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all of us have stories we tell ourselves. for some of us it’s a story of glory for others of us it’s one riddled with lies “you’re not good enough” “you’re not lovable” you know the words that can make a spirit die… | Secret Keepers by Emily Joy Rosen

all of us
have stories
we tell ourselves

for some of us
it’s a story of glory
for others of us
it’s one riddled with lies
“you’re not good enough”
“you’re not lovable”
you know the words
that can make a spirit die

to be frank
i didn’t know i was sick
sometimes a good upbringing
is the most confusing
understanding, knowing
and doing aren’t the same thing
and us sorta intellectual
professed spiritual
fruitlessly overeducated
children of privilege
can get by on words
with too many syllables
talents carefully cultivated
and manners mimicked
for a long while
a lifetime even
while our insides
never really match
our outsides
while we pray
in sequestered secrecy
that someday
we will be

i suppose
we all have times
we wonder oh
oh no…
what is wrong with me

but being homeschool
sheltered from
the snickers of peers
and tv commercial learning
it took me a minute
to get i was strange
most definitely not okay
by more standard standards

the first time i realized
i might not be okay
that there was something
i maybe wasn’t getting
was in ballet class
where the girls
seemed to have secrets
they told only
in giggles and eye rolls
i kept wondering what i was missing
what was so funny
it took me years to realize
it was me, they were mocking me

more than once i was invited
to meet the girls in my dance company
at the local mall
in front of the selected kiosk
only to wait for hours
till my mom came
because they never did

it’s moments like these
small and almost frail
that make you question yourself
to no avail…
why me?
what don’t they like me…
is there something wrong with me?

and sure there were
many more moments
not so small or frail
that had my questioning
shift to compulsive self-interrogating
picking up velocity and frequency
as the ego bruising
became real bruising
while like many girls
with impossibly low
i chose people
who confirmed the validity
of my self loathing
opting into worlds
where winning
wasn’t a possibility
for a girl like me

so yes there was violence
and there were violations
there was abuse
and there was tragedy

but what really messed me up
was the questions i kept asking
you see like so very many of us
i was asking…

why am i not good enough?
why am i so unlovable?
why why why me…

the questions we ask
are as important as the answers
and we have grown impotent
with our question asking
and feeble with
our answer listening

i was severely anorexic
and then bulimic
for nearly a decade

at the height of it all
i was purging
up to sixty time a day
my knuckles were cut and bloody
constantly covered in scabs
from scraping on my teeth
as i shoved my whole hand
down my throat
the inside of my mouth
torn and blistered
my cheeks permanently puffy
my skin sallow and stretched
my teeth rotting with shooting pains
my stomach distended and sour
the hair on my head
falling out by the fingerfuls
while the hair on my arms
grew thick, like fur
in my body’s attempt
to keep me warm
self preservation
at its ugliest

at least
i was at least thin

i was so very slim

i lost my period for 5 years
my ability to create a baby
to create life
understandably no longer
available to me
i was dying rapidly
my friend did die
my boyfriend refused
to hear my no
my girlfriend
stop talking to me
and i
i began to eat
out of trash cans

i gained and lost
a hundred pounds
a few times
my body stretched
as my world shrank
and my life became
a living hell

i was asking
the wrong questions
you see

what’s wrong with me?
why do i have this food issue?
what can i eat
or not eat
to make this stop?

yes, all reasonable questions
but for sure
leading nowhere

our challenges
our symptoms
are a doorway
they’re not something
getting in our way
they are the way
they’re showing up
for a reason

it is not a coincidence
that accidents and traumas
are often called
wake-up calls

it is so easy to keep doing
all kinds of somethings
in a world littered with distractions
we make important
but i promise you this
if we choose not to listen
not to pay attention
not to act
symptom and pain
tend to get louder
and in my case
it took me
to death’s door

i remember sitting
on the bathroom floor
needing to prop myself up
on the edge of the bathtub
i was so weak
from purging for hours
when i caught
a glimpse of myself
in the full length wall mirror
that hotel rooms always seem to have
my eyes were bright red
from the blood vessels bursting
through the sheer violence
i had just inflicted on myself
my lip was split and oozing blood
that slowly dripped down my chin
and onto the white tile floor
forming perfect little circles that dried black
and the skin under my eyes
was a rich dark purple with hints of blue

i looked like i had been in a fight

and i thought to myself
“what are you fighting?”

it was the first time
i asked myself that question
and it was the right question for me
it eventually took me
where i needed to go
where i wanted to go

i learned to stop the fight
one question at a time
i did finally
end the war

so my offering is this:
if you are at battle in your inner world
if you find yourself in suffering
and you are not sure where to go
try a different question
a more generous question
as there is always
somewhere different
you can go
somewhere else
you can go
to make
your way

❤️ emily joy rosen

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