My name is Meredith McKelvey. My mother is the founder of Woodland Star, and I am an alumni of the school. After being incessantly bullied at a larger school in Nairobi, I went to Woodland Star for two years when I was thirteen and fourteen years of age. Now I’m eighteen, on a gap year, and wrapping up an internship here.
As I sit at my laptop, writing this piece for the Woodland Star storyboard, it’s my recovery birthday. This time last year, I was thinner than my ten-year-old sister. My loved ones, doctors, teachers, even people on the remote boundaries of my existence, were afraid for my life.
I think everyone goes through some sort of “tragedy.” I think most people go through several. My great tragedy, so far in the two decades my life has nearly spanned, was an eating disorder. Even though it’s been a year, I still directly feel the aftershock of everything that I went through.
For over six months, I lost so much weight that with it I thought I let go of everything defining me as “weak.” I decided to commit to everything that I wanted to be: a runner, a high academic achiever, an artist. And these things I achieved, although in the process I became more vulnerable than ever. The only thing I forgot to commit to was myself, and, as a result, all of the success I felt with my eating disorder was only an isomer, a half-story.
It’s been a year since I chose life. I remember the decision, on my last “real” day of active anorexia. I was running outside. On the fourth mile, I felt my shin bones creak, laced with agony. Osteoporosis, the decay of the bones. Soon my heart started pulsing a splintering, off-kilter, painful beat. Loss of muscle in the organs. Yet still I persisted, sprinting my final lap, my mind in a state of euphoric control. The seal on the tomb.
It was then, on one grueling run out of many, that I realized my body could not go on any longer. Suddenly, all the hundreds of concerns that I had heard from the people in my life crashed upon me, catching me off my guard. I went to sleep that night both deeply understanding and fighting the choice in front of me.
Since then, I have fought through exactly three-hundred and sixty-five days of tortuous, glorious recovery. For fifty-two weeks, or twelve full moons, I survived the statistically most lethal mental disorder. This fight has been, and still is, a beautiful one, filled with both shattering grief and unexpected joy. Never before have I experienced something so fully embodying the duality of life, the ouroboros of dawn and dusk.
It’s my recovery birthday, and I suddenly realize how grateful I am for the people around me. Without them I would not be here, today, walking on this ground, climbing the mountain of recovery one day at a time. Without them I would not be slowly unraveling the greatest accomplishment one could ever master: learning to love a life with myself in it.
I want to thank everyone who’s been a part of my journey, whether you knew you were or not. To everyone in the Woodland Star community who fed me, listened to me, who touched my life in some way, thank you endlessly. As I drift away from my internship here and onto the coming adventures, I owe some part of this success to you. It has been a privilege to share my story with you.