Today, for the first time in three years, I bought a new pair of jeans.
I am devastated.
I woke up this morning at an ungodly hour for a day off. My first inclination was to stay in bed all day and, in all honesty, not eat. But instead, I decided I wanted some retail therapy and to blow my grocery money (a mere $20) on something to help me feel good about myself. My wardrobe is made up entirely of “sick” clothes. Clothes that by all rights I should not be able to fit into. I am not 100 lbs anymore and haven’t been for a long time now. But I still haven’t let go of what that number stands for.
I went to T.J. Maxx, the site where I had my first realization that I had an eating disorder my freshmen year of college. Now, a 24 year old woman, I knew as I walked in the store that this would probably ruin my day off. Sure enough, I left the fitting room with the familiar chokehold on my throat that had seized me 6 years ago. But instead of running out and crying to my mother on the phone, I bought some soup and Christmas chocolate and walked home. I cried all the way. I cried when I got home. I ate the soup, I ate chocolate, and I went to sleep for 6 hours. I woke up, and now I’m crying some more.
Anorexia is a disease. It is an addiction, and when you choose recovery, you have to deal with symptoms of withdrawal. Addiction tames you before it hurts you. As awful as it makes you feel, it also makes you feel high and invincible. Nothing can touch you. I miss that. I miss feeling like I had skin made of steel. Now I just feel ripped open and vulnerable with mangled guts for anyone to sink their hands into.
So yes, I am devastated. I know that is a strong word to use in regards to the simple act of buying new clothes. But to someone with an eating disorder, it’s not just a pair of jeans. It is a scarlet letter burning, ”I’m not good enough.” Now they’re sitting untouched in a bag at the end of my bed waiting to see if I’ll be strong enough not to return them and exchange them for bad habits.
I’ve come to realize that freaking out about the future is a regular occurrence after you graduate. It’s not just a 20-minute plot-line of a sitcom that is dealt with and forgotten by the next episode. No. So far it’s been a HBO mini-series with infuriating cliffhangers and no laugh track.
As I’ve mentioned before September is a rough time for me, and by the end of this month, I was feeling really low and not like myself. Ruminating a lot, feeling lethargic, and being hypersensitive to everything going on around me. I was second-guessing every decision, worrying about what I’m “supposed” to be doing, and letting fear of failing or getting hurt hold me back.
But then October 1st hit and suddenly I went from neurotic basket-case to employed, optimistic (but still neurotic) soon-to-be 24 year old. How this can happen in less than a day is beyond me, but I’m just going to go with it. I’m fairly certain it’s something I’m going to have to get used to for the rest of my life.
I’m not very good at change, or rather the anticipation of change. I’m told constantly it’s a common flaw in eating disorder patients, but I personally believe it’s a quality shared by the entire human race so I don’t really feel like I should have to apologize for it. Once I’m in it I’m usually okay, but that moment before the jump is when I start to sweat. Recently, I think a lot of that has to do with feeling like I need to make up for lost time. With everything that has happened in the last five years, I’ve put so much pressure on myself to do good and be good. It’s too much. I didn’t have control then, and I don’t have it now. And if there’s anything I’ve learned since I’ve graduated, it’s that life is more enjoyable when you go with the flow.
Last week I was freaking out about my birthday that’s coming up in a month. I’m turning 24. That number sounds dreadful. 24. That’s almost 25, which is halfway to 30, which means I need to get my shit together and why is everyone getting married and having kids, what the hell am I doing, who am I, I need to live my life to the fullest DEARGODBUILDMEATIMEMACHINE
….then again, it also sounds, dare I say, exciting? Aside from money, there’s very little holding me back. I’ve got an amazing family and group of friends I can always count on. For the first time ever, I’m not ruled by classes and homework. I’m done with school – I have been dreaming about this since naptime in preschool. I’m single, and not that I’d ever let anyone hold me back, there is a certain freedom in that. I can just work my ass off and in my free time pursue all the things that I like, which mostly consists of coffee, books, and music. I have no obligations to anyone or anything, except to myself. When I think of it that way, 24 sounds pretty freakin’ awesome!
I really need to remember that thought whenever I panic about the future because, as calm and collected as this post sounds, I will freak out again. It’s just in the nature of every 20-something year old. And I’m not going to fight it because even in the midst of my string of panic attacks and days of self-doubt, I’ve felt a growing sense of hope in me that’s been getting stronger and stronger since this summer.
No, I don’t have a 5-year plan, but I do have the next 5 days planned, and that’s a start.
The most valuable lesson I’ve taken away from recovery is to never apologize for showing feeling because it only means you’re apologizing for the truth. Learning to speak my mind was the greatest gift recovery gave me. I am a much happier person for it.
Sometimes I just want to say, FUCK THE TRUTH, and let it fester away and die.
It is hard for me to admit that I need other people, as well as their support and love. It’s terrible to need. I hate it. Somedays it’s hard to no longer live in a body sheathed with the ironclad armor of an eating disorder. Empty is strong and invincible. When I feel overwhelmed and vulnerable, it’s a tempting to retreat back into its’ shell… I miss the days when my eating disorder and depression were secrets. I know it seems a bit contradictory to have a public blog dedicated to my recovery and struggles when at times I feel crippled by shame and loathing and guilt, but I know deep down it’s too late to go back. I can’t hide this part of me, and even if I could, I shouldn’t. One of the reasons I started this blog was to accept that. Secrecy feeds eating disorders.
It’s lonely when such a big part of your life is secret to your friends… but sometimes I wish I was strong enough to be alone, than risk losing more people I care about or infecting them with this disease that is so damn hard to understand.
I can’t starve the fear out of me.
I’m going to apologize in advance for any lack of grammar and eloquence this post may contain. I’m upset and in my experience, those things tend to go out the window when I’m in such a state.
I either want to be locked away so no one can see me or I want someone to wrap their arms around me and smother every bit of doubt pulsating through me with kisses and snuggles. A tad contradictory, I know. But I feel like such a nuisance and am embarrassed of my disordered thoughts and momentary breakdowns. All of a sudden, I feel utterly disgusted with my body and life for reasons that probably have nothing to do with my weight, but of course, I will fixate on. Why? Because weight has a simple solution. Exercise, starve - problem solved. Associate weight with any other problem and with every pound you lose, your problems will shrink as well.
That’s how eating disorders work. Or at least, one way they work. Eating disorders and depression are far too intricate to have just one explanation. Either way, it’s just a lie presented in a pretty little package begging to be unwrapped, and right now I feel like a 4 year old waiting to rip open every present under the Christmas tree.
I’m scared. I thought I was doing so well. I exercise moderately. I eat moderately. I’ve been feeling good and confident. Then I go out and socialize, indulge in things that I like, and then feel like utter shit after. I just - asdfghjklasdfgwhatthefuck?! Is this how life is always going to be? Take a couple days off from exercising and suddenly I’m the victim of self-abuse? Has the progress I’ve made these past 3 months been an illusion? I don’t think so. Then whyyyyyy? Will I ever get to a place where I can do things without a free pass from exercising or starving? A place where if something unexpected or bad happens, I don’t immediately fixate on my body and beauty. I just can’t imagine a world like that. Not today at least…
I’m grateful for the growth my struggles have given me, but god dammit, I hate this fucking disease. I hate my polluted blood. There are days where I just get so mad that this happened to me. Days where I do nothing but cry over the person I might have been if it had been different and pine after the years I’ve lost to this disease.
And the sky above my head is very grey.
September is a triggering month for me. Maybe it’s because I hit my lowest moment this month three years ago, but September always eggs me on to breakdown. I start to feel scared and unsure of myself. My head is suddenly covered wall-to-wall with mirrors, and the space between my elbow and wrist prickles when I think too hard. The changing leaves begin to fall in a flurry of bad memories and feelings. I’m constantly pulled down by waves of fear, struggling to keep my head above water.
Last September I experienced my first relapse. It happened so fast. In a matter of weeks, I somehow crossed the line of healthy and destructive, and by October I knew the thing that was talked about like some cautionary tale in treatment had finally happened. I relapsed. Everyone had always said you’d never realize it was happening when it was happening, and WOAH were they right. To make a long story short, I took the necessary steps to pull myself out of it (i.e. reach out to supports, consult therapist, be open and honest with loved ones). It didn’t take me long to get back on track. But of course, life happens and I got derailed again. I threw out my disordered behaviors for depressive tendencies. I was not in good shape emotionally and physically for the latter half of my senior year.
But as with every year, I am reunited with September once again. The month of new beginnings, right? I’m much healthier and much happier, but there’s something ominous about September, and it’s off to a, let’s say, contemplative start.
This past week I made the trek up to Keene to see one of my best friends. She’s never been without me throughout her college career thus far, so even though we’re only a week into the semester, a trip was needed. However, my little weekend visit turned into a week long stay. It was great.
I got engaged.
Well, fake engaged. But if this is what it’s like to be really engaged, I think I need to reevaluate my marriage priorities. It was quite the spectacle, I assure you. I got to spend time with some really cool people I haven’t seen in a long time, I was reunited with my TAD friends, and enjoyed the New Hampshire air I’ve missed. So much, in fact, I didn’t want to leave.
Now, I’m seriously considering moving back.
There’s nothing wrong with that. I just need to make absolutely sure that I’d be doing it for the right reasons. It’s not enough to say, “It’ll make me happy.” No. I need to know what about it will make me happy. Going out to the bars and having fun with friends are not a legitimate reasons for moving back. That’s not what I want anyway. I don’t want to go back to hold onto the college “Golden Years”. Besides, my “Golden Years” were more like “Bronze Years” or “Certificate of Participation Years”. Having an eating disorder and depression kind of ruined the romanticized notion that my time in college would be the best years of my life. However, that means that there are better years ahead of me… which is exciting, but also why I want to be smart about this decision.
My initial worry was that people would judge me for staying in my college town, but fuck it. At nearly 24, I need to stop caring what people think of me. Aside from that blip, I’m concerned that the reason I’d be going back is because I’m too afraid to delve somewhere new, which is partially true. I am scared. I’d rather be more financially stable if and when I move to a city like Chicago or Boston. And I’m still so unsure of what I want that I don’t feel ready to move somewhere new either. So why not use Keene as a transition platform? Work a couple jobs, save money, but be in a place that I love and also be near supports. From a personal and recovery standpoint, it balances out.
As great as I’ve been doing with my recovery and inculcating a healthy lifestyle here in Rhode Island, I also feel like I’ve been slowly becoming an agoraphobic. I’ve been isolating. Here, I don’t have to deal with social anxiety. But I need to tackle it. Socializing is a part of a balanced lifestyle. Going out in Keene made me realize how much I need to work on that. I was having fun, but I felt very self-conscious and uncomfortable a lot of the time, especially in social settings that involved food or alcohol. I didn’t exercise much while I was there, and that completely shifted my mindset. It scares me how easily that happened and how I rely on exercise everyday to give me permission to eat. I don’t want to have that mentality. I still have a lot of work to do, and once again I am reminded that recovery is a life-long commitment. As dramatic as it sounds, I can’t let my guard down for a second.
Also, I love being close to my mom and living with her. She’s the most wonderful and caring support I could hope for in a mother. But I also worry that she is my security blanket. My binkie. And that’s moms are for, right? It’s ok. But after this weekend and realizing that I’ve been isolating intentionally and unintentionally, it feels like a crutch. So I’m not sure if it’s in my best interest to stay.
Transitions and change is always hard for me, moreso than the average person. If you think I’m over-thinking all this, I’m not. I know how I work, and the steps I need to take to make transitions easier for me… I can’t risk relapsing again. Ultimately, that is the biggest fear here. I don’t want to go through it ever again. But that possibility will be there no matter what decision I make so the important thing to do is to acknowledge it, but not let it hold me back.
I could run in circles around this forever, but at some point I need to put down the Pro/Con lists and just make a decision.
Thoughts? Suggestions? Criticism? I want ‘em all!
September should just have a giant *TRIGGER WARNING* printed on every calendar I buy.
It still boggles my mind that I can wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and think, “Goddamn I have a sexy body.” But then when I eat something and look in that same mirror literally five minutes later, I’ve magically gained 50 lbs.
August is upon us and I have made it my mission to exercise every single day. But when I swore my declaration of body-hate independence, my mom asked me, in almost an accusatory way, why bother doing something if I don’t like it?
A very good point. In fact, I consider it a rule of life.
But the truth is, I don’t hate jogging. I hate the deathly humidity we’ve had this summer that has put a major dent in all my jogging prospects. Some people find the heat invigorating. If you’re one of those people, I envy you. Truly, I do. I wish it didn’t melt me into a pile of misshapen goo. But walking, nevermind running, in 100 degree weather is horrid. I don’t enjoy it. So I don’t do it.
However, aside from the unbearable heat, I mostly hate the build-up to get my stamina to a place where jogging isn’t torture, but rather a second-nature daily activity. I’m not looking to be an athlete or to run a marathon. I just want exercise to be a part of my lifestyle. Permanently.
When I look back on last summer, I can’t help but feel a little twinge of frustration at where I was then and where I am now. As far as stamina goes, that is. I started jogging regularly around the end of August right before school started. After a summer full of many nights at the bars drinking with friends (no regrets btw), I was feeling sluggish mentally and physically. So I decided I needed a change. I stopped drinking and slowly started exercising. I honestly thought giving up alcohol would be harder than exercising regularly, but it wasn’t. In fact, it was really easy. And it made a huge difference! Usually I have a hard time keeping myself motivated and on track, but this time around it wasn’t much of a challenge. Maybe it was because I knew I was going to be performing a lot and was stressing about looking good on stage. Or maybe it was because I was expecting my then-boyfriend to be even more supermegafoxyawesomehot after bootcamp and I wanted to meet that, albeit narcissistic, expectation. Whatever the reason, it worked. I was diligent and kept myself at a healthy moderate level of exercise.
I want that back.
And I can have it. I strongly believe it’s an issue of mind over matter because I do not think that I am horribly out of shape. In the past few months of getting back in touch with my recovered self, I’ve come to realize that I associate negative self-talk with exercise, which makes me afraid to do it. Who wants to subject themselves to self-loathing? I don’t. It certainly isn’t very motivating or at all nice. I need to break through that fear. I need to break through that chain of negativity we all wear when things get tough. THAT is my ultimate goal for August.
I’ve made a lot of healthy changes this summer and hopefully August will prove to be just as rewarding, even if it is in small doses. I cannot wait to welcome back the brisk Autumn weather with open arms. But until that happy moment, I’ll just chip away at my goal and think happy thoughts.
What I ate:
Someone remind me why it’s better not to starve. Because right now all I want it is the be 100 lbs and see every bone in my body.
I have countless role models among my family and friends that keep me going. But I also look to fictional characters for inspiration.
Before the eating disorder and severe depression, my fictional gal pal was Rory Gilmore. In high school, I easily related to her. She was quiet, witty, and loved books. Pretty and brainy – what more could I want to be?
Well, a lot more actually. When I revisited the world of Stars Hollow during my college years, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at Rory. She was deemed perfect at everything she pursued, denied being privileged despite her rich grandparents paying for everything she did, had a complete disregard for reality, often times treated her friends and boyfriends like crap, and yet somehow she had a parade of followers who worshipped the ground she walked upon. (For a more in-depth analysis why Rory Gilmore is a destructive and completely unrealistic role model for girls, please read this article. If I could sue someone for plagiarizing unspoken thoughts, I would.)
Needless to say, Rory is no longer an inspiration to me. But that’s okay. Her exit made room for a more worthy heroine: Veronica Mars.
Let’s backtrack to 2011. By then I had gone to treatment, started classes at a new college, and was chipping away at recovered life in Boston.
The first year of recovery is the hardest. In some ways it’s harder than a year of sickness because you are no longer numb. You begin to thaw. Eating disorders stunt your growth as an individual, and when you’re released from its cage, you feel mentally overgrown and awkward. Nothing is simple. Word vomit is a frequent occurrence. You are constantly crying, getting emotional over things you can’t explain. The entire time you keep thinking you’re more crazy and unstable than you ever were before. But you’re not.
As 2011 progressed, I was beginning to not only see myself differently, but the people around me through new eyes. I didn’t like everything I saw… I had never considered that I would lose things in recovery. After all, wasn’t that the reason why I went to treatment? To save everything I loved?
But still in the midst of my slow, but steady progress, I was going through what turned out to be the last rough patch with my then best friend and ex. For a multitude of reasons, one of which being I was finally speaking my mind.
Enter Veronica Mars.
One day I was at the Cambridge Library killing time before my ballet lesson. (Yes, you heard that right. Me. Ballet. It happened.) I was looking at the DVDs for something that would soothe the usual wave of anxiety after spending 2 hours in a leotard, when I stumbled upon the first season of Veronica Mars. I remembered commercials for it years ago, but had never seen it. So I checked it out and an episode later, I was hooked.
If you’ve never seen the show before, Veronica Mars is a modern-day and infinitely more badass Nancy Drew. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good overarching storyline with witty dialogue and an interesting ensemble of characters. For a show that was originally targeted for a teenage audience, it has some of the best writing I’ve heard on television and delves into territories of social and economical class, race and ethnicity, sex and gender. Unfortunately, it only lasted three seasons, but Veronica Mars will always be known to me as the girl who helped me find my inner badass.
Veronica Mars emulated everything I was too afraid to be, but knew I had in me. She is strong and independent. To me, there is nothing and will never be nothing more attractive and admirable than intelligence. Veronica is known and respected for her brain. That is her biggest and most celebrated attribute on the show, in my opinion. So I started believing in my own intelligence rather than constantly putting myself down and focusing on my body.
My confidence sky-rocketed, and with confidence, my recovery and happiness reached an uncharted high.
I learned that I can stand up for myself with intelligence and class.
I fight my battles with a quip in my heart. There is a huge difference between communication and confrontation. I don’t like confrontation. I mean, who does? I find no pleasure in it, which is why it bothers me so much when someone is unresponsive or worse, thinks I’m a bitch. I don’t like it either, you know! I still get scared speaking my mind. But I do it because I’d rather demand respect than sit comfortably in insecurity. It is not overreacting to ask for what you want and need. Telling someone that what they do hurts your feelings or bothers you doesn’t have to be an accusation. When I approach someone, I don’t yell and toss the blame at them. You don’t have to say hurtful things to throw a punch. I’ve learned that intelligent and honest words will make a bigger (and more effective) impact.
Veronica didn’t take shit from anyone. But even with her hard exterior, she had a heart that was just as easily hurt as anyone else’s. Having a heart isn’t a weakness. It’s okay to not be tough all the time. It’s okay to be marshmallow. It’s also possible to be serious and tough, but still retain femininity. I like polka dots. I like skirts and tights and fancy shoes. For whatever reason, my love of pink apparently makes me soft. But remember, it’s all fun and games until someone ends up with my stiletto up their ass.
Just because she had been through a lot of traumatic experiences, she didn’t deny herself the desire to love and be loved. Better yet, her relationships never defined or radically changed her personality. Having a boyfriend was never a priority. That isn’t to say when she was in a relationship, he wasn’t important to her. Quite the opposite actually. But she embodied the idea that you can follow your dreams and have a relationship. I feel like we’re taught that you can only have one or the other, and to have them both, you’re putting yourself at risk of losing your way. But I find happiness in both and believe there’s nothing stopping anyone from balancing the two.
Just like the show, Veronica isn’t without faults. She is stubborn, unforgiving, and at times takes cynicism to the whole new level of extreme. But that didn’t stop me from admiring her. Instead, it helped me accept my own self-proclaimed flaws and move past them.
Veronica Mars didn’t teach me how to be a badass. It was always there. She just helped me get a new contacts prescription so I could see that I already had it within myself.
You’ve got it too.