Yesterday I packed up my little VW Beetle, said good-bye to my parents, sisters, and pets, and drove a long four hours through beautiful central New York back to school for my senior year. I blasted an eclectic mix on my iPod (and by eclectic what I really mean is a mix of Spice Girls, Dave Matthews Band, and Snoop Dogg) and sang my heart out. At one point a song from RENT came on and I almost cried, I think because my two week vacation gave me time to absorb what had happened to me in the past three years and where I want to go with my life from here (not to mention I’m also a sucker for showtunes).
What I’d love to be able to say is that I have no qualms about beginning a new year, no worries that I’ll end up in the same place that I was. I’d love to stride confidently around campus like I have always imagined I would when I thought about being a senior.
But the truth is – I’m kind of a nervous wreck. And it’s not because I doubt that I want to be recovered. I know I want to be happy, healthy, and doing things that make me feel good.
While I was home, I had breakfast with one of my best friends from high school. She asked me if I was nervous about going back to school because of the struggles I have had with my ED the past couple years. The only way I could describe how I was feeling was with the “hot stove” analogy. When you put your hand on a hot stove, your brain doesn’t want anything to do with that stove anymore. You certainly wouldn’t want to go spend a whole year sitting on the stove. And most of all, you wouldn’t intentionally put yourself in what your brain perceives as a harmful situation.
The analogy isn’t perfect – of course an ED doesn’t show up in the form of a burn on your skin. Instead it shows up in neglected relationships, muscle loss, and emotional pain (among countless other consequences). So I think that’s what I’m afraid of – not that I will subconsciously slip back into ED behaviors (which I do from time to time, but I’m getting better at catching myself) but that I can still see and feel the “burn” from my ED, and I don’t ever want to get burned again. It’s difficult to go back to the place where you lost yourself completely. It’s difficult to voluntarily put my hand back on the stove.
Fortunately, this time around I have an oven mitt (corny, yes, but I just couldn’t help myself 🙂 ). I have the greatest support system I could ever ask for – a treatment team I trust, friends and teammates to enjoy life more with every day, and a family that I now know loves me for me – not for what I accomplish or achieve.
I have one last year here, and I’m going to take advantage of it. I’ve been given a fresh start and I’m not going to let my fear or regret get in the way of my life anymore. I’m going to learn, I’m going to swim, and I’m going to keep growing even in the face of whatever setbacks I encounter. I’m going to try to ask for help when I need it and to help others when they need it. And I’m going to do my best to laugh and smile the whole way through.