Written by: Gracie, Facebook Manager and Contributing writer at Unpolished Journey
You tried to kill me and my family wouldn’t let you.
You tried to kill me and my friends stepped in front to protect me.
You tried to kill me and I tried to fight for myself.
You tried to kill me and the love of my life left because he couldn’t watch.
You tried to kill my light.
You tried to kill me.
Today is my 24th birthday.
Birthdays used to be like Christmas for me. I planned elaborately themed birthday parties…the cat themed birthday, the pig themed party, My Big Fat Greek Birthday, murder mystery dinners and the gypsy bash (complete with homemade tambourines)…I was all about the themes, the celebration and I now curse the family videos that live on in infamy. But as I entered a war with an eating disorder my birthday suddenly took on new meaning.
My 18th birthday: riddled with pain and conflict…do I eat the cake, do I celebrate with friends? What is my fate, where am I going to college? Will I have to leave this school year for treatment? Can I stay in school? Will I graduate? Why is this so hard? Why can’t I get better? Is it even worth it?
My 19th birthday: a celebration of life, of fighting, of survival, surrounded by women in a treatment center in Lemont, IL who distracted me outside my room, kept me up until midnight revealed my decorated room and showered me with love, complete with a crown that a therapist had smuggled in.
My 20th birthday: a celebration of reality, fear of the future, anger of the past, separation from those I love as I walked around a treatment center in Tucson, Arizona. I cried and I was caught off guard by an outpouring of letters, packages and a surprise visit from a cousin who lived in Colorado.
My 21st birthday a celebration of getting it together, letting go, growing, and practicing gratitude for the abundant love that surrounds me. I spent the day with my family, friends and going out downtown to celebrate…friends from work, grade school friends, family friends and family surrounding me reminding me to fight.
My 22nd birthday: a celebration of new beginnings with a worry of the challenges that were about to come. I celebrated in a new city, in a new apartment but waited with sinking sense of restlessness again beginning to feel that my life belonged to my eating disorder and not to me.
My 23rd birthday: a celebration of new love, family, hopefulness and contentment. I was surprised by my closest family and friends and then surprised again by a new family I had made within my community an RA at my college.
My 24th birthday: a celebration re-claiming self. I am growing. The seeds have been planted and the seeds are the pain, fear, joy, and abundance of all of the days that have added up to lead me to this day today.
I have always possessed a joy for life and a zest for the precious moments I have been given. However, my eating disorder stripped me of my light and slowly convinced me that my life wasn’t worth living. It almost had me convinced. But it was the people around me who saved me, who reminded me and who reflected my light back to me.
Recovery has not graced me with sunshine and roses, and recovery is not linear in my story. However, through recovery I have been reconnected with what it means to be alive and what it means to be human. I have experienced what it is to have my heart broken. I have experienced how true friendship sacrifices, supports and reminds you how to laugh from your belly. I have experienced being immersed culture that dances when their words won’t do their heart justice. I have always had a joy for life…but the thing about life is that it will not always have joy for you. This is when you are forced to reclaim yourself, your soul, and your relationships and see that you will always have the joy OF life. The joy OF life is sometimes actually the connection that comes through sadness, the strength that comes through pain and the understanding that comes with failure.
This year is a year of growth. This year is a year of discovery. This year I celebrate gratitude. I celebrate forgiveness. I celebrate strength. I celebrate letting go. I celebrate holding hope. I celebrate connection. I celebrate the truth. I celebrate adventure. I celebrate spirituality. I celebrate vulnerability. I celebrate imperfections. I celebrate the fact that my soul is simply a tapestry woven by the people who love me the most. My soul is a tapestry of the days I have lived.
I am still alive.