Sun & Moon
“Oh, Moon God!” C. chanted, as we gathered together on the night of the Pink
Supermoon. It was my last night of residential treatment for eating disorders, and Counselor C. had gathered all the patients and night staff in a circle to hold hands and share a space of connection one last time. The room was black as night, and I held onto the people around me like I’d never see them ever again.
The moon’s light illuminated off in the distance, and the only light we had was the low-quality YouTube video of a candle on the smart TV, and the dim light of C.’s phone as she read off a series of positive affirmations she wanted us to repeat for her make-shift “moon ritual.” To be honest, I don’t think C. got this activity approved before she invited us to celebrate
the rising of the Pink Supermoon. That was okay, though. C. was crazy like that. And...I wasn’t superstitious or anything, but... it was fun... to share the stillness of the night before I left the home I grew to cherish the next day.
Looking around at the people I’d grown to love and understand and cry with over the past month, I felt a sense of, well, I’m not really sure what it was. I felt grateful, longing, wistful even, sad, and at a loss because I didn’t think I’d ever feel this sense of love, connection, and safety again. Home life was frightening, and it took every bit of willpower in me to not self-sabotage- “to stay sick”- and end my life before discharge the next day.
It didn’t seem fair to me that I could experience such joy and love and safety, and could have the freedom to voice how terrified I was of going back home only to be sent back to the space I knew would never feel safe again.
Did they not see me? Did I not matter?
Was I not sick enough to stay safe, and would the world be filled with screams and cries and terror as long as I were “well enough” to stay home?
As I looked at the people around me, a question rang through the milieu, echoing through my mind from just hours before I discovered my discharge date.
“What does this person need to become a whole, real, valid human being?” reverberated through my head, as we laughed at C.’s chanting.
Nothing, my peers had said.
Nothing, Therapist B. had agreed.
Nothing?!? My mind frantically sobbed, heart privy to all the pain and fear and terror my peers-friends-had gone through, and the pain that I had experienced growing up.
Surely, life was so much more than torment and terror and screams and sobs and arguments and abuse and food.
“Nothing,” I had whispered, embarrassed that I had disagreed...I kept my thoughts hidden like the moon on a sunny day, desperate to hide behind the sky’s blinding blue mask.
But like the moon, when the sun finally set, there was nowhere my thoughts could hide. I had agreed with the group at the time, but I knew my truth.
And my heart did too.
If all these hurting souls needed was “nothing” to be full, valid human beings, then I didn’t want to be human at all.
If all I needed to be a full, valid, living human being was “nothing” but the hurt and pain and fear that followed me around like night followed day, then I did not want to be alive at all.
Transitioning to PHP was the most difficult thing I had ever done. Far more difficult than anything I had ever faced was the reality that I would always return home.
Home, where I learned to obey the screams of those far stronger and bigger in shape and size.
Home, where I learned to envy Control. The police who stood by, I’d learn to despise.
Home, where the only thing holding me together was Mia and food and calories and counting and vomit and don’t eat and do eat and too much and too little and stop stop stop stop-
During my intake assessment at PHP, my therapist, R., asked me what I believed was worth living for.
I didn’t know.
“What does this person need to become a whole, real, valid human being?”
As days turned to weeks turned to months, I flirted with the thought of suicide and Mia as an escape from all the fear and pain I felt.
The thought that I can numb all the pain out is tempting. It feels safe, almost, when nothing else does.
I received a letter from a counselor I had met in Residential Treatment about a month after discharge, Counselor M. She thanked me for letting her be a part of my journey, and she also thanked me for giving post-it notes of encouragement to all the other patients every single day I could. It was something small I did. It felt safe. And I wanted my peers to feel safe too.
M. felt safe. And...it was strange, because, even with her not there, I felt the safety of her kindness and friendship and love from afar.
I knew I wasn’t strong enough to brave the battle at home. And maybe, I never would be.
But, I could be brave.
There was so much hatred and fear and terror and evil in this world, and her letter reminded me...that just because other people did not respect my body, it didn’t mean that I had to disrespect myself too.
There were -and are- kind people out there. And there is love that can be shared and grown and spread like stars in the night sky.
When I had first been asked the question, “What does this person need to become a whole, real, valid human being?” I didn’t think, “nothing.”
Maybe I was naïve, and maybe I still am. Or...maybe I watched too many Barbie movies growing up.
But, I thought, “love.”
And...not the romantic kind.
The warm feeling you get when you give a hurting soul a hug.
The sense of sadness and relief you feel when someone hears you and sees you for the very first time.
Love like the laughter and twinkle in someone’s eye when they truly mean what they say.
Love like the agony and pain you feel because you know you are real, and that pain follows love, like night follows day.
I didn’t have to be near Counselor M. or crazy funny Counselor C. or my friends in treatment to still carry the love I received from them with me.
It might not be enough to keep me strong, or to always make me feel safe or to even prevent me from giving up. But...it was enough to keep me going...to keep me loving because love can be from afar. It was like love was the sun, and life was the moon. Day or night, the love I’d given and received, even if I couldn’t feel it, shone through the moon, and that was enough to give me the courage I needed to choose the next day.
Life reflected love.
Moon rituals, letters, hope-all that stayed. I wasn’t just left with me. And I didn’t have to be. I was left with love. And even if the people who’ve shared love with me aren’t there by my side, their love is. And now, I give mine to you.
Here’s my story. I wrapped it with pain and love because I want you to know that there are things in life worth living-worth loving-for, and that love follows pain like day follows night.
Maybe, it’s the smile you get when someone says your name.
Maybe, it’s the chaos you get sucked into by a crazy Counselor C.
Or maybe, it’s the sadness you feel when you can relate to how scary and disheartening the world can be.
There are moments... of connection and safety and goodness and love. M. changed my life. And C. did too. If I can share a moment of love and safety and connection with one other person like they did with me, then I want to choose the next day... the next moment... the next life.
I choose to share the stillness of this moment with you. Wherever you are. I’m sending love and joy and peace, and I’m also sending, “sorry.” Sorry the world is scary. You don’t deserve scary. I’m giving you my love, and when you look at the moon tonight, I want you to feel what it’s like to be who you are... to know that love follows pain, like day follows night... that I, the moon, am glowing today because your love, the sun, gives me strength and light.