One step forward

instead of two steps back! That’s what I’m actively doing this week.

And it’s about damn time.

This week has been a blur so far. I had to write a poem that compared my older sister to a drink coaster (that’s Creative Writing class for ya), set-up more fly crosses (joy), run the stairs of our whole football stadium (for a swim practice…go figure) and attend a career fair.

Yes, a career fair. I do plan on going to medical school but I have to take a year (or two) off before going. Last year I decided not to rush into the application process, and so I am currently searching for a one to two year position that will provide me health insurance (which gets snatched away when I graduate in May) as well as an income I can use to start paying off my stunningly large amount of student loans.

In the interest of honesty, I was stressed about the situation to begin with. I have to find a job that magically fits with my parameters – it has to be in the medical field and ideally in Denver or Boston. AND it has to pay well enough, AND I want to actually enjoy it….the list goes on and on. There are a lot of variables in trying to find a “gap year” position as well as trying to figure out when I’m going to take an MCAT Review class and apply to med schools. All of this information is swimming around my head on Monday night as I’m trying to select a professional outfit for the career fair…

and none of my interview skirts fit. I pick one out of the closet that had always been a wee bit tight but was totally worth it because it’s…for lack of a better word…bangin.’ It’s professional but I feel beautiful and confident in it at the same time. I inched the zipper slowly…and felt it tightening around my stomach. I managed to shut the clasp but had to access the situation. I would be walking around my campus to class before the career fair. And trying to eat. AND trying to breathe. Not to mention speak with recruiters.

The skirt wasn’t happenin.’ I moved onto the next skirt…which I’d also bought pre-recovery. It fit better, but still was uncomfortably tight. For me – tightness just isn’t going to cut it. I need to be comfortable in what I’m wearing. If I’m not comfortable, I’m not confident.

And that’s when panic set in.

Isn’t it amazing how an eating disorder takes advantage of the absolute most stressful moments? Here I am, trying to figure out where I’m going to take my life, my talents, my everything for the next two years – and my eating disorder is saying “I knew you shouldn’t have listened to your treatment team. Look what happened! You don’t even fit in your skirts anymore!”

You get the picture. It went on and on and on and onnnn all night while I was trying to figure out what to wear. And there’s a reason – this was the first time during my recovery that something didn’t fit. For a long time I fought tooth and nail with my meal plan, and over the summer I was cycling off and on between restricting and eating right. I had to deal with weight gain, but size just hadn’t been an issue. The “bangin'” skirt fit when I interviewed for my job at Wegman’s, when I went to one of my friend’s sorority formals, and when I went to my grandparents’ 50th anniversary party.

Of course my first thought was “Don’t eat breakfast before morning practice tomorrow. You’ll burn those couple pounds right off, and your cute skirt will fit again, and everything will be better because you’ll be a smaller size again.”

But do you know what my second thought was? I thought about what happens when I go back to restricting. Sure maybe I lose some water weight quickly (and then muscle after that) BUT am I happier? Absolutely not. The restrictive thoughts just get worse, and then I can’t concentrate on school or swimming or anything that matters. I get cranky and irritable and even snap at my friends. Eventually, my nutritionist and therapist catch what’s going on and I’m back to square one.

So I took a deep breath. I made the skirt work. But more importantly, I stuck up for myself. Deep down I know that I’ve been really, 100% taking care of myself for the first time in a long time, and if that means having to buy some new skirts so be it! My body knows what it needs better than my mind right now. Of course, initially I was upset about the “size issue.” I don’t think any woman goes up a size and doesn’t bat an eye. Instead of stewing in my “failure” I called my friend C (who also had an ED) and she said “I know it sucks but you just get to buy some new cute clothes and that’s the end of it.”

And it really was the end of it. I followed through on my meal plan, went to practice and then to the career fair. At the career fair, I met a Cornell staff member who specializes in “gap year” opportunities and made an appointment to meet with her individually next week to go over my goals for the year, where I want to be and the timeline for applications to medical school. She told me there are a wealth of opportunities out there and that I just have to figure out how I want to spend my year and where I want to spend it!

And tonight – instead of thinking about how I can eliminate some calories from my meal plan – I’m researching opportunities for next year. In a little more than eight months, I’m going to graduate and it’s not going to matter what size skirt/dress/jeans I wear. What really matters is that I’ll be pursuing my passion. In that situation, I hope that all the numbers I have focused on the last two years – calories, sizes, weights – will cease to be as important.

And in case anyone is curious, my ideal situation for my gap year will be a position at the Children’s Hospital of Denver. I love working with kids. I hope to do a specialty within pediatrics one day (possibly infectious disease, hematology, oncology or adolescent medicine.. plenty of time to figure that one out ;)) and working at one of the top pediatric hospitals in the country would be a great start. And that sounds great…but there’s really another reason why I picked Denver. I went on Spring Break there my senior year of high school for a ski trip with my dad and older sister, and I absolutely fell in love with Colorado. Additionally, my uncle lives there and offered me a room in his house for free. Living rent-free would be really helpful for paying off my loans. And Colorado is just gorgeous – the lifestyle is everything I am looking for. Most people are outdoorsy and enjoy healthy exercise. Not to mention they have some of the best mountains for snowboarding in the world! I realize that I’m blabbering on and on but I think that just goes to show I have a clear love affair with Colorado.

And – what better than combining one of my favorite places with my ideal job? 🙂

I hope everyone is having a lovely week and remembering that life is more important than “that skirt” or “those pants!”

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One Response to One step forward

  1. muchfruit says:

    I love your line, “I stuck up for myself.” When we have EDs, we can sometimes feel like we’re letting ourselves down when we make recovery-oriented choices (there’s something about that voice screaming “what are you doing? you failure!” that makes you feel that way, haha.) It’s so helpful to remember that our REAL self is our healthy self, and that the only way we can really let ourselves down is by engaging in eating disordered behaviors.

    I also love Colorado and working in the medical field. I spent 1.5 years working for an academic medical center and loved it (I worked in the department of psychology and psychiatry doing research, and they let me do clinical observation too) and I also spent a year interning at a residential mental health care facility. Now I’m working for a behavioral health nonprofit focusing on prevention. I like it, but I miss the hubbub of working in a place specializing in medical intervention. There’s an urgency and a special kind of charge to that kind of work.

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