Dear Past Emma:
Hi. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen your face.
Your thin, emaciated, smiling face that was really a facade that you put on for the world to pretend like everything was alright. This picture was taken just after your twentieth birthday, which you celebrated in a horrifically special way: in the hospital.
In the hospital. You were so medically unstable that you had to be admitted to a round-the-clock, 24/7 program to try and keep you alive. Your weight and your health dropped to such a frighteningly low level that the doctors were worried about your survival.
You could have died. Your heart rate skyrocketed whenever you did the smallest of things and your blood pressure reached levels low enough that you actually fell unconscious a few times. You had to wear a heart monitor, which you can see part of in the above picture, and a hospital gown, because you weren’t allowed to wear your own clothing.
You were so sick. And you couldn’t realize that.
Here you are smiling again. Side by side next to me, Current Emma. There are so many differences in these two pictures. The girl on the left; you… she looks sad. Her smile doesn’t reach her eyes, and her face is gaunt, sallow, and sunken. Though you’re putting on a brave face for the camera, I know just how much you were hurting. You didn’t think your life was worth living. You thought about dying. Sometimes you weren’t even scared of it.
Which terrifies the girl on the right. Her face looks brighter and happier, but most importantly, healthier.
But I still feel your pain; there are faint echoes of the nights you spent crying yourself to sleep reverberating in my head. There are memories of the times you broke down after having to eat even the smallest crumb of food and the times where your family and friends feared for your life in a way that you were incapable of comprehending. There are reminders of how you used to spend your days in a depressed fog, staring blankly at the wall in front of you and waiting for the next time you would be summoned out to the hallway to eat.
You had to sit in a hallway and be monitored because they were so worried about you. And then you had to wait out there for a further hour to make sure that you kept it down.
You had to have IV fluids because your blood pressure was so low and your heart rate so erratic. You had to have a tube in your nose at one point. You weren’t trusted to keep yourself alive; there had to be artificial means of preserving you.
You look so sad and broken. A shadow of the girl I am now.
It’s impossible not to want to cry when I see your face; how skeletal and empty you look. Devoid of feeling and incredibly numb.
But it is also impossible not to want to cry when I think of letting go of you. It is excruciating to think of saying farewell to a time in my life I never want to relive; not because I want to go back to it, but because sometimes I romanticize it. Sometimes not wanting to be sick is not enough to stop the sickly thoughts from rattling around in my head.
You had lost all hope.
It has been about three months since you left the hospital. Three very short whirlwind months full of tumultuous emotions, breakdowns, destructive anger, and spots of sunshine in an otherwise dreary and cloudy sky. Because here is where you started to fight. You had to fight such a long and difficult battle before I was ready to take over.
You had to fight so unbelievably hard. You’re still fighting somewhere, and I know that you still exist. Even though I am not the girl I was back in the winter, I know that there are still traces of you left. There are the scars on my back from all the overexercising you did. There are scars on my abdomen from wearing the heart monitor. And there are numerous pictures of you staring vacantly at the camera, always putting on a smile that never really radiates any happiness. There is still a meal plan, a treatment team, and biweekly appointments with the doctor, all to make sure I don’t relapse and turn back into you.
You are a shadow of who I am. And like a shadow, I am never without you. Sometimes you disappear out of sight, but you are never completely gone.
I know that someday, Past Emma, I will be able to completely bid you goodbye. I will be able to let you evaporate into thin air, keeping the memories of you close to my heart but the thoughts that riddled your very sick mind out of my head. Someday, I will be strong enough to let go of the vice-like grip you have on me right now, like how my anorexia had its cold, bony hands wrapped tightly around your throat, threatening to wipe you from the face of this earth.
I know that you are my past for a reason. Though you are still me and I am still you, there are vastly important difference between us, both physical and mental.
But I will always be Emma. And in this way, you will always have a special place in my heart.
Love, Current Emma