Taryn Cassella
25
Artist
Indianapolis, IN

Illustration by
Vania Wat

Dearest,

I write this to you only six months in the future. Tomorrow is our half birthday.

I am not sure what I can offer you in this moment. Just know that you will make it.

You will spend the night of your birthday completely alone, wandering around Berlin. You will not speak to one human the entire day, and you inexplicably like this. You spend the night chain smoking on the balcony, wanting to cry. You can’t remember the last time you cried. All you can feel is this indescribable numbness. You think you are strong and this state of loneliness is a mark of the independence you have worked so hard to achieve.

The tiredness will not leave you. It becomes overwhelming and terrifying. You have spells of extreme weakness and panic. You tell yourself it’s okay, and continue living. A couple months go by and the attacks get worse. You spend day after day visiting doctors, and it becomes common to spend nights in the emergency room, cradling your phone between your shivering legs trying to catch up on Orange is the New Black. No one knows you are there and you like it like that.

It gets worse, a lot worse, before it gets better. You spend one night on the floor, legs shaking uncontrollably, ears ringing, eyes unable to focus. Tears stream down your hysterical face as you gasp for air. You feel worthless, embarrassed that you cannot take care of yourself. It is difficult for you, but you must seek help. You can't survive on your own.

After months of being improperly diagnosed in different emergency rooms and hospitals, an eating disorder specialist places you in an outpatient program. The program involves therapy, visits with a nutritionist, and they also assign a doctor. After the first visit you don't want to return. You think you are cured but this disorder has controlled you for over a decade. You keep telling yourself you are not sick enough, but you are. You confide in your friends, and they tell you this is all normal. Its normal to second guess your sickness once you feel a little better, but that is the disease speaking. Reluctantly, you return the next week and schedule appointments a couple weeks out, just so you feel obligated to return.

The therapy seems a little ridiculous, you are smart and don’t need to dive into your emotions to figure out why you started restricting. Eventually you begin to trust Sally, your therapist. You tell her about your childhood. You tell her about being ridiculed at school for putting on so much weight. You tell her how no one really questioned how you lost it all so quick. After every in depth memory is revealed, you apologize and tell Sally how you are okay, and you’ve handled it. You haven’t and that’s why you are here.

The nutritionist and the doctor’s visits are equally as important as the therapy. Your doctor at the eating disorder clinic tells you that your potassium levels are life-threateningly low, and your body was suffering from malnutrition. They put you on a meal plan fit for your lifestyle and tell you to come back in a week. You have weeks of sickness and migraines ahead of you, but you stick to it. It takes a very long time for you to physically feel better, but they tell you how well you are doing everyday. Recovery takes time, but it’s worth it.

One of the happiest days you have during your recovery you spend crying after you confessed your love to a best friend and were turned down. It took a lot of guts, but you don’t feel any shame or sadness. Instead that small emotional response will remind you of what living is. You crave tears and nerves and laughs. The days of wanting to be numb will be behind you, and it’s all because you took that first step to recovery.

The fear will not go away. The lonely nights only get worse. At times you will want to give up.

Please don’t give up.

Time begins to slow down and you realize it’s okay to fail as long as you keep trying.

I love you for so many reasons you will not be able to understand until you write this letter.

One day I hope you realize how great you really are.

Love,

Your much wiser 25-year-old-self