National Eating Disorders Association

Stories of Hope

My Surrender to Hope
By Kate Ryan Singer

It was a warm and bright April morning and all of New York City seemed to have come alive with the return of the warmth after a long winter.

 

I, on the other hand, was still frozen.

 

I woke up that morning with that all too familiar pit in my stomach, made my way to the window and lit a cigarette. Through the glare of sunlight, I found myself staring out onto the streets of Murray Hill. My eyes focused on the scene below and I began analytically fantasizing about the scene before me. Hundreds of people were scattered about the sidewalks below. Only a few floors up, I could see their faces. I could almost read their lips. I watched in wonderment as they moved about, seemingly dancing through this Sunday morning.  They all seemed so…. ALIVE.

 

I watched as they pushed strollers, immersed in conversation and laughter. I watched the couples holding hands and playfully gazing back at one another. I watched children trying to run ahead and worried parents chasing after them. Even the dogs that accompanied their families seemed to be engaged in the excitement of the morning bustle. There was this sense of community; a world coming together, united by sunshine and contentment.  They were all there living and breathing in the livelihood around them- and I was watching. I was watching and examining and dissecting every move they made. I was trying to read their minds- creating stories. I was observing from the outside. It was a tremendously fascinating experiences but simultaneously it was heartbreaking. All of these people living in the world below had become, to me, a foreign species- aliens even. It was completely disorienting. From the outside, I looked like one of them- but I certainly didn’t know anything about being one of them. Not anymore, at least.

 

I must have sat there, staring out that window, for hours…. I created countless narratives in my mind about the world that existed on the other side of the glass…. a world I desperately wanted to comprehend.

 

It was that morning in the haze of cigarette smoke and the faint beginnings of a horrible hangover that I realized I was dying.

 

Looking back it’s hard to believe that this was some grand revelation. For years I had been starving myself, limiting my caloric intake to less than what would sustain a small child. I spent my days running like a machine, performing for the world around me. My evenings were fully invested in trying to achieve a magically balanced disassociation- in a delicate balance of substance abuse and eating disordered behaviors. I had nearly mastered the process- drinking enough to maintain the fog but not so much that the calories would undo a hard days work. There had been dozens of times where I wondered if I was going to collapse on the subway as I clung to the metal pole on the ride home in the wee hours of the morning. Yet, even then, I was more concerned about how that would look to the people around me than with what it would mean for my potential to keep going. Because, really, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to keep going at all….

 

Five years have passed since then. I will save that roller coaster ride for another time and simply say this:

 

 In five years, life hasn’t changed a bit- but I have- and that is nothing short of a miracle.

 

These days when I look back at that girl sitting by the window, I can hardly believe she existed within me. I gaze down at the scars on my arms, almost forgetting that I was the one to put them there. Today, I walk among those I once saw as aliens. I am alive in this world… and looking up, I have such deep compassion for that frightened and lost little girl in the window. Sometimes I wish that I could soar back through time, look into her eyes and tell her that this is not how her story has to end. Sometimes, want to scream and shake her…. beg her to stop…. force her to see the beauty that I see. But I can’t. And there is such profound meaning in that fact because it is what drives me to keep going. That fact is my constant reminder that not a moment of my journey will ever go to waste- each and every piece of pain and turmoil has purpose.

 

I will never be able to go back but I can certainly go forward, with the strength, wisdom and grace,  that carried me to where I am….and reach out my hand to someone else.

 

I have been blessed with an incredible second chance, and today I choose to use each breath to carry the message that there is hope. There is hope and healing and laughter and joy…. and its out there just waiting for us to surrender to it. That’s right…. surrender.

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