Anonymous said: i look up to you & youve helped me in ways i cant explain.
this made me smile. it’s kind words like this that have encouraged me through everything so I want to thank you, I look up to you too
In honor of 2 years eating disorder free I am having a cocktail party. (Non-alcoholic beverages will be available for underage attendees). The guest list includes me senior year of high school, me sophomore year of college, and me senior year of college. It’s exciting to host this little gathering and catch up with everyone.
High school me won’t believe the others at the party when she hears that we developed an eating disorder. Despite struggling with coming out and only telling a few people our secret, she has for the most part been very consistently confident in who she is. There was no clear indication in body image or food habits that would suggest what we’d only heard about occasionally in health classes. As far as we knew we weren’t even a candidate for the disease.
Sophomore year of college me will share a bittersweet reunion with high school me. She will be happy to see such a carefree version of us but it will be difficult to remember a time when obsessive-compulsive habits and an eating disorder weren’t the first and most important priorities in daily life.
But it won’t be all sad stories from sophomore year of college me- she’ll be sure to tell high school me that we had our first girlfriend and came out completely. High school me will be taken aback by the news overcome at the relief that there is a light at the end of the closet.
Senior year of college me will be a transitioned and transitioning version of us. She will show the most change between the three guests. She is in recovery. The year prior she began a journey by taking the first step in admitting she developed a disorder that high school me could not have imagined- a healthy, well-balanced athlete. Senior year of college me has been through ups and downs, good times and hard times of recovery but she is working hard to push through.
One thing that all the guests will agree to is that even though between coming out and eating disorders life has been a great adventure. High school and college were still wonderful times which was incentive for senior year of college me to improve our quality of life even more as a recovered individual.
And there is one more person at the party who will want to share news with all the guests; and that my friends is the host.
I, present day me, will share the beauty of recovery.
I will tell high school me that coming out was a piece of cake compared to what we thought it would be. We were extremely lucky to be blessed with great support from wonderful family and friends.
I will tell sophomore year of college me that things may seem so repetitive at times, and they will be repetitive at times, and the hamster wheel in our life will be so exhausting- but it won’t be forever. Eventually we realize there is an exit and we can take it. Sure it feels weird to stand on sturdy ground after all the spinning but we also realize it gives us the chance to stop and see so much more.
I will tell senior year of college me that there will be days when things might seem worse before they get better. But all the hard work counts; it does not disappear when we make a mistake. Mistakes wind up being pretty useful tools for learning- which seems highly inconvenient in the moment, however, they are terrific building blocks.
I will tell them all that I am proud of them.
I will tell them that a year after we fully recovered we interned at MEDA (Multi-service Eating Disorders Association) for a year, which was an amazing opportunity. We also met Jenni Schaefer at MEDA’s conference. She wrote the book Life Without Ed. Senior year of college me will be most excited about this because she knows how instrumental that book was in our recovery. Being able to thank her personally is something we’ll never forget.
High school me is the only one of us who will not have worked at the YMCA yet. And for all the years I was employed at the Y, I was developing, struggling with, or overcoming the eating disorder. I will tell each me that I finally recently experienced a symptom free year at the Y. To top it off, two representatives from MEDA actually came and visited as guest speakers during summer camp.
I have blogged about my eating disorder over the years but I do not bring it up all the time and new people who meet me do not necessarily learn it right away. In the past it was always a little nerve wracking to share because I was afraid of seeming fragile; there is a certain stigma that follows the words eating disorders and even with my level of openness, to a certain degree I still feared how I was perceived…but once again like with coming out I have so many supportive friends and family to whom I owe so many thank yous.
The day I lightly shared my story at the Y with the kids who would be hearing the MEDA speakers I did not worry about the stigma- I realized I was given a great chance to try and break the stereotypes surrounding eating disorders.
The middle school aged kids who were taking part handled it so responsibly. They made beautiful decorated quotes to give to MEDA when they visited. Two staff were also hearing the news for the first time. They showed great enthusiasm in the project and I appreciated it so much. Even during the summer I blogged about the recovery process as it was occurring I was still hesitant to actually discuss it because I didn’t want it to define me.
But it doesn’t define me.
I slowly learned that and the day I told an entire room at the Y without a screen to hide behind, it confirmed the separation between it and me. One of the staff told me what I had said was nice as we were gathering supplies- and I wasn’t worried of what she thought but I was grateful of her response.
And by now I’m sure my guests at the cocktail party are either riveted or bored to tears by how long I’ve been blabbing on. But after seeing a home video of my high school graduation party recently I thought it was important to bring all of these versions of me together. I’ve certainly changed over the years. It was as if I was meeting another person, equivalent to catching up with an old friend over coffee- so many things rekindled at the sight because they’ve remained the same but transition and change are parts of life ergo much of it felt different at the same time. I appreciated what I was and who I’ve come to be and how it’s all a part of me in some way, shape, or form.
So it is my pleasure to celebrate with my guests that we made it and we are still making it and share our story for others to hear. There are obstacles in life but when we overcome one we realize we have the strength to overcome another. Members of support systems can help pick you up when you fall off the bike but it’s your own decision to get back on… You can be there for yourself too and you must.
And on that note I would like to say thanks, as always for the support of others, there are never enough thank yous to go around. Cheers everyone.