It’s that time of the year that every college student dreads more than any other – finals time. I’ve been ridiculously busy the last week or so with all manner of exams, papers, projects that I’ve barely had time to do anything else. At this point, however, I’m rewarding myself with a much needed study break tonight which will consist of a.) this blog post and b.) watching whatever Christmas movie ABC family is featuring tonight. I caught the end of Miracle on 34th Street last night and was amazed when I looked at the TV guide info and saw that movie came out in 1994…when I was 5 years old? Craziness. I guess I am getting old.
The past week or so I’ve been cautiously working my way back up with swim practice – I was [finally] cleared last Tuesday and started out with half an hour of easy swimming. Each day I’ve added ten minutes and added in some intensity. It’s hard to come back and see all my teammates not struggling with some sets that I’ve found difficult, but at the same time I know that I just need to be patient and give myself some time.
I would also like to take a moment to kvetch about my upstairs neighbor. I live in what is essentially a big house with a bunch of different apartments in it. I’m on the second floor of three, and so there is an apartment directly above me. Unfortunately, the floor must be reallyyy thin because when my neighbor walks around up there it sounds like he id deliberately stomping. I know this isn’t the case, and that’s not what bothers me because it’s not really distracting once you get used to it. BUT today was a different story! I’d been sitting at my desk studying for awhile when I hear some singing coming from his apartment through the floor! Now – I’m not the most high maintenance neighbor. But it’s FINALS TIME for pete’s sake!
You know what they say – “The music isn’t too loud…You’re just too old.”
I’d like to think that means I’m wise beyond my 21 years, 9 months and 4 days.
I want to write about something before I see my therapist tomorrow, whom I haven’t seen in three weeks for a variety of reasons. First, we had Thanksgiving Break, then she was sick and then she was at a conference. And I haven’t had an appointment with my nutritionist since before Thanksgiving either. Normally, all of this would bother me because part of recovery is “showing up” – you have to make these appointments and go out of your way to get better.
The thing is, though, that over the last three weeks I think I’ve made some really great progress…without really trying. I just feel…content. I’ve been studying for finals, yes, but not stressing. I’ve been taking care of myself. And the strangest thing is – I feel a lot better now that I’m not following a meal plan or counting my calories. I’ve just been eating what I want to eat, when I want to eat, and trusting my body and its instincts.
Sure, it hasn’t been perfect. There have been a few times where I’ve had to go longer than I’d like without eating – for example, when I was driving from Boston to Ithaca. However, instead of using the missed snack/smaller meal as an excuse to restrict I just ate more when I got to my destination.
And the best part is – I didn’t think twice about it. I didn’t stop to think “Is eating all of this going to make me gain weight/is eating this going to help me lose fat and gain muscle/is eating this best for my health/is eating this the best choice?”
I merely contemplated what I wanted to eat and ate it. And if I got hungry later, I did the same thing. And I’ve been doing that for the last three weeks. And it makes me feel so…normal. It’s almost like I’ve really let go of a lot of the parts of my disorder that were holding me back.
And the strangest part is – I stopped working so hard at recovery. For the longest time I was trying to push myself and would berate myself internally if I was obsessing over food/feeling guilty about my meal plan/etc. because I wanted to just be better. I wanted to be rid of my eating disorder so badly that I wasn’t giving myself room to just be. All of that anger got me nowhere fast and left me feeling badly about my body and myself, all the time, which inevitably fueled the cycle of disordered behaviors.
I don’t know where exactly I crossed a line, but I can trace it back to not being able to exercise after my concussion. The first week or so I was a mess. I felt like I couldn’t eat the things I wanted to because I wasn’t exercising.
After about a week of that, I realized that YES – people DO get hungry when they don’t exercise and are just chilling on the couch. More importantly, I was getting hungry. And as my concussion didn’t get better and I was out of exercise for a total of three and a half weeks, I just started eating what I wanted to eat when I was hungry. If I’m being completely honest, I did do something without my nutritionist’s “permission” – she had told me to make sure I was getting a certain number of calories since I wasn’t exercising, but I decided to trust my hunger instead. I’m fairly certain I averaged around what she said, but didn’t count because I don’t want those boundaries in my life anymore. Counting also requires measurement of food and thinking about nutritional facts, and that is just something I don’t want to waste my mental space on anymore.
It’s almost like once I stopped trying so hard and just trusted myself, I let go of a lot of what was left of my disorder. This is not to say I’m perfect; I still get thoughts, but I catch myself and instead of beating myself up over it I move on. I’ve made mistakes, and I will continue to make mistakes, but making myself miserable over things is not going to get me anywhere.
I feel so much more…healthy. I feel vibrant. And to be honest, since I haven’t been to the nutritionist I haven’t been weighed in over three weeks and I haven’t even thought about weight gain or loss. I’ve been thinking about finishing up my classes, sending in my application to graduate (YESYESYES) and thinking about Christmas and what I’m going to be doing next year. I’ve been thinking a lot about the job I interviewed for and how much I hope I get the phone call saying they would like me to work for them next August. I’m thinking about the people I love and how relationships always have some form of difficulty – but in the end it’s worth it to be close to people rather than be afraid of getting hurt. I’ve also thought about myself and what I want to do and the kind of person I want to be. For the first time – maybe EVER – I haven’t scrutinized my reflection in the mirror. In fact, I like what I see. I accept that there are parts of my that aren’t perfect, but they never will be, and there are physiological reasons for that beyond my control.
My eating disorder doesn’t fit anywhere in any of those things. I’m ready to let go of the misery, of the self-deprivation, of the constant fear and anxiety.
I’m ready to just live my life – to eat gingerbread pancakes with butter and maple syrup (which I did this morning after a tough practice-woo!), to spend time with the people I care about laughing and making memories, to move on with my life and do something bigger than me next year.
As a side note – I got some really great news on Tuesday that I didn’t share with anyone. I thought about telling my mom, but realized I want to have something that I accomplished be just for me – I don’t want recognition for it. It’s nice to know it, just for myself. But I figure that saying it on my blog is NBD because I don’t keep secrets here – haha. Anyway, I wrote a poem awhile back for my Creative Writing class…I posted it here too, but I don’t remember when…probably September or October. I had to write a sonnet, and chose to write a “good-bye” sonnet to my eating disorder. I really liked the way it came out, and shared it with my mom. She encouraged me to submit it for publication, but I didn’t really take her seriously.
About two weeks after that, I got an e-mail from a Cornell listserv for a women’s literary magazine calling for submissions. Their mission seemed in line with what I had written, so I sent it along with a little description about the meaning and how many women eating disorders affect in the U.S. I didn’t think much of it, and completely forgotten I’d even submitted it until Tuesday, when I received an e-mail from the editor.
The first e-mail was a mass e-mail to everyone who had submitted work for the magazine, saying that they’d had lots of submissions so they had to be very selective – most people’s work hadn’t made it into this magazine, but they thanked everyone and encouraged everyone to submit again in the spring.
The second e-mail I got was one congratulating me for my work being selected to be published in the Fall edition! This e-mail brought tears to my eyes because I never even considered that – writing the poem was rewarding, but I just didn’t think it was good enough to be published. I feel honored to be recognized in such a way, and also so amazing about being able to do my part to spread awareness about eating disorders.
Wellll that was quite a long post, so if you made it to the end – thanks!! Hopefully everyone is enjoying the holiday season as much as possible thus far.