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This is Healing

By Diana Tapia

Art by Milanne Berg

CW: Depression, Anxiety, Eating Disorder, Body Dysmorphia, Mentions of Self-Harm, Heartbreak

When the good days return you think,

I’m all better now. Everything is going to be fine.

And in that moment of pure, unfiltered joy, you decide that you’ll chase happiness until your very last breath. But when the high comes crashing down and the illusion shatters, you’re met with a paradox: the more you chase it, the further it strays from you.

Dark days become dark weeks, and soon you find yourself wondering if maybe the world was always so dim. But a good day comes around, and you can’t believe that there was ever anything wrong with you. You cling to that joy like a crying child holds on to its mother, hoping her comforting touch lasts forever. But deep down, you know the darkness is never far. It is always there, watching. And somewhere along the line, dark weeks become dark months, and the good days stop coming altogether.

There comes a point when you can’t quite recall why you’re sad in the first place. Still, you get up every day at 7 a.m. to cover the signs of a teary night with a thick layer of makeup.

You go to class and even though you study the material until your eyelids give out every night, you feel small and out of place, so you sink into your chair. You dig your necklace deep into your finger because you’ve learned to prefer the feeling of a sharp sting to the anxiety that’s found a permanent home in your chest.

Lunch comes around and you blow off your friends because you didn’t quite like what you saw in the mirror that morning. You tell yourself that you’ll eat a big dinner, but your assignments pile up and you never get around to it. You find yourself reading Jeffrey Eugenides and Sylvia Plath because you’re an English major, and you should know their work! That’s what you tell yourself, but you know the real reason. In your free time, you write shitty poetry about how much you hate your body and you wonder if you’ll ever make it as a writer.

A Poem For the One I Wish I Loved

I offer you this poem,

My mind and body.

Your eyes glisten with each stare,

Your reflection,

The one who stares back at you,

Watches as you eye every unwelcome curve,

Watches as you feel every dimple,

Every mark,

Watches as you pull and tug at every unruly curl,

Watches as your hands get lost in every fold and roll,

And when you look back at her,

She suddenly feels so bare,

So exposed,

So hurt,

So unwanted.

I offer you this poem,

My mind and body,

To show you that your supple face house warm cheeks and soft skin,

To show you the beauty in every stretch mark,

To show you the strength in your gaze,

To show you that you are beautiful.

Take it from me,

For I am you,

And I wish I could love you as you hate me.

You’re swamped with homework, but your mind keeps wandering to the man who broke your heart with his indifference. When it comes up, you laugh and tell your friends you’re over that guy, the one you believed was the one, but even now, you cry yourself to sleep every night wondering if maybe he didn’t want you because you weren’t good enough or pretty enough or skinny enough. You finally gather the courage to ask him, and you know it’s really over now. You drink to forget him and fail every time, but you’d rather drown in alcohol than be alone with your sober thoughts. Deep down, the damage is done and you doubt you’ll ever feel that way about anyone ever again. So you decide to give up on love and you make friends with the numbness.

You go weeks without calling home because your mom can read you like a book and you don’t feel like explaining to your family that Dartmouth is just as prestigious as Harvard for the umpteenth time. When you do call home, you tell them that you miss them, but deep down, you’re thinking about how they’re the reason you went away in the first place.

You buy self-help books, but you never get around to reading them because they’re for people who are actually struggling, and you? You’re just going through a rough patch, and you have nothing to worry about! Your friends come to you when they need someone to hear them out. You’re happy to do it because it distracts you from how miserable you are in the moment. You notice how your friends use men to get over other men, and sometimes you wonder if maybe you should do the same, too.

When you’re out with friends, you hate that no matter how much you try to change, you somehow make everything about you, and you wonder if secretly everyone hates you for it. They tell you it’s fine, but you feel like a burden anyway, so you never let them know what you’re going through. You suffer in silence. You’ve always preferred it that way anyway.

In your dreams, you’re always running, hoping to escape the hurt. You take long showers so your roommate doesn’t hear you crying in the next room. And you walk to Occom Pond at night, where you can be alone with your unforgiving thoughts and self-hatred.

When you look up at the starry night sky, you remember how you’ve wished away two shooting stars on him. Another one comes around, and you wonder if you should hate him for the void he left in your chest, but you find yourself wishing him happiness instead. And finally, you realize,

The war is over. The rest is up to you.

And one day, just as you’ve made peace with the darkness, the Spring sun arrives, and its warm rays bring light to your world. There are good days again. Days where nothing good particularly happens, but smiles come easy and you are happy to be alive. You know this feeling is temporary, but you embrace it anyway. It is only when you embrace your pain that you learn to truly appreciate your joy.

This is healing.

Author’s Note: This piece would not exist without 23W Devotion Edition’s Green Temporalities by K.M.A. And a special thanks to my kind and loving mother, who in the midst of my heartache whispered to me, “Esto también pasará.”[1] And to the one who broke my heart, I set you free.

[1] “This too shall pass”

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