Here I am, one year later. It seems, now, to have gone by in the blink of an eye. Days and weeks and months that felt like they would never end, that nothing would ever change, that I was enduring hell for absolutely no reason have brought me to this point. And it's incredible. I find myself going about my days sometimes in some form of routine and without much appreciation for what I am able to do now. After even just one full day of “existing” I find myself bored and the one constant that brings me back to really living each moment is feelings/thoughts of gratefulness. Boredom cannot exist when one fosters an absolute wonder at life because each moment is new and different in some form and has so much beauty to offer.
A lot and hardly anything is changing at the same time. On the outside, things seem pretty consistent. I'm drifting easily into my own style and presentation. I have regular activities that I do and people that I engage with and through this - simplly life - the personal growth continues and I can look forward to it continuing for a long time to come.
Many things have become so simple if I allow them their simplicity and stop over-analyzing and picking through absolutely every thought and feeling. Thoughts happen. Feelings happen. And neither are often earth-shattering or ground crumbling. For example, I've had about three consistent days of loneliness. A familiar feeling that was perpetual not so many months ago. The first day I really felt it, my chest ached; I just missed my friends and family back home so much. I didn't really know what to do with it. I reached out and mentioned it to my counsellor and she reassured me that it was “normal” but I had about an hour where I thought, “Now, what am I going to do about this? There has to be a way to fix it because this is highly unpleasant.” It makes me smile now because it was still a bit of a process to get me to a place where I thought, “Actually, I can just feel this and carry on with things and it will eventually go away.” You see, it isn't the kind of loneliness I used to experience – a kind where you miss something or someone or somewhere constantly and there is nothing that alleviates that. This is a completely “normal” loneliness where I have good friends that live far away and who I haven't seen in some time and I miss them. Plus, I live on my own and I do almost everyone on my own and that can feel a little lonely at times to not be sharing life with others as much as I'd like to. Simple things like seeing a bird formation or a magnificent sunset are always lovely for me but can be even more so when experienced with someone else. Previously, I had no ME so of course I was lonely and searching for something/someone. Today I thought as I entered Day 3 of this feeling, “I'd rather be temporarily lonely and be where I need to be and doing what I need to do than rush away to be with people and risk returning to a life of self-hatred.” That was comforting to me, I have the rest of my life to be wherever and with whomever I want to be, this is so transitory and is essential to enabling me to carrying on in the connected fashion I so ultimately desire.
Another very different experience of feelings for me at this point is deciphering what is familiar anxiety and what is healthy intuition. I have grown in my trust of my intuition beyond description. I went through a terrible phase here where I didn't know which end was up, I had to ask about Every. Little. Thing. In the years prior to this that I spent so ill, I also needed someone else to know better most of the time. I was so numbed out to my gut and had lost all faith in myself as I had “proven” to myself that I was an all-around epic failure, that it has taken a lot of work to regain any trust in myself. I remember a post I made about the people on the outside that surrounded me and I wondered how to bring them to a place where they could trust me...as I see it now, maybe their well-person intuition inferred that I wasn't yet solid in myself and maintained a level of protection for me. If that is the case, I appreciate their ability to care for me and keep me safe when, although I soldiered along with my shoulders back and head high and presented as strongly as I could, I was not there yet. However, this is not as finely tuned as I look forward to it being at some point in the future. I lived many years with extreme anxiety. I was fearful of absolutely everything: sleeping, waking, people, activities, answering the phone, opening the door, being alone, being with people, food, fluid, death, life, darkness, light, and on and on. There were valiant attempts by many practitioners to help me cope with this anxiety: drugs, therapy, “tools”; but I had no idea that this state could actually be alleviated. It has been!! It's not something I will cope with forever, it's something I understand now and have healed from. I can't even explain how it happened, it just did. Like with so many things, I might have a deja vu from time to time and remember what I used to do or think at different times that I just don't anymore and have absolutely no need to do.
Going back to the original statement, it is still sometimes a challenge to recognize what is a fear that is habitual and has just existed for a long time in my mind and what is actual intuition that works to keep me appropriately safe. As is my typical style, I sometimes push things and get a little burned while discovering what was a gut feeling I should have honoured rather than pushed the limits of but how else does one learn and grow? More often than not, it's quite fun anyway.
It's been on my mind to write about my idea of how I will be when I'm through with this program. I'm going to return to a world where the common belief is that people with eating disorders maintain a perpetual state of recovery similar to drug addicts and live at risk of relapse. I don't believe that anyone is condemning me to relapse, just that it will remain a risk for a very long time if not for life. In my case, that's not true. I have never viewed eating disorders in relation to addictions and felt a bit stigmatized by others when that correlation was proposed. I always knew that if I was going to get better it was going to be to a place where I could say with confidence that I was recoverED. That's not “in recovery”. I didn't want to get better if I was going to be living my life always glancing over my metaphorical shoulder and watching to “signs of relapse”. I wanted to get well with no looking back, and that's the philosophy of the program that I have been so fortunate to be a part of. And it's happening.
I will be leaving here whole and without that looming risk of relapse that has been beaten into me over the years in the system. I have been brought to not only my senses but myself. I have developed such a respect for myself, my body, my mind, that I could never go back. I don't have typical "tools to cope". It's simple, I will be (am nearly!) well and a well person couldn't imagine being sick again and would never "need" to be sick.
Yes, one could probably define what I know will enable me to attain and maintain wellness in some clinical fashion but in simple lay man's terms I have: the ability to reach out when I need help; to be aware of what is really good for me; to respect my need to be first sometimes and know that does not make me selfish; to be objective in my interactions and realize that it's not always all about me even when it can appear on the surface as though it is. I am allowed – by myself - every human experience that I allow others – to be scared and angry and sad and lonely as well as happy, excited, proud, silly, etc. My double standards that held me hostage for so many years, those that made me constantly not good enough have been all but eliminated. If I'm not okay, I can say it and not fear being judged and seek out the support I need, I don't need to show it with my body or behaviours.
Even more simply, I like to feel good and I like to look good and those things cannot coexist in a body that is neither too big or too small for who is authentically me. By treating myself with respect and kindness, I am doing my part to become and be what is best for me.
Finally, body image again.
I'm sure people are wondering just how I feel in this body I've “gained” (for lack of a much better word that I'm sure is out there). It's a very interesting experience, this physical recovery. I've known all along basically where I needed to get to weight-wise to have my body function optimally and to respect what is natural for me. I didn't reconcile with this knowledge until very recently. The majority of days are okay as far as body image goes. This has been rapidly improving. I have peaks and valleys for sure but not often worse than any human might experience. There certainly are days where what I see is distorted still. My reflection can change dramatically overnight or even in a moment in a way that I know is not simply fluid retention and is certainly not real weight gain it is just a distortion. Sometimes it can be related to feelings or worries I'm having and other times it's completely out of the blue. Strangely, it comes most often on days where I'm feeling alright about me as a person and the only thing I can think of to explain this is that there's still something in my head that tries to bring me down or wants me to believe that I'm not worthy of feeling good or liking myself. It's not conscious, that's for sure. The thing about this now is that I can recognize when it's a distortion and no, even that awareness doesn't always help, often it's still really difficult to exist in a body that is “so big” compared to what I had become accustomed to and then throw in a day where all mirrors are acting like those carnival funny mirrors?!! It's a challenge but one that is so simple in the grand scheme of things and there is no distortion so great that it would cause me to hurt myself ever again.
I wrote this recently to someone explaining where I'm at with my thoughts about my weight and shape:
“I actually have only weighed myself once since I've been back from Canada and it was purely out of curiosity. I have days where I'm driven to get on a scale but I know that it would just give me a reason to berate myself. So on those days where I know I might react to the number, I know to avoid places that might enable me to mentally compromise myself. Most days, I don't even think about the number at all. I consider how I feel in my body, what my energy level is like, how I've been treating myself in regards to diet, exercise, and sleep, etc. I have days where I'm extremely uncomfortable with being this size, for sure. But I have days where I don't even think about it at all and even the occasional day/moment where I like it! My fear of becoming clinically obese again is decreasing as time goes on and how I see it now is that I have too much respect for myself to let that happen in the same way that respect will keep me from starving myself, binging and purging, excessive exercise, laxatives, etc. to achieve a low weight.”
So yeah, it continues to be quite an adjustment for me as I maintain a weight that is most appropriate for Julia. However, my body is merely as big as I truly am inside and I, my friends, have a presence and a personality that has filled out just like the rest of me!
On that note, I will finally post this. Thank you to everyone for your on-going support, it really means the world to me.