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Say It Brave

The Sandwich

By Nōn Wels
I’ll tell you this: I know that my heart beats, I know that sandwiches can be freaking amazing with the right kind of spicy mustard, and that the knowing journey is a lifelong one, and it’s one worth seeking with all your feely heart.

“Just go eat a sandwich,” the man said to me.

I’m the human form of a funeral pyre, the spark as my steady shame and self-hate. My anger boils and I clench my toes as I walk beside him.

And yet I nod in silence, acquiescing to his flippancy. I nod because I don’t know better. I nod because I’m full of struggle and pain, and just trying to pass as normal. I nod because I almost died once from not eating anything—let alone sandwiches.

A year earlier, a Welsh doctor told me my heart would stop unless I made a life-altering shift. Like fully S-T-O-P, a sack of maroon mush in a gaunt vessel.

But my heart kept thumping its melody, despite my best efforts to kill the choir. And I made the shift the doctor seemed to want: from a boy swiftly dying to a boy slowly living.

I didn’t want my heart to stop. Not really. But what’s a heart without understanding what the heart’s for?

I had lived my life up until that point in a place of unknowing, an impenetrable cage around my heart, masked and fueled by repressed emotions, undiagnosed and unseen depression and anxiety, and a familial framework that made me feel I was alone.

So when the doctor delivered the life vs. non-life choice I had to make, I felt a sense of relief but also a tremendous amount of fear and uncertainty about a future I never thought I’d have…or deserved.

* * *

A year later, when the man told me to “just go eat a sandwich,” I was a faintly beating heart learning how to live for the first time. I was a year into recovery from disordered eating but still years away from knowing who I was.

When I heard the man say those words then, I was angry at him for not knowing my pain; I was angry at him for not understanding; I was angry at him for his triggering, stigmatizing retort.

But when I hear him now, replaying that exchange in my head fifteen years later, I realize that he didn’t know better—just as I didn’t know. 

And there is so much pain in not knowing. For decades, I didn’t know myself, and with that unknowing came heaps and bucket loads of anguish, heartache, self-destruction and self-hate. But I’ve been working on that for the past few years.

At 38 years old, I’m learning to fully know myself for the first time. Through therapy and introspection, through empathy and connection, through vulnerability and storytelling, through learning how to be witness to and honoring of my feelings, through looking back with compassion at my childhood aches, through creating difficult but self-loving boundaries, through finally recognizing (but still struggling with—because hey, I’m a feely human like you) that I am worthy, that I deserve love, and that I don’t need to be in pain.

I’ll tell you this: I know that my heart beats, I know that sandwiches can be freaking amazing with the right kind of spicy mustard, and that the knowing journey is a lifelong one, and it’s one worth seeking with all your feely heart.

Here’s to knowing.

 

Nōn Wels
Written by

Nōn Wels

Nōn Wels is a mental health advocate, writer, doggo lover, runner, empath and feely human who resides in Southern California. In his late teens and early twenties, he nearly died from a mixture of undiagnosed depression, anxiety and anorexia. Now, in his late 30s, Nōn shares his experiences openly to allow others to be seen and heard.

In 2018, Nōn created the “You, Me, Empathy” podcast to give others a safe space to feel their feelings and share their stories of mental health, recovery and personal triumph through eating disorders, mental illness, trauma and myriad ebbs and flows this wild wonder we call life throws our way.

In 2020, Nōn launched the first phase of The Feely Human Collective—a collaborative mental health community that serves to empower each of us to tap into our innate capacity for empathy, vulnerability and emotional wayfinding. The Feely Human Collective features workshops, an online journal, a podcast and shop. Later phases of the collective will include workshops in businesses and schools, in-person retreats, a live storytelling series and much more.

Finally, Nōn wants you to know you are worthy, you are loved, and you are not alone.

Follow Nōn Wels and The Feely Human Instagram. Follow the You, Me, Empathy podcast on Instagram.

Eating Recovery Center and Pathlight Mood and Anxiety Center are accredited through the Joint Commission. This organization seeks to enhance the lives of the persons served in healthcare settings through a consultative accreditation process emphasizing quality, value and optimal outcomes of services.

Organizations that earn the Gold Seal of Approval™ have met or exceeded The Joint Commission’s rigorous performance standards to obtain this distinctive and internationally recognized accreditation. Learn more about this accreditation here.

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