To see someone you love
look at you with so much sadness;
that is the definition of shame.
To see someone you love
look at you with so much sadness;
that is the definition of shame.
Sometimes you have to do hard things you don’t want to do to get to the outcome you desire. Sometimes you do them without a second thought, either because you don’t want to face the dissatisfaction or because you simply don’t think about the task at all. Sometimes, however, you think about it a lot (maybe too much) and it pisses you off.
Or… if you are like me… you do the last thing every time. You think, dwell, simmer, get angry, and then come to terms with it (hopefully). You realize, ultimately, what you don’t want to do is simply a means to an end.
I do all of these and more. I am, as some tend to describe me, a “mix of wanting to please people and rebel.” Which, frankly, is a shitty combination because it means I have an internal dialogue with very different, opposing voices.
“You need to do the thing because it is what will make others the most happy.”
“Rebel. Definitely rebel. Don’t let them control you.”
Every. Damn. Time.
There, in my mind, is a fine line between being controlled and being asked to carry out something. I often struggle to find the divide and tread lightly down the middle. I have a very strong sense of individuality and tightly held beliefs surrounding personal rights and expression. It is, in some ways, what helps to make me “me.”
My thoughts are not often political–though personal expression and cultural norms seem to be becoming more and more prominent in some areas of politics anyway. Frankly, I don’t know what ideology I hold in the politics realm… I am still trying to find out and I probably will be developing and then re-developing those beliefs for a long time to come.
What I do know, however, is that I despise how one’s appearance can limit, influence, or determine what jobs you get, how well you are paid, and the way one is perceived in the workforce and society.
I am not shy about my piercings. I have a lot. I think they are done tactfully, and I find them to be a wonderful means of personal expression. I dye my hair. I love to change it up (though by change it up, I mean different shades of red because I LOVE RED HAIR). I wear black. It’s my color of choice and in what I feel most confident. I do not dress “feminine” and that shouldn’t matter–regardless of my heterosexuality. Sexual identities can be fluid and diverse and whether or not someone “looks the part” is simply a societal standard stuck in the past. I say this because I am aware that I am an individual with privileges not afforded to some and I, in no way, want to downplay others’ struggles.*
But in a landscape rife with people wanting you to “fit in,” personal expression makes it hard to comply… and I don’t want to abide by their rules anyway.
In my new job, as a server, I see a lot of different people. Some might be a bit alternatively dressed–in a way similar to me when I am not in my uniform–while others would disagree or look down on my choices of expression. In this industry, to make money (tips) you have to conform to the majority–whether you want to or not. I don’t want to. And here is where the “pleaser vs. rebel” personality of mine comes in again… fit the mold and make more money… or be yourself (at least piercing wise) and potentially get less for it. Ultimately, because we work be a shared tip system, I decided to “fit” a bit more. Whatever the hell that means.
It was a hard time coming to that decision. I dealt with some personal doubts surrounding my expression after someone implicitly called me a whore for the way I looked and scolded my choice to wear more earrings that I “should” as well as have a nose ring instead of a stud. (For the record, “more” meant less than half of what I COULD be sporting and very conservative jewelry).
Hearing that I am “whore-ish” was not pleasant and it made me doubt a lot of my choices. It made me look in the mirror and wonder if all of these piercings suit me or I just tricked myself into thinking they look good on me. It made me self-conscious and insecure and quiet because I, all of a sudden, doubted most of my being. I am not surprised I had this response for a bit, considering my past (and current) struggles with body image and self-worth.
But consider that a comment such as the above could create that much of a response… it’s plain sad.
I put too much worth in what others say to me. It is the pleaser part of my brain. But the rebel will then hop in with a “fuck that” and I tend to move on… after a while.
My choices should have absolutely NO effect on whether I am worthy of pay for my work or a higher position. But they do. Because in a society like ours, people believe that everything should be there to please THEM. Of course, not everyone is like this, but I am speaking in a general sense for the ease of this discussion. Just like my sex can limit me (looking at you lower pay for women in the same position as a male counterpart… that is STILL a problem), my appearance can.
But guess what… neither SHOULD.
This is not a small issue to fix. It is not something that CAN be fixed in days… months… maybe even years. It is society wide. It is ingrained in beliefs. It is insidious.
I don’t support it. I never, ever will. And I will, ALWAYS, be the rebel when it comes to fighting these inherent judgements. The pleaser part of me gets shut the fuck up.
*I want to make it clear that I do not and cannot say I understand all the struggles of not conforming to what others (and the greater society) think you should look like or be. I do, however, understand a select amount.
I did something I never, ever thought that I would do: I quit.
I quit my job. I decided that I couldn’t do it anymore. I needed something new–something better for me and my mental health.
It was probably one of the hardest things I have had to do. That might sound strange, but I have a tendency to want to people please. And leaving a place because I am the one who wants to is very different for me. Doing something because it is in MY best interest is an action I have only recently begun to act upon consistently.
I’m in a strange place right now. I am stuck waiting for a few different events to either play out… or not. And that is difficult for me, because I have no control over them anymore. I can no longer influence the outcome–they are in others’ hands.
Limbo is, well, uncomfortable, almost by nature. But it is especially trying when the limbo rests between what *feel* like two very different, important outcomes.
It is nearly impossible to resist trying to affect the outcome one way or another.
Sitting here, writing this entry, my brain keeps pointing out all the other, more productive (or not) things I could be doing instead. It keeps trying to redirect my brain to something more comfortable. Because that is what it is supposed to do–help me be comfortable.
But change, bravery, lessons do not lie in what is comfortable. No, one must leave the comfort zone to discover something new. For nothing is unknown in comfort, in the common.
What’s worse is that old habits lie waiting in the discomfort, trying–though unsuccessfully–to win me back. It was expected, but not welcome. Unhealthy habits are never welcome.
I’ve been vague in my discussion above for a reason. I intended to NOT name what it is I am waiting for and in limbo between. Because it doesn’t matter.
There are always going to be these weird times of limbo. The events, decisions, actions are going to change–but the feelings, they stay the same.
The discomfort lives in the limbo–it always will. It’s what you do IN the discomfort that makes the difference.
In my opinion, one of the hardest things about “re-learning” how to live life and take care of yourself through recovery is finding balance. For much of the time one is in treatment, the day is simply JUST treatment. But leaving the world of formalized and center-based treatment back into the world of outpatient appointments and mostly free weeks results in a lot to be determined and time to be filled.
It is something I talked about so much with my therapist and my treatment team. It is a vocabulary word that has been a staple in my language for the past 5 months.
What the hell is balance.
I can’t say I have done a perfect job moving from IOP to outpatient and balancing recovery and life from the get-go. But I also didn’t expect that I would.
If I learned ONLY one thing in treatment (which is far from the truth…I learned more than I can communicate), then it would be that I cannot expect perfection because it is realistic, possible, human. I would disappoint myself literally every time if I expected to be perfect. Never in my life have I or will I be perfect. This transition is no different. In fact, the lack of perfection is what makes it so successful.
I have had to sit down and talk to myself. I have had to tell myself that “yes, I can eat that. I will be okay.” I have had to make a conscious decision to order the hard thing that would have been so easy to avoid. I have tried new things. I have internally fought and won. I have internally fought and lost. But I have kept going and corrected and worked my ass off for the recovery that I so want and love.
That is what balance is to me. It is realizing that I am going to have a few bad days…maybe more than a few. But that I can persist anyway. It is relearning what life in the “real world” is like… with the constant daily challenges that I was somewhat sheltered from in treatment. It is picking the hard things because I know I can… and more than that… that I have to. It is realizing the mental difficulties are all worth it because they get smaller and smaller with exposure.
And it is giving myself grace for the days when I have more trouble. For the days when I need some help. And for the moments when I question it all and keep going anyway.
It’s a process.
That is balance.
Have you ever been star tripping?
You look up and spin around in circles and get dizzy and fall down and get your composure and do it all over again.
But you do it because it is fun. You do it because it is beautiful. You do it because it is captivating and unique and changing.
Sometimes you fall down and it takes a bit longer to get up. Maybe you spun around a bit too much and the dizziness overwhelms you. You might scrape your knee or bump into something. So you take a bit longer to pick yourself up and start spinning again–head held high, looking up.
There is nothing wrong with falling. It’s part of the experience.
That is kind of the most wonderful part of it. You never know what is going to happen. You laugh and smile and openly accept that you cannot control where you fall or when. But you know that you do get to pick when you stand back up and how you hold yourself and move on.
You know what’s neat about star tripping? It’s a lot like life.
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.
because choices have sacrifices and, inevitably, that means giving up something that you want for something that you want more.
I found those words in a White Collar episode of all places. But I wrote them down, because the message is one of utter truth.
When I heard this, I immediately thought of my eating disorder.
But wait, I thought I had broken up with that bitch? I did. I have. But the thing about break ups is you can still want. You can still want that which you KNOW you cannot have. But if you really look at it…do you really want that relationship back or are you just missing the feeling that came along with it?
For me, it is the feeling.
I miss the feeling of “safety” which was going back to my anorexia. I miss feeling like I had all the willpower in the world and like I could control my life. I miss feeling like I was special because I had this “friend” who was steering me to “success.”
All of these feelings were lies. They were elaborate concoctions of my disordered mind that told me I had it all. But, in all actuality, I had nothing. I didn’t have control, willpower, success, safety. I was slowly dying. I was starving my soul.
Maybe I am grieving my loss. I am grieving the loss of the image I have of what I want to look like, because I know it will never happen unless I begin to slowly die all over again (which is NOT an option). I am grieving the loss of my coping tool for all the fucking shit life throws at you. I am grieving the loss of an identity I held for so so many years. I am grieving the loss of the control I thought I had. I am grieving the loss of the feelings I had in my disorder.
The thing is, I remember all of these feelings that I liked… but I also look back and see all the misery. I remember (and still experience) the depression. I see the shit I put myself through and the tired, sick form of myself. I see the way I pretended to have it all together and then cried to myself in the shower so no one could tell. I remember the fear I had walking into a college cafeteria, party, club, etc. I remember the constant worry and thoughts about food and weight and exercise. I remember the darkness and how I couldn’t have cared less about life. I remember feeling the intense secrecy of it all. I remember feeling the pain. I see the scars that illustrate the points I thought there were no other options and it was all my fault. I remember how I really did feel like I was falling into a hole I would never leave.
“Choices have sacrifices and, inevitably, that means giving up something you want for something you want more.”
I want those feelings of control, identity, success, safety. But I want recovery more.
I’m giving up my wants for the ones I want more. Because life is a gift, and I want to really live it.