I had a conversation last year with my parents over dinner at one of their favorite restaurants. It was an unusual circumstance, just the three of us. No kids, no siblings, no significant other. Somehow we talked about my teenage years, which is that taboo, elephant in the room that has remained mostly unspoken except when my dad waxes nostalgic and starts ruminating about how sad he feels that I had such a difficult time in my life.

This was different. I initiated the topic or more accurately rolled into it from whatever topic we had started. I was talking about the spiritual implications of my choice to be anorexic and in spite of having been hospitalized twice, I would not change a thing.

My mom looked up at me and proclaimed, “You were only hospitalized once.” Dumbfounded, I was silent for much longer than I wanted. Finally I found my voice and protested, recalling each time with vivid detail. But my parents were adamant. And by the end of the dinner, I found myself on shaky legs.

On the drive home, I hadn’t fully identified that my core was crashing down in an avalanche. But by the time I crossed the threshold of my home, my sanctuary, my safe space, it was clear.

Buried in the pile of ancient rubble, I found myself questioning my memory, my experience, my very sanity. Could I have made it up? Was I that deluded? The fiber of what I think we consider our reality in the world was no longer intact. And if so, wouldn’t that mean everything was up for grabs?

I immediately retreated to our basement and the massive storage area housing everything from furniture to old childhood mementos. In a musty box, I located my journals. Plain spiral bound notebooks that were my lifeline as a teenager. I started digging them out like a prisoner in search of redemption. As I located the journal from my 10th grade year, I found my words. The story of my first time in the hospital psychiatric ward, the month returning home and then the second time in the hospital. I felt an exhale, and yet my breath caught on a spoke of mistrust.

For the next week I was consumed with doubt, wondering if my fragile hold on sanity was just a fabricated ruse. And I also found myself fuming in anger towards my parents. After so many years, they still had the upper hand on my reality.

Of course, my unwavering partner in life didn’t have a shred of doubt. After 20 years around my family, he had been subject to the revisionist history they practiced with great skill.

I thought about ordering records from the hospital itself, wondering if they were even available 25 years later. Ultimately, the records weren’t really for me, but to prove to my parents because my words didn’t feel like enough.

My conundrum lay in whether or not to vindicate myself. To make them stand trial and lose once and for all. Somehow symbolically righting all of the wrongs – all of the lies.

But somehow the word “lies,” stood out, tinged by my own righteousness. I thought about my parents and their highly tuned survival mechanisms. From leaving the comfort of their country and finding their success in a resentful and sometimes hostile new land to their denial that their kids were anything but Indian and that we were a happy family. They had stories woven together that made their reality something palatable and far from the terrifying version that would sink them. And with that backdrop, a child who had lost the will to live under their watch would not do. It could not. And so I could see how while my survival hinged on holding on to the truth, my parents’ precariously stood on the opposite.

I decided to let go of my grand jury trial and quietly nurture the verdict myself. Ironically, I hadn’t spoken to my sister about all of this until long after the storm passed. When I did, her outrage caught me by surprise. Although 4 years younger, she vividly recounted that time in our shared history. Her story was of the one who watched powerlessly, engulfed in a situation that brought no escape. I don’t know if she tried to forget or rewrite, but I suspect even if she wanted, she could not.

Now, a year later, I question truth, perspective and holding on to our stories. Mine is wrought with pain, resentment and even a sense of abandonment. In holding on to my version and giving it validation that was not only denied but stolen from me, I am also holding on to the very emotions from which I wish to be free.

I am not sure how to untangle the two – validating my experience and holding on to the pain. On some level, I have to stop fanning the flames in order to feel reprieve. Where do I detach my need to make the story true and let go into my forgiveness? I feel that place at my core where the avalanche still rumbles and realize that part of my own drowning comes from a fear that I will forget. That somehow by remembering I am preventing recurrence. I am protecting myself. Yet, my fierce holding on is only causing me to suffer the pain even today. The distrust of my own experience and need to prove its existence, only serves to perpetuate the very thing from which I run.

And so the little girl who found herself unable to distinguish the funhouse mirrors from real remains intact. And while the mirrors were not mine to start, I have the power to bring them down. To do it, I must allow that fear that maybe I’m simply crazy to come into the light and trust that the mirrors I have chosen to surround myself with today will show me my truth, my strength and the beauty of one who has survived into love.

A love which starts with a little girl whose parents really only wanted the best for their family in a foreign and sometimes hostile new land.