As I write this post, I am sitting in the Detroit airport, slightly boozy (it’s so nice to be 21), having just finished my semester a little less than 3 hours ago. Pretty much every college student out there is excited to have a few weeks off and to have finished finals, but finishing this semester has a special significance to me. The last time I was able to finish a full semester of college without taking any incompletes or medical withdrawals was the fall of 2014… yes, three full years ago.
I have suffered from anorexia for many years, and for a very long time, this illness led to me an incredibly unstable place, emotionally, physically, and cognitively. This time last year, I was taking finals remotely, from the confines of a residential treatment center just outside of Boston, pretty certain that my life would never change and that the only thing I was capable of was living in an eating disorder. I was so angry that I was forced into treatment, because I was certain I would never get better, and thought dying from my eating disorder seemed better than living in that utter hell. And yet, here I am, alive and with a tummy full of nachos from this airport bar.
Throughout the past year, there have been so many obstacles I have had to overcome, ranging from gaining weight to learning to listen to my own body to beginning to assert myself and make (healthy) decisions for myself. These obstacles have all seemed terrifying- and even the smaller challenges I’ve taken on, like going to yoga regularly, have been frightening at first. Someone (@oatsandwoes) asked me about a month ago what had changed, how I had, after so many years, made these incredibly necessary changes. The truth is, I didn’t want to. I did not want to change; I wanted to hold on to as much of the “old me” as possible. And that’s what I tried to do, for a while. And I was still so incredibly unhappy, still unable to picture a life worth living.
When my mom, out of desperation, gave me the option of coming back to U-of-M and skating again, I was thrilled, and also knew that it would be impossible if I continued my pattern of holding onto my old habits, which always destroyed me in the end. In the days following that proposition, I started wondering, “What if?” What if I gave this recovery thing a shot? What if I tried to do the things that terrified me, ranging from eating food to being vulnerable? And I started to lean into the scary things, knowing that I could always run away if I needed to. And through the moments when running away seemed like the only safe option, I learned to reach out.
Leaning into fear was terrifying a year ago. To be honest, it still is now. I still have so many fears, they just no longer relate to food. I am still scared of being completely vulnerable with others, of not being “enough” (another post for another time), of losing the life I have (and want to run away from it before the other shoe can drop), and so many other things. But leaning in anyways, trying the headstand even though I knew I might fall (which, by the way, I recently did in the middle of a crowded yoga class), sharing details of my life with others (first therapists, then friends), has led to the greatest rewards. And in that, I’ve learned one of the most important things I think I ever will- the greatest risks come with the greatest rewards.
So, yes, my life today is vastly different than it was a year ago. It is much bigger and scarier- it extends beyond food, weight, calories burned, and includes meaningful relationships and the possibility of failures much bigger than “failing” to see a .5 lb weight loss. And it is also so incredibly fulfilling.
Lean in. Try something that scares you. What’s the worst thing that happens? Really, what is? Life is full of choices, and the safe ones bring us nowhere.
Happy holidays, and thank you so much for reading my very first post!