Ordinary Testimony: 0-Gravity

 

the author of this post mummifies her face in a pink scarf

Photo: Rebekah Burcham

– Rebekah Burcham

The people who know me call me bubbly. I smile so wide that my eyes squint and my cheeks roll up like apples. I laugh easily, jump often, squeal occasionally, and talk with exclamation points. This makes me appear girlishly innocent, and I’ve received many half-teasing/half-bitter remarks about how happy-go-lucky and untroubled I am.

My face may not show it, but my eyes know that there is gravity in my sunny world, just as there is on the sun.

I started cutting one blue skied afternoon when I was alone in my house but for my sleeping baby sister. I grabbed a kitchen knife and sliced right beneath the inside of my  elbow over the bathroom sink. I thought it would give me some relief, and it did. I It barely bled, but the cuts in the year following did. Once so bad that I couldn’t get it to stop and I walked around for three days with the lump of a thick gauze bandage under my long sleeves.

The depression was crushing. I didn’t sleep. I lost track of time for hours, staring into space. I wrote pathetic poetry. I stopped reading books. I ignored my friends. Panic attacks would rush over me like a starving horde of white hot ants. Almost – OCD habits reared their rotten heads.

Then there was food. First I ate too much of it until I was dangerously overweight. I tried to stuff my emptiness with food – sweets, salt, butter, anything. Then I panicked and convinced myself that if I was skinny, all this would go away. I developed Bulimia Nervosa. Something would trigger me, like a fight, and I would eat disgusting amounts of food. Then I wouldn’t eat for a week or would restrict for a month. I was thinning, but I was out of control. Once I lost thirty pounds in three weeks. I gained twenty back in two.

At night I would whisper back to the voices until it was early enough in the morning for me to go running to burn off my fatfatuselessfat. I’d sneak out to run and be back before breakfast (not like I was going to eat it), because I felt so ashamed of myself. I hid my sandwiches and cereal in my drawers and closet until they went moldy and I smuggled them out to the trash. I told everyone, “Hi, I’m good, how are you?” I tried to get out of every social activity I could, skipping sports, games at the park, parties, friends’ invitations.

I just wanted it all to end. And soon I decided that I would make it end. I wrote goodbye letters to my closest friends –  sarcastic, bitter, sorry letters. I walked upstairs to take the bottle of ibroprophen, my grand The End finally occurring. How powerful I was! How deliriously happy! But I blanked out and found myself lying listlessly in my room, pills unswallowed, alive.

I was so angry with myself. I thought I was weak.

Holding onto life is not weakness. Ever.

When my parents found out, they were horrified and they panicked. I struggled to find normalcy to appease them, but Bulimia and Self-Injury had shredded my ability to be emotionally stable for them, however much I tried.

It didn’t matter how much success I had in my life (and I did have success – I was interviewed on Oregon Public Broadcasting, I spoke to a middle school about writing, I published a poem…), nothing changed how I saw myself. Worthless. The people who thought I could write or be capable of anything other than stupidity and mistakes were miserably wrong.

But we traveled to New Jersey for the summer (I remember the drive. I was hungry. I hadn’t eaten for a few days. I lost five pounds.)  and I spent a lot of time talking with my beautiful cousin, and she helped me see my life much clearer. Being forced to be out and moving with other people gave me a chance to knock my brain out of its routine thoughts: WORTHLESS UGLY HORRIBLE MISERABLE FAT FAT FAT. I was just as depressed there as I was at home (contrary to popular opinion, a change of scene doesn’t change your heart), but I was given a great gift: perspective.

We returned to my house in Oregon,  and slowly,  through the grace of God and the counsel of good friends and websites like something-fishy.org, I began to catch glimpses of hope. Hope! What a foreign, delicious wonder! I fought a long battle against my addiction to Self-Injury that often left me gagging with withdrawal on my floor, but I was determined. My old stubbornness popped up and grabbed my demons by their horns. I still sometimes crave a cut, but I am in control.

The walk out of Bulimia was a slipper slope – I knew when I was cutting or bruising myself, but I could convince myself I was eating more or less than I really was. Even when I wanted to “eat right,” my perspective was warped. I really just wanted to stop thinking about food and weight and just be myself. But that was an impossibly high goal… I’m still reaching for it. But I’m not uncontrollable anymore. I may backslide, but everyone makes mistakes. I’m trying to see food and myself as God sees them.

I realize now that I am valuable. I am worth so much more than how I look. I am a person, a human being, and that makes me precious.

There was no great moment of recovery. No miracle. No person who saved my life (dramatic soundtrack, cameras, lights and all). Some people let me down and some people told me the same things the voices were telling me. But I saw what hope looked like. I saw that one day I could be free and that I could make a difference in other peoples’ lives. I saw that one day I could serve and love and not have to be so selfishly wrapped up in myself.

And slowly but surely, my scars are healing. My body’s poor metabolism is balancing out, my innards are healing themselves. I understand that I can backslide and make mistakes and fall and STILL get back up again. Yes, panic attacks, OCD-like rituals and compulsions, depression, everything is still there. But I am better than them. And someday, I will be completely free. Someday, I will embrace myself with a wide smile so that I am free to forget about myself and love other people. I’m still working on that. I’ll always be working on that.

If you think you are enslaved by depression or an eating disorder or self injury or anything at all, remember: THERE IS HOPE. You WILL get out of it. And you DO deserve it, even if you don’t see it right now, even if you think you’re different, you aren’t depressed enough to warrant help, you aren’t skinny enough to be in danger, you don’t cut deep enough to be a real cutter (you’ve heard of worse, you’ve heard of dying…)… whatever. Those are lies. No matter what, you deserve to talk about everything you’re going through and you deserve the truth that you are more than what they make you.

If you look closely on my arms, I have stripes. If you look closely in my eyes, I have gravity, not just sunshine. I have not emerged unscathed. But I have emerged with a lesson: life is precious.

True beauty is when you stand apart from the mess and say, No one is worthless. And then you live it. You live it and live it and live it until your lungs give out. Don’t give a rip about yourself and what they say about you, when they tell you you don’t care about anyone and you need to do this better and that better. You can do anything.

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4 Comments

  1. Em said,

    February 12, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Life is hard. It’s weakness to slip out by suicide. It’s strength to live it. And we get that strength from Jesus. 🙂

    Love it, Bekah. Moving and inspirational.

    (Critique ((are we allowed to do that?)): I It barely bled, but the cuts in the year following did. Once so… What did you mean “I It?”)

  2. Myth said,

    February 12, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    I agree, Em 🙂 And I’m glad you’re doing better now, Reddy!!!!!!

  3. Audra Marie said,

    February 13, 2011 at 2:10 am

    I’ve been there only with Anorexia Nervosa, and I cut myself to commit suicide. So many times when we’re in the thick of a struggle, we can’t see the next moment let alone down the road. But it does get better when we press in to Jesus. He’s the ONLY true source of peace and joy. Everything else is a bandaid. Anyway, here’s a post I wrote that you might find interesting: http://www.audrasilva.com/i-am/

    Also, I have a book I just finished called Made to Crave. It really helps for food cravings, but the deeper message is really anything we crave outside of God. We were made to crave Him, but we tend to use other things to fill that need…and they never satisfy. Anyway, if you want to borrow it, I think you’d really enjoy it even while maybe saying ouch a couple of times. 😉 She’s candid and real and funny and honest… 🙂

  4. Ci-ci said,

    May 15, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    I havn’t dealt with things like that, but i know that some peolpe have, probably a lot more than we realize, and thank you so much for telling us your story. It is helping a lot of people.


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