Yesterday I had my first meeting with a new therapist who specializes in eating disorders. To help her understand the origins of my eating disorder I told her about my childhood. How my life on the outside was seemingly perfect, and conventional while on the inside I ached, drowning in loneliness, in self-hatred. It never had occurred to me, until I talked to her yesterday, how my deafness in my left ear impacted me more than I thought it had.
It’s a classic saying to make people feel better it could always be worse. And while this statement is true and does help people feel better about a situation, I’ve used it in my own life as well, it never dulls the pain and it is not long before it sets back in again. It is like telling a moving train not to shake the earth from underneath the tracks. It’s persistent, and no matter what you do it will keep rattling the surrounding earth.
I was born with no hearing in my left ear, but it is true it could have been worse, because I had complete hearing in my right ear, and I still do today. And I’m very grateful for that. But my “incompleteness” made me feel inferior to my peers. Sitting in my kindergarten classroom, I felt like Humpty Dumpty cracked and apart from all the rest. The hostile loneliness I felt all those years crept back into my waking life yesterday as I sat there sobbing across from my new therapist. I gave her my story, but the retelling of it made me feel like I was reliving it, soaking in the suffering, like the way a beach goer would soak up the sun. Feeling that familiar sting of pain made my eating disorder swoon, my real self gasping for breath.
But I was able to return to my life, my true self, knowing well that my weaknesses have become my strengths. I really liked my new therapist, but it was still hard to open wounds, stare at them, look them in their bruised light and not run away in fear. But the past is the past, it is not now, not even now. I’m still the same person, I have the same bones, same skin, same muscles and tendons but my story is different, my path of life has become fuller, I am older, wiser, stronger and more confident. Looking back at the past is not reliving it, it is merely looking back and realizing the growth and resilience of the human spirit.