THE OTHER SIDE – Once a phrase with an entirely different meaning than the one it holds today. For over 20 years, “The Other Side,” was the ultimate oasis my soul longed for. It was the place where I could shrink so small, I’d disappear. It was the place where my tortured and eating disordered self, would cease to exist. It was the place where I was no longer suffering, and no longer negatively impacting everyone around me. It was death.
“The Otherside:” the title to a song that haunts me to this day. It was my best friend’s favorite song – my best friend, who reached the “coveted” “Other Side,” tragically and suddenly, when she lost her life while we were at Monte together.
The Other Side was freedom. It was the chance escape a world where I felt I would never belong. It was the idea that the relentless, insufferable pain I was experiencing – physically, mentally, emotionally, & spiritually, would end. It was the place where I was no longer shackled to a brain and body that were possessed by the active quest to self-destruct, to shrink into non-existence. It was the place where I wasn’t constantly battling the toxic and devastating thoughts in my mind. It was the place where I wasn’t constantly seeking validation that I was “sick enough” or “thin enough.” It was Everything. it was Nothing.
From ages 7 to 26, I suffered with a near-fatal eating disorder, substance use, depression, anxiety, and trauma. I had developed the belief that there was a permanent black cloud over my head; that things were ALWAYS going to be as miserable and punishing as they were and had been my entire life. Over time, specifically in my late teens and into my 20’s, I was truly convinced that all I was put on this Earth for, was to suffer and die.
On the outside, I looked like I had it all. I was an elite college athlete; ranking #1 in the country in lacrosse. I graduated high school with honors, I worked 3 jobs, I had an incredible and loving family, I had friends, I drove a nice car, I was always smiling. To everyone else, I could do it all; I was what people refer to as “high functioning.” However, what people DIDN’T see, was that before lacrosse practice every night, I cried in my car because I physically did not have the energy to perform in the way I was expected to. There were days I could hardly get out of bed, yet somehow, what was a blessing and a curse, was that my body went on autopilot. It was mind over matter. My brain willed my body to keep going despite the fact that at that point, I should have been dead. My body proved to be remarkable, resilient. Most days I hated my body for being so withstanding. I wanted it to quit on me; maybe then people would believe how sick I was, maybe THEN people would take me seriously. I prayed every night to a god I didn’t believe existed, that I just wouldn’t wake up the next morning. I believed the world would be better off without me, and could not imagine living another day in the excruciatingly & obsessively predictable & lethal cycle I was in.
I was dying, and my behaviors were SCREAMING that I needed help. My time at Montecatini lasted the better part of 4 years. Throughout that time, although I was physically present in treatment, I was not emotionally or mentally present. I thought that by just being within the four walls of treatment, it meant I was committed. It meant I was doing enough. I resisted and rebelled and fought with everything I had to stay in my eating disorder; an eating disorder that in 2015 almost took my life. When I was finally able to concede to the fact that my body could no longer survive with what I was putting it through, and I opened my mind up just the slightest to believe that MAYBE there was something more my life had to offer me, everything changed.
Instead of fighting my treatment team, those who loved me, and most importantly, myself, I made the decision to fight my eating disorder. I fought the voice in my head that had been telling me for 18 years that I wasn’t enough. I worked through the incredibly traumatic and difficult things I had experienced throughout my life. I walked head first into my deepest, darkest fears. I stood toe-to-toe with the demons I had been avoiding my entire life. I fought, with everything in me, and I won.
I allowed others to hold hope for me when I didn’t have it for myself. I opened my mind to the idea that other people could and wanted to help me. I decided that MAYBE there was a different way to think outside of the way I had been conditioned to think my entire life. I gave myself permission to entertain the idea that I deserved recovery, that I deserved to live. It started with planting those seeds, and eventually they blossomed into a beautiful life.
Today, I live my life on The Other Side. The other side of pain. The other side of suffering. The other side of misery, self-destruction, starvation, self-criticism, unhealthy obsession, punishment, isolation and most importantly, the other side of my eating disorder. Never in a million years did I imagine that living on The Other Side meant anything other than dying. Today, The Other Side is life. Today, and now forever, The Other Side is TRUE freedom.
It is the place that has allowed me to graduate with my Master of Social Work, and land my first job as an Eating Disorder Therapist; helping others the way EVERY PERSON at Montecatini, helped me. It is what has challenged me, guided me, and strengthened me into a woman who has devoted her life to helping others who struggle. It has blessed me with the opportunity to rebuild my life into one I am proud of, to speak to crowds of people about the importance of recovery and treatment, and to mentor and inspire younger girls. I still have days where I struggle, where I question what the point of it all is, but the beauty of it is, life on The Other Side has shown me exactly why I chose to start fighting for myself in the first place.
I dedicate my life and my recovery to my Monte fam.
Sharon, Nancy, Leah and Dr. Morache – without your unwavering commitment, love, and investment in my life, I would not be here. You never gave up on me; even when I was punching the walls, pushing you away, or going against every single thing you recommended. Your steadfastness and compassion have left a mark on my heart, that I will take with me through the rest of my life, and into my own career.
Without my family, the many people in my life, and every staff member at Monte, I would not be alive today. My life is, in every sense of the word, a miracle. One that I fought tooth and nail for, and one that I commit to living in the best way possible each and every day. I am eternally grateful, and to my Monte fam: I would not be here without you.
Special thanks to: Colleen (Tags), Molly, Tara, Stephanie, Randi, Deidra, Amy D., Gina, Lori, Christina, Kelly, Koko, Jamie, Lynette, and Linda. You changed my life.
To my recovery sisters who have left this world far too soon: Kristina, Katie, V, and Juli – this one’s for you.
November 2012 – March 2013, June 2013 – July 2014, September 2015 – December 2015.
Dezz AKA: Rocky, MEDE, Dezz 2.0