You Shine Brighter Than Anyone Does

This week:

I am listening to: The Sun Days, Bleached, Bleachers

What I’m pairing my Diet Coke with: babies and 3 different cities

My Blogger pick: I’m behind. Lo siento.

 

You Shine Brighter Than Anyone Does

 

Let’s just get right into this. *Deep breath*

Okay. Cool. I’m totally cool.

Many of my friends and family know that I suffered from an eating disorder. I have been in recovery for almost 3 years. This story isn’t so much about that. This story is about Leah.

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Group therapist: How about we go around the room and introduce ourselves.

The list went on:

Rebecca, Carolyn, Violet, Carissa, Constance and then…

Cara: Lafawnda

Group therapist: Cara. Your name is Cara.

Leah: Hi. I’m Leah. My check in? I’m here because I’m just as screwed up as anyone else in this room. Cheers.

She was sitting on the couch directly across from me. She was a pretty girl. Her eyes the color of ripe acorns, her hair of a tarnished penny (I think that is beautiful for some reason). Tiny freckles dusted her nose and cheeks. She had her phone in her hand, as did I, which was forbidden. It was my turn to “check in.”

Me: Well. No. I’m not doing any better today. Yes I did use behaviors yesterday. And no, I don’t want to be here. Oh, and I’m not looking forward to “healthy relationships” because it ends up being like every other group talk we have, and I don’t understand why we categorize these talks if they are all the same.

Violet: Amen.

Cara: Preach.

Group therapist: Okay thank you Constance for sharing… Time for weights, and dinner.

I trudged into the hallway. I felt a tap on my shoulder.

Leah: Hey. I’m Leah, you got that right?

Me: Yes.

Leah: Look I know the rules. You’re not allowed to hang out with anyone while in treatment, but I think that’s stupid. Plus we are in outpatient right now so what do they know? AND I also think you and I are meant to be friends. Exchange numbers?

Me: Exactly.

We went back to the kitchen for dinner. One of our fellow patients wasn’t having the best day.

Violet: WHERE IS THE FUCKING CHOCOLATE SOY MILK??? WHAT KIND OF EATING DISORDER TREATMENT CENTER RUNS OUT OF SOMETHING?! WHAT IS THIS PLACE? IT’S HELL! I AM LIVING IN HELL!

She slammed the fridge and stomped to the door. A therapist quickly hurried behind her.Violet didn’t  join us for dinner that evening.

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Overnight me and Leah became great friends. The first night we stayed up until 4:00am talking in a high-rise in Boston where she house sat. We agreed that the city lights looked liked diamonds, sapphires, and rubies. We wore sneakers to a swanky bar and didn’t care. We realized how much we had in common and how creepy it was. The next morning we cruised around in the Mercedes that belonged to the person she house sat for. My right arm reached out and felt the air on the highway. It felt right, we felt free together.

Leah: I know we are going to be okay, you know? I support you. You support me.

Me: You make me feel okay.

We spent the tail end of the summer going to the movies, bringing her dog to restaurants to see if we would get caught, walking through the Boston Commons, daydreaming in front of the Chanel window, and having designer cocktails on Newbury street. I had finally found the friend I was looking for in Boston. My favorite thing Leah and I would do was let Gio, her tiny chihuahua, off the leash and let him lead the way. That dog wasn’t scared of anything, nor was he aggressive…just like Leah. One of the last days we hung out in person went like this.

Me: They said I’m ready to go. I don’t think I’m ready. I just need one more week here, but I can’t miss ANOTHER week of work. I can’t afford that.

Leah: How much do you need… money wise?

Me: What?

Leah: You heard what I said.

The next day she unknowingly put an envelope in my purse that had money in it. I cried and threw my arms around her. Although I gave it back to her this gesture meant the world to me. Shortly after the summer she accepted a high paying consulting job in New York City. I ended up moving into her apartment for a week as I was in between apartments after moving out of Harvard that summer. I’ll never forget touching her things and feeling like I was her for that week as she was someone I admired.

Me: I really don’t want you to go. Who is going to get free drinks from rich bros with me?

Leah: Screw your job! Just quit and come with me!

Me: I can’t do that right now you know that. I have to finish grad school!

Leah: Fine. Thanksgiving girl. Me and you. We are staying at the Waldorf! We will order Chinese! It will be awesome!

We continued to speak on the phone and write each other emails over the next month. The last time we spoke was the end of September that fall. Abruptly, she stopped calling me, stopped texting me, and stopped emailing me. I chalked it up to her being busy with her new job and all. Soon after I realized I was really hurt, and I was frustrated that I couldn’t pinpoint what went wrong. My birthday came and passed that October, and she didn’t wish me Happy Birthday. I remember being very angry about that. In November, I was packing my things to go home to Texas for Thanksgiving. I thought about the Waldorf and Chinese food as I folded my shirts. When I was about to zip my suitcase, I received a phone call from one of the only mutual friends me and Leah had. I heard heavy breathing and I immediately sensed despair.

Cara: Constance. When is the last time you talked to Leah?

Me: IDK the end of September she just started ignoring me all of the sudden. I’m actually really upset about—

Cara: Constance. Leah passed away.

I heard bits and pieces. The walls were caving in and I began to feel nauseous as my throat constricted like a snake around it’s prey.

Me: Wait, what? That was my birthday.

I couldn’t breathe. My hands were like Jello and my sobs echoed in my old New England house. I collapsed. My giant teardrops soaked the wooden floor.

Here’s the thing. Leah and I didn’t have many mutual friends like I said. Also, her Facebook was set up to where no one could post on her timeline. There was no way I could have known.

Shortly after I relapsed and was back in treatment. There I was again. Sitting on the same couch, but now when I looked across the room there was a hollow spot where she used to sit. The bitter cold wintery mix of snow and ice had now replaced the warm days of summer we shared together.

I made it back to the road of recovery, and little by little picked up the pieces of my life. I thought about her a lot over the next year.  I would take the extra subway ride to the Downtown Crossing stop where we used to sit with our Starbucks passion teas and listen to Berklee music students sing and play their instruments. She seemed to be in every place, but she wasn’t there at all.

Last New Year’s day I decided to let go. Of course yours truly had to do something impulsive to make my point. To me, that started with a tattoo on my rib cage. The tattoo was a duplicate of what Leah had. I had wanted to do it for a long time, but I knew I wasn’t ready until I was at peace with everything that happened.

Me: Yes, right there.

Artist: Ali grave nil?

Me: Yes. Like under my boob kinda hugging it.. but also on my rib cage . I mean there is no boob to hug amiright? Right here.

My finger grazed my upper side.

Artist: Okay cool. Let me mark that up for you.

The buzzing sound started to whir. The needle made contact with my skin and as it pierced I closed my eyes tightly and winced.

Artist: Well now you have to tell me…

Me: It means “Nothing is heavy for those with wings.”

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Later that night, I put on Leah’s Nantucket sweatshirt and sat on the cold wood floor in my room. I inhaled deeply and pretended that it still smelled like her perfume. I pulled out my phone in one hand and clutched a tissue in the other. I knew it was time to delete all of her voicemails,  as it had become unhealthy to listen to them so often. As tears splashed on my thigh, I listened to each one once more and deleted them after. The last one I wrote down and put it away in a keepsake box.

Leah: Hey girl. I hate how we keep missing each other! If I can’t talk to you right now I’ll tell you one thing! I have been working with the worst client ever! This Long Island job is going to kill me. And it’s fucking gross here. Oh! And I quit smoking. I miss you so much. We need to get you down here ASAP. Anyways, I’ll email you. Talk to you later. I love you.

After the voicemail finished I tapped the delete button, and I whispered to myself: “I love you too.”

In a short amount of time I learned a lot from Leah.  She encouraged me to be myself, and to not be ashamed of my past. She showed me true compassion and made me feel loved.

She gave me strength during my recovery. Lastly, she taught me that nothing is heavy for those with wings. There will be times in your life where you feel broken, unwanted, defeated and your wings disappear. She inspired my wings to grow back, and I flew again.

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If you or someone you know is struggling with grief and loss, please visit christicenter.org for information and resources.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please visit nationaleatingdisorders.org for information and resources.
There are people that can help.