Every year on my anniversary I do one of these posts (and I’ll apologize now that it’s a novel), and I know all the time I say, “it’s amazing how far I’ve come blah blah blah.” But this year has a different meaning for me. 3 months ago I was ready to pack my bags and head back to treatment. The thought of being back there was comforting because it’s safe – away from the uncertainty of the real world. The change in me between 3 months ago and now is unbelievable – so much so that I’ve had people question how bad the relapse really was or if I was faking it. I’m always joking about how I eat whatever whenever and workout a lot. I sound like an extremely healthy 21 year old girl. I will argue diets to the death and am all about taking care of yourself.
However, sometimes it’s easy to forget that it’s a mental illness, meaning it’s in my head – not in the “I’m making it all up” sense, but in the “you can’t see it” sense. Yes, I always joke about how I’m always eating at work – morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack and another one right before I leave because I work out afterwards, and my coworkers will joke about it, too. The first time it happened it hit me really hard. I started wondering if maybe I was eating too much and was I going to get fat? Even though I have been eating like that for a couple months now, and, yes I gained at first, but I’ve maintained it now. I’m pretty aware of my thoughts, especially the unhealthy ones, but sometimes I need a reality check. This was one of those situations. After a phone call to a friend and some reassurance that I’m strong and healthy and I need the fuel to sustain my workouts, I was ok. Now when they say that, I laugh along and remember that I couldn’t run stadiums if I didn’t eat a couple snacks a day and lord knows I couldn’t do Insanity.
I do something every year for my “anniversary,” but the reason it’s so much more important to me this year to do something to celebrate is because of the last relapse. I remember falling asleep and out of breath as I was walking through the ballroom at the Hilton in June, thinking that a life with an eating disorder was all I was going to live. It was too hard to sustain recovery because shit happens and the eating disorder is always there nagging at me to fall back on. Then I remember the beginning of August walking through that same ballroom, wide eyed and bushy tailed, wondering how I could ever think that. Yes, recovery is f***ing hard! I’m not going to lie about that. But it is 100% worth it. Isn’t there a saying that goes “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone?” That was the last few months.
Everyone knows this summer was bad, but no one really knows how bad. I made a promise to a friend that I would tell him if I was getting suicidal or thinking about self-harming again. That’s one of the only promises I have ever broken. I’m not saying that all depression leads to self-harm and suicidal ideologies, but for me it usually does. (**Before I go any further, let me say that I did NOT use any of those behaviors. I stayed safe the whole time**) At the time I didn’t think me cutting would be a big deal. So I bleed a little? Big deal. Who cares? The pain feels good. I reminds me that I’m failing. That if I was good enough I wouldn’t have to have the cuts. I vividly remember sitting on the floor, staring at my reflection in the mirror, doubled over in pain, crying that I couldn’t do it anymore. That it’d be easier if I just ended it. What pulled me out? I honestly don’t know. The moments after that are a blur. Did that same thought creep its way in time and again? Absolutely.
I have a history of self-harm. I have scars on my hip that are finally fading, but they’re still there. Sometimes you can see them when I wear a swimsuit. I have a history of suicidal tendencies. 3 years ago I had a plan. I was ready to end it. The specifics don’t matter because the last thing I want to do is give anyone else ideas, but there was a plan. It was by no means a good one and wouldn’t have worked, but I was so hopeless at the time, I didn’t think it all the way through. I desperately wanted immediate relief from the immense pain I was constantly feeling.
When people say that suicide is selfish or cowardly it pisses me off to no end. The people that say that haven’t felt that feeling. Not that I’m saying I wish that on anyone because I don’t!! It breaks my heart when I hear stories about people who have suffered because I know. I know that pain. I know thinking there is nothing else you can do because the pain and suffering is unbearable. I know what it’s like to have trouble breathing because the weight of everything you’re carrying is so heavy. For me, it wasn’t about thinking everyone’s life would be better without me. It was about thinking my life would be better off without me. The only reason I’m still here is because I was too afraid to actually do it. I was living with two fears. The fear of life and the fear of death. It was the fear that it would never get easier. It was the fear that every day would be hard to get out of bed. That I would never want to see my friends again. That my every thought would always be about calories/food/weight/fat. Think about a time when you were running late getting out of the house, got stuck in traffic, spilled your coffee all over your new shirt, forgot about a deadline for work or school, realized you left the stove on, got pulled over on the way home, and the list goes on. That feeling is temporary; it was just a shit day. But depression is more than that. It doesn’t just “go away.” It’s a shit day that never ends, but more, it’s a shit day for no specific reason. Maybe you have glimpses of happiness, but the darkness comes back down before you can blink again. That overwhelming feeling that you aren’t in control of anything and that it is never going to stop. To the point it feels like ending your life is the only solution.
Sometimes I think about it and am ashamed about that part of my past. But why should I be? I was sick. I know my life is worth living! I know I have some amazing things going for me! I have goals and things I want to achieve! I can’t do that if I’m not here. Part of recovery is fully accepting yourself. That includes all the things that we maybe aren’t so proud of, and not giving a shit what people think. It means doing what you need to do for yourself, whether that be taking a break when things are stressful or going for a run. It means picking the right, supportive people to be in your life – making decisions that will benefit you in the long run regardless of everyone else’s opinions.
The real world is terrifying. The likelihood of me saying the wrong thing or not succeeding in everything I do is insanely high – like 100%. The chances of the eating disorder sneaking back in are also high. After all, it has only been 3 years. I don’t know where I want to be in the next couple of years or my life in general. And all of that is scary! But I can’t fall back on the eating disorder or the addictions. I have a great group of friends that I know have my back. They know me well enough to know when things are rough and check in.
The other day I was talking to a friend, and I don’t remember how exactly we got talking about it, but he made the comment that delicate is the last word he would use to describe me. For a split second I was kind of taken aback because you know girls are supposed to be sensitive and dainty. But as fast as that thought came, it left. I have thick skin. I’m unbelievably stubborn and will stand up for myself because I know that I deserve to be treated with the same respect that I give others. I’m annoyingly independent, to the point that I like to think I’m Superwoman and can handle the world on my own. (I was out to dinner with a friend one night and we were talking about how we’re both really independent. She stops and looks at me and goes, “I like to think I’m independent, which I am, but you’re all like ‘I’m an independent woman that don’t need no man!’” That’s me in a nutshell!) The way I see it, if you don’t like that I stand up for myself, I don’t need you in my life. If you don’t like that I’m not a bean pole and have some meat on my bones, I don’t need you in my life. If you can’t accept and support me during the bad days, I sure as hell don’t need you for the good ones!
So today I’m celebrating my life. Not my life in recovery, but my life period. The messy, ugly, nitty gritty parts of my life. The mistakes, years lost and lessons learned. I’m celebrating my recovery, my health, my drive and my independence. The fact that I was lucky enough to get another chance at a life that’s turned out to be pretty incredible so far. I’m celebrating the future and everything it has in store for me. The opportunities, adventures and journeys. And how am I celebrating this you ask? With workouts, friends, crafts, cupcakes and movies! The way it should be 🙂