Last night I dreamt that I peeled my skin off of my body.
I rid myself of my flesh in a singular swift motion, rolling my hands down my thighs as I watched an unevenly tan, fine layer of epidermis vanish beneath the two vertical creases in the middle of my palm.
I was facing myself in a mirror, nose pushed against the reflective, metallic glass, fogging up the surface with each measured exhale. Glaring at the stranger peering back at me, intimidated by the power which she possessed, but which did not inhabit her.
I watched her expression change as she shed her top layer like a reptile, performing this one-woman show, her very own highly-anticipated magical disappearing act from herself.
What surprised the dream-me was the ease with which she did it. The utter massochism of her disembodiment. The effort she did not have to exert to complete it.
How light she was afterwards, purged of her own exterior.
It's been six, maybe five and a half - more than four if you're being strict - months since I grounded myself firmly in the ambiguious terrain clinically referred to as recovery. Or at least this new chapter of it. The one that involves wanting it so badly you ache, and wanting that ache to be flushed down the toilet two, three, four times a day, mixing with your bile and your body's pitiful attempt to create excrement from water and acid and blood.
It's been almost 15 months since Matthew died. Since my heart and brain split into two, cohabitating incestually only to fight and break apart into a more confusing mix.
My memories of last summer are confused by the opposing gravitational forces towards which I was being stretched. My brain, wanting to make sense of the nothingness, striving to sift through the mess and emerge, enlightened, on the other side. My heart, willing my body to melt into the quicksand, hoping to find my friend buried deep beneath the cracks and crevices of the earth. Hoping to meet Matthew alive, somewhere, having himself shed the extraneous, flamboyant, burden of his exoskeleton.
It's been more than 16 years since the day I looked down at myself, hesitant eyes fearing any visual confirmation of what I already suspected, and realized that there was something, absolutely, undeniably, wrong with me.
Time has passed within these gaps of time. My life has been lived. A series of choices stubbornly and irrationally made has unfolded between then and now.
I attended my first support group in early June. I had been in "this stage" of recovery for about 4 months, if we're being liberal. As someone who has always found tremendous benefit in therapy, and who is intensely fascinated by endless self-exploration, the very fact that I had not entertained the idea earlier on is a bit baffling. In all my years of induced and provoked isolation, it never occurred to me that finding a sense of community within a like minded group of people would be therapeutic.
At the beginning of April, I met myself at home on a spontaneous trip to Los Angeles. When my mother's neck surgery was scheduled - her second in as many months - I had done the only thing I thought was logical. I had gone home to be with her. It was my first trip in which my own physical appearance had played no role. I hadn't planned the trip in advance, exercising furiously, pedaling away on a stationary bike to thin. I did not consider, on this journey home, the size and shape of my body or the implications they would bear on me.
Despite the hours of exhaustion, drained by florescent hospital lights and patients who could not rest, I felt at ease. I drank and ate what I want. When I wanted. My mother, too tired and full of pain, did not question me. And yet, despite the roundness of my cheeks and protrusion of my stomach, I felt less whole than ever.