Chloe Mackenzie: Yoga, Stories & Second Chances

Chloe Mackenzie is a vinyasa yoga teacher, music lover and storyteller.

a painful, sacred goodbye.

two weeks ago my therapist decided it was time for me to write this. I had been dreading this letter, even though I could feel it coming. I knew I had to do it and every part of me didn't want to do it. I never write things I don't mean. I used to... and I don't anymore. old Chloe did that, this Chloe doesn't. so, I knew the stakes were high. I knew I had to believe every word. I had to live my goodbye. some days, I am going to fuck up. some days, I'm going to need this letter written on my arm. and some days, I'm going to be the woman who wrote this letter. I didn't want to share this because it makes it real. it makes it final. because I didn't want to share it, I knew it was the right thing to do. so here it is, my goodbye to my closest friend, my lover, my protector, my world, my death and my life. it's time I start a completely new life, without you, without us. I'm so sorry, and I'm not sorry at all. the is the end and the scary-as-hell beginning.

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my dear friend,

I wish I could write you a nasty breakup letter. I wish I could despise you and wish we never met. Some days, I do hate you and want nothing to do with you. And then I look back on my life and realize how many days and years you pulled me through. Without you, I don’t want to know what could have happened. And now, we have come to this… if I keep you around any longer, I don’t want to know what could happen either. 

You are familiar. You are safe. You are exciting. You are predictable. You are medicine. You are toxic. You are a refuge. You are invincible… until you are not. Until you almost killed me. Until you made my teeth brittle and my bones waste away. Don’t worry, I will never forget you. You have left permanent scars all over my body. Even still, I am ready to say goodbye. This one final goodbye.

Our relationship is not one that I can afford to hold on to any longer. You made me believe that I would have nothing without you. Like a bitter, vindictive ex-boyfriend, you are going to send me letters and melodies and beg me to come back. I finally believe I don’t need you. I have to believe I don’t need you, because I have nothing left to lose.

When I was sixteen I had no idea what a relationship with you cost. At first, you were nurturing and comforting. And you deceived me. Yes, I could have said no much sooner. But, really… could I? You wouldn’t let me say no to you. No was not an answer. Ever. And now I have found the power to say that one word I could never say, “No.” 

No, you will no longer rule my life. No, you cannot make me run myself into the ground. No, you will not keep me away from my relationships. No, you cannot distance me from my family. No, you do not empower me. No, you do not make me stronger. No, you do not give me control. No, you can no longer make me believe lies. No, you will not, can not EVER take my life. No, you cannot write my story, ever, ever again.

Before we part forever, I want to honor our relationship, as crazy as it sounds. (Yeah, I am crazy.) You saw me through some of the darkest days of my life. You set my mind as ease when millions of voices were screaming around me. You escorted me through panic attacks, heartbreaks and despair. You comforted me when I couldn’t turn to anything or anyone else. You were the magic spark that kept me alive and functioning. But just alive, not living. Though you gave me so much, you also took nearly everything I had. 

I cannot rewind time and tell you to “fuck off”. I have tried a thousand times in my dreams. But that is exactly what you want me to do… dwell on regret and shame, so that I will keep thinking about you. And as hard as it is to move forward... completely raw and bare and terrified, I am moving forward without you. With only the memory of you. I will honor you because you both tore me down and made me the strong-as-hell shitshow I am today. And I think I can take it from here.

I know I can take it from here. I have other people to help carry me through. I have the hope of real relationships without you. People who love me, though imperfectly, and people who want me to live. You are not the companion I need anymore. You are not the only one I can depend on. Yes, other people will disappoint me in ways you never did. Yet, connection will bring me back to life. I will live. Because I can live without you.

So this is goodbye, for good. For ever. Now, I am off to be a wife, a teacher, a friend, a daughter, a healer, a writer, a seeker, a storyteller, a traveler, a human being and yes… a shitshow. I release you. I release me. 

Goodbye, forever my old friend, 
my eating disorder,

Chloe

this I vow

recovery is all about relationships... your relationship to the world, your relationship to those you love and your relationship to yourself. I have never lived in a truly recovered body and mind over the past 4 years of marriage. and still, somehow, Josiah was able to see through the disorder. he was (and is) able to see my soul self even when I can't see it or find it. these are my new vows to you, my love... the product of this recovery journey, what has been and what is to come.

I love you.

For the past four years I have loved you with everything that I had.
And that was only a portion of me.
From this day forward I vow to love you
with my whole being.
My whole being I am finding,
now and forevermore.

I promise to never stop fighting
for me and for us
until we reach eternity.
And when we find heaven, 
I will still be standing by your side.
I will walk with you through the storms.
I will stand with you in the fire.
I will sail with you in any weather.
I will live with you forever.

Our love has proven to be unbreakable.
Together we can do anything,
go anywhere,
be everything,
as long as we keep loving
with the same grace and truth
that has ushered us through these years.
I will dance with you in joy.
I will weep with you in sorrow.
I will sit with you in pain.
I will journey with you
I will seek with you
I will pray with you
I will live with you

Everyday I wake up I will choose you.
I will choose life.
I will choose us.
If I ever forget, please remind me of this.
For where you go I will go, 
and where you stay I will stay. 
Your people will be my people
and your God my God.
Have faith in me.
I have faith in you.
I have faith in us.
Forever.

diary of a mad recovering woman

The following is an assignment I was given to communicate my anger & emotions towards my insurance company. Two weeks ago, insurance decided to cut me from residential treatment for two reasons: 1. My BMI was "apparently" what they deemed as "healthy". (even though an eating disorder is a mental illness and not a physical illness last time I looked it up in the DSM-5... but ya know whatevs.) 2. I was "complying" with the program well. (...except when you don't comply with the program you get kicked out of treatment? So you have to follow the program, but not too well. You have to stay sick enough to be in treatment... I guess treatment isn't supposed to help you, it's supposed to make you sicker?) I mean... I'm not bitter.

Thus, I wrote this letter. On Thursday, I am presenting another more personal (and a little more refined, yet still honest) letter, via my therapist, to my case manager to fight for more time in PHP (day treatment). Insurance is already wanting to cut me again after three weeks for the same reasons. Whatever the outcome of the review, I am going to try my hardest to keep doing the work with the resources I have within and around me. Thank you all for your support, your letters, your care packages and kind messages... you know I'm not going down without a fight. Thank you to all of the therapists and insurance liaisons who have fought for me to the point of tears behind the scenes. You are my angels. I have watched far too many fighters on this same journey walk out the doors far too early because of insurance bullshit. It's time we make our voices a little louder... A LOT louder. #YOUDONTKNOWME

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Dear Insurance,

How would you feel if I threw you on a scale and said, "Well you're healthy so you don't have to eat anymore!". Yes, that's dramatic. And... that's what you told my eating disorder when you cut me from treatment after a month. You've obviously never been to treatment or you would know that after one month of settling in and eating the damn food, you're just now starting to get somewhere... if you're lucky. I didn't yet know how to feed myself or even begin to comprehend all that living in recovery means. I had just started to believe I was exactly where I needed to be and I was committed to staying as many months as it took to grasp what recovery could feel like. And three days later you told me, "nope, you're done here." You are inhumane and greedy. You don't get it.

I wish you could see inside of my head... actually, I don't wish that upon anyone. But, for the sake of my case, I wish you could live in my mind for a day... maybe even an hour. And you would see how much I need to be here. You would see how debilitating and infuriating my mind feels. Every hour of the day I am tormented by thoughts of exercise, panic, depression and restriction. On paper, it may look like I'm doing fine, yet my body tells another story. My brain feels like it's on fire. I cannot unravel eleven years in 50 days. You don't know me and my story... or at least, if you do, you don't care. I need help. I need a lot of help. That is painful for me to admit... and it's true. That is what our healthcare system is for: to help people. And still, you pulled the plug.

How is it that you keep handing out medical marijuana cards like pennies to (some) people who abuse drugs or sell the product... and you won't support someone who is actually showing up and sacrificing their life for treatment? You pay billions of dollars every year for pharmaceutical drugs (some) people don't even take, but rather sell for a profit. And yet you only care that I cost you $1,800 a day... $1.25 a minute. Apparently, my life has a price tag... and I'm not worth that much.

This was my last straw. Did you know that? Did you know that I have carried this monster for almost half my life? Did you know that I had given up on recovery altogether? Did you know there were days I didn't want to live before I got to Rainrock? Did you know I crawled in the doors believing this was my last shot at life because I (literally) had nothing left to lose? And still, you pulled the plug.  

I'll give you credit for something: you're ignorant. So you believe I'm at a "healthy" BMI... by whatever equation you use. Maybe I am, maybe I'm not. I don't know who to believe anymore. I do know recovery is not a number or a percentage. My team says I still have a pretty good ways to go. Do you know what that does to me when I hear you say, "you've gained enough"? Do you know how hard you have made this already grueling process of body acceptance? You've really fucked with my head. And now I'm raw and confused and unsure and mad-as-hell and my mind is a war zone.

You cut me once and now you want to cut me again because I am "complying with the program". Did it ever cross your mind that I am "complying" because my life literally depends on it? Yes, I have gained weight because I'm following my meal plan... which is required to stay in treatment. I am choosing to gain the weight because my body has been tortured for half my life and I cannot live without extra nourishment right now. I am following the meal plan because I actually, truly want recovery.

So, it's obvious. I'm really damn angry. And... I refuse to let you dictate my recovery. I'm confused and a lot more hesitant now that you've altered my path. By some miracle I'm still here. It isn't even about the money (though I cannot stay in treatment without your financial help)... it's about the message. It's about you telling me "you're fine, you're good." I'm not fine. I won't even fake fine. I'm a shitshow and this shitshow is still showing up to the table six times a day to eat the damn food. The damn food you don't want to pay for anymore. No matter what you say, I'm going to choose life. I'm going to try my damn hardest to choose life, even if you don't. My choice is the hard choice, and I'm going to choose. I choose life. This is my life.

Pissed off and grateful,

Chloe

I am recovering to:

an excerpt from my journal to reread over and over and over. replace "Chloe" with your own name and read this to yourself. 

7.25.2017

I am recovering to contentment.

I am recovering to waking up with a clear mind, instead of a mind held captive to rules and scheduling and numbers and sweat.

I am recovering to dreams. To dreams being possible. To going back to school. To the hope of the next few years being mine and mine alone. To the days of claiming my own joy.

I am recovering to freedom. To the unleashing of chains which have bound my hands behind my back for half my life.

I am recovering to faith. To truth and uncovering what makes sense to me. To embracing what makes no sense at all. To the possibility of finding a God I never knew. A God who will meet me in my darkness and bask me in light.

I am recovering to intimacy. To a love and trust I have never known. To the arms of a being who loves me more than anything in this world. To allowing myself the privilege of fully loving with all my being. To tasting, feeling, accepting, embracing all that is love.

I am recovering to power. To discovering my unique strength as a woman, a wife, a daughter, a teacher, a friend. To claiming ownership of life and my twenty-four-hours-seven-days-a-week. To not letting lies seize my independence from bondage.

I am recovering to struggle. To experiencing pain and grief and anger and loss and sorrow. To welcoming them as my color palette, my saving grace, my greatest strength. To honoring my past with love and reverence.. that with connects my humanity with yours. 

I am recovering to uncertainty. To the dance in-between black and white. To the thrill and terror of the great unknown. To surrendering myself to purpose and belief. To black space between every star.

I am recovering to grace. To the permission to forgive myself. To the mercy underneath my skin. To the love of this holy vessel. To the mystery of what it means to be human. To be woman.

I am recovering to humanity. To being a part of the universal cry for justice and peace and understanding and equality and compassion. To joining in on the song of the outcasts, the strugglers, the left behind, the lost, the broken, the bleeding hearts, the misunderstood. To being a voice for those who do not have one. To empower the souls this world silences.

I am recovering to me. I am recovering for me. This time, I am recovering for me. Because you and I depend on each other. I am me because you are you. You are you because I am me. I am recovering to Chloe. Because this world needs Chloe. You need Chloe. I need Chloe. I want to know Chloe. To laugh with Chloe, to love with Chloe, to weep with Chloe, to sit with Chloe, to dine with Chloe, to sing with Chloe, to dance with Chloe, to believe with Chloe, to live with Chloe.

To live, to live. To live.

goodbye, goodbye, my love

through many tears, I release you. I release me.

this is in honor of the city that forever changed my life, my soul. forever.

I am sorry I have to say goodbye. I am so sorry.

july 27, 2017

my beloved city, my dear New York,

how do I say goodbye? I don’t know if I can. and the longer it takes for me to say those two words: good. bye. the more my heart is pulled apart day after day. I never got the chance to come home and give you a proper goodbye... a proper “see you soon”. I never got the chance to stand in an empty Harlem apartment with tears streaming down my face, wrapped in memories, in the sacred presence of who you are... who we were. I am sorry I could not come home to you and sprinkle the B & C trains with the dustings of honor and reverence. someday, I will make it back to say goodbye. until then, this is all I have... words and pictures and flashbacks and visions.

New York, I will admit. you scared the shit out of me at first. you threw challenges at me I never imagined I would face in my lifetime. you made me jaded and tough. and you cut heart open... my bleeding heart day after day. you made me love humanity and curse it at the same time. you revealed to me a world I have never known, a world that captured my heart and shattered it into pieces on the floor. you showed me pain. you brought me up-close-and-personal with our universal pain... the groaning of a fallen world and the grace and redemption in our struggle. you unleashed my creativity and my voice. you simultaneously nourished me and emptied me. your adrenaline pulsed through my veins and your colors set my heart on fire like I’ve never felt before. without you, I feel lifeless... what did I have to leave you? I know why. and I also don’t know who I am without your sounds, your rush, your heat, your melody, your poetry, your mystery.

I didn’t mean for it to end this way. I am sorry, sweet city. I am so sorry. I know you probably don’t miss me as much as I miss you... it probably doesn’t keep you up at night or cause tears to well in your eyes or shivers to radiate down your spine. I can still feel you, I can still see your eyes... thousands of stunning eyes. I can still smell the grit, the raw life seeping from the street. yet, I cannot touch you. I cannot embrace you with poetic rhythm and pictures of sunsets. I cannot heal the wounds you left wide open. I fear only you have the power to release me from bondage, from the longing of you and what used to be. only if I say goodbye. only if I can say goodbye. 

New York, I love you. you gave me my passion, my drive, my guts, my fierce edges, my forever love, my life. New York, I hate you. you nearly took my life, you supported my addictions, you whispered me lies, you convinced me I was nothing without an image. and still, I cannot hate you. because you are home. you are where I loved, where I was alive, where I was someone, where I mattered. I have not gotten over you. I don't know if I ever will... because you and I are connected. we can never be fully separated. because you are home. you chose me and I chose you. not because of your glittery lights, because of your narrative... your authentic, grimy, tarnished, scarred, glorious stories. stories imprinted on my heart, my body... forever. maybe one day in another time, another space... I can come home to say goodbye. or, I can come home to a "welcome home". for now, I have to say those two words that sting. those two words I've been holding back for eight months. those two words that feel like a dagger through my chest: good. bye. 

New York I love you, I hate you, I will always love you. I am because you are. in this moment, I have to let you go, I have to release you. I have to release me. maybe I'll see you soon... maybe I won't.

goodbye, goodbye my love,

chlomackie

until now: the masks

7. 19. 2017

you always told me

look on the bright side

hope in all circumstances

be joyful always

and I felt sorrow

deep, smothering sorrow.

and so I put on the mask of unshakable joy.

it made me presentable

it made you happy, so happy

it made me acceptable

it made me likable

it made me bubbly and light

it made me confused

it made me - the real me -

disappear.

it made me shrink.

it made me bury it. 

all of it.

it made me miserable

and it made you content.

as time went by

I fooled you

and I fooled me too.

until now.

 

you told me to die to self

you told me to serve

you told me to put others before myself

always.

you praised my selflessness

you were pleased with my helping hands

remaining perpetually open.

and my hands became

empty

I became empty

less than empty

and so I put on the mass of radical servanthood.

and I held you together

as I slowly fell apart

I gave you my whole self

and I lost myself.

you assured me me that this

was the path to joy...

giving up myself.

and I felt hollow

you made me believe this was the way

and so I believed you

and I didn't have needs

until now.

 

you told me I was good at everything

there was nothing I could not do.

I was amazing. 

I was intimidating.

I was gifted.

I was the envy of all.

and so I feared failure

fiercely

because failure was not allowed.

I did not fuck up.

that wasn't me.

anything less than (blank)

was not chloe.

and so I put on the mask of perfect.

you looked up to me

I could not let you down.

you aspired to be me

I could not met you down.

you praised and adored me

I could not let you down.

and I loved that you loved me

I had no other choice

backed into a corner of wonderful

and I thrived in this corner

until now.

 

you always needed to feel good

you always needed to have power

you implied my feelings didn't matter

just my smile

just my forced nod.

you told me to shove it down

no matter what it was.

you told me I didn't have an opinion

it didn't matter

so I put on the mask of smile-and-nod

and it made things easier

a hell of a lot easier

it never ruffled feathers

just smile

it made you feel heard

just nod

it made me a bobblehead

it made me invisible

until now.

 

you told me I had everything under control

you told me I was 10 going on 30

you told me I never needed an adult

I never needed help

I was strong and wise

and the truth is... I needed help.

I needed a lot of help

but that was not allowed

because it was already said

it was already decided

so I put on the mask of have-it-together.

have-it-ALL-together

it made you trust me. 

it made me feel confident

it made me feel trapped

it made me believe everything was okay

and if it wasn't okay, I could make it okay.

I could arrange it nice and neat

and filed away

I kept myself tight and contained

and organized 

and tidy

until now.

 

I refuse to let myself put on the masks

it stops here

I am exposed and uncomfortable,

messy and confused,

vulnerable and wandering

in the desert of my being.

you used to have power over me

until now.

I choose to wander.

I choose to be exposed.

I choose to be less pleasing.

I choose not to apologize.

I choose me. 

 

unraveling

Yet through all,
we know this tangled skein
is in the hands of One who
sees the end from the beginning;
He shall yet unravel all.
— Alexander Smith

I'm going to keep this as concise as possible. I've gone back and forth and back and forth in my mind, in my ego, in my soul... and finally, my deepest of depths told me, "You've told it all, why stop now?" I've shared this before, one of greatest therapists I have known once told me, "The stories we don't tell rule us." And so, I'll continue to tell, to write.

Last August, I did the scariest thing I've ever done in my life. I realized I had no other choice, if I wanted to stay alive, but to leave everything behind and admit myself into a residential treatment facility. At the time, I left silently and shamefully. Now, I have no shame at all. Because shame cannot exist where truth is spoken. I was in intensive treatment (on the "8th floor") for about 10 weeks. It was my first time in a residential treatment setting and I had no idea what it was going to be like. It was hell, it was worse than hell. And, it saved my life. Truly. It's why I'm still here today. When I discharged, my whole treatment team told me, "We believe in you. You're going to be the one we say goodbye to, you won't be needing to come back here. You are so strong." 

I believed them. I believed them with my whole heart. Until... I spent a few weeks in the world again. Feeling everything, trying to make sense of things on my own and figuring out how to live again with all of my go-to coping mechanisms gone. I quickly found myself back in a day treatment program wondering why the hell I was back here... How did I let myself slip? Why am I so weak? What the hell is wrong with me? Did I even remember all the hard work I had done? Where did it go?

I realized that my first time in residential treatment had one main purpose... to save my life. To ensure that my heart kept beating. I cracked open a few wounds, I journaled and grappled with words, and I talked with my therapist a bit about the past... yet, most of my work was: "How am I going to stay in treatment and accept the challenges that come everyday?"... not: "How am I going to live in recovery in the real world and face the demons that will surface?" It didn't take me long to understand, that I wasn't one-and-done. The deeper and deeper I dug into my story with my outpatient team, the more I could see what was underneath.

One day I opened my eyes. I looked down inside and saw this:

And that sounds like:

every. minute. of. the. day. (and that was only a 45-second sample)

Yeah, I know. HOLY SHIT THAT'S A F$%&ING MESS! I have tried and tried and fought every single day (with the help of my incredible outpatient team) to find the end of a few skeins, to start unraveling this mess (aka shitshow, if you've been around for awhile) and to silence the voices. No one does this on their own. No one can. Seeing a therapist once a week to make sense of this tenacious chaos just isn't possible... no matter how "strong" or "self-aware" you are. And so, day after day of staring down at this tangled mess, helplessly scouring for earplugs and feeling like my hands are tied behind my back, has driven me into the deepest, darkest, most crippling depression I have ever known.

I am always the one saying, "You are not alone, we can't do this alone." It's hardest to take your own advice (that's why therapists have therapists). The hard truth is: I can't do this alone. I can't keep unraveling this and fighting this depression safely on my own. So, I'm going away, for the second time (different facility), maybe not the last time... for some intensive-unraveling... to spend time in a safeguarded, supportive home where I can continue to uncoil this 26 year-shit-storm-knot and hush the voices one by one. 

One day, these tangled strings will be woven into something I cannot even fathom at the moment. It may be 10 years, 2 years, 20 years, 50 years... I do not have rose-colored glasses on anymore. Nevertheless, I will never stop unraveling, never stop fighting until this mess becomes something. some. damn. thing! Sometimes... we get stuck. We need extra help. We need people to shine a light on our own strength when we cannot see it for ourselves.

She wasn’t afraid of people in need because she wasn’t afraid of needing others. She didn’t mind extending kindness to others, because she herself relied on the kindness of others.
— brene brown

Even though it is the right thing. It is the hard-as-hell thing. I'll be missing my third wedding celebration... I'll be missing my husband's birthday... I'll be missing our fourth anniversary... And I'm doing this for all of us. For my family, for my dearest friends, for my fellow recovery ass-kickers, for my unbelievably patient and generous  husband, for my unrelenting parents... and for you. 

Yes you, because we are all connected, and I'm fighting for us. I'm fighting to be the best me for the beloved you.

I will miss you all deeply. This time, I will be (mostly) entirely cyber-disconnected. (Therefore, the internet will have a lot less Beyonce & cat posts for awhile) I love letters, and will still be writing daily, so if you would like to be a part of the unraveling and/or would like a companion in your own unraveling (I'm a good listener), please contact me, send me your address and I will send you mine. It is my honor to continue journeying with you. Thank you for your unconditional love, your wholehearted grace... for your support and messages and songs and speechlessness and love letters and prayers and tears and gifs and laughs and you-go-glen-coco's.

one thread at a time,

to the moon and back my loves,

chloe