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before the scream.

i have an unbelievably slow reaction time.

i take time to process things. quite a bit of time. maybe too much time?

at one point in utah i came out of a friend's bathroom, rounded the corner, and found myself face-to-face with a very tall man. in the dark. he jumped in my path. i stood there. for a second. processed it (kind of). felt the adrenaline pulse through my body (you know that wave of heat that hits?) and proceeded to let out one of those screams that girls are known for: high, loud, and truly terrifying.

and then i laughed so hard i nearly wet my pants. because i knew the very tall man. i knew him as a friend. a friend trying to give me a fright. and i was aware of just how delayed my reaction was.

in fact he joked that before my departure he'd succeed in terrifying me and then making it out of the room in that bit of space before the scream.

the thing is, my reaction has always been slow. and yes, laughably so. i remember my brother jumping out at me when we were kids. he'd pop from behind a closet door. a bedroom door. a tree. the laundry hamper. and i would stand there. stare for a second. and then let loose a cry of such terror my parents would come running.

i'm slow to react. and i'm a late bloomer. and quite often the uptake takes me just a little-bit-longer than everyone else.

such is my cross. my burden to bear.

someone recently apologized to me. said they were sorry my time in utah wasn't everything i hoped it would be. and i thought, they must have known more about my expectations than even me.

because i didn't know what to expect. that was the beauty of it--i who attempts to control all things (again, my cross) relinquished, gave up, said let's try. what will be, will be (a very unusual moment of courage on my part).

and then another friend recently remarked that for something i dubbed "my adventure in utah" i certainly didn't have much to say about it. to which i replied, because it was precisely that: my adventure. my experience. and at the end of the day it was just for me.

so you want to know why i went? really, want to know?

because after almost five year of struggling to recover from an eating disorder that nearly destroyed me (and no i'm not employing hyperbole) i was happy. and healthy. and i thought, why, the hell not? to go to utah and play juliet and act for the first time in two years because someone sent me an email, because one person happened upon my blog one day and though i might be able to do it? it's too odd, to unusual a twist in my story to say no to.

and so i went.

and the eating disorder resurfaced.

it became clearer, came into focus a bit more, but steamrolled me nonetheless.

and so for the three months there, while yes i learned invaluable things, i floundered. and the eating disorder chipped away at me.

and my parents patiently told me i'd be fine. it was just a hiccup. i wasn't back at the beginning.

but it felt like the beginning.

you see, recovering from this ghastly addiction has been a marvelous progression--varying shades. but the addiction itself has always felt the same. the beginning is the middle is the end.

and so when i slip, it's like moving through a portal of time and space. and suddenly i'm nineteen and a first-year in school. and i'm twenty dealing with unbearable depression. and i'm twenty-one barely getting through the day and twenty-two finding out what it means to have the bottom fall out.

on normal days my body fogs over certain memories--protects me from myself. whole years fade away. but when in the grips of the eating disorder i am at the mercy of a memory all too potent and all too cutting. a memory that colors everything so clearly i can no longer distinguish between past and present. in fact, past becomes present as the preceding five years play out. all at once. inside a body struggling to know... well to know anything. just one thing. to know just one thing with certainty.

so for me, my adventure in utah proved more portal than anything else.

but the miraculous thing--the reason i wouldn't change any of it--the reason i'd do it all over agin--is: i rebounded. and quickly.

the rebound--the great gift of utah. the reason my gut pushed me to go.

my reaction time? hugely diminished. the space between the fright and the scream? nonexistent.

i've always been afraid of those moments of slipping--those moments where my partial recovery is more eating disorder than health. because i know that i tend to stay there for a while. it takes quite a bit of time to recover, to come out of the funk.

but this time. well this time i came out of it. and quickly.

and now i'm not so fearful of those hard days. because i have so much more information and knowledge and experience.

and the funny thing (the counter-intuitive thing) about experience is that, good or bad, it adds value to one's worth.

and suddenly my cross (crosses) don't seem so heavy.


look a little closer said...

dear meg. this blog post is amazing. i really love your writing. :)

kara lynn said...

sorry. i comment a lot. ha but i can't just say enough how much i love your writing.

i, myself have learned the same thing. and confidence waxes strong with fearlessness that i do not have to worry about falling into anymore bottomless pits. because i have learned how to face them. every morning feels like hope for me now. not despair.


tanuki said...

first of all, welcome to the 25 club!

second, i'm glad that you rebounded from utah so quickly! and that it was valuable in the end, even if it was intolerable at the time ^_^

Miss E said...

Oh Meg, you lovely thing! I understand what you have gone through. The main thing is that you are on the up and things are looking bright!

Brittany said...

thanks so much for being honest. i love that about your writing.

Sarah Jane said...

this is so beautifully written. i think it may have made me stop breathing for a moment.

Autumn Lynn said...

I have a few friends who told me how amazing that play in the park was too.

I passout when I get scared which I am sure is less helpful than a delayed scream.

I'm sorry about your experience....it's interesting how our bodies handle different situations.

becky said...

This made me very happy. Few posts have highlighted your strength as much as this has - and that says a lot, because brave is a word I would always use to describe you from reading this blog. I, too, am glad you rebounded quickly. And am also so glad that you are sharing your story. Beautiful.

Lindsay said...

I really enjoy the thoughtfulness of your writing. Also, you are not alone in the delayed reactions thing. When someone scares me, I freeze and after a few long seconds I start to "melt," meaning collapse on the floor. My husband says we need to practice screaming in case I'm actually attacked some day! Ha ha ha.

Anonymous said...

First I want to wish you a Happy Belated Birthday!!!

Now, I think it is one of life's greatest gifts that when we go through hard times, the lowest of low times, times we think we'll never claw our way up from, that we still take something away from it. I am glad that you rebounded so well in Utah. Of course, I'm sorry that you ever had to sink down again into that kind of pain and despair, but to know that you are stronger now for having gone through it before. To recognize the warning signs and to know what works for you (coping strategies, avenues for help, etc) is a blessing.

It is never ideal to have to go through such hardships but it has made you who you are today and the person I see (read about) today has a strength and resilience to her that I really admire. You are a true inspiration for me and my writing. Thank you so much for sharing all this.

Anonymous said...

Meg, I don't know you (or i only know you through your blog, is that the same thing?), but this is a wonderful post. I think you are an amazing writer. This story was very wonderfully crafted. And you are so brave to tell the truth about things. I admire that.

communikate. said...

I love your stories that lead up to something amazing.

Trials are a delayed gift indeed. In the thick of it, it appears that nothing will get better. It's our darkest moments,and then slowly the light appears. I'm just finding the light to one of my trials, and it's been ten years in the making.

Again, thank you thank you for such thought provoking writing. It made my Tuesday.

Laura Marie said...

heart in throat.


katie said...

a lovely post. i'm sorry you struggled during your time in utah, but in the end you'll be stronger for it.

Emily said...

You are such an incredible conveyor of words! And you are just an amazing woman! Go, girl, go!

Bee Sarah Lee Bailey said...

i love you! i adore you ! you are beautiful! p.s. i am going to be in New York City next year for the us open. (that means you and i are getting coffee!)

Roxy Te said...

I admire you for speaking about Ned with such candor and even more for dealing with it and being a better person for it! I can relate to those down days...

Anonymous said...

I am sorry that your time here was not as enjoyable as it ought to have been. Can I just say though, being in that play with you has given me an incredible gift. It was a pleasure and a blessing to get to know you, and your little jaunt to Utah provided some necessary insight into my own life. And for that, I thank you. <3

Anonymous said...

My goodness I have goose bumps. Hurray to you for having the courage to speak of your eating disorder. So many will be able to relate. Honesty takes courage!!

Laura C said...

Happy belated birthday, darling! Your wisdom is inspiring, truly.

Amanda said...

I love this post. and I know it probably seems like such a fad right now, that everyone is doing it, and I've never told anyone this, but I think you should write a book. And I don't mean a novel, I mean a book about yourself and your eating disorder because I don't think enough people understand this issue. Just a thought. I love your writing and I know I'm not the only that does :)

The Many Colours of Happiness said...

I went through the same thing, and there were plenty of hiccups! But each one wasn't as bad as the previous one. Then one day I woke up.. and it was gone. And I knew there would be no more hiccups anymore. Nothing miraculous happened. It just was. It's funny how life works.
Those set backs are there for you to learn, and to get stronger every time, and ultimately lead to your recovery :)

You sound like such a strong person, it's really inspiring.

Red Boots said...

I've been reading Catcher In The Rye, and today I came across a passage in it that made me immediately think of you:

"Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them - if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry."

It's how I feel when I read your blog posts, if that makes sense. Which is definitely a compliment!


Anonymous said...

Last night I was feeling lost and alone. I'm so glad I had saved your blog as a favorite long ago. Numerous times you have shown me that there is light at the end of a dark tunnel. I'm 21 & last night left me feeling more lost and uncertain than I have ever felt. But last night I randomly decided to catch up on reading your blog. And it helped me more than you will probably ever know.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Krista said...

this is beautiful and inspiring. I too have dealt with that feeling of spiraling out of control from an eating disorder. You really captured the emotion that goes with this awful addiction. I am proud of you for your recovery and for mine. :)

Jennifer M. said...

That's great! Sometimes we need to be tested in order to discover how far we've come. Next time you will be even stronger in resisting your addiction.