Teenagers at the age of 16 are in most cases starting their first dates and first kisses. Join guest author Emily Kirsh on her journey through “Life Without Bev” as she shares her life journey of self-loathing, guilt and anorexia from the passing of her father and how she found the strength to move on and do great things in her future.
Written by Emily Kirsch and edited by Danielle Sepulveres
At the age of sixteen, most girls are experiencing a case of the “firsts”. First dates, first kisses, possibly even a first sexual experience. They are also rebelling; fighting who their parents want them to be and discovering their independence. Teenagers get the unique opportunity to live briefly in an easy world where the consequences of their actions do not factor into their decisions.
The night of February 14, 1998 I learned all about what would be my personal version of the “firsts” and how they would all change my life forever in one split second. Life would never be “easy” again. My father died of a heart attack that night. According to the doctor, he died before he even hit the floor. Was that supposed to be comforting? What did not comfort me was learning that he died at another woman’s home. A woman whose name I had never heard spoken in my own house: Beverly. My mother explained that Beverly had been a family friend for years, but I could not get past the thought that I had NEVER heard this woman’s name before in my life. I was sixteen, not stupid. And I was devastated. My parents had been married for thirty-two years and happy as far as I could see. Why would my father
be at another woman’s home on Valentine’s Day? I had so many questions but with my father’s wake and funeral to plan, now was not the time.
The wake was where I had my first interaction with Beverly. My mother introduced me to her as if Beverly was simply another mourner. Being a sedated, emotional wreck of a teenager, I wasted no time telling her what I thought of her, and didn’t hesitate to profanely ask what my father was doing at her house on Valentine’s Day before telling her to get the hell out of my sight. And she did leave. But there I was. My father gone and no answers to my questions. We buried him on February 18th, and then I was supposed to let go and move on with my life. Let go of my loss, let go of some woman named Beverly, let go of my anger. At sixteen, I was far from doing any of those things, and over the next fourteen years I would hit upon a downward spiral of self-loathing, guilt, anorexia, and drug addiction.
Over the first few years, I found an outlet in calling Beverly and leaving her threatening messages on her answering machine. I could not contain my blood boiling anger towards her. In my mind, she had ruined everything. My entire belief system of the family I thought I had; of whom I knew my father to be. And now I was realizing that perhaps I didn’t know my father at all. But, what teenager truly knows their parents? And why did I have to confront my ignorance at such a tender age? I blamed Beverly for all of these things but at the same time I began to blame myself. I obsessed and self-medicated and starved myself as punishment. I thought taking control of my body would help me to let go of everything that been beyond my control. I had tried therapy and bereavement counseling, but Beverly and my father’s dirty little secret was always front and center in my mind.
As every anniversary of my father’s death approached I felt a bigger void in my life. He would miss more and more of my life’s events: my high school graduation, my college graduation, my years of suffering from anorexia and drug addiction, my wedding, and then my divorce. I just could not reconcile the image of the man I had known for sixteen years of my life with the one I had after he left me with all these unanswered questions. After fourteen years of abuse to my body, mind,
and soul and another anniversary of my father’s death approached, I made a decision to locate Beverly. I wanted to rid myself of my anger, my pain, my suffering, my addiction, my father’s death, and finally
The phone rang in tune with my pounding heart, and even though it had been fourteen years, I immediately recognized her voice. I paused, and then identified myself. And so our conversation began. We spoke for thirty minutes about the night my father died. I explained what an impact my father dying at her home had on my life and the path that it had sent me down. I also explained that I was not that teenage girl she encountered so many years earlier and I now needed to let go of the past and move forward with my life. She answered my questions and I thanked her for her time. She told me I could call her anytime to ask her about my father, but I knew in my heart there would be no need. I finally had my closure and realized whoever she was or whatever she had done, that it had just been easier to direct my anger at her instead of my father. This had been between me and my father, but now it had to be between me and me. The me that should have started developing all those years ago when I lost him. The me who could still have the bright undisturbed future I imagined when I was sixteen. As painful as it all was, I needed to let it go to get to where I needed to be for myself. I believe now that life is truly about letting go of your past, so that you can find strength to move on and do great things in your future. I will never forget my father, and will always keep him in my heart, only now I have let him go to rest in peace, so I can be a better me.
Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life — Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.TM Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.
What have you accepted in your life that took time, physically or mentally?
I accept that I cannot be “perfect” both physically and mentally. Struggling with an eating disorder for so many years my focus was for my mind & body to be flawless. I realize now that even though I still struggle it is ok to not be “perfect”. Most importantly, I need to be healthy mind, body, & soul.
What do you appreciate about yourself and within your life?
I appreciate my determination to stay focused on my recovery from drug addiction and Anorexia. I have fought for my life knowing that I did not want either disease to claim me or define me as a person.
What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What goals do you still have?
My most rewarding achievement is overcoming my drug addiction. However, I still have to work at it every day. The goals that I still have are to complete my memoir, so that hopefully sharing my story will help others. Also, I would like to have a family.
What is your not-so-perfect way? What imperfections and quirks create your Identity?
My not=so-perfect way is that I am very critical of myself. I always feel that I am not good enough, or that I can do better. The imperfections and quirks that create my identity are I talk really loudly when I am excited. Also, I am very emotional; I cry over spilled milk.
How would you complete the phrase “I Love My…?”
I love my family and friends for being such a wonderful support system and sticking by me as I traveled down a dark path and for them helping me find my way back to the right path.