Dear Diary: 7/1/15

Dear Diary,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    7/1/15

I am writing to you because I am terrified. I never thought this day would come. Just three months ago, I was trapped in the darkest depths of my disorder. Just three months ago, I was lost, struggling to breathe. I was unable to choose what I wanted to eat, unable to go outside, even unable to do schoolwork—because apparently, I needed to focus on “recovery” and “finding myself” and all that other crap they told me at the hospital.

And now, here I am alone, flying 35,000 feet above a sea of endless blue. For the first time in four years, I hold the power to make my own decisions, to basically do whatever I want. And I am absolutely panicked, as you can tell from the unsteadiness of my calligraphy. After continuing to fall into the same black abyss time and time again, it is hard impossible not to lose faith in myself. It scares me more than anything to know that at the end of these three weeks, I could potentially be back in a place darker and colder than even the most bitter Alaskan winter nights. This incessant feeling of ambiguity shoulders the standing hairs near my elbows. I take a deep breath. I will not fail. I will do the right thing. I will not return to that nightmare. (I was once told that if you repeat something to yourself over and over, you may start to believe it. So far, I haven’t had much luck.)

The grey belt strapped across me suffocates my hollow frame. Try not to focus on the breadth of your waist, I tell myself. Isn’t recovery better than the crumbling, brick “house” on 122 Cambridge Street? For some reason, I feel a sense of longing the way my friend longed for her father to play Chinese checkers with her before his heart failed. Wow, something really is wrong with me. Who misses a mental institution? What sane person misses insanity? Clearly, I am not sane. Is it sane to feel like you can only breathe when you’re drowning? How the absence of oxygen is exhilarating? Who actually wants to go back to hell? Me, I guess.

“Push away the negative thoughts,” I remind myself. “This is just Ana talking.”

Wow. That therapist really has brainwashed me.

I can still picture my father whispering in my ear, his cold breath flowing to my veins, arousing my apprehension. “The power is in your hands now. What you do with it is up to you,” he warned me seconds before we said our goodbyes.

I shiver. It isn’t one of those warm shivers that involuntarily occurs when a song moves you so much that you can’t help but feel it is more beautiful than life itself. It is one of those uncertain shivers that triggers when you realize that you’re on your own now. I look at my fingers, the skin peeled off from anxiety and many sleepless nights. I feel as if lemon juice has been poured on my fresh wounds, stinging and eating away at what used to be skin. I feel vulnerable. I feel raw. I feel true to myself. No, keep lying. Just pretend everything is fine. Lie, lie, lie.

After scribbling on nine pages in the back of this book (and almost fracturing my black pen from thrusting it with too much pressure), I have come to this conclusion: I do not miss that place, where the nurses forced me to wake up at the crack of dawn every morning, shoving toast dryer than the golden sand of the Sahara down my throat. Where I was only allowed to drink Ensure, its liquid chalk texture baking the lining of my throat. But I miss feeling powerless. I miss the familiarity, of knowing what the day would hold. I miss all my decisions being made for me. I miss basking under the boiling sun of irresponsibility. But soon, soon I’ll be in Thailand, and I will be able to choose what I want to eat, what I want to do, if I want to take my meds or not…. I don’t know if I am ready for this overwhelming freedom. Basically, it is like telling a two-month-old infant to participate in a 26-mile marathon. I am not ready. It is not my time. I think this was a mistake.

But it is too late to turn back now. I don’t know what time it is or how long I have been in the air, but I do know this. It is too late to go back. It is too late to return to my house, where my mother can make my plate for me, and all I have to do is put the food in my mouth and chew. It is too late to go back to the time I didn’t even have the option of screwing up or not. In Thailand, I will be facing the harsh reality I have been sheltered from for god knows how long. At the orphanage, I will have to choose whether or not to put that extra pad ke mo on my plate. My mom won’t be there to do it for me. I can barely even remember the days when I was responsible for my own self-nourishment. It seems like a lifetime ago.

I decide to sleep for a little. I figure that if I can’t make these problems go away, it is just better to avoid them. I close my eyes and try to force my mind to shut up. Shut up, shut up, shut up. This is the command I blare at my mind over and over again. Yet my own body betrays me. It does not listen to my commands. Now I know how my mother must have felt when she found the chocolates I had “eaten” hidden in my sock drawer.

***Update: I managed to fall asleep for a good six minutes and twenty-three seconds. I think this is the most I have slept all year. I wake up to the smell of nauseating mashed potatoes and overcooked peas, reminding me of what I was force-fed at the hospital every day.

“Hi, thank you for flying Southeast Asian Airlines. Would you like any snacks?” a way too cheerful flight attendant asks.

I try to think about how I have this new power and how it will feel so genuinely empowering to do the responsible thing. How my grandmother’s eyes crinkled with warmth as I took a bite of her warm snickerdoodle cookies. How my mother told me that she truly believed the worst of the storms had passed. But all I can think about is that unreasonably cheerful flight attendant and how it is too early in the morning (or late in the night) to paste on a smile like that and how I can break the rules because my mother won’t be here to scold me.

“Can you please come back to me?” I manage to mumble in a fragile voice, a voice that belongs to that little girl who lost her mother at the supermarket and thought her world was over.

To my relief, she proceeds to the next row of passengers. But now, I am left alone with my thoughts in this deafening silence: Eat some pretzels! No you are not hungry, don’t listen! Do the right thing! What is the right thing? How can I not know what the right thing is? You have the power now! Should I listen to my heart, or listen to my mind?

Ok, enough! I tighten my sore muscles, attempting to purge myself of my voluble thoughts. I can’t repeatedly put myself through this mental abuse, especially since this trip is supposed to be life-changing. Don’t be selfish like you always are! Think about your dying grandmother who imagined great things for you! Think about your siblings at home who used to look up to you but now can’t even look you in the eyes! Think about your mother and how you pretended not to hear her muffled sobs at night!

I have made a decision. I will listen to my heart. I will eat a snack because how can a physically starving body build a playground for those poor children starving for love at the orphanage? I need to be responsible for once in my life if I ever even want to truly live. I have managed to survive for sixteen years of my life, but there is a huge difference between surviving and actually living. Surviving simply means that my heart is still beating. But living is actually enjoying and having the freedom to make my own choices. To have control of my destiny—that is a sensation more exhilarating than the feeling of wind blowing through my damp hair as I jet ski in the cerulean waters.

So, I have decided that I don’t want to merely survive. I want to live. I want to live! I want to know what it feels like again to laugh so hard that my throat hurts. I want to make a difference in this world and tell the orphans that I love them, even if their parents traded them for drugs. I hear the wheels of the snack cart creaking, like the sound the mahogany wood of my grandmother’s attic makes when I jump.

“Have you made your decision?” the flight attendant asks me.

“Yes, I have,” I say. And I smile.

As I crunch on my salted pretzels, I feel ready to utilize my newfound inner-power to do good—to bring a smile to a little boy’s face as I dance with him instead of tearing myself down. To impart the same love my family has bestowed upon me through my struggles to the neglected children who deserve more. To move past the pain and use it as a medium to sympathize with the orphans.

I don’t remember the last time I ever felt alive. The last time I ever felt this empowered. And I think I like it.

To new beginnings and living a little,