A few months ago I met with a genetic counselor for the second time. For those who don't know, I'm BRCA2 positive, which means based on family history and this gene mutation I have, I will likely get breast and/or ovarian cancer by the age of 60. Damn. That's a lot to take in. That's a lot to process. Because when I originally found out, I was 22. I remember saying I'll worry about this when I'm 30. It's weird because back then, 30 seemed so far away. Like I'd never actually get there. Well, now I am and it's real. I think that's the hardest part to deal with. Because sooner rather than later, I have to do to something about it. It's like, do I undergo preventative surgery and remove my breasts and ovaries —the things that make me feel like a woman. Or, do I risk it and wait? I've always said I'd have the surgeries. It's just time crept up and now it's here. I have some big decisions to make and I don't feel ready. Are we ever though? Here is what I want you to know.
They say no one ever quite forgets their first love. Maybe because long after it ends, our first love holds some type of power over us. A haunting, bittersweet grip on our psyches, pulling us back to what was —what could never be again. But why? Why should this one lodge in our brains be any different than the others? Even when the others were longer, better, more right? Probably because nothing is quite as intense as our first. For me, it was Friday, October 20, 2006. I was 17 years-old about to meet mine. Close to everyone I knew had a boyfriend. Except for me. I always felt like a permanent third wheel. But all of that was about to change. At the time, my high school best friend, Hannah was dating this guy, Lee. Technically, he was a freshman at some local community college. Formally, a high school senior, Lee was always a year ahead. But now that his grade was out, mine was officially in. I couldn't believe it was finally my last year at Cherry Hill East. It's like, I knew we'd eventually get here. But it always felt so far away. I didn't think the time would actually come. It's weird thinking about that now. And rather hard to explain. I'm sure you know what I mean. Anyway, Lee and I were friends. All of us were. My group —about eight gal pals and I used to hang out together on random drunken-fun school nights —basically, all of my junior year. Weekends too, of course. Lee had been trying to set me up with one of his friends. But so far, none were up to par. I wouldn’t call myself picky. It's just, back then, I was still a virgin —something most girls weren't. It was senior year, after all. And a lot of people I knew had lost it years ago. I guess I've always been a late bloomer. Because I had just started getting boobs —something I longed for as long as I can remember. Now, I was not by any means a prude. But as non-traditional as I've always been, I kind of wanted my first time to be with someone special. And it seemed like that someone was also very far away. There was this one guy. But he was only nice to me behind closed doors. I knew my first could not be with him. He was from the other side of town. An innate bad boy. A player for sure. But for some reason, he seemed to like me. Because we had been on and off for the past three years. And since you know I was still a virgin, you also know we clearly never slept together. That made me think he liked me for me. But you'll later learn, it wasn't so black and white. Nothing ever is. And at the time, I hadn't heard from Troy (his name) in a few weeks. And so, Lee promised he'd find me, someone, better. Thus far, he wasn't having much luck. He kept saying I was too pretty for most of the guys he knew. But he wasn't about to give up and I was more determined than ever. So one night, a week before Halloween, Hannah and I are at Lee's parent's house. That's when this guy, Lee's friend Zander comes by. Apparently, this kid had his license taken away (too many DUI's). Lee also said he had to get a new cell phone —basically every other week because he'd get rage drunk and throw it against a wall. So yeah, keep that in mind. Because Lee didn't think I'd want another bad boy. Except at the time, I didn't know what I wanted. I remember saying, "I'll know when I know." And this is how it goes.
Dear Food. For years I restricted you and then binged on you —part of me struggling to give myself enough of you and the other, demanding I get rid of you. I know so much more now than I did when my eating disorder (ED) first started. But it still creeps up. Who am I kidding though? Myself probably. Because I spend the majority of my day either feeling fat or obsessing about how much I weigh; trying to keep my P.T.S.D. induced flashbacks at bay. Whether I'm body checking, on the scale or trying not to open the flood gates, sometimes I eat even when I'm not hungry. I say flood gates because once I start, I find that it's hard to stop. So if I don't start, I don't have to worry about not stopping. A lot of people say, one bite won't hurt. But for me it does. Because I can't just eat one. Because I need the whole thing. I like foods that take a while to eat. Because I love eating. At the same time, I hate how this shit makes me feel. And yes, I know we need food to survive. But when I'm eating and eating and eating, I don't want to stop. And when I don't stop, afterward, I'm full. Really full. Too full. I have to lay down. That's usually when the food shame begins. Because my brain starts talking shit about how gross I am. Why did you eat that, Macey? The thing is, I know about trauma, dissociation, and how bingeing can’t be “fixed” with restriction. I know all this crap is interconnected. But I do it anyway. The worst part is —when I restrict and then finally eat, I tend to go overboard. Binge. Because I basically starved myself all day. So when I eventually allow myself to eat, I'm so excited that I can't stop. I need everything. So I eat everything. And then I feel bad. Shame. So I tell myself I won't eat a lot tomorrow, which usually turns to nothing. Restricting and then binging. It's the same thing all over again. And this is how it goes.
I'm sure at this point in your life, you've been sick at least once. When that happens, normally you have two choices. You either go to the doctor for some type of antibiotic or you sleep it off until you feel better. But what if you never got better? What if that cold or flu never went away? What if those temporary aches and pains and feelings of fatigue were permanent? What if it got worse? Like when the winter blues turn into a full-blown state of depression and you can't find a way to see light at the end of the proverbial tunnel? What then? Seriously. Imagine the anxiety of knowing what you have was constant. Imagine what it would be like if that doctor of yours said there was no cure, and that it would, in fact, be a part of your life forever? Now, envision trying to explain all of this to your friends, family, and co-workers. How do you describe this shit in a way they'd understand? Because you look perfectly fine —on the outside that is. How would you cope with having a chronic, invisible illness? Would you be deemed lazy or even crazy? Would you be treated differently? Would you be excluded from activities or on the contrary be so tired that you continuously say no to those friendly invitations? At that point, would it start hindering your relationships, both personal and professional? The short answer, yes. Absofuckinglutely. Because when you break a bone, your physical disability is apparent to the world. Friends, family, and coworkers can see the cast on your arm and know without a doubt that you're sick. “Get some rest,” they’d say in a concerned voice. “You don’t look well.” But that’s the odd thing about not feeling well —you don’t always look the part. So yeah, I'm not the girl I used to be and here are four reasons why.
It all started because I had nowhere else to go. Well, technically I was still a resident at that Delray Beach halfway house I had been living at for the past few weeks. It's just, my tenant status was about to erupt. And my world was about to go up in smoke. As if it hadn't already. Because that's just it. It was all smoke and mirrors. You can only fake it 'till you make it for so long. And after failing a surprise drug test, instead of getting kicked out (which is normally how it goes down), the house manager said she saw something in me that she didn't see in anyone else. So she decided to put me on probation rather than kicking me to the curb. You'd think I would have been happy. I guess a part of me was. But for some reason, I was pissed. Truth is, I was in a full-blown relapse. Wanting —turned into doing and before I knew it, I was doing it every single day. It didn't help that my new boyfriend was a straight up junkie. Like between the two of us, we couldn't fucking stop. And then, the other night like a few days ago, when I couldn't fall asleep, instead of counting sheep, I spiraled. It felt like I was back there on that awful fucking night. Long story short, I found an article of this guy I used to know. And I say that with a mouth full of rage. Because this particular guy was just sentenced to 35 years in federal prison. What did he do? Well, he raped this 23-year-old girl. And he also raped me. It's not exactly what you're thinking. I'm sorry to say it's probably worse. So when I found out that he's been doing the same shit this entire time to even more vulnerable girls —well, it pissed me off even more. The worst part is, I've never really talked about this shit like ever. I don't even like to think about it. But seeing his photo and his victim's description of the attack, it made me even madder that I didn't speak up before. Because everything she said —like her description of the event, it gave me the fucking chills. Because it's quite literally what happened to me. Here's what you need to know.
He was supposed to come over while my mom was at work the following day. I was already breaking the rules. What the fuck, Macey. I don't know what I was thinking. The truth is, I probably wasn't. There was just something about him. Something about him that made me lose control. But I wasn't about to let him know that. I knew how to work it. So at the last minute, I pretend something came up. And I ditch him. Not in a mean way. I was playing hard to get. I guess I played too hard. Because this was around the time he thought I wasn't interested. And I shouldn't have been. But I was. I was also eight months clean, which doesn't really count —seeing that most of my sober time was spent in rehab. There's no temptation when you're behind bars. The true test comes when you transition back into reality. Would I pass? Or, would I fail? I choose the ladder. Because I had been home for less than two weeks and me wanting to get high had already turned into a full-blown relapse. So yeah, that's around the time I lost control. And that's why they say not to date anyone when you're in early recovery. On one hand, yes, it's entirely possible for a romantic relationship to succeed when you're newly sober. However, studies show that most intimate relationships that occur within the first year of sobriety tend to take a turn for the worse. From what I'm about to tell you, I think you'll see why. It's just, if you knew what I was really up too, you'd know I wasn't actually sober anymore. Because what I haven't mentioned is how Aiden and I met. Here's what you need to know.
Do you ever feel flat? Dull. Lifeless. Uninspired. It's like, you're not necessarily sad. Because nothing actually happened to justify this type of darkness. It's just, you're not happy either. For me, when this happens —because it does, in fact, creep up, it literally feels like something in my brain is missing. Neurotransmitters probably. It's like sometimes, I want to cry. But I can't. And I don't actually want too. But it feels like I should. That's depression for you. Because it's not always sadness. I mean, yeah, it is. But it's so much more than that. Because it's not going to fit inside society's box. Because you can be laughing one second and wanting to stay in bed all day the next. It's like you want to do the things you love. The things that used to bring you joy, but you can't make yourself get there. So yeah, depression is misunderstood. Depression is also a serious mental illness that can interfere with a person's life. It can cause long-lasting intractable feelings of hopelessness. A loss of interest in shit you used to like is usually how it starts. But what does it actually feel like? Let's find out.
It was February 2012. And my roommate just evicted me. I had 24 hours to get the fuck out. What was I going to do? There was only one thing. I'd have to beg my sister to let me stay with her. At least until I figured out a more permanent solution. Because I couldn't live with her, in the state I was in, for too long. I could keep up appearances but only for a little while. I mean, she knew what I looked like at my best. And I was anything but that this time around. Like when I first moved to Boca, I stayed with her. But that was when I was functioning. You know —like a functioning addict. It's just now, I was a GOD damn mess. I didn't even recognize myself anymore. I wasn't the happy girl I used to be. I hadn't been in years. My skin, pale. Face, sunken. Eyes, blank. The mere thought of who I had become filled my insides with terror. But no one knew that. I made sure of it. Because whenever I'd get high, which was most of the time, I was on top of the world. I could do anything I wanted. I certainly didn't need anyone either. These drugs became my best friend (my only friend) and my worst enemy. It's confusing, I know. Because if I wasn't fucked up, I couldn't do anything at all. Or, at least that's how it felt. Because once that feeling faded (it always does), I'd feel more alone than ever, which is why I became willing to do just about anything to make sure that didn't happen. And that's how I found myself at rock bottom for the very first time.
I've always wondered what it would be like to look at myself and see what's actually there. When I stare back at my reflection in the full-length mirror that hangs from my bathroom wall, I don't see what you see. The eating disorder community calls this body dysmorphic disorder. I call it my every day. I've also wondered what it would be like to not compulsively obsess about my appearance. Because I'm not vain but my eating disorder would tell you otherwise. Even though I'm not "active" in it anymore, I find that it still creeps up. Because when I wake up each morning, I run to the scale. Depending on what reads back will, in fact, tell me how good of a day I will have. Slowly though, I'm learning that my value and self-worth doesn't change when or if my weight does. If anything, you become smarter when you finally see all of the lies about body size equaling happiness. But to me when I'm in the thick of it, it takes over. It's no longer about facts. It's not rational. Because most of us know it sounds crazy. Hell, it is crazy. But it's real and we simply can't help it. We can, however, control it or at least attempt too. Because I'm not lying when I say I don't see what you see. I never have. And for some reason, I still fear getting fat even though I've never been overweight a day in my life. So here are three reasons why I shouldn't fear any of that. And for the record, neither should you.
For the longest time, I thought I was crazy. And yeah, I definitely am. It's just, back then, during my active addiction days, I kept doing the same thing over and over again, which as you know is the definition of insanity. I was expecting different results. I was lonely and sad and I was all of those things because that’s who I thought I was. I mean, I did some pretty bad things. And I kept doing those bad things as a way to escape from the bad things I kept doing. And because of those bad things, I found myself in some ugly situations I wouldn't otherwise have been in. Because I was addicted to pills. I know it sounds crazy but, it seemed that all the awful things I told myself about myself were, in fact, true. Today, I know that's not the case. But I didn't understand that for a long time. Even today as a recovering addict, I can't erase the bad shit I did. That was me. It always will be. It's like yeah, I'm a different me, but I still get triggered. And when I'm triggered, it feels like it's happening all over again. I feel unsafe. I feel sick. And everything hurts. I'm sweating and I have to sit down. I can't numb the pain away. I couldn't even do that back then. Which got me thinking —if it happens to me, chances are, it happens to you too. The thing is, if you're aware of certain things like why you do the things you do —well, that can help you overcome them too. And we're all different. Each person will experience different symptoms at different times. Making it of extreme importance to know all of them. Here are four.
I don’t remember saying no because I don’t remember anything. After he was done, I remember finally passing out. I always felt safe when I slept but not tonight. I have a blurry memory of him getting back on top of me. As if he didn’t do enough. But the damage was done. There was nothing I could do about it now. And that pissed me the fuck off. The thing is, shit could have changed at any given moment. Because today, I'm OK. I'm OK even though all that bad shit happened. I can't erase any of it. I never could. No matter how high I got. No matter how far I tried to run. It's never going away. Like I could still be sitting in all that misery. All that hurt. And I did. I sat in it. I sat it in for a while. But then I decided to get up. Because things are never so bad that they cannot be undone. So from the girl who dug herself out of multiple rock bottoms, here are five more life lessons I think you need to know.
It was Fall 2012 and I was officially free —at least, my version of it anyway. I had just landed at the Philadelphia airport after spending eight months in Savannah, Georgia. If you remember from a few posts back, I was a resident at this Christian rehab. We called it the Mission a.k.a. Mission Teens. It was hard. Like really hard, which was probably a good thing. But it didn't always feel good. Most of the time, it felt like I was going to be there forever. Nope. I was irrevocably free. Nearly an entire year went by and now, just like any other girl, I was waiting for my mom to come get me. Truth is, I was anything but that. I hadn't been normal in close to a decade. So yeah, it was rather strange getting off the plane. I recall walking to baggage claim. I remember thinking this was it. I left that place under the impression, I'd stay on the straight and narrow. I thought I wanted too. And maybe I did but this is where you're about to learn sometimes, that's not enough. Because you are who you hang out with and I was on my way to hell. Between reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, my sobriety was about to be tested. Would I pass or would I fail? And would I even care? Here's how it all went down.
I've been complaining of pain for a while. Honestly, though, it's hard to put into words exactly how I feel and I think that's the problem. Because I don't know where to begin. Because for the past few months, I didn't know what was wrong with me. I knew something wasn't right. I mean, it's not normal to feel sick all the time. But after visiting multiple doctors —all telling me I was fine, why wouldn't I believe them? They're the ones with a medical degree, right? It's just this thing is really hard to figure out. Did you know 10 years is the average length of time it takes to get a diagnosis? That 68 percent of women are initially misdiagnosed with another condition? Oh, and that 50 percent of women with endometriosis also experience infertility? I didn't. What I do know is that it's exhausting. It's hidden. Not seen. Not talked about. Embarrassing. But it's not —at least it shouldn't be. Except, it is according to society. Not anymore though and definitely not here.
I thought it was time to remember what it was like to feel alive. But it's not what you think. It's not even what I thought, at the time. Because this chick, couldn’t feel a single thing and I was anything but alive. Plus, my version isn't something you choose to remember. Sometimes though, you don't have a choice. Because no matter how you spin it, I was at it again. And even though, I had just spent the last 40 days institutionalized, I never stopped wanting to do drugs. I went directly from detox to rehab, which is what they want you to do —so you don't have time to figure out that one part, a rather large portion of your brain didn't actually want to be there. That's the thing about addiction, just as cardiovascular disease damages the heart and diabetes impairs the pancreas, addiction hijacks the brain. So what exactly happens when you let opioids control your entire life? Well, this is what you need to know.
Nate kisses me goodbye as I rush inside. I was running late but I knew I could pull it off. I had become pretty good at this whole double life thing. What would make tonight any different? Well, I can think of a few things —starting with the fact that I was a resident at my first halfway house in Del Ray Beach, Florida. Except, I wasn't halfway to anything. Maybe halfway to hell? Because I was all the way gone. High off heroin, I take the key to this place out of my purse, however, it's not the first thing I find. Instead, I pull out the 30-day sobriety chip I picked up a few days prior —so much for that. I figured this would happen. I mean, I just graduated from rehab. But I was only telling them what I thought they wanted to hear. I simply wanted to get out of that place. I knew I'd eventually get high again. I just didn't know when or how. Well, until I met Nate. Here's what you need to know.
Sometimes I feel as if I’m a failure at a disease I never asked for —something I could have never prevented. Most days, yeah. I look like everybody else. But I’m not. I want to feel normal. I don’t want to be different. But I am. Every single morning, I get out of bed just like you, but my routine is probably different than yours. I mean, how would your life change if you were diagnosed with a life-threatening illness that you were told was incurable? For me, I’m tired. I’m tired of having to prick my finger every time I want to leave the house or do anything for that matter. I’m tired of worrying that maybe one day, I will not wake up. Because yeah, there’s a chance, I won’t make it past a certain age because of some diabetic complication. Oh and, I’m tired just thinking about how tired I am. But no one really notices. No one actually wants to talks about it. But I do —even though, most can’t understand. No one understands because you don’t until you do. You don’t because you don’t have too —until it’s you. Well, now it’s me. I was never good at math but now I have to be. And even though, it's apart of my new normal, I don't think I'll ever get used to it. So this is what I want you to know.
I bet you know more people than you might think who have at least thought about committing suicide. I bet you wouldn't expect that I contemplated it myself. I actually tried to end my own life. So when I heard the awful news about Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, it hit home because I've been there and from the looks of it, I'm not alone.
Telling me it's OK to rape a junkie is like saying, it's OK to rape a girl who dresses like a slut. That's what I was told. Why do we do that though? Why do we think it's OK to not listen to someone merely because they do drugs? Why do we call a girl a slut simply because she chooses to wear a crop top or a mini-skirt? For one, none of that is OK. I mean, I dress to express myself. I always have. Except, society is indirectly taking away our freedom of expression by limiting what we’re allowed to wear by blaming sexual violence on the victim. Did you know that chicks who dress modestly and don't do drugs still get sexually assaulted? No means no period, but you don't have to say "no" for it to be rape. You have to say yes. You have to give your consent regardless if you're a junkie or a slut. I was a junkie and a slut so my feelings didn't matter, right? Wrong.
If I can be honest, at first it wasn't that bad. But that was the point. It was supposed to suck me in. It was supposed to appear as if the glitz and the glam were always going to be there. I mean, we started off at South Beach. But when it all ended, I was clearly in hell. I mean, for a while, I didn't leave at all. Bruce was the only person I saw. In short, I was on my way to a treatment center that never existed. Don't get it twisted, I didn't want to be enlisted. But back then, I had no other choice. Those damn drugs stole my voice. So if you're wondering what rock bottom number three looked like to me, here's how it all came to be.
I'm sure you know that drive alone can't beat addiction. For a while, I asked myself how do I want to want to stay sober? I knew I needed to but did I want too? Not really. Eventually, though, I did learn to want it bad enough. Looking back, I see it all so clearly —at least today I do. What they say about hindsight really is true. Except, it wasn't always like this. For a while, I let opioids control my entire life. They controlled me until I realized I didn't actually need them. It was a false freedom I mistakenly took for empowerment. I mean, I had this picture in my head of the great things I'd do. So yeah, I had a lot of drive but I had a lot of pressure too. Along the way though, I learned that it all comes down to how badly you want it. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make her drink it. Except, I'm asking you too. I want you to chug. I want you to get more out of life than simply white knuckling you're way to the end. I want you to enjoy this ride we call life —even if drive alone can't beat addiction. So this is where I tell you three ways you can learn to want this thing called recovery bad enough that it'll actually stick.