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.
I'm standing at my bathroom sink. Yesterday. I just got out of the shower. As I brush my tangled wet hair, I stare. I stare at myself in the mirror hanging in front of me. Only, I'm not looking at me. I mean, yeah physically I am. But my eyes are somewhere else. I hear a song. It's playing in the background on my Alexa. My heart starts beating really fast. And I need to sit down. I'm not sad though. But I'm not happy either. It's a strange feeling and it starts to take over as the song continues to linger in the background. It's a song I've listened too many times —a song I haven't really heard since 2011. It's a song that seemed to always play every time I was with them. Jay and Matt. My two best friends at the time. We're strangers now. Maybe that's why it's so weird. Because I'm standing here —in the bathroom I stand in nearly every single day. But at this moment, it's like I'm transported back. And now, I'm reliving memories of a different me. Only it's not. Because I'm physically the same person. And that's the weirdest part. Because it seems like a lifetime ago and yesterday —all at the same time. Because what I see, is this carefree girl riding around with her two good friends. And it's killing me. Because it will never go back to the way it was. And even though I know that's a good thing, at this moment, it doesn't feel good. Why did it have to happen like that? Why did I let that shit consume me? Because no matter how hard I tried to pretend I was OK, I simply wasn't. This is what you need to know.
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.
This is weird. I never thought I'd be saying this. I never thought I'd have to write this. But here I am. Because being a twenty-something has been a part of me and my identity for so long. I swear it feels like I'm saying goodbye to an old friend I’ll never see again. I can't help but be a little sad. Way too nostalgic. And definitely grateful for all of my experiences. Because I'm a totally different person at 29 than I was at 20. I guess you could say, "That's growing up." Because I'm more me than I've ever been. I like to think of myself as vulnerable, open and real. I think I've accepted most of my imperfections. Because today, I wear that shit with pride. I used to try to hide it —making it seem like I was this happy girl all the fucking time. And let me tell you, it was exhausting. So yeah, because of that and everything I went through, I'm free. But it's still weird. Because it seems like yesterday and a lifetime ago all at the same time. In a way, it's like another me (even though it's not). I bet for most that's probably true. For me, I've spent the last 10 years trying to figure out —not only what I like and what I don't like, but also, who I really am as a person and what life means to me. It was hard. It still is. I had some pretty dark and shitty days —most I’d like to forget. It's just, I can't deny that I learned a lot. Because all that is somehow apart of the puzzle that has created who I am today. And the girl I am isn't who I thought I'd be. But I think that's a good thing. Still, I find it extraordinarily challenging to welcome my 30's —partly because I look like I'm 22. And yeah, that's awesome (don't get me wrong), but it comes at a price of never quite believing I am the age I am. Because I'm usually treated like I'm so much younger. That said, it’s hard to accept that I'm leaving a particular decade —when the majority of people I encounter, think of me as just entering the age I was 10 years ago. Damn. That hurts to say out loud. So as I think back to how things used to be, I can't help but reminisce about twenty-something me. This is what you need to know.
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.
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.
I was physically, mentally, and emotionally deteriorating. I had never been this depressed before. I didn’t even look like me anymore. And I hated the person I had become. But I wasn’t willing to change or do anything about it. I'd only complain. And then I'd get high. You could count on me for that. It's just, I'd only get like this whenever I was running low. So I made sure that didn't happen very often. As a result, I dug myself into a pretty big black hole. Rock bottom as they call it. There was no way out. There was no light either. Well, I could think of one. And it came from the foiled reflection whenever I'd smoke another pill. What the fuck was I going to do? This time around, I had no clue. On top of everything, I was pretty much in denial. Because I wouldn't let myself go there. As you know, I'd get high instead. I was literally obsessed with those things. My pills. And it nearly killed me. Because eventually, I became willing to do just about anything to get and stay high. From one job to another, I schemed my way in and out; until there was nothing left. Until there was nothing left to do but sell my damn dignity. Essentially, that's what I had been doing the entire time. I mean, you don't go from 130 pounds to 87.5 because you're healthy. I wasn't healthy. I didn't look healthy. At first, I could hide it. It wasn't that noticeable. But after a year or so of the same shit different day, I remember my dad saying I looked like a freaking cancer patient. And still, I insisted I was fine. I just haven't been as hungry, I'd say, which was true. Except, I left out why. Because I'd replace my meals with pills —hunger was more of an afterthought. Somehow though, I managed to get by. Well, until I didn't. Here's what you need to know.
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.
It was nearly 3 a.m. and I couldn’t sleep. I’d toss and turn and remanence. Unwillingly. I had gotten pretty good at this whole insomniac thing. For once though, I didn’t want to be good. But I was trying. I was trying a lot of things. I was trying to forget, trying to forgive, and trying my best to move on. It’s just, sometimes, your best isn’t enough. I know I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. But like I said, I was trying. So yeah. I wish I could tell you after I escaped things went back to normal. I wish I could tell you I woke up every morning with a new found motivation to get things right. And I wish I could say that I wasn’t still reeling the loss of everything in between. Because that would be a lie. I mean, I was free. That was true. I was living with my dad and his roommate’s family in Naples, Florida. I was safe. I was sober. But it was far from over. This is how it goes.
I've always been a sensitive person. And I've always been told that it's a bad thing —as if being sensitive makes me weak. Turns out, that's just not true. I get it though. Because a highly sensitive person (HSP), experiences the world differently than others. And I think it's because only 15 to 20 percent of the population are HSPs; so we're often misunderstood. I just wish I knew about this earlier. Because for the longest time, I was told there was something wrong with me. Friends of mine couldn't understand why I acted the way I acted. Heck. I didn't even know why. Until now. Because I recently found out that I have a personality trait called HSP (I'm a highly sensitive person). It's not a disease or a disorder. And it's not something learned; it's something I was born with —like in my DNA. And when I understood that, things finally made sense. Like when I first read a description about what it means to be an HSP, it was like looking at myself in the mirror. I never realized there was a specific term to describe my way of perceiving the world. It brought incredible relief to know I wasn’t the only one. So if you can relate to any of this, here are 13 signs you're a highly sensitive person (just like me).
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.
Oh, if I could go back in time. Oh, the things I'd tell my younger self. Only recently have I really come into my own. I used to be this wet blanket. A people-pleaser with no voice. I'd apologize for everything. I'd say sorry for saying sorry. I'd agree —even if I didn't for fear of rejection. Not anymore though. I don't know when it all clicked. But when it did, it did. And now, I want to share some things I've learned over the last decade. About myself. About life. About everything. Because nothing is what it seems. Nothing really goes according to plan. I had this picture in my head of who I thought I was. Who I thought I'd be. Of what life would turn out like. Why do we put such high expectations on ourselves? And why can't we be content with what we have instead of spending the precious moments we do being sad about something we made up in our heads that we thought we needed? Most of the time, the universe has a way of straightening things out far better than we ever could. So, from 20-something to nearly 30, this is what I've learned.
I've always felt too much. I've always cared too much —that's just the way I was wired. But no one really knew that. To most, it probably looked like I didn't feel or care at all. I thought that was a good thing at the time. It wasn't. I just didn't understand why I was the way I was. Well, until now. Today, I know the reason I self-medicated for as long as I did. I had a bunch of mental health issues I could never make sense of. I struggled but I thought everyone felt this way? I never understood how those around me could make white knuckling look so good. I never felt normal and I probably never will but at least I'm doing something about it. So what is it that I'm doing presently that's different than yesterday? Well, I take antidepressants. There are times when I feel like they are working but then, there are moments when I don't know why I'm taking them at all. I say this because there are a bunch of side effects no one really wants to talk about. Here are seven.
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.
Dear self, I've been holding onto a lot and I've got to get it out. I'm mad —mostly at myself. I'm mad because I lost over six years of my life. I'm mad that I didn't say no or ask for help sooner. And yeah, I'm mad that I'm mad. It's like the figurative bases were loaded in the game of life. I had one walk to win the game and one out to lose it all. The metaphorical pitcher releases the ball from his glove as gravity accelerates it straight into my bat. It’s like everything was set in place for me to succeed. I was supposed to succeed. Like all I had to do was hit the damn ball. But I couldn’t even do that. So I'd snort a line instead. Not anymore. Starting today, I'm going to try a little harder. I'm going to put in some effort to mend what's broken like all the people I fucked over. I'm going to start on the inside though. Because in order to heal, we must first forgive. And sometimes, the person we need to forgive most is ourselves. Here goes nothing.
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.