To the girl that I used to be...

I miss you.

I wouldn't be who I am now without you, but I miss who you were. How strong you were. How carefree you were. How healthy you were.

You are my rock. You remind me of simpler times. Times when I could eat without feeling sick, when I could play without a care in the world, when I could carry on through a day without worrying about medications or feeling ill.

I remember playing on the swing sets, wondering if I could go high enough to swing over the top bar. I remember eating McDonalds for dinner before performing in a school concert. I remember smiling because it was the only expression that my face knew.

Until I lost it. Until I forgot how. Until I failed you.

I lost all of the muscle in my face soon after your last carefree smile. I lost the innate ability to pull the corners of my mouth up and show the world how much I enjoy life. I lost the ability to light up the room with just my presence. I was no longer you. I no longer knew you.

You became a distant memory. You felt like someone I had met in a dream. Or maybe it was a nightmare, because no matter how hard I clenched my eyes and wished, I never got to meet you. I never got to experience the light you exuded or the pure delight that you embodied on a daily basis.

I never got to go back and be you... carefree ... happy... pain-free... blissful.

But I have the memories. The dreams that I have held close to my chest ever since. The images that flash before me in slow motion when old family photographs are discovered and shared around a holiday dinner table. I remember.

I remember you. I remember the smile that stretched across your face, filled with baby teeth that were ready to dance out of your mouth if they had the chance. I remember the smiles filled with holes once the teeth managed to escape. I remember the pure joy you were filled with when your parents dropped you off at a friend's house to play for a couple of hours. House. You practiced cooking. You would eat everything. Even plastic looked appealing to you.

I remember the local pool you used to go to for camp and the snacker that was set up with the most magical pizzas. I remember when your mom found those exact pizzas at the grocery store. They weren't the same, but you didn't complain. You just smiled as sauce dripped onto your white shirt.

I remember the holidays when you would shovel spoonful after spoonful onto your plate and then into your mouth of the chopped apples and walnuts mixture. It was your favorite. You ate over half of the portion. You only got it once a year, so you always made sure to make the experience – and all of your mom's effort – worth it. I can't even stomach a mouthful of it, anymore.

I remember meals being placed on the table and not knowing what they were. I remember friends handing you snacks you had never had before. I remember you eating it all and not getting sick. Not being in pain. Not wishing to be anywhere else besides your own skin.

I remember you and the happiness you brought to people. I remember you and all that you were.

I miss you.

But you are with me. You are a part of me. And I wouldn't be who I am without you.

I wouldn't know that life could be good.

I wouldn't know that life can get better.

I wouldn't remember how to smile.

I wouldn't remember how to live.

I'm still sick and I don't know if I'll ever be perfectly healthy again. But because of you I know what life can offer. I know how strong I can be. I know how to not let anything stand in my way. You taught me that.

And I am you.

And I am so thankful for you. And for everything you've taught me.

So to the girl I used to be, I'm still you, and I will continue to fight to be you, because I can't imagine a better person to be.