Content warning: disordered eating and eating disorders
I’ve been an unreliable narrator.
I don’t know why I did it. Or do I? Maybe I do.
Maybe I feared people would start treating me differently. Maybe I wanted my language to become so fictional that I could believe my real life was fiction too. Maybe I feared what you would think. Maybe I feared what I would think.
But I can’t do that anymore.
This isn’t going to be a feel-good column. It’s just going to be honest, because every other time I’ve written columns for this paper, I’ve romanticized my struggles.
For so long, I wanted to make them convenient plot points, something acceptable enough for, say, family friends to read on Facebook. I wanted punchy sentences replete with the perfect bon mots. I wanted a beginning and an end, a perfect arc, maybe even a good denouement. I wanted a good story.
Most of all, I wanted something I could tie up with the neatest little bow, all to say: “Here I am! I’m totally OK, look at this story! My challenges can be conveniently explained and wrapped up in 850 words!” Which, of course, is a lie. Just look at how many exclamation points I used.
I’m not surprised I have this tendency in my writing, given that craving linear progress is my MO in real life. (I’m working on it.) Still, I’m not sure I want to write about these challenges at all anymore. Or maybe I do. When I look back on college, the things no one knew are what I remember most.
To be clear: I’m not in the business of exploring those challenges here because they already get enough air time in my brain, and I have a therapist. I’m not interested in making them sound interesting because they don’t deserve it. They don’t make me unique. They aren’t poetic. They are parasites. They are intruders. They are not me.
But I can tell you some things.
I can tell you that I’ve suffered breathtaking depression throughout college, even though “depression” seems like a rather insipid term for the neurochemical terrorist I’ve lived with for years. I can tell you that I’ve suffered from a devastating eating disorder that I will be healing from for a very long time. I can tell you there were times I didn’t think I’d see my 21st birthday. I can tell you the wounds run very deep — down to places I can’t see, places where they’ve crystallized into scar tissue that will always remain. And I can tell you that sometimes I’m terrified I’ll be paralyzed by the pain forever, frozen like one of those ancient bugs that have been suspended in amber for a million years.
There’s a lot more, but I don’t want to share it. I’m not ashamed. There are just some things, I’ve learned, that only belong to me.
I’m not baring these struggles because I think they have a point, because they don’t. They are not part of a larger narrative about how struggle has “made me into the person I am today.” They just are.
Suffering doesn’t need to have meaning. We don’t always have to be grateful for our struggles; maybe we can just be proud that we found a way to hold ourselves through them and survive. So that’s what I’m doing.
And as I leave UC Berkeley, I’ve begun to make peace with the path I chose, because it was a beautiful one.
I chose great friends. I chose English and journalism. I chose The Daily Californian. I chose therapy. I chose to say no when it mattered. I chose to say yes when it mattered. I chose to not go to class sometimes. I chose to sleep in till noon when I needed and/or wanted to. I chose to do only what feels good right down to the marrow. I chose to accept that relapse, backsliding and struggle will always be part of the equation. I chose to accept that I did the best I could at this school. I chose to carry on.
I chose life. I choose life. I choose my life.
I know that again and again, I will be hurt. Again and again, I will be challenged. Again and again, I will redefine my bests and worsts. Again and again, I will question why I should continue, but then I do. Again and again, I will choose this life. Whatever it is, whatever it will be, I choose it. Again and again and again.
So here I am, listening to the twinkle of my laptop keys, feeling utterly relieved. It feels good to be honest. It feels good to let go. It feels good to have no plan. I may be scared, but I’m also a speck of dust.
I’ll only be here briefly, so why would I want to be sure of anything in this strange and glorious place?
So here I am, gathering myself up, giving extra care to the parts I know are most tender. I look out before me and I can see the pieces of myself, a spectrum, a million different shades ready to catch and glitter in the sunlight.
Here I am.
Hanna Lykke joined The Daily Californian in spring 2019 as a copy editor and co-hosted the 2019 podcast “Everything is Over” produced by the multimedia department. She was a deputy night editor in fall 2019, the paper’s first sports copy chief in spring 2020, a news reporter in summer 2020 and spring 2021, a deputy opinion editor in fall 2020 and a member of the editorial board from summer 2020 to spring 2021. She also occasionally wrote recipes for the blog department and hosted virtual office karaoke. She is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in journalism.