This Is Us

I’m a day late, but I’ve been wanting to write a post for a while.

It’s been three years since I walked through the doors of Monte Nido for the first time, and I hardly recognize my life now. I am happy. I just graduated college. I consider myself (for the most part) recovered from my eating disorder. I’m more alive than I have ever been, and I have so much hope for my future.

However, there’s a part of my life that I’ve intentionally kept hidden from many people over the past few years. The longer I’ve kept silent, the heavier it’s become to carry. Now that I’ve finally graduated from college, there’s something that I want to share with you all.

This is Liv. We’ve been in a relationship since November 30, 2014.

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Liv’s trip out to visit me in SF in November 2016

Being with Liv makes me happy. She makes me feel alive, and I am a better person when we are together.

I have been so scared of people’s responses to this news, and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of having so much brain space taken up with, “I wonder if they figured it out because of that picture” or “Crap!!! Someone posted a comment thtruth.pngat identifies us as a couple! DELETE DELETE DELETE.” I’m tired of thinking about the perfect way to “come out” on Facebook, or the perfect way to tell this person or that person. It’s exhausting. I’ve lived under the weight of shame for too long.

So, from this day forward, I am choosing to live MY truth. As I am reminded by Glennon Doyle Melton and Nadia Bolz-Weber, “You are responsible TO the truth, not FOR it.”

Some of you reading this may not understand why something like this would cause so much shame to begin with, while others of you are intimately acquainted with the homophobia and discrimination that is rampant in Evangelical Christian culture. I want to share my experience. While my story is not representative of the entire LGBTQIA+ community at Gordon College or in the Evangelical Church, I know I am not alone in my experiences, and I know many other queer students who have felt the same fear that I have during my time at Gordon.

Please forgive me – this is going to be long.


For those of you who know me, you will know that when I first moved onto Gordon’s campus, I was in love. I had finally found a place where I felt I could thrive. I threw myself headfirst into leadership positions. I almost never missed a chapel service, even once I had completed all my credits. I loved being at a Christian college, and I felt certain that I made the right decision in transferring out of my liberal, feminist program at George Brown College.

After a wonderful first semester, things fell apart rapidly. My eating disorder got really bad over the summer, and by the time I came back to school in the fall, my whole life was consumed by it. I ended up in residential treatment, and for the first time, I began to actually do the real work of recovery. I vividly recall spending a whole group listening to my peers talk about sexuality and relationships. It was the first context I can remember where the concept of being “not straight” wasn’t a big deal (outside of the very liberal college from which I had transferred). The topic kept coming up in conversation after that, and I remember one conversation where I realized that maybe I liked girls too. I curled up in
a ball and felt like an awful human being for even thinking I might not be straight.

15978365_10154843118784400_245262790_nShortly after stepping down from residential, in an effort to be honest with the people I care about (something I’d been learning to do in my recovery process), I “came out” to a handful of people I trusted most. The process was excruciating. It usually involved a trip to Panera, followed by an hour (or more) of silence as the person I was with sat patiently while I (literally, physically) sank further and further under the table before finally getting up the courage to say, “I think I like girls, too.” This was invariably followed by them telling me they loved me and this new revelation didn’t change anything, and me purposely avoiding them for weeks in a massive vulnerability hangover.

It was during this process that I grew closer and closer with Liv. By the end of the school year, it was nearly impossible to deny that there was something between us. Alas, I managed to stay in a state of denial through the summer.

Coincidentally, this was also the topic of much controversy at Gordon College that summer as well. President D. Michael Lindsay signed his name to a letter addressed to President Obama requesting “religious exemption” from an anti-discrimination clause meant to protect LGBTQIA+ people. That summer, I couldn’t sign onto Facebook without another new article about Gordon and LGBT discrimination and losing community partnerships popping up. Overnight, this topic that I had been struggling with so personally was all I saw as I scrolled down my news feed. I felt so alienated. This institution that I cared so deeply for hated me. I was devastated.

I returned to school that August feeling completely fragmented but trying to hold myself together. There were protests outside of every chapel service, and I stopped going to chapel because I was afraid that if someone saw me walking near the protesters, they would automatically know that I was “one of them.” At the same time, I was working as a student employee in an office at the college, which helped me create distance from the rest of the LGBTQIA+ students at Gordon. I had an image to protect, both personally and professionally, and I was committed to doing whatever necessary to protect it. Despite everything that had happened between Liv and I the previous school year, I insisted we were “just friends.” In retrospect, it’s clear that we were “friends” in name only. We were routinely going far away from campus to be in a place where no one knew us. We would hold hands walking around Harvard Square, only to come back to campus and be “friends” again.

Here’s an excerpt from something I wrote during that period that I think sums up where I was at well:

I’ve also noticed a direct correlation over the last few weeks with my eating and the level of shame I’ve experienced over these feelings that just keep swelling up inside of me no matter how much I try to push them down. I feel guilty, so I don’t eat. My thoughts start swirling and I go into panic mode, and suddenly I’m overcome with urges to binge and purge. As the days have gone by, the more ashamed I have felt. The more ashamed I have felt, the more I want to give up on recovery. I’ve worked so hard and come so far, and I’m about to throw it all away for what? Because I’m ashamed that I like a girl. That I like girls. And guys. But I like girls.

It’s not worth it to destroy my life because of the gender of the person that I like right now. I want to believe that it is, because that’s simple. I know how to kill myself – both slowly and not as much. I don’t know how to sit with these warm and fuzzy feelings… I don’t know how to be okay with this fluidity that seems to be my sexuality.

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Thanksgiving 2014

Everything changed on our trip to New York City, Thanksgiving 2014. Walking through Central Park, hand in hand, knowing that we’d have to go back to our real lives at Gordon broke my heart. As we were driving back to Massachusetts, I couldn’t deny it any longer. I didn’t want to. She was my girlfriend, and after 6 months of my denial and her patience, I was finally ready to admit it.

After we made things official, I spent so many hours in therapy working through the shame that was suffocating me. In fact, I credit the work I did with my amazing therapist and dietitian to combat the shame of being in a same-sex relationship at an extremely homophobic and unsafe institution as critical in my recovery process. Liv even came with me to a number of sessions to deal with the toxic environment we were both living in. While homophobia and heteronormativity were deeply ingrained in my upbringing, Liv struggled to understand why people – especially those who proclaim the love of Christ – could have such hatred for us. Coming from a more affirming church background and completely unfamiliar with Evangelical Church culture before arriving at Gordon, she was overwhelmed with newly-internalized self-hatred and was being forced to question every idea she’d ever had of a loving, faithful God, who is not restricted by a man-made gender binary and loves all of Creation equally.

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Thanksgiving 2015

As the year progressed, things became much scarier for the queer community at school. I will not do what so many of my fellow alumni have already done and turn this into a post primarily about Gordon College. Frankly, they don’t deserve the press. If you’re truly curious, a Google search will bring up a number of newspaper articles, blog posts, and other editorials related to specific items of controversy in the past few years. I will say, at this point, the queer student population dwindled as the Administration became more threatening. A number of professors were forced out, including literally half of my department. An “expressive activism” policy was enacted, effectively silencing all discussion of LGBTQ+ issues on campus. All action and activism of the previous year was replaced with a dark cloud of silent resignation, and Liv and I became increasingly withdrawn. We went from our apartment to class and back to our apartment. In the midst of all this, my thyroid shut down. I was extremely ill and depressed, and many days I could hardly force myself to get out of bed, but my relationship with Liv continued to flourish. That apartment became our safe place, and we hid away together, cooking meals and binge-watching Netflix (We watched all of Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice while still somehow getting our homework done. Be impressed, y’all.). Still, that pang of sadness and fear came back to us whenever we heard of another incident involving the school, another instance of administrative threats against a student, or another hateful letter or speech by our president, an administrator, or a guest speaker.

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Artistic Credit: Rebecca Powell (Thanks again, Bec!)

Graduation 2016 eventually rolled around, and I was so envious of all the people who were officially done with that toxic institution. I still had one more semester left, but as you can read in my last post, I went to San Francisco to finish my practicum. I wanted to badly to be able to “come out” and be honest about our relationship, but I still felt like my status as a student was at risk if the Administration were to somehow find out that I wasn’t straight.

Now, I have completely finished my degree. My final grades have been submitted, and I am officially an alumna of Gordon College. I am now able to be honest about my relationship without fear. And yet, I’m still dealing with shame from my conservative Christian upbringing and (newly named) spiritually abusive church experience as a teenager. I still have a lot of internalized homophobia even though I have done significant research on the various theological positions regarding homosexuality in the Bible. Through our experience at Gordon, Liv (unfortunately) now has a better understanding of why this has been so hard for me, and we’ve been able to work through a lot of this fear and shame together. I am still terrified to tell anyone who I think is a Christian that I’m dating another woman. I still choke on my words whenever I go to say that I have a girlfriend. Thankfully, I have met some incredible people along the way (including Liv) who have shown me it is possible to be queer and a Christian – people who have taught me that Jesus would still hang out with me if He were physically present today.

With regard to my time in San Francisco (and my first time in four years truly away from Gordon), I’d like to give a huge shout-out to Pastor Caiti and Tara, and the rest of the community at Park Presidio United Methodist Church, who welcomed me into their community so readily; to Claire, David, Shelley, Sister Loraine, Ileana, Peter, Trent, and all the other chaplains I worked closely with at Sojourn Chaplaincy, who listened to me as I talked through my own theological reflections; to Kailie, Kaylee, Esther, Meredith, Karen, and the rest of my housemates at the Clunie House; and to all my friends who have stuck by me all these years as I walked through hell and back again.

I feel extremely raw and vulnerable putting this out for public consumption, but this is me owning my story. This is me facing my truth head-on. This is me living Brave.

I can’t wait to breathe again.

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***I wish I didn’t have to say this on my post, but please, this is not the place for hatred or vitriol. If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Be a decent human. I know you have it in you.***
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Coming to you live from San Francisco

After a long blogging hiatus, I am making my comeback!

From…SAN FRANCISCO!

After five long years, I have finally made it to my final semester of college. I’ve already “graduated” – had my ceremony, walked across the stage in my fancy cap and gown, and got the hell away from Gordon. Now, I’m finishing my last semester of college in San Francisco. I’m living in a giant house across the street from the Panhandle (an extension of Golden Gate Park) with 24 other people.

I’ve been here for almost two weeks now, and I can already tell this semester is going to be full of adventures. Here’s a list of some of the things I’ve experienced in San Francisco thus far.

  • Witnessed a car crash in an Uber on the way to my AirBnB from the airport.
  • Became friends with my awesome AirBnB host. I now walk his beautiful dog Luna.
  • Went on a “walk about” with my housemates. We walked 7.7 miles through Bernal Heights, the Mission, the Castro, the Haight, and finally back to our house in NoPa (5 of the different districts that make up the city of San Francisco. See map for more details).

  • Served lunch for 1500 people at St. Anthony’s dining room, and had the privilege of eating lunch with a wonderful man who gifted me with his story. He moved to America from Fiji and has since been a nurse, a real estate agent, and an Uber driver, but due to the cost of living here in San Francisco, is currently homeless.
  • Interviewed and was offered a practicum placement at Eviction Defence Collaborative. Made an attorney cry with my answers.
  • Attended a very cool, historic United Methodist church called Glide, and reconnected with my wonderful friend Amnoni.
  • Interviewed at Sojourn Chaplaincy at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (I really want to do my practicum here). Following the interview, I went to the cafeteria to check out the vibe of the place, and a man started screaming about how he wanted to execute us all. Definitely thought I was going to die that day, but made it out alive. I just kept thinking about how cliche it would be to die in a mass shooting in a cafeteria. Thank God no one got hurt.
  • Witnessed a man pooping in a bus stop. I hear it won’t be the last time I see that.
  • Met a cool Ethiopian man who’s a chef at a Vietnamese restaurant on the bus. We started talking about housing prices in San Francisco, and he told me how he’s living in a rent controlled apartment and is scared because everyone around him has been getting evicted. He invited me and my friends to come eat at his restaurant and he will introduce me to Vietnamese food. Will be doing that soon.
  • Saw a large, bald, heavily tattooed man walking downtown carrying a very small dog in a pink tutu wearing a tiara. Wanted to meet said man and dog, but they disappeared around the corner too quickly.
  • Interviewed at Larkin Street Youth Services. It’s such a comprehensive program for at-risk and marginalized youth here in San Francisco. Also a strong contender for practicum placement. It’s in the Tenderloin – one of the most impoverished districts in the city – but there are so many really great social service agencies meeting the members of the community where they’re at and providing really practical services for them. At the Larkin Academy on the lower level of the building, they’re currently in the process of building a recording studio for the youth to use.
  • Smiled at a man in the Tenderloin. He was walking towards me looking very intimidating and looked me in the eye. I smiled at him. He stopped and stared at me, then his whole posture changed. He stood up straight, smiled back at me, and stated, “You just made my day. It’s been too long since someone has smiled at me. Thank you.” I watched him as he turned and walked away. He was standing tall with his head up. I guess it’s true what they say – you never know how much a simple smile can impact someone’s life.
  • Had coffee with a super cool pastor of a super cool church. Haven’t actually attended the church yet, but will definitely be checking it out on Sunday after I go to Oakland Pride.

I never know what a day is going to hold. I’m learning to expect the unexpected and to be open to new experiences at all times. I’m learning once again to embrace difference without judgment, and to pay attention to populations that are too often overlooked. I’m learning that there is no better place to be an emerging adult than right here in San Francisco – where everyone else is learning as they go too.

I’m not going to say the transition has been super easy. I’ve definitely felt quite depressed. I’ve chosen to go gluten free while I’m here in San Francisco to see if it helps with my autoimmune condition and inflammation, and that is pretty triggering as it brings up associations of restricting and eating disorder behaviour, but I’m managing. I’ve had a hard time feeling secure in my identity here at the house, but I’m gradually opening up to the people around me and realizing that safe people do exist in the Christian college sphere. Not everywhere is like Gordon, so that’s nice.

I am living outside of my comfort zone here, but I’m in good company.

Stay turned for more of my adventures in San Francisco!

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2016

Today marks the 6th day of NEDAW this year, and I’ve been silently watching all of the posts of Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. Thankfully, I have seen this link about how low weight pictures don’t help to raise awareness for eating disorders going around more than I have seen any “before and after” pictures.

Most years, I’ve been right in the thick of it too, changing my profile picture of Facebook, tweeting statistics about how eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and how research and treatment for eating disorders are severely underfunded. This year, however, I’ve kept quiet.

I have been afraid to say what I want to say, but right now, seeing as I have the worst case of laryngitis that I’ve had in a long time and feel very silenced, it feels appropriate (and necessary) for me to share this.

In the Fall, my health got pretty bad. I was finally diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, the autoimmune form of hypothyroidism, and I was referred to a gastoenterologist to deal with the gastro symptoms. I was gaining weight and having migraines all the time. My class attendance was pitiful, and I nearly failed a class because of it. My depression came back and hit me like a freight train, and I was very isolated. I wasn’t eating much – primarily because I didn’t feel good and before my Hashimoto’s diagnosis, I would often get physically sick when I would eat. As the semester progressed, my health started to improve little by little, but my eating stayed the same. I started using being sick as an excuse for restricting, and I didn’t even realize that’s what I was doing until I went home for Christmas break and my eating got even worse. I convinced myself that I still just wasn’t feeling very good, and once I got back for my last semester of classes, things would be much better.

Shortly after I got back, I realized that I was fooling myself, and that I was trapped in a downward spiral and I needed more help than I was getting. I found myself sitting back in the living room of Monte Nido at Laurel Hill admitting that I had been out of residential for almost two years, and I was struggling. It was an incredibly humbling experience, because the last time I had sat in that room, I’d announced that I thought I could safely call myself Recovered. As I looked around the room, I saw the faces of girls who’s worlds had shrunk so small, and I remembered that’s where I was two years ago too.

I thought to myself, “I might be struggling right now, but it’s so much different than this.” I realized that I was living into a pattern that had been developed over the years. Every two years for the past decade of my life, I would end up in treatment of some sort.

2006 was the year of experimental medications, crisis counseling, and Children’s Aid referrals.

2008 was the year I was referred to the Eating Disorders Program at my local hospital.

2010 was Mercy Ministries.

2012 was Credit Valley Hospital Day Program.

2014 was Monte Nido, Cambridge Eating Disorder Center, and Eating Disorder Center of Andover.

2016…is the year I’m graduating from college with my Bachelor’s in Social Work.

So…after I realized this, I realized I had to reach out for more support. I had to use my voice and actively choose to break that pattern. I spoke with my wonderful dietitian with whom I had broken up last May, and I’ve now been seeing her again for a short time. She’s providing me with just a little bit of external accountability and a lot of ass-kicking. She downright refuses to call my slip a relapse. According to her, I stubbed my toe and I just have to remember that I can walk again without it hurting.

And I remember now. I remember why I am doing this. I remember why I chose to fight so hard two years ago.

I’ve got a life to live. On behalf of the (probably more than) 7% of eating disorder sufferers who die from their illnesses, of the families who lose loved ones, of the 60% of people with eating disorders who don’t have access to treatment.

I’ve got a life to live. Because of Kelly, and Amanda, and Rachel, and Moriah, and Alyson, and Sandra, and Karl, and all of the other friends and family members I’ve lost to their mental illnesses.

I’ve got a life to live. For my future clients, for the people who will hear my story and find hope.

I’ve got a life to live. For all the people who love me and have supported me all the way through this process. For all the people I’ve hurt along the way, and all the ones who gave up on me and told me I’d never make it out alive.

Most importantly, I’ve got a life to live. For me. Because I deserve to live. I deserve a life filled with joy, freedom, laughter, and hope. I deserve to live to feel the pain of heartbreak and to put the pieces back together again. I deserve love and be loved, and to one day, hold my children in my arms and rock them to sleep.

The theme for this NEDA Week is  “3 Minutes Can Save A Life”, and it’s true. The first step to getting to where I am today is recognizing the issue and reaching out for help. No one deserves to live through the hell that I did before I finally got adequate treatment. So if you think you, or anyone you know, is suffering from an eating disorder, click here. Get screened. It’s worth 3 minutes of your time.

Choosing recovery was the hardest choice I ever had to make, and sometimes I still need small reminders of why I chose it in the first place, but I am here to say that my life is so much bigger than I ever could have imagined.

I am living the future that I dreamed of for my whole life, but never believed I would actually attain.

And if I can do it, so can you.

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At the Ice Castle in Lincoln, NH yesterday afternoon! So much fun!

**Feel free to contact me if you would like additional resources or just a listening ear. I would love to hear from you!**

Stop treating calories like currency.

Your body is not a bank.

Stop treating calories like currency.

You do not need earn them.

You do not need to save them.

You do not need to swap them.

You do not need to count them.

Just stop

The above post, which I first shared on tumblr, was inspired by all of the talk of calorie counts, fear of liquid calories, “saving all of my calories for tonight”, etc.

There is so much more to life than counting calories, reading labels, measuring food, and making calculations, and it makes me sad when I see someone’s entire social media page revolving around the unit of energy that is nourishing your body.

I understand that there can be a time and a place for calorie counting, but even then, it never needs to take over your life.

You are so much more than the number of calories you eat, or the number of pounds you lose in a week.

It’s hard to break out of that habit, I know, but it is possible, and let me tell you it is so worth it.

Food is meant to nourish your body, but it’s also supposed to be enjoyable.

Be aware of what you’re eating, but do not let it consume you.

Dear Brave One.

Dear Brave One,

It’s been a year since you left treatment, and I know it’s hard to wrap your head around, but you are doing so well. It’s been a year of incredible highs, and very distressing lows, but you made it. Every single day, you are making it.

I know that you sometimes doubt yourself. You doubt the soldity of your recovery. You doubt your motivation, your intuition, your relationships. You doubt your very worth. You question your identity over and over again. Any time something good comes into your life, you have to question it. Do I deserve this? No? Maybe. Yes, yes I do. But why? The cycle can be maddening if you let it go on for too long, but you already know that.

Despite all the doubt and insecurity you face on a regular basis, I’ve noticed that there is this confidence – this unshakeable, firmly rooted confidence – that has begun to grow inside of you. Over the past year, I have seen you persevere through many trials. I have seen your determination and strong-will carry you through situations that, from all angles, appeared insurmountable. I have seen you truly blossom into such a powerful, thoughtful, compassionate young woman.

I know that you’ve faced so much loss this year. Far too much. But, you know what? You have finally given yourself permission to grieve. You’ve created space to feel those gutwrenching feelings, and you’ve allowed the process to transform you. Losing so many people that you love has been hard on you, but instead of shrinking away inside yourself, or diving headfirst into your eating disorder, you have continued to reach out. You have maintained your connection with the outside world, even though your heart was breaking.

For the first time in your life, I think that you can finally say that your actions match your values. There is a congruence between your words and your actions that has never been there before. That did not come without a fight. I know that it’s safer to say that everything’s fine when it’s not. Presenting your authentic self to the world on a daily basis is not easy. You’ve learned how to do it though, and I’m so proud.

I really am so proud of you. I know I don’t say it enough, but the work that you have done this year is truly awespiring. You’ve blown me away time and time again, even in the smallest things. I am so grateful that you’ve given yourself the opportunity to thrive, and that you’ve chosen to do the harder thing again and again. Those choices have led you to a place that you thought you’d never be.

You are nourished, healthy, whole. Your eyes shine when you talk about the things that you love. You are full of passion and energy. You laugh…a lot. You are full of grace, wisdom, and empathy. You create a safe space for people to feel heard. You use your voice when necessary, and you listen closely to everything around you. You are one of the most observant people I’ve ever met, with such a keen memory. You have learned how to maintain healthy boundaries in your relationships. You have taken those personality traits that used to keep you sick and transformed them into traits that will carry you forward.

You’ve come so, so far, but you’re not done yet. I want you to keep rolling with the momentum. Keep fighting. Keep doing the work. Keep showing up with your authentic self.

You are a kickass human. Screw anyone who says otherwise.

Love,

Me

Sometimes you look back, and everything is different.

I’ve been trying for a week now to reflect on the school year through the lens of eating disorder recovery, and I haven’t been able to write anything cohesive. At first, I got so frustrated by that, but I just realized that is actually huge progress.

I have no desire to associate myself, my life, or my current experiences with an eating disorder. It actually makes me really sad, and sometimes angry, to hear people talk about their eating disorders. In the thick of it, I didn’t realize how small my world was, and to have to shrink my experiences this year down to the size of an eating disorder feels excrutiating.

It amazes me exactly how much can change in a single year when you finally commit to doing the real work. A year ago, I was basing my identity in my eating disorder, in the amount of days insurance approved me for in treatment each time, in how many people checked up on how I was doing or if I was struggling with any disordered thoughts or behaviours. Now, none of that matters to me. Today, what matters is the quality of the relationships that I am choosing to maintain, my physical health, how actively I am practicing self-care, my education, snuggly babies and puppies, and whether the choices I am making are alligning myself with my future goals.

I still remember, of course. I remember life with my eating disorder, and I will admit that I sometimes romanticize it a bit. I sometimes get urges, but I never consider actually acting on them. I don’t know that I could ever forget, and even if I could, I wouldn’t want to.

This Monday marks the beginning of finals week at my school. This is a significant milestone for me, because for the first time in my Gordon College career, I am completing a full school year, and I am not taking incompletes for the first semester ever. I am two presentations and two exams away from my first completed school year. I used to believe that I couldn’t succeed in school unless I was sick, and this disproves that belief. I am well, and I am doing well.

I hesitate to call myself recovered because I haven’t even been out of treatment for a full year, but I cannot fathom ever returning to the depths of chaos and despair that is an eating disorder. I’m too busy living my life now. I don’t have time for that.

Now, I’m going to go grocery shopping for a picnic at the beach tomorrow. That, my friends, is how I know that I am well.

Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester, MA (where I’ll be spending the day tomorrow! Heck yes!) (photo credit: pinterest.com)

It’s A New Year

2014 was a messy year for me.

It was one of the most difficult years of my life, and I don’t say that lightly.

Be Brave was my mantra through the year. It might me through many seemingly impossible situations.

Be Brave was my mantra through the year. It got me through many seemingly impossible situations.

I rang in 2014 by binging and purging as soon as Demi Lovato got off stage on the E Canada NYE special. Shortly followed by a week of hell trying to get myself to treatment thanks to a polar vortex that was sweeping the continent. Once I finally got there, I spent the next six months of my life in various levels of care at multiple treatment facilities. My life consisted of three meals and three snacks a day, hours and hours of group therapy, weight gain, new diagnoses, family work, insurance woes, and a crapload of radical acceptance.

I experienced profound loss – with thirteen people whom I cared about at one point or another in my life passing away over the course of the year. Grief takes a lot out of a person. Just when you think it’s passed, another wave hits. Sometimes I still read a post or see a picture and burst into tears. For years, I had put all my grief in a box on a shelf and kept it there. That box was blown to shreds and I felt like I was drowning. I’m just starting to feel okay again. The waves of grief come, and then they go, and that’s okay. But…it’s messy.

2014 was a year of identity issues. By that, I mean that everything I thought was true about myself and my future has shifted and for a very long time, I felt cracked, broken. I felt like trying to get better just made everything worse. I was in constant pain, and utterly confused about who I was and what certain things meant about me. I was wrong in every way possible. Just when I began to maybe possibly kinda like myself again, the bandaid was ripped off and the wound was ripped open again. I hated myself more than ever. To be honest, I still sometimes do.

The funny thing is, I think it’s the messiness of it all that made 2014 the best year of my life as well. 

Love that I have a healthy relationship with my family right now. It's taken a lot of work, but I love them so much!

Love that I have a healthy relationship with my family right now. It’s taken a lot of work, but I love them so much!

Despite the chaos and the grief and the shame, I accomplished so much. I completed a full step-down in treatment, which made all the difference in the world. I turned home into a safe place. I repaired old relationships and built new ones. I feel things now. I have realized that people love me not because I’m sick and broken, but because I’m simply worth loving. I’m well enough to volunteer in the nursery at my incredible church. I’ve learned what it means to be loved in a way that I least expected.

This year, I learned that it’s better to be known as the girl who loves brave purple chevron penguins than the one who’s too wrapped up inside her own head to pay attention to other things. This year, I found myself working in an office at my school where I feel appreciated, but I also feel competent and I’ve been able to actually see events that I’ve helped to plan run smoothly and effectively. This year, I stopped introducing myself as the girl with the eating disorder and started entering into new situations as Alexis – plain and simple.

I’m proud of myself for the way that I’ve risen up to each and every challenge that I’ve come up against this past year. I am proud of myself for letting myself not be okay. I’m proud of myself for allowing myself to be okay. For allowing myself to love and be loved. For allowing myself to feel a wide spectrum of emotions. For creating new patterns. For honesty and resilience. For learning to internalize an attitude of celebration and gratitude. I’m proud of myself for getting to the point where I can be proud of myself.

Spent Christmas at Disney! Hollywood Studios was awesome!

Spent Christmas at Disney! Hollywood Studios was awesome!

I rang in 2015 on a family vacation to Florida (two of which I missed out on last year because I was stuck in residential). I went swimming in the ocean on New Years Eve, ate dinner with my grandparents, aunt, parents, and brother, played cards, and watched the ball drop on TV. It was a drastically different day than last year, and for that I am grateful.

I would say that I hope 2015 is a better year – but honestly, I think my biggest hope would be that I continue to embrace the mess that is life. After all, that is when the most growth occurs.