The only continuity I see these days is the greeting of a continuous stream of uncertainty. My physical existence lives suspended, hanging in its self-defined purgatory, whereas my mind finds itself constantly reeling. There is nothing static in my thoughts, they race like a hamster on a treadmill – continuously pedalling to no definitive end.
The fog of “what ifs” and false array of “back-up” plans swirl around me – my very own consciousness suffocates me. The awareness of my situation as I follow along on popular immigration blogs offers sharp jabs whenever I wade through the comments, looking for hope.
I waver in what I tell friends. Some days I express nonchalance, other days I am unfazed by it all, but then there are the days where they can see that I am downright terrified. It doesn’t matter that I know that alternatives exist, because when you’re vying for that something so badly, everything else sits in the periphery of what one can handle at that moment. Fear – that eroding feeling of constant anxiety – is what gets you, and right now, I’m downright scared about losing what I have.
My life is on hold.
I’m clinging onto the doorframe of the present, as everything makes its attempt to pull me forward into the near future. I’m dazzled by the prospect of ideas and plans that run the gamut of exhilarating opportunities to New York City banality. I want to do this and that; I want to have brunch with persons XYZ; I just want to be here. All of what should be simple desire are contingent on this one lucky draw from the lottery or some heavy duty fandangling of alternatives.
And you wonder why teachers always told you never to have all your eggs in one basket. It’s just that, sometimes, it’s inevitable.
P.S. I’ll explicate the H-1B and NEXUS application processes soon enough.
Eating disorders are as tricky as they are fickle. They are the secret boyfriend or girlfriend that you hide from everyone, always praying that they aren’t mentioned at the table. And while this relationship may very well be under wraps, at least to you, many have an inkling of sorts.
As in any relationship, you change, but not in the ways that we deem to be positive; after all, you learn to skirt social situations, evade meals with plausible excuses, and shrug off the spotlight of worry. Within that turmoil, there are the arguments: the meals that are “worth” eating, the not-so-philosophical debates of self-worth, and the constant tug of war between scale and validation.
In essence, it is perhaps one of most abusive relationships that you could ever find yourself involved in, let alone endure. After all, you are both your victim and abuser – you know which buttons to push and which levers to pull.
Eating disorders are about exerting control over the one element that you are sure to have ownership over – your body. Where everything else may seem to be in free fall, the connection to your body is grounded, leaving opportunities to express some kind of prowess and dominance abound. The catch to this “control,” though, is that it slips so easily away from your bony fingertips, yet maintaining the illusion that it is yours, when in fact, it has become so far removed from your reach.
And when you realize this, you perhaps go through the stages of denial and shame, before deciding to be brave. And to be brave, you admit it to whoever may be listening (whether on a blog, via email, or in person). But is that it? For some, this declaration seems to be enough, garnering “understanding and support” from networks and communities. Stopping there, though, cheats not only your welcoming support, but also and most importantly, yourself.
That said, don’t just be brave, be courageous. There is so much more to eating disorders than just numbers; it is the result of something that compels the need for an overcompensation through control over yourself. Whether it may be trauma, depression, or social pressures, that is the core to recovery, not blasé and passing remarks of resignation.
Granted, this is the most difficult abusive relationship to get away from; after all, you can’t leave yourself, which is why you need help. Do it with either a community that follows your progress or in your own privacy with a therapist; whichever you choose, make that commitment to yourself – that is what will move you forward and pass this.
And of course, there are those that ask if you can ever “fully recover,” or if you will forever be teetering between a see-saw of health-conscious decisions and potentials for relapse. The truth? I don’t know. There are the days in which I ask myself if I am relapsing because I prefer to skip a meal, but then there are the days where I remember the rigidity that I had enforced around my eating habits no longer exists. I can tell you that there are the moments of self-doubt, and perhaps that is full-recovery but with just residual memories.
This week (February 24th to March 2nd) is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week with the theme, “Everybody knows somebody.” Click here to learn more and discover how you can do your part.
It’s common sense, they say. Or at least you think it would be so.
But things are always so much more complicated than it ought to be. The people who you see everyday en route to your destination, no matter how minute and limited the interactions – a small wave, a shyly muttered “hello” or mere eye contact – ignite an unspoken connection, one could say. To some degree, you are bonded to their presence through the simplicity of routine.
Perhaps it is then that naïveté takes hold. No one’s story is unfolded; only a skimmed surface is on display, yet, you come to believe that because you see them so often that all of the overheard conversations and niceties are what make the person to be who they are.
Crossing guards are trustful figures in the neighbourhood, or so I thought. After all, are they not the ones who protect our children, steer them clear of trouble, and guide them to their place of learning? It was such a contradiction in terms of what I believed and what I encountered almost four years ago.
In hindsight, it was all the things that you had spent your formative years in grade school being told not to do, “don’t trust strangers – no matter how nice they may seem. Don’t get into cars with people you don’t know all that well. Don’t be afraid to speak up.” I thought I knew better. I thought that I could be a good judge of character. I didn’t know I’d be wrong.
The first time that I took a ride in the boxy aged Cadillac, I remember listening to stories that now escape me. Only a glimmer of a story comes to mind before being dropped off at the nearby RT station; the Crossing Guard tapped towards the window visor where some police identification found itself clipped, but the explanation is now long forgotten between my shutting out of memories and indecipherable words. There was nothing impressionable or remarkable – I had merely chalked it up to a nicety of “grown ups” who knew that it was a frigid day.
It was a week (or two) before my 18th birthday. The air had quite the chill to it, in spite of there not being a flake of snow resting on the ground. My backpack rested on my lap. I don’t remember if my clarinet case sat atop my iced sneakers or if I had simply left it home that day. The car was driving along Ellesmere, having turned on Brimley, when I felt a hand slightly above my knee. It was a firm grasp on my thigh. I was uncomfortable. I edged my backpack closer to my knee so as to move his hand away, and he did.
His icy hand reached over rested on my neck. He asked if I could feel how cold his hands were and that he’d rest them on the back of my neck since I was so warm. Whether or not the heater was on, I somehow didn’t think it mattered; I simply felt shocks of chill run down my spine. The fifteen minutes that timed to drive felt to have dragged. I’d look at the odometer; it was still clocking in at the speed limit of 50 km/h. Nothing unusual except for his cold palm resting on my nape. When the car finally pulled into the school lot, I tried to conceal my anxiety (and I’d like to think that I did so pretty well), all the more wishing that I could unbuckle the seatbelt and leave the car as fast as possible. He grabbed my head before I could leave, and attempted to kiss the side of my face, but instead smooched my thick mane as I quickly shifted upon realization of what he was trying to do.
I don’t remember quite a lot after the incident (well, concerning it, per se). I know that after I got out of the car, I calmly and then quickly sped through the halls, racing to hide myself from view and to question what had just happened. I asked ZZ Teacher D if it was anything but the norm. She affirmed – it was anything but. I decidedly chalked it up to just nothing but an incident of the unordinary.
Trauma, though, isn’t a choice, and it doesn’t weigh in immediately. The fallout’s particles float in the air for a while, creating a misleading buffer, before they slowly pile on proverbial cement, amassing in actuality.
Maybe a month after, or maybe two, I found myself on the phone and curling my body on the floor pleading my best friend not to tell anyone. Then there were the nights that I remember in desperation where I’d try to make marks with a dull exacto on my “tainted” thigh. I never quite got the hang of cutting, though. That’s where all of this, in terms of timeline, perhaps, found itself so neatly slotted in my unraveling.
My belief that authority figures were there to protect me was completely devoid of itself – stripped and taken away from me. Someone that was meant to guard the wellbeing of minors had violated my privacy and space. It was supposed to be a good deed, nothing more; there was not meant to be an ulterior motive. The faith I had that people were inherently “good” was rattled; there were no acts of kindness. It wasn’t the inappropriate crossing of boundaries as much as it was the wreaking havoc on what it meant to be a protector and abusing authority. After all, this coalesced set of identities – authority and protector – seemed to find itself subverted and spun on its head years later with the Cat Lady, whose prescriptions and “advice” I followed out of good faith. But the above is most definitely a story for another time.
The hours by which I could leave and arrive home are still ingrained in my mind: leave before 8:25 AM or after 8:55 AM, leave before 11:40 AM or after 12:30 PM, and be home before 3:15 PM or after 4:10 PM (to be safe). There were the days when the timing was unavoidable; I learned to walk quickly and to switch sides of the road when need be so that I’d always stand at a diagonal. And then there were the times in which I’d look as far I could down the street to “assess” the situation. When I could, which became “everyday,” I’d timed myself to ride a different route – one that took about ten minutes longer – as it put a good hundred metres between him and I. It was a pretty firm set of rules and regiment that I had created, and most definitely one that I’d find myself abiding to even after moving away for school.
Those weren’t the moments when I was the most scared, though. I’d feel my heart come to a stand still, in disconcerting fear, whenever an aged navy Cadillac would drive on by or be parked in a lot. I don’t know if I felt anxious, per se, but there was always this need to construct an exit strategy whenever I thought I saw the car. It didn’t help that it was sometimes a red Pontiac that he drove. Perhaps this is why I spent much of my senior year residing in a coffee shop, sipping on Americanos; cars can’t drive into buildings, or at least they don’t do so often.
And burrowed in the back of my mind was perhaps one of the reasons why I couldn’t ever find myself comfortably settling down, with fervent frustration permeating through more often than not. Neither Paris nor New York offered the escape for which I longed; instead, it was quite the opposite.
It was during one of those car rides that made the distance irrelevant. I asked about his daughter and the reply, while mostly a blur, sticks out like a thorn to this day. “She teaches at New York University,” he said. He might’ve mentioned it one or two more times thereafter, but it stood out clearly enough as I’d tell people the “kicker” to the story years after. Never did I mention anything about post-secondary; heck, the Crossing Guard queried as to what community college I was attending every now and then. I’d just bite my lip and not reply.
On the nights that I couldn’t sleep, I would look through the listings of professors, scouring through schools and departments, for any hint to identifying who she was. Perhaps I had misheard, though I was certain in what I was told, especially since attending my now alma mater was far from what I had envisioned for myself. It was a crumpled note in passing that would hurriedly unfurl itself into out of curiosity in between moments of calm. In the end, though, there was never an answer, or at least not one that I could ever convince myself to be satisfactory.
So here I am sitting in the school library, hemming and hawing over this entry, and wondering at the many reasons that has made penning this post such a difficult task over the years. Perhaps it was because I was in a constant search for something that may never have existed – this professor who never materialized. But perhaps a more convincing force: I was ashamed. I was disappointed in myself for having been trusting when I shouldn’t have; I was disappointed in having my youthful idealism taken away; and I was disappointed in letting it instill fear in me.