I remember scraping ice off the car windows before school in the winter, my breath clouding in front of me in small, cottony bursts. It was a slow process, and my younger sister would watch from inside as the world shifted from an opaque blindness to bright visibility in jagged streaks. The steady whir of the “de-frost” mechanism coupled with the scratch of the tool was simultaneously shocking and soothing, and even once I’d finished visibility was a patchwork of clear glass edged in ice.
I am beginning to “de-frost” my brain right now, and it is terrifying, and humbling, and full of messiness and struggle and little rushes of joy. It isn’t linear at all; no blinking arrow is pointing me in the direction of blue skies and clarity. It isn’t relieving either; in fact, much of the time things feel tight and strained, like I’ve inhaled and forgotten to exhale.
But I am Awake.
Because all of this is maddeningly simple in some respects: I’ve been afraid to feel. All of the behaviors, all of the attempts-at the core these were reactions to emotional overwhelm, panic at sadness and anxiety that seemed so large in the moment that I couldn’t possibly contain them, that something had been stretched so thin it had to snap.
I’ve known this for a while; one of the first things they teach you in eating disorder treatment is how restricting or purging compensate for discomfort; they numb you, allow you to function in the world without being present.
What I’ve only recently realized, though, is that this fog extends beyond the “scary” emotions, the sadness and anger and fear. I’ve been living without the joy and the wonder too.
Because you can’t pick and choose which feelings you want to extinguish. You can’t put out the flames of sorrow unless you also reduce happiness into a smoldering pile. It’s all part of being human, and I’ve been a ghost of one for many years. Without emotions you’re hushed, in a stagnant and silent place where you can’t grow, where change can never happen.
My intention for this new year is to continue to learn how to be fully Awake. To let my brain de-frost and thaw from the freeze it’s been in for so long, and to be open to whatever feelings come with it, though the process is as haphazard as the scraping of ice-glazed car windows. Because even though I’m still frightened of letting the sorrows tear me apart, I am much more frightened of never allowing the joys to put me back together.