Every few weeks, I pull out four well-worn, too-girly journals and read each, in chronological order, cover to cover. There have been moments in my life where I’ve been very good at keeping an account of my thoughts and feelings, and many more when I haven’t. When I read my entries, skipping from regular entries on a summer break into months of nothingness only to burst back onto the page with boy problems, my brain tries to patch up the holes, weaving the memories together with thin twine.
I read about my first love extensively at the beginning of Journal 2, the date and time I lost my virginity scrawled in the corner in silver Sharpie, so I’d remember (as though I’d forget). But my entries about him mostly exist in the months after we broke up, during my first semester of college, where I was desperate to find happiness and acceptance somewhere I didn’t think I could. “I get tight in my throat when I think about you, or look at pictures of you. It’s not an altogether pleasant feeling, frankly, but I’m not sure what it’s supposed to mean, either.” More boys make appearances, the burning of unrequited love and the comfort of a relationship that was basically just experienced out-of-body.
I re-read my experiences of the summer of 2009, away from home at a theatre festival working my ass off. Except I mean literally.
My recollection of the illness brought on by a Northern Idaho tick bite is grueling, but more grueling are the entries that begin: “Yucky. I wish I was happier here. I’ve been going through the motions, telling myself ‘oh, it’ll pick up,’ or ‘you’ll show them who you are soon enough,’ or ‘you’ll be the comeback kid… I just want to yell “I AM INCREDIBLY TALENTED, WILDLY DETERMINED, AND HAVE SO MUCH TO GIVE TO PEOPLE AND TO THE THEATRE!’ I did not come here to eat and sleep and watch movies. I want to be pushed to excel. I want to be given the opportunity to do so.”
Reading these entries, which are pretty much like that until the end of the summer, I can see how “this” all started. And although I’m not sure I can ever make anyone understand quite what I mean, I know in all sincerity that I didn’t mean to lose weight. This is the same as I didn’t mean to gain weight when I eventually did. It just happened. I really can’t explain it beyond that. But I can see it in the woven threads between my entries– the deep longing to excel, the effort I put into making myself the best I could be. The exercising more and eating better (although to some extent that came later, I think, as I never dieted or ate differently during the summer, but because I didn’t cook and all eating was monitored in the festival’s cafeteria, once I was making my own food I basically just subconsciously created a whole new system of eating).
I can’t even pinpoint when the tipping point of my health occurred. Despite all the pieces I can put back together and tie in a neat little bow, that still eludes me. My entries after that summer are anxious and solitary, as I watched the people I thought were my friends drift away from me. There is nothing about my body, just my loneliness and fears, and at times, my great successes and my joys. And I have to shut my heart when I read my detailed entries of studying in Moscow… as I’ve mentioned, during the time I was there, my mother went behind my back and sent a letter to my therapist expressing concern– basically undermining the idea that I was an independent 20 year old with my own support system, my own therapist and process of healing, and the ability to do so without her oversight– and in lying to me for over a month about her feelings about me, destroyed a significant trust in our relationship that will never be repaired. So I read those entries while keeping my distance, reading for the stories about seeing UNCLE VANYA where it was first performed and doing ballet with Baryshnikov’s old teacher .
And Journal 3 begins when the shit hits the fan. This journal is smaller in size, which is part of the reason I stopped writing in it, and it’s filled with scribbles and cross-outs, anger and self-hatred. If I counted the number of times I wrote the word “hate” in this journal, I would be horrified. These were the months when my real “treatment” began, and I was self-destructing with food and extreme depression, all the while trying to keep my shit together while moving twice, doing two shows, and attempting to be a human.
I remember this entry, naked on the bathroom floor– the only place that felt okay for my hot head to lay.
I feel scared
Out of breath
In pain (my stomach hurts)
I want to throw up (not because I want to be skinny or get the food out but to feel better)
Out of body control
Manic– like not doing normal things or controlling actions
Suicidal thoughts/hurting myself which scares me so much
Talking to myself
Heavy loud breathing
Or this one, sitting on my fire escape.
I want to be my own best company and I want to love myself, but I frequently do things I hate and feel so separate from myself.
I feel like I have two lives, one that everyone sees and that I love and the other that no one knows about but tears me up inside. I become so scared when that second life affects the first.
Where I used to fear others, I now fear myself.
And then quotes… Part of the reason I use quotes on this blog. From Unholy Ghost.
“…I greatly desired to speak the whole truth. Instead, much of the time, I merely said, Thank you, thank you, I’m getting up now– going to school, going eventually to college and the bright future that everyone expected. But the present, which I tried so hard to dodge, could not be dodged… An imperfect word is sometimes better than silence, a pale metaphor better than suicide.”
“Depression brought to me a new rationing of resources– for every 24 hours I got about 3, then 2, then 1 hour worth of life reserves–personality, conversation, motion.”
“…looking at the tiny pills– ‘is this all that stands between hell and me?'”
And the quotes expand into taped in notes and emails, the detritus of my recovery. Typed memos to myself, brief thoughts I wanted to keep. Things that made me feel okay, or maybe even a little better, or reminded me that I wasn’t alone. And at some point, these entries petered off too.
Journal 4 is where I am now– a green notebook stolen from home with my sister’s name, and “English” on the front. It’s worn and not much of a “journal.” But inside are long entries, entries about L’s cancer, my self-conscious fears, my dreams, pros and cons list about a certain boy, plans and brainstorms, shallow recounts of a really good day, notes from my Shakespeare class, taped in comments from my Facebook page or sweet notes left for me. I’m not ready to crack that spine and read it for understanding like the other three– that’s for when it’s finished. But when I pick up that journal, I can feel the flexibility of it’s cover and its size comforts me. I flip through and it’s full of color. I carry it with me all the time, and though I’m not a devoted journaler, when I do bring it out to write, I can feel the weight of my thoughts and feelings in that thin, school notebook, and I feel alive.
In the middle of the journey of life
I found myself in a dark wood,
For I had lost the right path.
And so we came forth, and once again beheld the stars.