About 6 years ago, I began a journey focused on one thing: not dying as a result of poor physical health. That was all. It wasn’t about the number on my clothes tags or about trying to impress a fellow; I simply didn’t want to die.
2 years and 115 pounds later, I was in a form I loved and I had officially become a gym rat. 4:30 am was my friend and together, we hauled tail day in and day out. I developed a fondness for weightlifting and I knew before I went to bed each night which trail I was going to see the next morning. Nothing could stop me.
Except he did, just a year later. And I let him. After everything, I am still amazed that I let someone shrink my heart so small. Still amazed that I allowed him to chip away at all of my soul and make me feel so completely worthless. Still amazed that I stood idly by and let myself be treated with such blatant disrespect and disregard. I cannot believe I was actually going to marry him and resign myself to such a life. I blame myself as much as I blame him.
And right after that, she died. I spent one horrific week watching her cling to a life well lived and watching her limbs turn black and listening to her struggle to breathe every second. On her last day, I wanted to die, too. I thought about driving my car right over the side of the bridge on the way home from the hospital. I thought maybe it would stop the sound of that terrible death rattle in my ears. All was lost.
Thus began my downward spiral into a depression it took me almost 3 years to get out of. I was plagued by constant nightmares of her coming after me, begging me to help her breathe. I lived in fear that he would be at my house when I got home from work or that he would emerge from the shadows in the early morning to finally take what he thought was his. I am grateful for the doctor who didn’t laugh when I sat in his office and explained that the girl who once earned the nickname “Giggles” hadn’t laughed in a long while and that’s how she knew something was wrong. That doctor saved my life. He was patient and kind and he let me choose how I would be treated.
The thing no one tells you about pills is that while you hope they make you better, they can make you much, much worse in other ways. A little pink pill, a whole lot of soul-searching, and a God who never fails brought me out of the depths. But all of that hard work on my mind and my heart meant my body got neglected and the side effect I dreaded most became my reality. I gained more weight than I ever lost, but I could laugh again and not be afraid. I told myself the trade-off was worth it.
I’m a bad liar.
I didn’t hate myself; I had simply reached a point where I felt nothing toward my body. It was there and it was mine and that was it. My body was my own, for better or for worse. I’ve been through too much with her to throw her to the wolves, but in all my hard work of not dying, I had developed a fondness for her. The resulting apathy after all that healing was surprising, but I was too numb to care.
I finally took a vacation a few weeks ago, back to the place where the journey began and where all the things happened that had led to my stint with depression. I was scared. Those people loved me when I lived there, but I honestly thought they surely couldn’t love me now. Even though my mind and my heart have healed, my body still bears the old scars – the weight – of medication and fear. I was afraid to let them see me, to let them hug me. Aside from a few texts and an annual Skype call, I had barely kept in touch since l had moved away.
I didn’t want to let them see me suffering. I didn’t want to let them in to love me during the time I felt most unlovable – the time when I needed it most. I was so afraid to see their eyes reacting to my changed appearance. But…with every single hug, I was reminded that I am loved regardless. With every hour spent in the presence of those I love, I was reminded that I have a good tribe who sticks with me in the thicks and thins even when I’m more thick than thin. With every truth spoken, I was reminded that my tribe is made of more substantial stuff than I have been giving them credit for. They are beautiful souls of whom I am most undeserving.
That blessed week of hard and holy space also proved that I still love getting outside and hitting the trails and laughing uproariously with those I love. I had forgotten how delicious it felt to have rock beneath my feet and wild air in my lungs. It’s a little harder right now than it was a few years ago, but I’ll get there. I have a tribe who loves me when I can climb mountains and when I cannot. I am free from the pit of fear I dwelled in for so long. I have a God who calls me His own. I know what I know now and I do what I can. The journey is ongoing. I’m moving mountains…and all is gift.