When Tammy Spoke

Weeks into an in-patient program, I had a comfortable clique formed: Arianna had anorexia nervosa, expensive highlights, and infectious energy; Lori had creative projects, bipolar disorder, her own physical therapy business, and clothes right off the runway. We were exclusive, and I loved it.

Then Tammy was admitted. She smelled like an ashtray, jeans stopped an inch above her ankle socks, haircut too short, and her luggage had Duct Tape around the handles.

After she went through the admission process, Nurse Debbie asked our clique to, “Show Tammy the ropes.”

Absolutely not, I thought.

Arianna decided to spearhead the request, and invited her to sit beside us as we watched Miss Universe. Tammy sat next to me on the floral sofa, so I got up and moved to the floor without making eye contact. Tammy told us about the discounts from her part-time job at Marshalls. Lori asked Tammy to come to yoga with us. I looked at Lori and Arianna, mouthed stop it, but neither acknowledged me.

The days that followed, when Tammy spoke I pretended she didn’t. When she came into the room, I got up and left. At meal time, I refused to laugh at her jokes.

“Why do you associate with her?” I asked Arianna.

“Why don’t you?” Arianna asked back.

I grew so frustrated with even the image of Tammy, it made me want to stab pumpkins or throw paintings out a 12-story building.

Then, she was transferred into my class. As group started, one of the leaders asked us to share what in our life was worth living for. Tammy volunteered to go first.

“Nothing,” She said.

I wanted to look away from her again, but couldn’t.

She continued, “I’ve a job that only lets me work four hours a week. No friends. I burn myself on the weekends because no one calls me to go out. In my apartment, there is a trail of clothes and old food from the hallway to my bedroom. I do everything on my bed. I’ve had nothing to come home to besides my 22-year-old cat, but she just died of cancer, and now my family won’t let me get a new one because I can’t pay the vet bills. I’ve nothing in my life worth living for.”

I cried; I cried deeper. I had judged Tammy so harshly. Since in treatment, I had caused her more pain, because I could. Then I saw myself for the very first time: I was Tammy, we were the same. Both of us were miserable and couldn’t find a way out. The person I hated wasn’t her…it was me.

I decided, and still decide, to never be the person who hurt Tammy again.

It’s ok to feel that darkness of not knowing self-love, because to feel it will serve you. Who we think we are meets the person we actually are, and it just takes a decision followed by commitment to change again, and again, and again. Don’t be afraid to look at yourself fully, surrender, and endure it.

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