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Cover Photo: I am Here by Emily LeClair Metcalf

I am Here

I know I cannot love another if I do not love myself

My body convulses as I gag myself and purge my dinner into the toilet. I am in our basement on the same floor that my room resides in, in my father’s old office. I am a sophomore and my older sister is away in Spain. I miss her terribly, but I took the opportunity to separate from my parents, and virtually “take over” the basement, disregarding the laundry room and freezer. My mother sits in the living room upstairs, most likely her ears tuned in for sounds that she refuses to believe in, while focusing intently on the fine stitches of her skillful knitting. I turn the shower off that coquettishly masks my hurling sounds and imitates the motions of actually bathing myself. I wash my hands vigorously; I literally wash my mouth out with soap and then brush my teeth.

Just off the phone with Geoff, my friend/casual boyfriend, I exit the house and walk a block and a half down the posh Queen Anne street to the staircase where we meet for a sneak cigarette. I love Geoff, he is my friend. I broke up with my last boyfriend because he said he loved me. I do not know of real love, I know I do not love myself, how could I? I know I cannot actually love another if I do not love myself. I don’t have time for anything beyond the casual warm gesture of sweet friendship with the occasional kiss/make out session. We smoke and talk, I feel warmly exhilarated, and then we part, smelling of our $3 cigarettes we bought at the Seven Eleven on 1st Avenue.

Back in my room I turn the lights out and play my favorite Phish album on my C.D. player. I light some incense and begin twirling it around to make tracers in the dark smoky air. I look out the basement windows and relent how I cannot fit through the bars outside the glass. For a moment I flash back to my post dinner purging.

I head to the freezer when the album is done. The parents are tucked early under their covers reading the latest books, “The Flow” and others on adolescent and teen behavior. I pull three six inch tarts out and unwrap them one by one, working my way through each delectable sweet and starchy dessert. Immediately, I head to the bathroom where I turn on the sink and run the water just in case. I stare into the toilet, lean over it, and place my fingers down my throat. I have trained myself mostly to achieve gagging without my hand, but I do it anyway because it feels so familiar. Then I have a moment, another flash. I actually see myself and what I am doing. I reenter my body for a moment, and I am witness to my act. Suddenly, I lean back from the toilet and am horrified, shocked and disgusted. I am me for a moment. I am present; I feel awareness and love for myself, if only for a short and limited time. I try to hold onto the moment but it slips fast from my grasp. In the last lingering moments, I make a promise to myself. I will stop, I will find me. I will do all is in my power to know me, to let myself inhabit my body once again. I say to myself, “I am here.”

Emily's book "Glass Slippers: A Journey of Mental Illness" is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble online, and at Lopez Bookshop (Lopez, WA).  Blogger at [Creativity, Spirituality, Mental Illness] @moonflickerstone