As you may have noticed, things have been pretty quiet on my blog lately. We are almost half way through May and there has only been one post. Well two, if you include this one. The funny thing is I don’t really have much of an explanation for this. I have sat down many times with the intention of writing something and have given up quickly after staring at a blank sheet of paper on the computer screen.
Usually this is an indication that I am having a rough time or really struggling with the eating disorder. At least that has been the case in the past when my writing has slowed down. Thankfully I can honestly say that isn’t true this time. Although there are always the ups and downs, this really hasn’t been a low point for me.
So why haven’t I been writing?
This blog has been a place to collect, organize and share my thoughts. I have used it partially as a journal to sort through things that have popped up in my recovery journey. Sometimes it’s ‘aha’ moments and other times its things I have observed or random things floating through my head. Writing has been a way to get thoughts, feelings and emotions out in a constructive way as opposed to my old destructive coping methods. It’s been a sounding board of sorts.
But lately I haven’t needed it. Instead of trying to get everything out of my head and on to paper, I have just been sitting with things. Instead of trying to dissect every belief and idea (whether good or bad) that has popped into my head I have just been allowing them to occur. And it’s been interesting.
Instead of running to my blog, I have been talking to other people. I have shared my doubts, frustrations and even triumphs in real time, to real people as opposed to the online world. I have sought out face to face feedback. I have said things out loud that I normally wouldn’t even consider doing. And it’s been freeing.
For the past week and a half I have felt this immense sadness. Everywhere I turn there is something that reminds me of my eating disorder. In Miami, which I visited a week ago, the memories were intense. Since some of my lowest points took place while I was in Miami, there were constant reminders everywhere. It seemed that every place I went, the pain resurfaced. And this was very new to me. I am not used to sadness. When I returned to Gainesville, this feeling stayed with me and even grew stronger as I realized how many reminders also existed there.
I’ve spent nine years struggling on and off with an eating disorder and other issues associated with it. Pretty much the last third of my life. (Actually a little more but who’s counting) While actively in the eating disorder I wasn’t very present to things around me and my life, so I didn’t really realize the intensity of this. Although I could see the things that I was missing out on, on a small scale, the enormity of it really didn’t register. And now that it has, it has left me in a bit of a funk.
Although I still have my doubts and plenty more steps to take on the road to recovery, it pains me to think of all of the years that I spent suffering. It’s hard and upsetting to think about all of the things that I missed out on and all of the time wasted. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of amazing memories from the last nine years and things weren’t awful all of the time but I can no longer ignore the bad parts. There are reminders of them everywhere and this has lead to a lot of tears recently, along with a lot of regrets.
From a logical, rational perspective I know that I can’t change the past. I can’t get back all of the years I spent trapped deeply in my eating disorder and self hatred. And I can’t go back and change the things that happened to me because of it. The only thing I can do is acknowledge these memories and feelings, accept the sadness and move on. As well as use this as leverage to keep moving forward. And I am doing that, very slowly.
Below is a letter written to my former self. Although it won’t allow me to go back and see things differently, it has started to help me heal. Not only am I using it for myself personally, but am using it to inspire hope in others. No matter where you are on your journey, remember that there is always room for improvement. No matter how much pain you may be in, things can and will get better. No matter how dark things may seem, there is always a light shining around the next corner waiting to guide you to freedom. No matter what your circumstances may be, they can change in the blink of an eye. You have the power to change your beliefs, circumstances and life. Stop believing otherwise.
I spent years suffering in silence because I couldn’t summon the courage to ask for help. I believed that my eating disorder and the pain that I was feeling was my fault. I didn’t think I deserved help, love or life. To anyone who may be reading his, please know that no matter how isolated you may be or feel, you are never alone. It doesn’t matter what you do or how bad things may get, you are worthy and completely deserving of love and life. I am living proof that recovering from an eating disorder is possible. You don’t have to believe it now, but just go with it and eventually you will.
Dear Former Self,
You are going to be ok. It will get better, I promise. The pain that you are feeling won’t be with you forever. You won’t always feel so alone. In fact, you will eventually surround yourself with a bunch of loving and caring people who will help you discover your truth and uncover and work through your past. You will learn to let go of secrets that have been holding you hostage for years. It won’t be easy, but you will stop blaming yourself. You will learn the difference between what is your fault and what isn’t. You will learn to take responsibility of your feelings and actions as well as accept your limits. You will be in the horrible grips of your eating disorder for years, but you will eventually seek out treatment. And when you do, it will get harder before it gets easier. But then the quest to freedom will begin. You will let go of the shame that you have been feeling for years and more importantly you will learn to ask for help.
You won’t always feel so hopeless. One day you will believe in yourself and fight for your life. One day you won’t need to carry all of that baggage on your own. You will learn how to lean on others for support and let them in. You will stumble and you will fall, but you will continue to get back up. And your resilience will be what keeps you going. You will quit jobs, lose friends, make mistakes and fail at some things, but they won’t be the end of the world. It might take you a little longer then you hoped to finish college, but you will finish. And then you will move on to bigger and better things.
Your relationship with your mom will crumble, but then you will begin rebuilding it. You will own the pain that she has caused you and learn to stand up for yourself. Your childhood experiences will start to make a little more sense and you will work on moving on. You will tear down the walls and re-connect with other family members and friends. It will be challenging, but you will have more strength then you need. And you will even begin to forgive her.
You will learn to forgive but not forget. You will be angry at the times that you have been wronged and the people that have taken advantage of you, but you will stop punishing yourself for it. You will learn to use your words to convey your emotions and thoughts, instead of turning inward. You will eventually stop the self destruction but it isn’t going to be easy.
You won’t ever achieve the perfection that you are longing for, but you will start to be ok with that. You will have a resume with a long list of achievements, awards and honors but will eventually realize that they mean nothing if you are miserable and alone. You will try to do everything, more times than you can count. And you will succeed most of the time. Until you eventually realize that it isn’t worth it. You will come close to killing yourself, more than once. And the severity of this won’t hit you until months and years after the fact.
You will continue to think that you are invincible and then you will hear the words “you have cancer”. You will fight hard and beat that battle, only to face it again, along with many others. You will give up many times and then hang on a little longer when it counts the most. You will feel helpless and think “why me?”, but eventually ask “why not?”
Your eating disorder will eventually force you to take a step back. At the time you will think that your life is over, but eventually realize that it’s just beginning. You will be forced out of your hole of denial and it’s going to feel awful. You will learn to “feel” again and be overcome with emotions and with time they will go away. Recovery will feel like a full time job and will be the hardest thing that you have faced so far. It will seem impossible most of the time. You will want to quit and even think about quitting time and time again, but then realize that there isn’t a quitting bone in your body.
You will stop trying to please everyone, but not before surpassing your limits. You will realize that you aren’t meant to be an engineer and will continue to pursue it anyways. Then eventually you will let this go. You will forgive yourself for the time spent doing something that you hated, but it will take longer then you hope. You will schedule all of your free time with different activities, only some of which these that you actually enjoy. Until you eventually burn out. Then you will truly learn the value of time.
You will spend a lot of your time being pissed off, bitter and resentful and even more of your time holding it all in and pretending you’re not. And it will only begin to go away once you acknowledge it. You will talk about embarrassing, hard topics and continually be forced out of your comfort zone. But this is what it will take to heal.
You will learn to trust again, not only others but more importantly yourself. You will realize that you are capable of making decisions and being in charge of your own life and you will stop turning to others for answers. You will spend a lot of time trying to figure out who you are and what you stand for and this will seem super confusing. You will cry a lot, more tears then you thought you had and then you will cry some more. You will be angry at yourself for the years that you lost, but you will eventually understand their purpose.
You will learn the function of your eating disorder and begin to acknowledge the times that it served you. But eventually realize that you don’t need it anymore. You will spend years believing that a piece of plastic and metal dictates your worth, but you will eventually see the truth. You will spend a lot of time trying to control your weight, only to eventually realize that it’s controlling you. But it’s ok, because you will learn from it. You will spend years struggling with food, but with help, patience and hard work will overcome it. You will take a few steps forward and then a few steps back and constantly be discouraged by this, only to eventually realize how far you have come.
You will spend years fighting with and hating your body, but will someday realize it’s beauty. You will realize that even through all of the abuse it has stood strongly by your side and kept you together. You will stop calling yourself an athlete and this will be a hard thing for you. But then you will be able to acknowledge your love for sports and truly enjoy exercise. This will help you break out of the cycle of exercise addiction that you have struggled with for years. This is how you will find the balance.
You will start writing and slowly discover your passion for it. You will even start a blog detailing your recovery journey. You will be really scared about putting yourself out there, but it will eventually feel right. You will stop hiding behind the walls that you have built up throughout the years and this will be one of your biggest achievements. You will end the silence and speak up about your eating disorder and other struggles and this will help you in more ways that you could ever imagine. This will also help other people in ways that you don’t realize.
You will eventually start to realize the years that you have been trapped in your black and white thinking and start to accept the gray. This change won’t come easily and will probably be something that you are always working on, but it will happen. You will challenge that voice in your head that has spent years feeding you lies and telling you that you aren’t good enough. You will begin to notice your unrealistic expectations and that is when you will see your true power. You will long for control and look for it in all of the wrong places, but you will eventually find it the right way, along with happiness. You will cling to things like the eating disorder, over and over again. But you will eventually replace them. And when you do, you will be unstoppable.
You will have to let go of a lot of things, including things that you have been clinging to for dear life. And this will feel horrible. But it won’t feel this way forever. And when you reach the other side, you will let out a sigh of relief. You will reach a level of contentment that you never believed was possible.
You will be faced with a lot of disappointment and pain before you even slowly begin to see the light. So much so, that you will stop looking for a while. You will lose faith here and there and decide to stay put and even slide backwards a few times. You will hit rock bottom, get a little better only to watch the bottom cave in again. But then you will begin your journey to freedom. Then you will pick yourself up and move along. You will be super uncomfortable and rely heavily on blind faith, but eventually you will start to believe. You will start to believe in yourself and find that confidence that you so willingly lost. And when this happens, things will start to fall into place. This is when you will start to see the benefits of your all of your hard work and be truly proud of yourself.
Once you begin this process, doors will start opening up and possibilities will seem endless. The road won’t always be full of rainbows and butterflies, but you will be able to handle anything. And when this happens you will finally feel at peace with yourself.
Of course you don’t see any of this now and probably can’t even fathom the truth in any of it. Or are possibly wishing that you could have been spared the years of pain and struggle and just told this right off the bat. And if I could go back and re-write and change the past, I would have shared these secrets. Or maybe I wouldn’t have. Without these experiences you wouldn’t be the amazing, strong person that you will become. Our pasts shape our future and your future is looking pretty damn awesome.