So I know I’m doing about 1000x better, but I wish I no longer cared AT ALL what the number on the scale says. =/ Rationally, I know it’s just a number and I am defined by a million other things before the size of my pants or the number I weigh. And yet, I still can’t shake the feeling that the number is important Unfortunately, that’s partially because it’s all society will fucking talk about with women most of the time. Stupid society.
That number does not matter. It doesn’t. I am important and beautiful and significant in the universe.
I’ll just keep repeating that mantra to myself now… =(
These past few weeks have been…amazing, honestly. I’ve slowly been making little changes in my life to increase my happiness and sense of peace this semester, after being lonely and sad and confused last semester. I got lost, I think, in the midst of moving off-campus and being away from home for basically 18 months. I’m finding myself again.
For example, even though it bugs me still that no one ever really asks me to do anything, and I have to plan activities first, I’ve been doing it. I ask friends to go to the mall with me or just go get frozen yogurt on Friday nights. I spent only probably 1 or 2 days of Spring Break alone. The rest of the 9 days I was off on adventures around the island, hiking and snorkeling or at least hanging out with friends, laughing and drinking wine and watching Doctor Who. I gathered a group of friends together to go get grilled cheese this past Friday on National Grilled Cheese Day. I try to seek out friends in the library in between classes and just generally talk to people more. If my one roommate who’s actually my friend is in the dining room when I’m cooking, I talk to her instead of being quiet.
These may all sound like trivial things, but they have been huge for me. I really do suffer from social anxiety, and anxiety in general. Social interactions don’t always come easily for me. I’m an introvert, so I can easily get overstimulated by crowds. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like people. On the contrary, I love people. Spending time with friends fills my heart and reminds me of just how loved and special I am.
I also found out on April 1st that I was one of only 100 or so recipients of the Class of 2013 Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship from NOAA, which…well, really is a huge deal. It takes a lot of financial worries off of my shoulders, for one thing. But it also is going to offer me numerous wonderful opportunities, working with NOAA, and an internship next summer working on a project at one of the facilities. I honestly was not expecting to get the scholarship, and I am still in humbled awe two weeks later. I’m still not sure it’s real, even though I just sent them my official signed acceptance. Maybe by the time the orientation week comes around in May I’ll finally believe it’s real?
Okay, and i generally don’t like to brag, but my parents keep telling me it’s okay. And my friends as well. I guess I get embarrassed sometimes worrying that people will think that I think I’m better than them. Which, as a longtime sufferer of anorexia and anxiety and self-doubt, is the opposite of how I think. But anyway. After I got the acceptance, they e-mailed me with some of the comments the reviewers made on my scholarship application, and I’d just like to share a few of those:
Reviewer 1: Your essay cogently describes your career goals and how they relate to NOAA’s mission. Your academic coursework is outstanding. This application is one of the strongest this reviewer has seen in her years of reviewing Hollings Scholarship applicants. As you prepare for your career in Marine Sciences, this reviewer hopes you will consider employment with NOAA.
Reviewer 2: It is refreshing to see such focus at an early stage. I encourage you to continue along this track to help the shark situation. Continue to make good impressions such as those you clearly made upon your recommendations and you will do well in career, which I hope includes NOAA!
Pretty amazing, no? Talk about a much needed confidence booster. Talk about words I can keep in my arsenal as tools against Ana when she tries to whisper harmful and mean words in my ear.
Also, recently, I’m about 85% sure I’ll be studying abroad in Australia next semester, so long as I get accepted o the university housing there and I obtain a visa okay. Yet another amazing opportunity.
All in all, life is good. I have a future. I’m excited. I’m happy. I have friends and family and professors who support me, helping me to continue to overcome my eating disorder and sometimes debilitating anxiety every single day. I will admit sometimes I’m still too much afraid of my future and everything that’s out there. Three years ago, I was dying—I didn’t think I had a future. And now I do. So many doors are open for me. I am thriving and I am living. And I am so grateful.
Now, to counter that, one of my roommates this past year has been continuously mean and bitchy (though I hate that word, there’s nothing better to use) to me this whole year for no real reason. Over winter break, I experienced my first real form of cyberbullying, when she sent me a series of very angry and irrational messages on Facebook while I was at home. At the time, I was really hurt. I was sad and confused and worried about what other people thought of me. Did everyone think the same things she did? Was there something really wrong with me? I was terrified to return to my apartment, with her and two other virtual strangers, though I did still have my one friendly roommate there. I was homesick and sad for the first month I was back in Hawaii.
Until I remembered I can decide how happy I am with myself. And, as I detailed above, I really have done so. Situations with said mean roommate never improved, and actually got worse if that’s possible.
On Friday, after a stupid spat over trash, she sent me yet another text message, with phrases calling me a bitch, how she never should have lived with me, etc. I vaguely read this over before heading out to dinner with friends, not really caring anymore. Later that night, I had a huge revelation: It doesn’t matter what she thinks of me. At this point, I am happy with myself and my friends and where my life is. I have countless friends, all across the country, from all walks of life, friends who have known and loved me for over 10 years. My family loves me. I am strong and free and wanted and unique. Truly, by constantly feeling the need to put me down to make her feel better about herself, she’s hurting herself more than she’s hurting me.
I don’t CARE what she thinks of me anymore. I don’t need her approval. I have my own approval, and the love and support of countless people all across the world.
This was huge for me. I try to not care what other people think of me, but sometimes I can’t help it. I seek out the approval of others, wanting to appear perfect and kind and such. This desire to please everyone certainly was a significant cause of my eating disorder and constant anxiety. I still do want love and friendship, but I know now I have that. I have friends who remind me every day every time I talk to them, how much they value me as a friend. And how much I value their kindness and friendship.
Bullying sucks. I dealt with it last year from roommate sand this year as well. But I don’t have to react to it. The universe is a wonderful place full of wonderful people. Humanity is good, by and large. And I just need to remember how much I am loved and how much I have. I am blessed with starlight and love and a future. That’s all that matters to me, really.
Ultimately, life is good. I love being alive, with friends and opportunities and love. I don’t think I will ever completely break free of my eating disorder or anxiety, but I am 1000x better and happier now than I was 2 and a half years ago. I never would’ve guessed this is where I’d be today.
But I am.
Have faith. Trust yourself. Trust the universe. Trust your family and friends. The world is beautiful, despite the sadness and losses. You are beautiful, and you can overcome. You are strong and filled with powerful light. Let that shine out the negativity from everywhere else.
I promise it’ll be worth it every step of the way.
Just some late night thoughts when I should be going to bed but am instead working on a lab due in 3 weeks.
I realized that almost no one I currently spend a lot of time with knows that just 2 and a half years ago, I was on my deathbed. That 3 years ago, I was slowly dying. And the few who do know my story weren’t there to see it, so they can’t really know how far I’ve come.
I’m not complaining, really. I’m glad I haven’t let my anorexia or my recovery define who I am today. But I do feel sometimes likely my eating disorder history puts a thin wall between me and other people, because it forever sits, cold and dark, in my heart. I’ve been places, thought things, that many people around me never have.
I miss my girls who walked through the chaos with me toward the light. I miss them and love them always, even from 3,000 miles away.
I love my life, for the most part. I’m not happy all the time, but I’m proud of the woman I have grown into. I love being alive, despite its miseries and loneliness. I am so glad I chose to walk away from the comfort of death in 2010. Even if this world contains pain and grief and loss, it also contains immeasurable beauty and love and hope. And I want to see as much of it as I can in my time. Dancing, singing, loving, laughing, free of the monster who caged me for so many long years.
You’re reaching out
And no one hears you cry
You’re freaking out again
‘Cause all your fears
Remind you another dream has come undone
You feel so small and lost like you’re the only one
You wanna scream ‘cause you’re
You want somebody, just anybody
To lay their hands on your soul tonight
You want a reason to keep believin’
That someday you’re gonna see the light
You’re in the dark
There’s no one left to call
And sleep’s your only friend
Well even sleep
Can’t hide you from all those tears
And all the pain and all the days
You wasted pushin’ them away
It’s your life, it’s time you face it
Many of us are looking for a beat, something solid and rooted where we can take refuge and begin to explore the fluidity of being alive, to investigate why we often feel stuck, numb, spaced-out, tense, inert, and unable to stand up or sit down or unscramble the screens that reflect our collective insanity.
The question I ask myself and everyone else is, “Do you have the discipline to be a free spirit?” Can we be free of all that binds and bends us into a shape of consciousness that has nothing to do with who we are from moment to moment, from breath to breath?
Dance is the fastest, most direct route to the truth — not some big truth that belongs to everybody, but the get down and personal kind, the what’s-happening-in-me-right-now kind of truth. We dance to reclaim our brilliant ability to disappear in something bigger, something safe, a space without a critic or a judge or an analyst.
We dance to fall in love with the spirit in all things, to wipe out memory or transform it into moves that nobody else can make because they didn’t live it. We dance to hook up to the true genius lurking behind all the bullshit — to seek refuge in our originality and our power to reinvent ourselves; to shed the past, forget the future and fall into the moment feet first. Remember being fifteen, possessed by the beat, by the thrill of music pumping loud enough to drown out everything you’d ever known?
The beat is a lover that never disappoints and, like all lovers, it demands 100% surrender. It has the power to seduce moves we couldn’t dream. It grabs us by the belly, turns us inside out and leaves us abruptly begging for more. We love beats that move faster than we can think, beats that drive us ever deeper inside, that rock our worlds, break down walls and make us sweat our prayers. Prayer is moving. Prayer is offering our bones back to the dance. Prayer is letting go of everything that impedes our inner silence. God is the dance and the dance is the way to freedom and freedom is our holy work.
We dance to survive, and the beat offers a yellow brick road to make it through the chaos that is the tempo of our times. We dance to shed skins, tear off masks, crack molds, and experience the breakdown — the shattering of borders between body, heart and mind, between genders and generations, between nations and nomads. We are the transitional generation.
This is our dance.
Ever since I was young, I never was someone who was at ease with happiness. Too often I embrace introspection and self-doubt. I wish I could embrace the good things.
Life lessons from HIMYM
- Robin: Why am I constantly looking for reasons not to be happy?
- Kevin: Maybe because the idea of finally being happy terrifies you.
I wanted to write this letter to a couple of my friends from treatment who will be off to college soon or have already arrived at their colleges for wonderful new adventures. But once I thought about it, I figured maybe I should allow it to have a broader audience.
If you ever need help, or someone to talk to, please, PLEASE feel free to message me here on Tumblr in my ask box. Never, ever, should you feel alone. Because you aren’t. Someone is always here to listen, and I want to be that person if you need it.
A letter to those in Recovery entering college:
Aloha. And Congratulations! You are about to embark on a truly exciting new adventure. I am sure you have many expectations about what college will be like for you. And let me tell you, you will be surprised at how college actually turns out. Not necessarily in a bad way, but no one can truly know what college will be like until they are actually there. So don’t be upset or scared when things go differently than you planned them.
I know, I know, all of us have control issues. We don’t like chaos. But college is chaotic. It is scary. I’m sure your parents are scared. And it’s okay to admit that you are too. Trust me, almost everyone heading off to college is at least a little bit scared. Yes, even the ones not battling eating disorders and recovery.
But I hope you are excited too. I hope you can learn to live with the chaos, because so many beautiful adventures and opportunities will come from that chaos. Now time for a story, and some advice.
I, personally, have been in treatment (inpatient and day) twice for anorexia, for a month in 2009 and for 3 months in the fall of 2010. I missed out on almost the whole first semester of my senior year of high school, and yet I somehow still managed to come out on top, valedictorian with a 4.8 GPA. And yes, I missed a lot of the fun activities. I was stressed, trying to balance recovery and therapy with my perfectionist desire to do the absolute best schoolwork I could. But I am so grateful, still, for those 3 months of intense treatment. It wasn’t easy (of course not) and there were a lot of days I wanted to give up. Even in the early parts of 2011, I struggled to believe in myself. I struggled with believing I deserved recovery and happiness and my dreams. I was afraid of growing up.
So, then, you may ask how I ended up in Hawai’i for my freshman year of college in August 2011. How I ended up dancing on the beach with my friends late at night. How I ended up finishing that first year happy and healthy, continuing to work through my struggles and self-doubts.
Answer: A lot of hard work, a lot of spirit, and a strong sense of belief in myself. Through 2011, I found people I could be myself with. I found ways to express myself. And I discovered the simple beauty of breathing every day. While I still doubted myself in many ways, I found friends, laughter, dance, dreams, hope, and love. I found myself again, separate from the nagging voice of ana. I embraced the beauty in chaos and opened my heart to the world. And I began to believe I deserved happiness and life. I wanted to chase my dreams, ana be damned.
I know most of us don’t believe in ourselves and don’t believe we deserve anything good. In fact, the moment something good begins to happen to us, like a new job, a new school, friends, a boy/girlfriend, etc, we begin to slip again. Relapse. Because we believe so strongly that we do not deserve the good that we create that dark hole for ourselves, as if we are telling the world, “See? This is who I am. I am worthless. I deserve nothing, not even food.”
But that’s ridiculous. You, whoever you are, deserve EVERYTHING. You deserve to have a happy life, free from the worries of calories and exercise. You (yes, you) deserve to be happy.
As radical as that thought may be to some of you, it’s true. Now onto the advice.
You may be reading this having been in recovery for 5 years. 1 year. 6 months, as I had. Maybe you don’t trust that you are fully in recovery. Maybe you’ve been in treatment so many times the doctors have given up on you. (Don’t listen to them.)
But no matter the length of your recovery or the length of your sickness, all of us share one thing: we struggle with self-doubt, self-criticism, and poor body image. We desire control, and we scream through silence. And we take out all of that through food and exercise: the easy things to control for us.
It is so easy to fall back on eating disordered habits the moment we step into college. So many people do: they go through one week, one month, one year and they fall back again. Back in treatment, doubting themselves, perhaps feeling more worthless than ever, because they cannot fathom the idea of believing in themselves.
You might still live at home. You might live in a new town. You might live across the ocean. You might go to college with friends, or you may be faced with the prospect of meeting allnew people. Your classes may be hard, or they may be easy. Your dining hall might have amazing food, or it might have food worse than hospital food. ;)
No matter what, you will be faced with chaos. You will likely be lonely. You will be stressed. And, yes, you will be afraid. So you want to go back to restricting. Over-exercising. Binging/purging. Building a bubble around yourself. Because those things you have control over, and trust me, your life will seem to lack a lot of control in college.
But relapse is not the answer. Here’s my advice to all of you on how to thrive in college, while still working positively and strongly through recovery:
-This may sound stupid to people, but make sure you have food you like. Store snacks in your dorm room. If you know you won’t wake up for breakfast, have cereal or oatmeal. Plan your meals if you will miss lunch, dinner, etc because of class. This is the part all of us hate so much, because we hate thinking about the food. We’d rather not, of course. But you have to, to stay strong and healthy and thriving. You don’t have to meal plan, but you do need to make sure the “oh, I missed lunch and dinner because of class today so I guess I won’t eat” excuse doesn’t push you towards relapse.
-Stay in touch with friends back home. In the scary transition meeting new people, make sure you have people you trust and who know you to talk to.
-But, put yourself out there. Even if you came with friends from high school, make an effort during welcome/orientation week to meet new people. Maybe you won’t become friends with them, but you will become more comfortable with talking.
-Set up a strong support system in your new town, if applicable. Find a therapist, psychiatrist, doctor, nutritionist, as needed. At the very least, find out if there is a school therapist available for you. I know some of you would rather forget therapy, but you never know when you will need that support system to fall back on.
-Set up a strong support system of friends. If you feel open to it, throughout the year begin to tell new friends about your eating disordered struggles. So many people in college are struggling or have struggled with an eating disorder. I think you will find people in college to be so much less judgmental than people in high school. Do this as you feel comfortable, of course, but don’t be afraid to open up. People will accept you for who you are. And they may thank you for sharing your struggles and inspirations.
-Try new things. Go to a party (I was never a party girl before college). Go snowboarding. Join a crazy new club. Take a class you never would’ve considered before. Go out for late-night dinner on a Tuesday. Stay up until 2 am talking when you should be writing a paper. Talk to people in your hall, in your classes. Sit with strangers in the dining hall. Truly, college is where you can find yourself and discover new dreams and ambitions.
-Don’t be afraid of being afraid. Before I left for college, I told my treatment therapist how scared I was. And he told me that was good because it meant I would be on the alert for eating disorder habits, symptoms, emotions. I wouldn’t let myself relapse. I’m not saying you should be terrified, but don’t hide your feelings. Talk to your RA, if you need to. He/she has been trained to listen and offer advice. S/he’s been a freshman in college, and is close enough to your age that they will understand. Talk to friends, either back home or new at school.
-Keep things with you that inspire you. Notes of encouragement. Painting supplies. Etc. Find ways to express yourself and ways to remind yourself why recovery is worth it.
-Exercise, but within limits. This is a tricky subject for all of us, but little bits of exercise can reduce stress and prove to us our strength. Do yoga. Go for a jog. Hike with your friends. Swim in the ocean. Play that game of soccer on the field outside your window. Don’t let your eating disorder hold you back from these wonderful opportunities.
-And finally, know your weaknesses, but embrace your strengths. Believe in yourself. Recognize how far you have come, even if you are struggling still with the idea of recovery. That belief and the actions you take will get you so far. Grasp hold of all of the opportunities offered to you in your new life adventure. College is a wonderful place in our society, where we are treated like adults but still in a safe environment (without bills, worrying about furniture, etc) so we can pursue our dreams and discover new things.
Love that. Live that. It is beautiful to be alive.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help when you might need it. That shows more strength than anything else. Recovery is harder than living with your eating disorder. But, recovery is 1000x more worth it.
Live. Breathe. Trust. And know you are beautiful, strong, and deserving of everything.
Good luck. And congratulations again. Not just on college, but on how far you have come and on how far you will go in the future. You, truly, are amazing.
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