Well, here we are. Thursday. I’ve been home for four of my five days here, and it feels like time has just speed by like a bullet train.
In case you missed Monday’s post, allow me to catch you up in one sentence: my parents just sold my childhood home that they’ve lived in for over 34 years, and I’m in Ohio this week saying goodbye to the house I was born in.
My mom and I have logged hours and hours in the basement going through boxes and boxes of preschool and elementary school artwork, baby clothes, sports memorabilia, newspaper articles and keepsake boxes filled with things from every play/musical/TV show/movie I was in growing up…there were over 18! (If you didn’t know, I was a child actor…which internalized perfectionist tendencies and tying my worth to my performance, which had a direct impact on developing anorexia later in my late teens.)
But I’m proud to say, going through those boxes, I only cried once.
It’s funny, because I was talking with my mom, and she was saying how she was a little nervous/curious about how I would respond emotionally to having to go through all the boxes of memories from my childhood, and from the time during my ulcerative colitis, and also…my anorexia.
And as we sat there on the floor, legs crossed and buried in 18 years of growing up treasures, I realized that today was proof that I have emotionally “moved on” from the pain. Not totally one hundred percent, because I don’t think you can ever fully and completely just leave such a traumatic season behind you. But I have been able to separate myself now, from myself then. And what’s more, is that, I was able to recognize when things were bringing up difficult emotions (like my Senior yearbook from when I was 78 pounds and at death’s door), and I was able to close that box and say…”Next one, mom.”
It’s incredible, actually. And I am so grateful to God — and to be honest, I think it was all the grace poured out upon me from the overwhelming amount of prayers YOU have offered me, reading this (which I am so thankful for!) — But I am so grateful that I was able to look back at my childhood with a loving, accepting heart. There was no bitterness. There was no resentment or even anger. There was only joy. Only celebrating the spunky, precocious little girl who liked collecting rocks and won an Emmy Award when she was still too small to see over the podium and reach the mic.
The only time I got emotional was when I opened the time capsule that I made on the graduation of my 8th grade year, to be opened on my graduation from high school. If you’re new here, I actually never attended my high school graduation, because five days prior, I was forced to go to inpatient treatment across the country for my anorexia. So simply the fact that I was reading a time capsule meant to be opened on the graduation day the Eating Disorder stole from me, put my emotions on red alert.
But what really got me, was the letter written to “future me,” by my father. “You have a gift from God – a gift to bring happiness and good feelings to those around you. You live a loving, caring life. You may get almost straight A’s, maybe you’ll star in a musical or captain a sports team, but that is all secondary to living a life doing the right thing, loving and caring about those around you, making your little piece of this big world a better place. I love you for who you are Caralyn, as you open this, my 18 year old!”
And reading that, knowing all the history that happened — and what I put my sweet father through — between when that letter was written, and when it was intended to be read, my heart simply couldn’t hold back the tears of remorse, tears of regret, tears of what could have been, any longer. But more than any of those tears, were tears of how good my father is.
All of those “maybe dreams” my father mentioned – the straight A’s, the captain of the soccer team, starring in a musical – the irony here, is that, during my high school career, leading up to my eating disorder, I achieved all those things.
And all the while, I was believing that those were the things that made me good. Made me worthy. Each achievement would only raise the bar I was setting for myself ever so higher. Until eventually, I would collapse under the pressure I had put on myself to maintain this standard of perfection that was quite literally killing me.
“All that is secondary…I love you for who you are, Caralyn.”
It’s like my dad knew. It’s like he could see the writing on the wall, and wanted to remind me of what really mattered: my heart. Not anything I could achieve or win or earn. He was speaking life into my spirit: saying the exact words that my broken, striving, ED-gripped heart absolutely would need to hear: I love you for who you are, Caralyn.
What a beautiful earthly example of our Heavenly Father’s love I have in my own father. That is a blessing I know not to take for granted for one single second.
“I love you for who you are.”
It’s been quite the experience, coming face to face with literally, my entire childhood – in boxes – and sifting through the experiences and history that have made me me — for better or for worse.
But I’ll close with this: even though I may not be proud of certain seasons of my past, I can still lovingly embrace and have compassion for that little girl, while simultaneously celebrating that I am not her anymore. Recovery is incredibly nuanced and delicate, and sometimes, moments of growth and grace will surprise you, even 13 years in.
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
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