By TG, Guest Contributor
I can’t erase you. You are my past. You are 9 years of my past. You uncomfortably tangled my heart and unkindly controlled my body. I close my eyes and try to forget, but you left a mark. I can tear a paper, delete posts, throw out pictures, and move forward; but, I can never erase you. I can continue to overcome you. I can help others escape you. I can keep others from falling into your devious arms. I will share with my friends what you have done for me and more importantly, to me, and what I have done to overcome you at my worse times and continue to do when you show up.
I do not want to share the specifics of my traumatic experiences in which you have helped me, because my assumption is that the natural response for one reading this letter is to compare my situation to theirs; I don’t want others getting lost in the specifics. As you and I both know, you deceive the vulnerable into believing that you are a necessity in their life.
ED, you walked with me every day to High School. You sat with me in class during my Hebrew and English studies. You walked with me home from school and you went to bed with me. ED, you deceived me into believing that you are the only best friend I can have. You told me no one else needed to know we were friends. ED, you went with me to seminary and started my first job with me. You told me that the only reason why I am successful in my career is because I have you by my side. ED, with you I was able to be a well-known volunteer coordinator, make a living, and be independent. With you I felt happy by pleasing others. ED, with you I was able to make others happy by presenting as an Orthodox Jew on the exterior and not disappoint others by being a conservative Jew.
ED, over the past two and a half years I learned that all you have done was deceive me into being my best friend, companion, and sense of security. I learned that there are individuals out there that have my best interests in mind and only without you can I have them. I learned that there are people out there that want to be my companion, and I can only allow that if I am not in an enmeshed relationship with you. ED, I now know that security comes in many forms when I no longer allow myself to be in your prison.
ED, you put me in situations hoping that I would have to become friends with you again. At the mere young age of 23, you were the cause of my stroke. You were hoping that if I were paralyzed I would come running to you for support. ED, too bad! Through the 3 months of intense therapy and the ongoing recovery you were persuasive, but I was more determined than ever to fight against you and I did. I knew that you were just being controlling because I would never wish a stroke on one of my friends and even during times when I wanted to disappear, I would never wish it on myself.
ED, 6 months after my stroke you told me that I was not happy and I would live a better life with you. You told me that most people don’t have medical complications just because they are friends with you and the stroke was a coincidence. You told me that if I would continue to see my doctor biweekly and a therapist and nutritionist once a week, I was okay being friends with you. You told me that medical complications don’t just happen from one moment to the next and that you would subside once I started to present with any complications. It wasn’t the first time you pled to me when I was vulnerable, but I was tired and I listened to you. I continued to go to work full-time as a healthcare professional. I continued to see all my team. I isolated myself from family and friends like you said. I stopped journaling, doing art and all my other hobbies. You lied.
For the two weeks that I allowed you in my life, my blood work was normal, my vitals were on point, and my team was responsive to what I shared with them. I started vomiting blood. I told you I did not want you back in my life and surprisingly, you listened immediately but it was too late. I did not take you with me into the extended hospital stay where I had unpleasant procedures done. I did not let you hear my diagnosis of gastroparesis. I did not want to deceive you into thinking that you won because I knew that I wanted to win. I knew that although tired, I had to hang on to the will of victory and that was enough.
Sitting here today, almost two years without you by my side, I can say with true confidence that I won. I learned what it means to live a life without you. I learned how to shut you down. I learned what it means to have people tell me that I am beautiful and accept it. I learned that fat, skinny, pretty, ugly, short and tall are just words. I learned what it means to eat a little too much and be okay with that because everyone has times of feeling like that. I learned what it means to feel like I don’t want to eat when others are eating for the simple reason that I am not hungry and I already ate prior. I learned that eating or not eating does not have to be a big deal. I learned that food is to enjoy and to sustain me, it is not meant to consume my being. My essence is who I am as a person and not what I look like.
ED, I wake up every day like all my friends, but because of you my lifestyle is slightly different. I have to take my blood pressure daily, and my physical mobility is limited. I think twice before walking up the stairs, making sure that I drank enough during the day so the elevation of the stairs don’t send me for a loop. I take breaks after walking longer distances and during the evening, my speech slurs. I can no longer carry five grocery bags in one hand. Something as small as a stomach virus or food poisoning is likely to land me in the hospital.
You caused a slew of medical problems that you promised me you wouldn’t. You still didn’t win! Those daily reminders help me channel the emotions from what I have been through and what you have done to me in a positive way. I can let others know that you do kill from one day to the next. You gave me the opportunity to be a walking example and daily reminders for others who see me that with the will and determination not only can you survive but you can live.
ED, I continue to remind others what living means. I am a walking reminder for my friends, family and coworkers of the importance of prioritizing in life. Is it more important to happy or is being thin and fit more important? Is it more important to be a kind person or is religion more important? I remind others that it is not about being able to run a marathon or fitting into a size 4. Life is not about being Orthodox. Life is about being the best Jew that I am and I continue to strive to be the Jew that I want to be. During times when I find that food and weight is my priority, I ask myself, “What do I really need? How can I get what I need?” If I can’t get it, “Why can’t I get it? What is more reasonable now?”
ED, I don’t want to keep on rubbing it in, so I will say it only one more time: You were defeated and should be embarrassed because the daily reminders encourages me to help others and doesn’t draw me any closer to you!
Thank you for the victory!
Meet Guest Contributor TG
I am a 25-year-old girl who never thought living was possible. I grew up in an Ultra Orthodox Jewish Community in New York. I was always at the top of my class spiritually, socially, and academically. After high school, I was preschool teacher for a year until I began my own volunteer organization and started working at a pediatric nursing home as a coordinator of services. Living in Pennsylvania now, I am the Coordinator of an Assisted Living Facility and fortunate to say I am living! I am hoping my story will help others find willpower and hope to say goodbye to ED.