That’s what I remember most, being incurably and irrationally cold. No matter how many blankets I stacked on top of myself or how many pairs of socks I wore, the marrow of my bones remained cold as ice. It didn’t matter if the room was 80 degrees or 30, I shivered like I was naked in the Arctic.
I remember wearing sweatshirts to lifeguard even when it was 90 degrees in the sun, my lips turning blue when I had to wade ankle-deep in the water. I remember spending my free hour in the morning laying on a wool blanket on the beach, wearing as many layers as I could handle, trying so hard to let the sun soak in. It rarely did.
I remember standing in the shower of my sorority house with the hot water turned up as high as it could go, trying to let the heat penetrate my skin, feeling nauseous and seeing little black spots cloud my peripheral vision. It was one of the many times I lost consciousness in that tiny shower stall, and every time I prayed for it. If I wasn’t conscious, I didn’t have to feel that bone-chilling cold that gnawed away at my insides and made me want to disappear.
The first day I started feeling warm again was about 2 months into treatment, when I was in the partial hospitalization program. Suddenly I didn’t want the space heater turned up to 90 degrees, and I certainly didn’t want it right next to me. I stopped wearing sweaters and started wearing t-shirts. I was surrounded by patients who were still cold, but I wasn’t anymore. Sometimes I would even sweat a little, and right before I started feeling disgusting I would take a moment to be proud of the fact that I was able to feel the warmth that I’d been missing for so many months.
I still feel cold, of course. New England winters are fairly brutal, and my parents are sticklers about not turning up the heat too high in our house. But even when it drops to 8 degrees outside, I am still warmer than I was that 45 degree day in September when I passed out at the football game, or that 60 degree day in October when I saw stars in my psychology lecture. I no longer have to feel the miserable chill that means I am slowly but surely killing myself.
On the worst days, that is what I remind myself of. When I feel worthless and scared and depressed and Ed swoops in to reassure me, I remember the cold and I tell him to f*** off. I deserve to encounter temperature the way it’s supposed to be. I am meant to sweat when it’s 90 degrees, not grab an extra sweater. I am meant to feel the sun on my face and bask in the warm glow. Heat is a gift. Recovery has given it to me, and I will not let Ed take it back.