirely consumed by how big the world is and how much is going on in it. Some people feel everyone else’s “stuff”, they take it in, let it soak in through their skin, they let themselves be consumed by the troubles of others. They want to take all the pain away from everyone in the world even if it means completely destroying themselves.These are the types of people that I want to talk about today.These are highly sensitive people (also called Empaths if you’re into the more out-there hippy-dippy stuff.. which I am).

Some of us, myself included, from the time we were old enough to have any awareness of the world around us, could feel the “stuff” in the world around us in such a way that it becomes a part of us.. It’s hard to explain.The best explanation of a highly sensitive person (and an extreme situation of it) is found in the book/film The Secret Life of Bees. In this story, one of the characters, May, is a bit of a mess. When she sees the news and something bad is happening in the world, when someone around her is experiencing pain, she completely breaks down. When describing May, he sister tells the story of how May was originally a twin. Her twin sister, April, and she were so connected to each other that they legitimately felt every bit of joy, pain, etc. that the other did. Her sister even tells of how when their father would take a belt to April, welts would rise up on May in the same places April’s did. Eventually, April died. When this happened, “the whole world became May’s sister.”

I remember the first time I heard this line in the movie, it felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Wow! I knew that feeling! I knew what it was like to feel all of the pain in the world to such a degree that it would cause me to physically break down. It was the first time that I felt less like an over-sensitive freak show who was too pathetically emotionally involved in everyone and every thing in my life to even function properly. Beyond just feelings all the feelings, there is another (destructive) part to being a highly sensitive person – see, when you care so deeply about others that their pains become your own, you tend to become the go-to person for everyone to come to with their problems. You sit with them, listen to them, cry tears for them,  their pains become yours and you will do anything to take those away from them.

You’ll overextend yourself to others – giving away all that you can possibly give just to make sure the people around you are happy. It is wonderful – but it is also exhausting. It is exhausting to live in a world where your entire life is consumed by trying to bare the weight of the entire world.

You will break down sometimes, shut down, it will all be too much. Of course, the people around you won’t know this. You are their go-to person. You are the one to talk to. You can’t be sad or struggling. You need to be strong for everyone. If you’re not strong, you can’t take care of everyone, if you can’t take care of everyone you are a bad person, if you can’t take care of anyone, you are nothing.

And so you develop these crazy semi (or, let’s be honest, completely) codependent relationships with every single person in your life. They are using you as their rock, what keeps them steady (and sometimes an emotional punching bag if the person kinda-sorta sucks) all while you are using them to help you feel like you deserve to exist in this world. Being the one who cares about everyone and loves deeply and helps everyone – that is who you are – if you fail to be that person to the degree that you are, you are nothing. You don’t exist.

Here’s the thing though, no one human being can hold the entire weight of the world on their shoulders forever, nor does any one human need to (the crazy part of my brain would argue this… no! the whole world is good and I am bad! I need to take all the pain away from the world because I am the only person in the world who deserves pain… yeah, not egotistical at all).

Eventually, your legs will buckle and you’ll fall. And no one will be able to catch you.Because suddenly you are not the person with the smiling face and the never-ending capacity to love and listen and care. Suddenly you are breaking down. You can’t hold anyone up at all anymore. You push people away because you don’t know what else to do. You are no longer good and helpful – and because of this, you deserve nothing. No love. No friendship. Nothing.

When you are no longer good and helpful, you no longer exist. Still, you feel the entire weight of the world – only this time you are unable to do the one thing that made you feel even the smallest bit worth something -Helping others.

Fact of the matter is, taking on the weight of the entire world is really just a way for us to avoid our own emotions.. To face ourselves. Oh! I have no time to think about my own problems! I’m fine! Honest! Do you need to talk? I’m here for you. Always. We take on everyone else’s stuff in a desperate attempt to stuff our own struggles down. However, no matter how far down you shove it, like a floatie in a pool, it’s always going to rise to the surface. You’ll have to face yourself. You won’t want to face yourself. You’ll shut down. You’ll maybe even self-destruct. Collapse in on yourself.

It’s all too much.

I feel too much.

Why do I care this much?

This isn’t normal.

Why does no one ever care about me as much as I care about them?

I need to turn my mind off for a little while.

Eventually, you will need to seek out some sort of help. This is hard for you – you are used to giving help, nor receiving it. It’s uncomfortable. It’s unsafe. You’re not worth it.You were light.. But bit by bit, you gave your light away to everyone else. You gave away everything you had and was left in the dark.

It’s all about setting healthy boundaries – something that I, after 21 years of crying because a tree is going to get cut down or something equally absurd, am only just learning how to do. You need to learn how to put your hands up sometimes and say sorry, but you have to take care of yourself for a little while. You can still be the person who helps everyone. You can still be the person that people sit and talk to even when they barely know you because they “just feel safe.” You can still be all those things, but even more.

Because now, instead of giving away all of your light, you’re keeping it. You’re using it to better not only others, but yourself. You are realizing that your worth goes beyond your ability to help others. That is just a part of you, it is not all of you. You are worth existing just for the simple reason that you do exist. Just by existing in this world as you, the whole you, is enough. It’s more than enough.I wish I could say more about this magical place where you learn to use how deeply you feel things to be there for others in a way that many can’t all while also protecting yourself. How you can live in this world and take it all in without feeling like the walls are closing in around you because the world is too big and you are too small.

I’m not there yet.

But I will be