Saturday, June 21, 2008


"I don’t want to be in Cambodia. This hurts too much. I feel so horribly alone. I feel empty, useless, pathetic, invisible, and uninteresting. Last night was another rough evening because of this awful eating disorder. I wrote a desperate email to Ben and Ashley as I let out a few sobs that my roommates never heard, or chose not to. I fell asleep between tears. I woke up feeling pretty hopeless.
I am at the bottom. I have food, oxygen, and water; that’s it. I am lacking a stable environment, support, self-respect, and any sort of wholeness or purpose I might’ve hoped for. I am lacking. I am struggling."
The above (or below, if you are reading this upside down) is from my journal on October 2, 2007. This was the day I broke down at school and couldn’t stop crying. I hyperventilated and think I had a panic attack. It is interesting to read now, because at that point I didn’t think it could get much worse, but it did.
That was October! I hadn’t yet started binging, I hadn’t been violated by that creep when I was out walking, I hadn’t been hit by a car yet. That was before the children started cursing at me on the street. I have broken down to Fay in gasping sobs at least a dozen more times since that day. The last three months I have fought purging episodes where I feel so hopeless I find myself throwing up seeking comfort that is yet to come.
I don’t say this to dwell on the trials. I say this to focus on the triumph.
Yup, no surprises here: This has been hard. This has been painful. I have yet to laugh about the rough times from this year. I am not celebrating the awful pain I’ve had here. I do not love Cambodia. At this point, no, no, I would not do this over again! I’m glad, ecstatic, joyful, and relieved to be on this side of it, but you could not pay be to do it all over again.
Do I have to be one of those obnoxious people that say, "I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat" for it to be considered a good experience? Do you believe them 100% anyway? I don’t always. Can’t I take the lessons I’ve learned with me and still be grateful it’s over?
I don’t write this from some mountain top where all clarity has been granted to me. I write this from a still painful place with 10 days left to go. Thursday night, I binged and purged, again. I am not proud, but I am not ashamed. This isn’t the life I want, but I am not scared to talk about it or admit that I am human just like everyone else.
Yesterday, in desperate need of perspective, I escaped to a bookstore to sit and think. I will not binge or purge for the next 10 days. This eating disorder is the evil that has made me its prisoner. On bad days I am not present in my life and I am merely existing in it. So as I near the end of this experience, I know that going home could be a very stressful time of adjustment. I do not want to slip into the bad habits I have found here, I am very determined to feel healthy leaving this country. I am seeking to forgive and move on with the lessons I’ve learned.
I realize I am talking about an eating disorder I have only written about. Besides close friends and family, no one knew about it until I got here. I have not actually spoken to many people about this. I haven’t had the chance to yet. But please, please do not think this is a ‘Cambodia thing’ and I am ashamed or unwilling to talk about this once I get home. It is the silence and isolation that feeds it. Please don’t pretend with me, or anyone, that we can’t talk about what hurts us. This is what hurts me. I will be as honest as I can and invite any of you to do the same. I assume the reason I keep writing is because as we grant each other permission to be who we are, our true humanity is what comes out. I’ve received incredible emails from people sharing their own struggles. We will never have those kinds of life-changing conversations unless someone is willing to start it.
I am afraid to come home. I’m afraid to stay here. I fear what I’ve turned into. Will these habits follow me forever? Will what I have learned here affect me negatively or positively for the rest of my life? I can’t answer these questions until I get off the plane. I have no idea what the next few months of my life will be like. I am hopeful, but really anxious.
I’ve been talking to missionaries and reading books about the process of re-entry after working in the mission field. There are a lot of horror stories! For some it is easy, for some it takes years. The most repeated information I’ve heard is, upon re-entering your "home" country, most people won’t be that interested. They think it’s cool you went overseas and may ask, "What was the food like?" or "So, did you have fun?" They will be pleased with a few words and will not likely ask anything else. Coming from a crazy, life-changing, intense experience, this seems to most like a huge slap in the face. Does anyone care at all? No, they just won’t ever get it. And this, I think, will be very frustrating. The books don’t offer much help. They say, "Just prepare for the fact that your experience can be important to you, even if most people back home could care less."
So with this information in mind, I’ve come up with different responses to the question, "So, how was Cambodia?" Because different people will want different answers and I’m trying to prepare for that and not be offended by it. Not everyone wants to hear the whole, lengthy story and that’s ok. But I will be willing to tell it to anyone who does! No number of blogs or pictures or stories will ever fully explain or do this experience justice. That’s hard to swallow because this has changed my life forever and no one back home will ever really get it.
I imagine it will all feel like a dream and I will wonder, "Did that really just happen? Am I exaggerating? Was that real?" I may not feel understood. I may not feel heard. But I will cling to those people I am really counting on to help me through this.
I’m no fortune teller. I can’t predict the future. Maybe things will be just peachy and I will adjust no problem-o! But I’d rather be ready for anything than slapped in the face with the changes and difficulties that are bound to accompany me at home.
Ten days. Five days of school. Three days of testing. Seventy-one good byes. One Sabbath candle. Home.