Progress - A Letter to Julie - 9.29.16

by MB

"I'm so happy for you. I mean, I'm not happy that you're sad, but I'm happy you're able to connect with your sadness, to identify it, and to sit with it. I'm proud that you're able to tell me about it. That's huge progress."


"What would I say to you?"

"That's normal. It's completely understandable and there's nothing wrong with it. It's so normal, it wouldn't be normal if you weren't feeling like this."

"Yep. Exactly. You took the words out of my mouth. I'm so proud of you."


I'm full of judgments.

"Oh, I bet you are. I'm sure they're everywhere."


Today has been a day marked by progress. An inventory of all the work I've done and an acknowledgment of all the places I haven't begun to explore. A celebration and recognition. A reflection on the end of an era of huge, life-changing progress - the kind where you wake up each morning and put your hands on your shoulders, run them down your chest and your stomach, wondering if the person inside that flesh is really you. 

Signs of progress:

  • Acknowledging my progress
  • Acknowledging my judgement 
  • Acknowledging it's normal to feel this way
  • Crying. Crying more. Crying every day. Living through it.
  • Not using behaviors
  • Eating normally
  • Exercising normally
  • Not weighing myself
  • Being kind to myself. Letting myself rest when I need rest
  • Acknowledging when I'm being hard on myself
  • Identifying where my thoughts are coming from. Myself? My Mother? My eating disorder?
  • Admitting I'm lonely
  • Being honest
  • Being proud of myself
  • Being present
  • Accepting the moment for what it is

I have trouble identifying with the girl who did all of that, who made those choices and said those things that culminated with her being here. I'm proud of her yet deeply ashamed of her existence. I yearn for her and yet I know I don't want her back. I mourn for her even though she's not gone.

This part hurts. It's confusing. It's riddled with pain and judgment and longing. It's unpredictable and real.

I'm not ready to let her go. 

I don't want her story to be over. I haven't figured her out yet. If I liken my journey with my body to a romantic relationship (the most intimate and fraught relationship I'll ever be in) we'd only have recently entered the phase of novel exclusivity. That time when being committed to each other is still fresh and exciting, when you think you know someone and then find yourself surprised by her tics and flaws - the way she pours milk in her coffee each morning, or the way she touches the left side of her ear just before she's about to sneeze. The moment you look at her and realize you love her and decide, even though it's scary, not to run away.

We've reached the point where honesty has become the default. Tired of trying on different identities (could we really still be the relaxed, laid-back people we've always dreamed of becoming?) we've settled into being ourselves instead. 

But we're only at the beginning. 

I'm not ready to let her go because I don't understand her. Her transparency is still new to me. I know her history of behaviors and patterns - I've watched her and heard her cry and moan and snort and purge - but she hasn't yet told me why she did those things. Maybe she knows. Maybe she's still figuring it out for herself. Maybe there are still memories she's buried inside of herself, dark and raw and deformed, that she hasn't yet come to terms with. 

I'm scared to be there when she uncovers those demons, when she's able to bring to light the shame that's haunted her. I'm afraid I'll find them as grotesque a she fears I will. My instinct has always been to run away. Yet I know on some level that my commitment to her brings with it a willingness to face those ugly parts with her. To hold her hands and rub her shoulders, to watch her cry and recuse herself from the moment. 

In many ways you've been my relationship coach. Our most enthusiastic supporter and unwavering fan. You've been the person I go to when I need to complain or gossip, when I need to tell you about our bickering and our fights and how she stormed out last night, unable to look at me, too angry to speak a word.

In the moments where I want to quit, I've heard your voice and imagined what you would say. I didn't want to disappoint you. I wanted to prove to you I could do it. I'm sad to  lose that. I can't imagine myself without it.

I am grateful for these moments that made me and fearful that they've long-since departed - a life unburdened by the healing power of the present.