I don’t know why I did it, but I did. Something compelled me to go… as if I were in some sort of a trance… I had to. So I grabbed my keys, got in my car and made 3 very difficult stops during my drive. The first one was less than a minute away, but already I could feel my eyes tear up. I drove to my elementary school. I drove to the place that broke my heart and made me feel worthless. I could hear their voices… their words burned into my mind as if I had been branded. Teasing me, bullying me, laughing at me and making fun. I continued my drive. I got goose bumps as I neared my next stop. When I stopped in the parking lot of my middle school my whole body sunk. Flashbacks of all sorts flooded my mind. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to cry, scream or hit something. Mostly I was numb. Rejection and ridicule.
I put my car back in drive and headed towards my final stop. The tears started coming and as I entered the parking lot of my high school butterflies tore apart my stomach with such a sickening force. I parked where my mom would always park… waiting to pick me up during lunchtime so that I wouldn’t have to hide in the bathroom or hallway to eat my lunch… I didn’t want people to see me a loner, but that’s what I was. And so I’d get in my mom’s car and sink down to the bottom of the seat without ever saying a word. And we’d drive around for a short while before she had to drop me back off for my next class and all hell would come back. I’m home now, but still in a state between hysterics and complete paralysis.
I live in the same town right now that I was born in. I’ve lived here my whole life. Everywhere I go brings back some memory… every time I pass a gym I used to abuse or the hospital I so often ended up in… every time I see a face from my past… I still belong to the same athletic club. Sometimes it gets to me. Sometimes I break down reminiscing on such awful memories. I’ve lived in the same house for the past 21 years. Screaming, yelling, fighting, crying and utter pandemonium. This is the same house that I came back to year after year… I’d sit in my room in silence and wonder why things were so hard for me. The same house that caused constant tension and fights between my parents because of my eating disorder. The same house I would stay up till 3 AM to eat dinner just so I could toss it over the backyard fence while everyone was asleep. The same bedroom I’d take my heart rate at night and being afraid to sleep knowing I could die. The same bedroom I’d sit in front of a space heater for hours just trying to get warm. The same house I came back to on the brink of death, unable to walk up the stairs. The same mirror a skeleton of a stranger stared back at me. The same house I began binge eating in. The same house an obese stranger stared back at me. The same house I’d overdose on laxatives and spend hours in the bathroom wondering if this was the end.
Why do I tell you all these things? You probably are thinking I should move and get the heck out of here huh? Yeah… that’s what I used to always believe as well. I associated all of the trauma growing up with my hometown. What little kid wouldn’t? I have so few happy memories growing up that I formed the belief that if I could just move… if I could just start over somewhere new… if I could just go somewhere where I could form a new identity… maybe everything would be okay. Maybe my eating disorder would go away… And I had some confirmation to my beliefs. I’d get sent away to treatment centers, get better, come home and almost immediately relapse. But at this point in my life maybe it wasn’t really the town anymore. Maybe it was just that it was easier to place blame on something external for my struggle rather than myself. I didn’t want to take responsibility and it was much easier to just get sick again so that I could leave the town that seemingly scarred me for life. Treatment centers are anything but fun and games, but they were also a way for me to escape. But this pattern only furthered the destruction in my life.
To make a point of these jumbled thoughts for you all I do want to share with you something that I learned the hard way. A change of location does not correlate with a change of self or behavior, at least in my personal opinion. It’s just as the saying goes, “Wherever you go, There You are.” I have lived in various different locations for short periods of my life. For the first few weeks it seemed as if I had made the right choice. It seemed new, I seemed better, I felt hopeful and then reality sets in. There is a reason all my changes of location were so short. My eating disorder followed me everywhere and it wasn’t long before it was clear to me that I was in just as much chaos and trouble as anywhere else. Point being, you have to confront yourself. You have to confront your past. You have to realize that there is magic, but the magic doesn’t lie within a new environment. The magic lies within.
So here I am. Living in the same hometown. Living in the same house. Sleeping wonderfully in the same bedroom. Passing by places, locations and people who once seemingly dictated my life and feelings. It took a long time, but I can hike the mountain behind my house again without being haunted of how I abused it for exercise daily. It took a long time, but I can walk my dogs around the neighborhood and enjoy it without having to pace up and down the hills. It took a long time but I can still go to my athletic club and smile, though there are still times where I tear up on the tennis court thinking of the past. It took a long time, but here I am. I’m facing my darkness and I’m slowly seeing the light. I think it’s important to distinguish the difference between familiarity and safety. Things in my life have often been familiar, but never felt safe. Now, the familiarity is still here, but the safety is slowly increasing.
The words that so often used to come out of my mouth were, “I hate this town!” And now? Well now I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. I feel proud to live here. It’s hard. It’s going to be hard for a while, but I find myself more and more often saying things along the lines of, “I’m so lucky to live here.” Because I believe what haunts us only does so because we are too afraid to turn around and face the ghost. ~Britt