Thursday, December 17, 2015

December 14

Inspired by the stillness of a fresh blanket of snow outside, I find myself ready to write for this space again.  I have missed this feeling - the drive, the passion, the bubbling over of the desire to express myself in words and knowing that I might be able to.

It feels like New Years Eve to me today, and I suppose for my chronological life, it is.  It is with calm excitement that I enter this next year.  As December has inched forward, it is as though I have reached a clearing, finally.  After climbing and climbing through thick clouds and sometimes, thankfully, thin mist, over the year, there is a plateau.  From here, I am looking out over a vastness of hope and rivers of opportunity.  The ground below me is made of the challenges that, somehow, I scaled successfully.  In this moment, in this mental place, I am not scared of heights; the view of what might be is too beautiful, too welcoming, for fear.  

With this image in mind, gratitude for the last year flows through me.  Firstly, for the year itself.  Sometimes I take it for granted that life goes on, but really, any time at this point is more than I ever thought I would have; to know life the way I have been given the chance to live it…well, the tough times are welcome as part of the experience.  As the Universe - or whatever - decides what is next for me, I remember that in each day, there is already so much to be thankful for, starting with each breath, each heart beat (and delicious bites of chocolate too). 

What strikes me even more this evening is how grateful I am for the people whose life paths crossed mine this year; for those who have been there for a long time, those who have joined recently: you have brought me inspiration, comfort, humour, relief, and taught me so much.  You continue to show me the beauty of people and the strength of the human spirit. For those who couldn’t stay for whatever reason, my heart broke, sometimes when it already felt broken.  In some circumstances, the passing of incredible people reminded me keep loving and being loved and, as cliche as it is, the “meaning of life”; which is why, though I am sorry you had to leave, I am thankful for you.

For the littles that know me as “aunty”, you bring light into my life and refresh my world with your innocence.  The squeal of “Aunty Julia” gives me a feeling in my heart unlike any other at this time.  You, little ones, have made my life and this last year, so much richer.  

My intuition gently spoke to me at the end of last year and I knew that 2015 would be a tough one.  However, as part of seizing my earthly time, I kicked myself out of my comfort zone(s) anyway and life pushed me even further.  Now, I am finding comfort in the chaos.  The incredulousness found in each of the last twelve months, in retrospect, prepared me for the next and taught me lessons I couldn’t have imagined it was time to learn.  I have felt hit from all sides at times over the last year, but now, in the calm that has arrived, I can reflect on what I learned from the challenges.  Some of these lessons may be described in a post later in the month...

There were plenty of fumbles and follies over the last year (suffice to say that grace is a long term project); I have had to extend more frequent apologies than I would prefer for the year ahead; there have been tears shed that felt they would not end and laughter shared until stomachs ached.  Dichotomies aside, perhaps one of the unique aspects of the year was the frequent and confounding coexistence of so many experiences of life in any given moment!!

As I reflect now, what a way to feel alive!!  

So, it is with a gracious heart as well as sweet relief that I bid this last year farewell.  Awareness of instinct is such a gift, and as I look out from this momentary plateau - which is far from the summit - I listen carefully to that inner voice.  The sound of this voice, now, is so drastically different from the abusive inner voice I heard for so long.

Tonight I hear:  This is beautiful.  Be grateful, be still.

And I am.

Much love, readers.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Two years..."home"

Well hello, readers!  I'm not up for a long post today about the intricacies of recovery, wellness, and life but feel the need to at least make note of today's small anniversary.

Two years ago today, I left Portugal for home.  What a ride it has been since then!  The work certainly did not stop with the end of my time involved with the official program.  Transition took extensive effort and support and the changes that have occurred over the last two years are countless.

Today I am basking quietly - shared in person with a select few - in the fact that I have been here, back in Canada, in all my old "haunts" and come out on top.  These spaces that were once tainted by illness for so many years have had new memories created and old hurts healed.  Memories come and go, some stronger or more difficult than others and some so peaceful.  Many of the harder, traumatic memories have faded and it is the goodness that was shown to me is most prominent in my mind.  What persists are the memories of the effort I made and that of everyone in my circle, to help, love, and assist in ensuring a complete, successful journey from surviving to thriving.

To look back and realize how long it has been since I went to bed scared and sometimes hopeful that I wouldn't wake up, wondering who would find me; since achingly lonely days dragged by at a snail's pace becoming progressively harder and harder to endure; since self-hate, hopelessness, and negativity ruled my life....hindsight instills such gratitude in me.

So on that note, I will sign off and continue to sit in quiet appreciation of the outcome of my own once bleak story where life was suspended in limbo for too long.  This is success that I will always happily share with everyone who has been alongside me through it all (thick and thin - ha ha).  As time moves forward, the dark and scary memories of a life that seems like it could belong to another slip farther and farther into the background as I create new memories, positive ones, safe ones, memories of love, light, and life. 

Be well, readers.  I hope to update this space again sometime soon.

With love and gratitude.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

On finding the self

Surprise!  Here I am again, I've thought to come back to this space frequently. With a number of other half completed slightly more “updatey” posts started, I saw this one through to a more complete state today. 

I recently had a conversation about the sense of void experienced by some and took time to reflect on what that was like for me.

In the throes of my eating disorder, all that I thought I was, was lost. I found in therapy and various treatments that I was encouraged to make goals, to aim for something in the future, in what seemed to me to be an effort to make my life worth continuing and to find something that made me feel like I was someone.

I remember considering this in the early days of my adult experience – thinking about what I might be if I wasn't a nurse (or anorexic or bulimic). I regularly came up blank, empty. Nursing had been my life and when I lost that due to the complications of the ED, ED became my definition of me. The void only became more vast. What little bits I thought defined me, aside from sickness, felt ripped away.  I felt deeply inadequate as a person and lacked any understanding of myself beyond what I used as definition from the outside.

What I didn't know then was that the void was exactly what I needed to face in order to find who I was.

If you had asked me who I was back then I might have replied: I am a nurse. I am blonde. I am fit. I am a smoker. I am anorexic. I am bulimic.

What I didn't understand then was that the “what” I was doing did not equate to “who” I was. I can't imagine that this is an uncommon human experience and, for me, has become another reason to be thankful for my experience as it was brought to my attention sooner than later and I had the chance to work hard on it!

The "whats" of the ED definition took away the few other external "whats" of definition that I had created. My career was put on hold; I lost my fitness as my energy grew lower and lower; hospitalizations even took away my defining feature of an unashamed smoker as I was confined to beds, rooms, or units.

Is it any surprise that identity was reduced to illness? Along those lines, is it any wonder that I held on so hard to what I felt made me, me? That I was so fearful to let go?

As time went on, I realized that I could scrapbook fairly well and do simple art and that became part of “who” I was. I set small goals to look forward to, looked towards continuing my nursing education, did a very small bit of volunteering in attempts to grasp at anything to define me and make myself feel worthwhile.

When I entered treatment the last time, I went as an empty shell. Any interests I'd had along the way had been transient. I arrived in Portugal seeing myself only as an eating disorder. As I have written before, I arrived there also terrified that when they took away the behaviours that kept me “safe”, they would see the deep ball of darkness that was what I perceived my true self to be, The darkness that I kept hidden and in line by my illness. My mind told me that I was worthless and deeply flawed, inherently bad.

Reflecting now on the “ball of darkness” that I perceived as badness, I wonder if it was the deep void of empty self that I was experiencing. That when I looked inside, I sensed nothing except empty, light-less space.

How I want to hug and comfort that me and tell her that the space and emptiness is not evil, she is not bad. She feels empty but only because she has not had a chance to develop from the inside out.

It is no wonder that loneliness persisted despite the company of friends and family that stuck by my side through it all. I had no way to bring myself to interactions or activities because I didn't exist to me beyond the loose definition of sickness. I had constructed, carefully, my walls of cards. Interesting that I perceived these walls to be so strong and impermeable...

Now I have rambled on with my own reflections. The point is that who one is, is not what one does. As fragile as definition of self by illness is, is motivation to change solely due to external factors and definition by action. Of course, goals and dreams are important but until one goes deep inside to discover why, how, and the real who, the constructs upon which one tries to build remain extremely fragile.

So, like the quote along the lines of of what one would be worth if they lost all their money, I ask: who would one be if what one does was taken away?

Since recovering, I have made the decision to return to nursing. To reflect beyond that and on what I thought defined me as a younger adult and how I see it now, I have this:

I've caught myself saying at times, “ I am a nurse.” I realize that expression isn't the best because what it real is that I am in nursing, I practice as a nurse. But what's more important is who I am as it pertains to that. I am caring. I am kind. I am compassionate. I am attentive and interested.

My job can be lost and those defining qualities will persist.

I enjoy exercise but what I am is interested in physical wellness, taking care of my body, and having fun. I could lose my physical ability and still remain focused on wellness, enjoyment, and practicing self-care.

Don't get me wrong, I would be deeply saddened to lose some of the ways through which I show who I am. It would be hard to lose my job, I would miss my work and I would miss my current activities if I lost my ability to move. However, what recovery and reflection gave me is a chance to know my true self. Every external defining factor was removed in the early days and I was left for months and months with just the internal me to explore. I continued, at times, to create external definition as I distracted from the ED hell that persisted in my head, telling me I was worthless, that I was truly nothing. I ended up feeling fickle as interest in activities waxed and waned.

Eventually, by facing the void and bringing light to my own darkness, I realized what I was made of. It took time, it was scary and exceptionally lonely. It is a journey I felt I went largely alone, exploring my own emptiness and walking through the internal void. Physically people were there and provided as much emotional comfort as I could ever ask for. Having them close, helped me feel safer with the loneliness as I went deeper and deeper into what seemed like nothingness, to my very depth.

Once there, once I felt that I was completely nothing, as I waited with no way out (we cannot ever escape ourselves) I was able to slowly sense, and eventually know, the core of me. The scared, soft centre that had shrunk away in an effort to preserve itself as to live with heightened sensitivity in this world is extremely difficult.

What I did, and how I defined myself, protected me and simplified things. Insecurity prevailed for much of my life and sure, even since recovering, sometimes I still wobble as I expect many humans do. As I continue to know the depth and breadth of me and continually care for her - her flaws, mistakes, and weirdness included – the transience of what I do as it pertains to who I am becomes evident because I know the qualities that fuel the activity. I have found many of my defining aspects and continually discover reason beyond simple activity and "doing".  Similarly, this offers a significant element of self-compassion as I forgive my mistakes, remember my make-up which is far from perfect but is not bad, dark, evil, or stupid.  Compassion is what allows me to forgive my own fumblings (I think I made that word up) and work to foster the qualities that I want to build on.

The way I see it, a Self constructed of whats, wheres, and doings is a fragile arrangement akin to a house of cards: each balanced carefully on the other, tumbling with even a sigh of change. The whys, hows, and being, is the Who that supports growth and evolution. Dismiss, for a moment, the external definitions and discover the Who that is you. Let the exploration of definition by being, be a source of safety, of invigoration, and of light!

Sometimes, one must remove what defines them and discover who they are. 


Monday, November 25, 2013

Final post

I have been waiting for time and inspiration to overlap so that I could write something that I wanted to share.  It hasn't happened in some time and today is no different – I have time but am feeling uninspired.

Over the last weeks, I have given it a lot of thought and decided that it is time to officially wrap up this blog.

Julia's journey” was started with the intention of sharing my walk from eating disorder hell to life.  I found that by thoughtfully writing about the ups and downs the result was a deepening in my understanding of the process by explaining it. It was started with optimism and hope that it would end with a well person writing. It has, and that (wellness) is comprised of more than I could have ever imagined not long ago.

The end of October offered my “one year home” anniversary. It was celebrated quietly with great friends, good food, and a toast. Suffice to say, change and growth has continued over the year and finally, I feel like I am settling into life as a whole me.  I remember more, now, than I did a year ago (sometimes with memories coming back whether I prefer to have them or not) but my focus is largely on the “now” with an optimistic and hopeful outlook for the future.

Sharing my experience has been a gift. Thank you to all of my readers and supporters. This is not a journey I could have undertaken alone.

And so, I will continue to bumble through life's transitions and experiences only as well as I can, with the awareness and understanding that I possess at any given time. As I continue to live, I certainly hope to grow in grace.

Wishing each of you much peace in your days.  Please never, ever give up.  There is always hope.

Thank you again.

Friday, October 18, 2013

My thoughts, my messengers

I have had great intentions to write for the past months and just have not – sorry again to any readers I may still have!

I recently read an interview with two women who have struggled with eating disorders. They both spoke to the idea that they will live the the ED voice in their head forever; that recovery is maximized when one chooses not to engage in what the deadly internal dictator suggests. I have said before that I believe that recover can be achieved to a degree which each individual desires and I still believe that. With proper guidance and unrelenting pursuit of what ones heart really wants (mine was a well life without fear) – anything is possible!

I didn't ever want to live simply behaviour-free but battling that voice and those thoughts on a regular basis. What a life: to look well, act well, but continue to be at war. I imagine the fight would lessen over time but to resolve to that life of struggle is, in my opinion, accepting the suboptimal still.

When I read this interview, I chose to reflect on my experience. I have had classic “eating disordered thoughts” enter my consciousness in the not-so-distant past. This doesn't mean, to me, that I am not recovered or that I am existing in a state of “in recovery”. I believe myself the be recovered – never looking back and not at risk.

To be clear, the “eating disordered thoughts” I speak of are never the kind of severe self-loathing but those of a much more simple and, dare I say, boring variety. To that extent I also wonder what woman, or human for that matter, is not acutely aware of their body at times or considers what they are eating. For sake of simplicity, I will refer to them at eating disordered thoughts because, as an ex ED patient, I am conditioned to refer to them as such.

The thoughts I have on occasion now, serve only as messengers to me. What I have realized when they arise is that I needed to take a solid look at myself and how I am living; they are an indication that I need to reflect. Questions I quickly choose to ask myself at these times are: what am I doing now that needs to be different to honour who I really am? Is there something that I am capable of changing in order to continue living authentically? And a difficult one to ask: what am I not addressing that I need to? Am I avoiding?

Once I take the time I need to reflect and choose my next move wisely, those old thoughts fall away again. 


This is the way I have been able to make these thoughts work for me. I did not ever wish to exist with “noise” in my head that I have to think over or fight but it seems that in current treatment, that is the standard for recovery. That is not my recovery experience. There is no “noise” or painful intrusion, just awareness.

The way I see it, is that The System primarily offers patients coping skills. It offers these skills by many names and through a plethora of therapies. I am not denying the importance of developing such skills and implementing the tools taught. Is it not human to benefit from practising mindfulness, assertiveness, distress tolerance, and acceptance? (I choose those only because they are common themes in many popular therapies.)

However, a person who enters therapy with no sense of self has no basis on which to build. If one places no worth on themselves and their life, what is the point of learning any of the above skills and techniques?

I am not criticizing The System for sake of criticism. I do not fault any helping professional or team for trying to help in whatever ways they know and feel best about. I do feel strongly about expressing my understanding of it, now, though. Professionals working with eating disorders try to use evidenced based therapies. I feel that the “evidence” of recovery they set as a goal is placing the bar too low.

Therapists and programs that I experienced in the public system assume an adult mind behind the adult body (in its varying shapes and sizes). A common, though little understood, trait of many with eating disorders is an undeveloped emotional mind. Fundamental to effective treatment is nurturing that mind (and thus the self) to maturity. From there, one can move forward on all the skills above and implement them simply as life skills!

Prior to accessing the program I did, my family doctor seemed to recognize my need for him to be “the parent” and make decisions for me. Despite not being regularly certified or forced to participate in care, I allowed him to make the calls most often. He knew, and I knew, that I was in no position to be telling anyone what I needed.

If one knows their needs and values those needs as well as their worthiness of having them met – what function would eating disorder behaviours serve? Therapies that I engaged in seemed to try to meet me at a point far beyond where I was. There seemed to be two angles. The first assumed I did not know my needs and the therapist wanted to help me identify those needs. After that, we could work on ways to have them filled. However, I had no worth in my own eyes. Helping me realize that I was hurting (and not actually “feeling fat”, for example) didn't mean I would ever ask for comfort.

Due to the deceiving strength of my rational mind – and I have seen it in many others - it was sometimes assumed that I knew my needs and just did not know how to have them met. (Example: I didn't often complain of “feeling fat” because I knew, logically, that I could not possibly be. I knew I was lost, and could say that, but didn't know what to do – so I hurt myself further and lost myself in a familiar darkness). So, sometimes I did know my needs but again, it boiled down to not believing that I deserved to have these needs met.

Give a person who has withstood starvation (or other self-induced abuse in the extreme) some skills – they will likely implement them to an extent and survive for quite some time. The will to stay alive is an amazing thing. Will it be sustained? Who can say? Some people “get by” for their whole lives relying on skills that serve them externally but never find themselves and the wonderful reason they are. Some people are able to start their work with the skills and develop themselves as they implement them. I'm not saying my way is for everyone by any means – just sharing my experience.

I remember feeling such a visceral emptiness when I thought of myself. The idea that whatever was so empty in me could possibly be helped was beyond my imagination.

What I was eventually provided with was a safe place to grow. It was like being placed in a nest for as long as I needed to be there. There were people protecting me and helping me break longstanding habits. There is an element of habit in eating disorder behaviour. It was a place where I was safe to attempt to make many behavioural changes that had been posed to me over the years as part of this idea of “recovery”. With my “structures” being deconstructed one by one, I was left with just my small, raw self. This was terrifying for me but once I accessed that, I was able to begin my real growth and development.

Slowly, I explored “me”. As my mind was ready, I discovered more of what was real. I'm not talking about finding what I like to do and how I like to do it. Though that came too, it was more about realizing that I and all that I really am, and have been since my life began. The core of me: my skills, flaws, imperfections, and talents; a make up that I could value and was deserving of nurturing and love.

Once this was established, I could go on to work on all the things people had been trying to teach me over the years. What was so amazing to me was that I was given the chance to do this in my words, on my terms, and as was right for me. Since leaving treatment I have discovered that many skills I have now are part of what conventional therapies offer. A significant difference regarding the ability to implement these ideas is that I had the time to develop a platform. All the skills taught to me are supporting the platform that is me. What I do reinforces or grows this platform of me-ness. The “me” in this had to be developed first.

I admitted that I have experienced some “eating disordered thoughts”. The difference now is that they are just indicators of the need to get back to my platform, do an inspection, and probably perform some maintenance.

If I was not given the platform of me and been able to take the time to culture love and respect for that me, I know that I would have lived at high risk for relapse if not acutely ill for lengths of time. What is there to fight for when what you think you are is worthy of tolerance at best and/or hate more often? Would you fight for you if you hated you?

I don't have any real solutions to offer regarding common treatment approaches, and that is hard.

I set out with the intention of discussing the idea that living with the mental abuse an ED voice but not acting on it does not have to be what recovery looks like. That would never have been sustainable for me but that doesn't mean it is not for others. It was not desirable to me and I want others who want more to know that “getting by” does not have to be the best that one looks towards.

I know that something vastly different is possible. I can say that the only thing I have to “learn to live with” is the awareness of how I occasionally receive messages from my intuition. I still believe that could change sometime for me. For now, it is how I am prompted to listen.

It takes an immense strength to fight against the behaviours that are offered as solutions by the negative beast in a disordered mind. With practice, that part gets better even with an underdeveloped sense of self – practice always helps! To face one's self as needed and truly, openly reflect, takes a different kind of strength. It also lends itself to a wonderful forward flow of growth and development. I know I wouldn't want to live in any other way.

My greatest wish is that each person could be placed in a nest as needed. To crack their shell and hatch; develop their wings and eventually, when they are ready - fly.

(All images uncredited - my apologies.  Random internet finds.)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Dear Sufferer: Who are you?

Apologies again for not maintaining this space.  Just a quick note for today:

I hear so often from people with EDs (and said it myself not so long ago) "But who am I without my eating disorder?  I am nothing without it."  That was one of many thoughts that kept me trapped for as long as it did.  ED was a defining aspect of me.  I had better times and harder times but always, I related to it.  I was "in recovery" or had "relapsed" or was "healthy but struggling mentally".  ED was constantly tied to my identity because I remained scared of what was inside - what if I was nothing?  It has lost its place in my description of self and with what I identify - completely.  It is a huge part of my past but it never should have had such perceived intimacy with my character.  Nor should it in yours.

By giving up ED, yes, it seems as though a vast emptiness will exist - it won't.  It might feel like it for a while but who one actually is - who you are - persists through everything, we just have to find her/him.

To give up ED is to trade sadness for joy, fear for courage, anger for kindness, and worthlessness for value; and all other wonderful aspects of your true self.

Joy is waiting for you.  Your courage has never left, it is just difficult to understand in sickness.  You are inherently good and kind but have been beaten down by your mind and often by life.  You have confirmed your worthlessness with unfounded thoughts created by a monster in your head and its misunderstanding of external messages.

This can all change and you can be you, safely.  You can be happy and satisfied.

What are you holding onto this for?  I don't know a lot of people who know how to get themselves better and that is not the point, I am not saying this is ever a choice but do not, for one moment, think that without ED you are nothing.  Without ED you are everything you are not allowed to be right now and so beautiful.

Please choose to get to know you.  We are all born worthy and remain so until our last breath.  Let the world see you shine.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Late entry: Two years.

I'm so sorry that I have neglected this space for so long.

The two year anniversary of when I first left for Portugal has come and gone. Over the last month, I considered what I might want to say about this anniversary and there is so much! However, it was one interaction in particular that offered the content of today's post.

I have been at St. Paul's a lot recently, for courses and reorientation as part of the exciting process of getting me back to work. The time I spent around the hospital has been great. I had the chance to really experience my emotional progress with exposure to that old environment. I had no reaction to the general areas of the hospital. On the unit where I worked, my excitement to get back to work only grew as I practised my skills in the lab, observed the other nurses hard at work, and had conversations with educators and those in leadership roles. Overall, though exhausting as I am not accustomed to working anymore, this process has gone very smoothly and at a most reasonable pace. Each new task or decision has been placed in front of me only as I have reached a point of readiness for it.

It does not mean that it is easy, but it is quite a peaceful experience of the challenges I am faced with as I work towards something I never imagined would happen. Something that I used to hold passion for and am feeling that same drive be ignited again.

A couple of weeks ago, I went back to the inpatient eating disorder unit at the hospital to visit a friend. The day I went I continued to experience peace. I considered what might cause me distress about the situation and decided that I was in a solid enough place and surrounded by the right support to contend with whatever might come up.

When I stepped onto the unit, I had no reaction. The nurse asked me if I had been there before and I responded, “Yes.” (obviously). He confirmed that I was familiar with the routines and I said, “No, I don't think so.” All he asked was that I did not bring food onto the unit. I laughed and told him I had gum and asked if he would like me to hand that over – he didn't. How bizarre to be on the outside, as a visitor, unfamiliar with their routine but aware beyond what they required!

Anyway, I enjoyed my friend's company and on the way out, stopped to say hello to a couple of other nurse who knew me from the past. Once I told them who I was, they seemed quite thrilled to see me as a well person. High fives and big was a great moment (one of a few with numerous ED program staff). One of them asked to speak with me for a few minutes about how the program in Portugal was different than what I had experienced in Canada. This is where the inspiration for this post came from.

I have been faced with this question before and have not managed to answer as well or as clearly as I would like to. Sometimes it is simply a slight head shake and, “Everything.” Other times it has been an unstructured mess of words trying to highlight what the most important differences were for me. In this instance, I was able to offer a more concise description of the program and the components as I had experienced them. The nurse went on to ask something along the lines of, “So, with this kind of therapy and treatment, do you feel that you were given the tools to set appropriate boundaries and practice assertive communication?”

I smiled and the answer became so clear. I responded with what is true:

What they gave me in this program was myself. They debunked the lies in my head that had me certain that I was a bad person. Once I learned and understood that I was actually a good person, deserving of life and ultimately desiring life, self-respect and love naturally followed. With that knowledge, I explained to her: When you have yourself and you like and love yourself; when you want to live and be a full part of this world, like any other well person - knowing your limits and seeking fulfilment of needs in effective and healthy ways, becomes the only way to live.

What greater gift could a program offer me except the understanding of myself? Any practitioner can give a patient skills and illustrate communication systems that should work but when a person doesn't understand what or why they are seeking what they are, what good are these tools?

It was so neat to me to be able to tell her this. As for the how I got from there to here...that is a little blurry. Of course it took extensive guidance, support, persistence, and patience on the part of the team that worked with me and also from my friends and family as I stepped forward into the new ground that was becoming me.

All of this continues to require work as I solidify caring for, respecting, and loving myself as habit. The best part now, is that my focus can extend beyond myself. I made a video days, days before I left, in which I spoke about how scared I was but how hard I was going to work to overcome my condition if they thought they could help me. In there, I indicated that in the future, I would like to help others but that I had to work on/help myself first. I didn't know that it would take “as long” as it did but I am so thankful that I had the chance to do all the necessary, foundational work. The encouragement to maintain the focus on my improvement was also imperative as I was often wanting to run off and help the world as I felt that spending so much time thinking about and talking about myself was simply selfish. Perhaps it was, but it was needed. Now, I have the rest of my life, if I use it as I would like to, to extend my whole self to others and to the moments of life as they present themselves (and as I seek them).

Two years ago I could never have imagined what lay on the other side of the pain and self-hatred. The idea that life could be so beautiful and that I could be so okay was more than foreign – it was completely alien.

Seems like no time and a lifetime at the same time. And now, it's time for the best time(s).