Content Warning: Mentions of anorexia, depression, anxiety, feelings.
Lately, I feel like there are two versions of me: the me from before and the me right now. I used to get so upset when my mom and other recovery people would talk about “old behavior.” I still hate that kind of thinking. There’s no such thing as new behavior or old behavior. There’s just behavior and if you did it, it’s your action no matter how long ago that coping mechanism or habit was in regular rotation.
I don’t think of the old me as a worse version of myself who I somehow miraculously no longer am despite still being myself in every other way that counts.
I think of the old me as a person I still wish I was most of the time. That person feels a lot more capable than the person I am today. They were a lot smarter, more sure of themselves. They had the stamina and the determination to do what must be done.
Funnily enough, they were always doing things because they must be done. They seemed to live with their back against a wall and they paid a hefty price for their lifestyle of constantly fighting an uphill battle.
They worked themselves to death, and this is all that remains.
I feel like a ghost of myself these days.
Not necessarily in a bad way. Honestly, I think I would be perfectly fine if I just forgot about the past. If I woke up in this house, in this life, I would like it.
Anybody would like it here. It’s so peaceful. There’s no battle raging outside the door. There’s no fire inside of me that I have to tame by constantly running at top speed absolutely everywhere I go until I collapse just long enough to get the flames back up and do it all over again the next day. There’s nothing about myself I have to starve anymore.
Because there’s nothing. Because I have nothing left to fight.
The me from before was born into a fight. In the hospital, my mother attacked a nurse because they had to put me in an incubator and wouldn’t give me to her. All throughout my life is fighting. Other people fighting me, me fighting them, me fighting the system, my circumstances, anything. And when I had defeated everything else, I fought myself. I couldn’t be still for a single second.
Because if I ever stopped, I knew I would be hit with all the grief, all the depression this anxiety held at bay, all the loss from a life of fighting and never resting, of shallowness over depth, of ladder climbing and goal post moving and increasing effort for decreasing returns. I knew it would level me, and I knew I was running out of ground and I knew I had to make a change. And I didn’t.
So I went off the deep end and it took the double grief of me losing my business and my mom dying to finally do something about it. All the damage I’m in recovery from right now didn’t happen when the business closed. It didn’t happen when my mom died.
I was already deep in it. As the business grew more successful, I had less and less to distract me from myself and my insomnia got worse, my childhood anorexia–which I never went to treatment for–came back with a vengeance, and my anxiety shot through the roof.
I had trouble making friends in Portland and the combination of that and me constantly obsessing over the business gave me an excuse to isolate and get sicker. I stopped blogging because I felt like I had nothing to say. I stopped socializing because I was always working. I stopped eating because I needed to get control over something and that was an old standby, and I stopped sleeping because I was never very good at that anyway. Just as I had caused the business to succeed through dogged determination and rigid self-discipline, I caused it to die the same way.
I’ve had a lot of people fuck me over in a lot of different ways, and I always weathered the storm. But I’d never been my own victim like this before. I’d never let my own demons destroy me. My demons had always helped me. Or at least I thought they had.
So now I’m faced with a question I’ve answered before in smaller ways: How much of my past success was in spite of my actions and not because of my actions? I put so much stock in missing sleep, skipping meals, working instead of socializing. I only felt safe in jobs where unpaid overtime was mandatory. Because who else would take that job? Who else would do it well except for a crazy person like me?
If there’s one thing I know about myself at this point in my life, it’s that my insanity does not make me unique. Everybody goes crazy in basically the same way and whenever I realize that I am no longer crazy enough to put up with certain intolerable conditions, not only do I learn that I was not unique in that role, it’s usually shown to me pretty quickly how easy I am to replace.
The world is full of martyrs. We’re surrounded by institutions that teach us to be self sacrificing, even as their various leaderships (religion, education, government, business) make unimaginable profit off our suffering.
Abusers and abusive situations have a way of making us feel like we’re the only person who could possibly endure this pain. Encouraging us to take pride in our own obliviation at their hands. Even as they have twenty others eagerly waiting in the wings. Thousands of others. Nations of others.
So when I finally did stop, I had to look back and wonder what it all was for. How many times have I broken my own back just to keep myself from thinking too long about anything? How much of me have I kept starving all this time? And for what?
For a fight I already won years ago. But I never knew how to do anything else. And now I can’t fight. Physically, I’m exhausted. Mentally, I’ve lost my nerve. I feel like a ghost because I am a ghost of myself. I can’t be that person anymore. I can’t move mountains anymore. If I ever could.
That darkness I was running from caught up with me and it’s not so bad. I feel more cautious, but I also feel wiser. I take longer to do things, but I think I do them better. I sleep and eat a lot more now than I ever did before, and it does feel like a burden, but as tired as I am I feel somehow more conscious of the world.
I don’t know why I’m writing this. I no longer think my voice is unique or even necessary. Maybe I’m trying to take something back from that old me. Something I remember loving and missing every day. Maybe I’ll be her again, but I really don’t think so.
I didn’t want this change. I don’t enjoy this new level of emotional maturity. I kept trying to be me again, to wake up as a hammer in a world full of nails. But it just isn’t happening.
For now, I’ll reconcile my life as a ghost. Coming to terms with what I’ve lost. Maybe not trying to fill the void, but to shape it into something a little less vast, a little more dense and manageable.
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