Applause erupted, and the string of words that were flowing out of me for the past hour met its end, like the rainbow scarves clowns pull out of their sleeves. I was done speaking of my journey from pain to peace, and now all I had to do was enjoy being praised by the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, therapists, nurses…and patients. I used to be a patient, sitting in that same room and barely listening to another girl, but now I was at the podium. Oh my god. I’m at the podium. Not in the hospital bed or in the doctor’s office, I left that life for a better one. And now I got to taste the very utopia I tried to envision while crying through treats of mash potatoes and DQ Blizzards. This once-in-a-lifetime standing ovation is my reward. The idea that I could help just one person find more joy makes me appreciate my hardship so much more.
I’ve answered my questions, hugged my family and wiped off the many beads of sweat when a mother comes up to me. A current patient who I met at my time here comes up to me. My former therapist, sweet Heather, comes up to me. To me. They all say words that fill me up with life as if I were collecting their compliments, and deepest worries, in a big green bucket that only I could hold. And as I am being congratulated for keeping my soul alive, I realize just how rare it must be to witness someone on the other side of the edge; someone who has leapt in commitment to their heart’s desires, and to a life of freedom. By showing what it looks like to embrace every inch of myself unapologetically, I held the key that unlocked something in them. Something was clearer now, and their hopes seemed nearer now.
I did that. I skipped down the steps to the first floor. You would think that when I’ve spent the last hour squeezing every ounce of inspiration from my voice, it would drain my energy, but no; this experience is and forever will act as the charger for my purpose. Years from now I will tell myself to think about this moment to ignite the fire I need to drive me through the dormant days.
Each pounding blood vessel and the reaching corners of my mouth tell me that I finally found it. Not to say I won’t lose it, and that it won’t expand and develop, but I found it. I am a speaker. I am a listener. I am a leader who will guide the movement for returning to our personal humaneness. I know that I can’t give up on you, and you can’t give up on me. I know what thoughts keep me up at night, in a restless can’t-wait-to-be-a-change-agent kind of way. My identity is forming like sunshine that just can’t wait to be seen by the world. The cloudy part of my future that I couldn’t quite uncover is strikingly apparent to me now.
On Dec. 9, 2019 I spoke at an eating disorders recovery center in Tulsa, OK. More than that, the many doors of my psyche that had been closed opened. And could never be shut again.