Getting rid of the mirror and taking to the lens… a work in progress photography collection.
Recovery is a journey. One in which one changes and discovers oneself. One does a lot of introspection. But it is not a journey walked completely in solitude.
Often, I feel like I don’t acknowledge all the ways in which others have helped me along my path this far. I feel conceited in saying so, but it’s true. I focus a lot on me. Me me me. And that’s okay–I’m here to recovery ME–but I find it meaningful to take a bit to reflect on how much I care about those around me. I may feel lonely sometimes, but I am never alone.
To my parents:
I cut you out of my treatment for a while. I thought I would be better off doing it all on my own. I was wrong.
You love me unconditionally and only want the best for me. And though we do not always agree, (as is the case with most family relationships) you will always be there for me.
I am so thankful.
To my wonderful treatment friends:
I wouldn’t have made it this far without you. I owe much of my recovery to you.
The amount of strength that fills the room when we are together is immeasurable. Its effects enumerable. And my gratitude incommunicable. You saw me when I tried to be invisible. You helped me when I was crying in a corner and losing all my shit over something I don’t even remember anymore. You listened to my curse heavy rants and nodded along. You validated me and got me and held me up and pushed me down when I needed to sit my ass on the floor and get a hold of myself. You laughed by my side through the good bits and held my hand and hugged me through the unbearable. You understand in ways only those on this journey can.
I am so immensely thankful for you all. I love you all dearly and you have touched my life in a way I will never, ever forget.
To my child hood and high school, long distance best friends:
You mean so much to me. You check in on me when I’ve gone MIA because I suck at texting and communicating on a regular basis and often mentally reply and never send a physical text.
You support me in my recovery even if I don’t actually see you. You send me reassuring messages and talk to me about my character and how I am capable of more.
You offer to come see me and don’t get angry when I say I can’t do that because I am too depressed or self-conscious or I have been crying for 48 hours straight.
You love me anyway. You love me with my flaws. You see me for me. You show me I have worth. I can’t say thank you enough.
You’ve seen me through it all and not judged me. You accepted me when I *finally* told you about my eating disorder and then pushed me in my recovery.
You told me I was fucking insane when I needed to hear it and reassured me that some of my fears were unfounded.
You did it all from afar.
You are individuals I admire so greatly and respect immensely. I love you.
To the men’s cross-country/track team that has accepted me unconditionally:
I was trying to figure out how to anonymously address you all. Because you all mean so much to me. And “the men’s cross-country/track team” doesn’t seem fitting–albeit true. Because you are so much more than just people who run in circles and to address you in that manner seems a bit…dissatisfying.
I know we met because I am dating one of your own, but you’ve all become some of my best friends and most trusted confidants. You saw me before I started this journey. You saw me when I was about to give up all over again. You saw me in my hope and joy and in my depression when even smiling was too much work.
You’ve pushed me in ways you can’t know. I’ve been challenged a lot simply because I’ve been exposed to so much. I’ve had to learn how to go with the crazy flow and deal with teasing and embarrassment and being the subject of attention and getting yelled at across a room or cafeteria or outdoor space or whatever.
And though I still feel like I don’t really fit in (because I feel so different in my abilities… read I can’t run for shit anymore and I am not allowed to anyway…) I’m beginning to see how that is false. And the more time I spend with you, the more I begin to believe it as well. I love y’all so much.
To my boyfriend, who has stuck by me through it all:
I don’t know if I would be here without you. I really don’t. I don’t know if I would have gone back to the treatment center far away. I don’t know if I would have pushed myself as I have. I don’t know if I would be at this point in my recovery.
Because you told me you believed in me through it all. I could keep going when I didn’t believe in myself because someone still did–you did. And you still do. You tell me you are proud of me for all I have done, you notice how I have grown, you encourage me when I need it, and you hold me and tell me it is going to be okay when I don’t think it ever will.
You’ve loved me through all my changes and assured me that my physical ones were okay (even though I still don’t believe you because it will only ever sink it when I believe it from myself). You remind me that I am not loved or worthy based on how I appear, but who I am and all that I have to offer and can do. You’ve been there for me, long distance or not, and stuck by my side through this wild ride…and seem to want to take on what is still to come of it. And when I curl into a ball and cry and start to believe I am a horrible human being and deserve nothing in the world, you hold me for a bit, ask if there is anything you can do, accept it when I say no, and then offer to watch a show or do something fun or go someplace with me to make me feel better.
You’re my recovery hero and you have helped me realize that I DO deserve recovery and love and happiness and respect. I love you for that, but, most of all, I love you for you: the wonderful, caring, inspirational, thoughtful you.
I searched Pinterest for a while looking for topics on which to write. But I didn’t find any. I couldn’t seem to get my mind around any of them. I wanted to write some post about something deep and whatever, but you know what… I don’t need to and I am not going to.
Life is kind of a whirlwind. Recovery is more of a tornado. I often feel like I’m being whipped around in circles from one thing to another and then back again. But, interestingly enough, I’ve come to like it a bit. It’s a lot more interesting and satisfying than the perpetual depression of my eating disorder. I don’t mean to say it’s all good things in the tornado. Occasionally, I whirl by the Wicked Witch of the West and have a moment of fear and anxiety. But then I somehow land in Oz among the flowers and there’s a period of calm again–or as calm as it really can be in recovery.
It’s interesting though, because there is a lot of freedom in fear. It sucks, of course. But if you do whatever you fear, and then you do it again, and again, and again, and you keep going, the fear leaves and you just have freedom. It’s a process and it takes a LONG time. But each time you do the thing you fear and you make it to the other side, you get a little bit more space from the fright. You get a little bit more free.
Yesterday night, as I was preparing for bed, I pulled of my shirt and I stood in front of the mirror in my sports bra and I brushed my teeth. I looked at myself straight-on in the mirror and let my eyes wash over my body. I let them run over the shape of my stomach and my arms and my chest and let the feelings come. I noticed the thoughts that usually come with looking at my exposed body–the judgements and criticisms and slight sense of discomfort.
But I smiled instead of covering up again and just kept looking. I did it because I needed to and because I physically couldn’t put a shirt back on with a toothbrush in my mouth… but mostly because I needed to do it. Because it kind of doesn’t matter what thoughts come to me. They are only thoughts. They do not mean that I am any less of a person. And I may not believe that entirely just yet, but I stood through the discomfort anyway and embraced it.
It sucked a little bit. It sucked to not like everything I saw. But I only dislike it because of a standard I have in my head that is absolutely ridiculous. I will never fit the standard that society holds for me and that, therefore, I have in my mind is correct.
But it isn’t correct. It is warped and unachievable and unhealthy (at least for me). And that’s the way it is–like it or not.
I keep thinking about a poem I read the other day. It’s entitled “Enough” and it reads:
Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to the life
we have refused
again and again
I think it spoke to me because I am so ready for it all to be “enough.” But what I like so much about this poem is that it finds enough in the simple. Breathing is enough. Sitting is enough. Being is enough.
Stop refusing life. Stop refusing to open yourself up to the world. Let just being be enough. Let being YOU be enough.
So standing in front of that mirror yesterday night, or putting on clothes this morning that didn’t hide my curves, or eating a before breakfast snack because my body was hungry, or looking down and seeing my stomach and my thighs and my body, I remember that I am enough. I might not completely believe it yet, but I tell myself it anyway. I’m not lying. I may feel like I am sometimes; I may not agree with the statement; I may try to refute and disprove it, but it is true none-the-less.
I am enough. You are enough. And I’ve had enough of “refusing life.”
*Let me preface this by saying that this post is going to be a brutally honest, zero bullshit, hands-up-in-surrender type of post.*
My body and I don’t are not getting along too well right now. I might go so far as to say that I hate my body, or at least the way it looks.
I struggle with having curves. I struggle with having a butt and thighs that touch and a stomach that isn’t flat. I struggle with not being toned and defined. I struggle with not having stamina and endurance. I struggle seeing the way my body squishes. I struggle with the changes that have happened since I started recovery.
I don’t always want to be seen. Actually, I almost NEVER want to be seen. I don’t like undressing. I don’t like having to see myself in the shower and be reminded of my changes. I don’t like wearing fitting clothing. I don’t even really like my boyfriend seeing my “new” body.
I compare myself to other girls and wish I looked like they do. I see someone and a voice says to me that if I just looked like she did then I would have the right curves and I would be pretty. THEN, I would be satisfied with myself.
That’s a fucking lie.
The truth is, I will never be satisfied with myself by changing. Satisfaction and self-confidence have nothing to do with what shape I am, if I have a thigh gap, whether my abs are visible, or if I weigh a certain number.
It is so easy to turn to “fixing” the problem when really you are only altering the manifestations of a deeper, underlying issue.
The problem is not how I look; it is how I perceive myself and where I store my worth.
Of course, if my self-worth is stored in my thighs, my stomach, or how thin I am compared to another UNIQUE human being, I will never measure up; I will never feel worth anything.
I wish I could figure out when what my body looks like became more important than who I am as a person. Because I am not my body. Beauty is not skin deep. Beauty is found in the soul, the personality, the heart of someone. The body is only the vessel.
I wish I could pinpoint exactly what happened to make my body my enemy… but I know I never will and, ultimately, it doesn’t matter. What matters is how I change this perception, this unfounded belief that I am only as good as the way I look. I need to try to own who I am until I really can own it.
I have skin over my ribs. I have skin with a scar that shows my battle to recovery. I see it and I remember how far I have come. I am ashamed of that scar, but I carry on because I have to. Because I want to.
I have a belly that squishes and folds when I sit. It hides my abs and sticks out a bit. But it is healthy. It isn’t gnawing away at me and begging me for food even when it knows I won’t listen.
I have hips that have shape. I have hips that sway as I walk. I have hips that make me self-conscious of wearing tight clothes for fear of being called fat. I have hips that no longer show bones when I walk. But I also have hips that may eventually help me have children. I have hips because I am supposed it.
I have thighs that touch. I have thighs of which I am self conscious and afraid of the same teasing I had when I was younger. I have thighs that remind me of the nights I would cry and wish I could cut them away from my body because then all of it would stop. I have thighs that hold scars of the pain I have felt–self imposed scars to try to get out all the hurt. But they are still there. And they still work. Why should the space in between them dictate my worth?
I have an ass for which I had been teased endlessly as a kid. I was so excited when I lost it during my eating disorder. I dreaded getting it back during recovery. But I need to forgive the teasing and make peace with myself. I have a butt. I have curves and shape. I also have a soul and a mind. I don’t hate those, why hate the other?
The battle to love my body is so far from over. It probably won’t be over anytime soon. But I am trying… and that’s the best I can do.
I have hope that I can learn to love me for who I am as a person and not what I look like. I have hope that I can strip my perception of worth away from the size and shape of my person. I have hope that I can come to accept what I look like, maybe even like it, one day.
It’s been a long haul. We’ve been through a lot together. But it’s over now. I’d say “it’s not you, it’s me,” but that isn’t true. It’s all you. You served a purpose for a while, you gave me a sense of control and safety-albeit incorrectly- but I don’t need you anymore. I don’t want you anymore.
I want life and love and laughter. I want adventures. I want smiles and spontaneity. I want health and happiness.
I want cake and chocolate. I want fast food on busy days and comfort meals on rainy, cold nights. I want to eat candy and popcorn at movies. I want to listen to cravings and eat to my desires. I want foreign foods and the chance to try new foods. I want to go out to a restaurant and have the full course meal.
I want to look in the mirror and accept what I see. I want to see myself for who I am as a person and not how my clothes fit or what I weigh. I want to meet new people and not think about how I look to them. I want to go on trips and learn new things and be able to feel the wind on my face on the top of a mountain. I want to run for fun and enjoy movement because it makes me feel good inside.
I want to be me, authentically. I want to discover who I am and fill the spot in my soul you take up with gold. I want to breathe in freedom and exhale rigidity. I want flexibility and variety.
Ed, I want life. And you do not bring me life. You do not bring me any of the things I want above. You hinder me. You hold me down. You tell me I am less than I am. You abuse me and manipulate me and take me away from my dreams.
We don’t work. We never will again. It’s over. We’re done.