The process of recovery has given me back so many things, but the most important thing I have regained is connection – real connection.
For so long, I believed that what I had was connection, intimacy, and belonging. I believed that I would only get that if I “needed” it, and the only way for me to demonstrate my need was by engaging in behaviours. If people could see that I needed them, they would show up for me. If I didn’t need them anymore, they would forget I exist. I had loads of evidence from the past to support my belief.
Since being back I’ve felt more genuinely connected than I have in my entire life. I am connected to myself now, and that has brought a new depth to my interactions with people. I’m more secure in who I am, and I don’t feel like I have to earn their love and support anymore. Maybe it’s because I trust my friends, which I do, but I think it’s because the reality of my inherent worth has finally taken root. After years of feeling entirely worthless as a human being, constantly needing other people to affirm my value – and fighting them on it because I just wanted more validation, I can confidently declare that I am a worthy human being deserving of love and connection simply because I exist. I’ve spoken that statement over so many people, but now, it’s reality for me. I’m seeing concrete evidence of how much of a difference that it is making in the relationships I have already established, but also the new connections I am creating.
Not only have I experienced a greater sense of connection with people, I’m able to connect more strongly with my life as a whole. I am owning my strengths and working to overcome my fears. I’m realizing that I don’t want to be defined by the things that I’ve dealt with throughout my life, so when I encounter new people, the eating disorder is no longer a part of my introduction. It’s refreshing to not be automatically affiliated with something so all-encompassing anymore. I’m not afraid to share that part of my life, but it’s no longer at the forefront of every interaction.
For nearly every culture, food is an important source of connection, and it’s obviously something that I have missed out on throughout the years. Over the course of the summer and into the school year, food has become a point of connection for me. Whether it’s going on fun adventures to new cafes, going out for ice cream, taking my brother to Five Guys, going out for sushi for the first time, having a turkey sandwich at a picnic on the quad, eating my first lobster (and spilling butter all over my super cute pants in the process), or crashing another dorm’s labour day BBQ, I’ve created lasting memories that are filled with laughter and joy.
Another area in which I’ve recently been seeing growth is my desire to participate in life rather than spending all my time in various forms of therapy. I decided that I still wanted to go to Family Group on Saturdays, but not if I have social plans. Those social plans and real life things take precedence over group, because that’s how I want my life to be. I have the autonomy to decide how to spend my time, and now I’m choosing to spend it pursuing connection in every possible way.
I have the unique opportunity of being able to measure my progress by reflecting on where I was last year. I look back on where I was a year ago, and I remember feeling so disconnected, and actually choosing to disconnect myself from my surroundings because I just couldn’t handle all the feelings that I was feeling surrounding the start of the school year and all the disappointed and rejection that I was dealing with. I’m so looking forward to my 22nd birthday because this year. I won’t come back to my room at the end of the day feeling like I want to crawl out of my own skin. I’m so looking forward to Thanksgiving so that I have the opportunity to celebrate and be thankful for my progress instead of giving up on myself like I did last year; for Christmas because I won’t just stare at a nearly empty plate of food and leave my grandparents’ house after only an hour and a half.
By choosing life, choosing to nourish my body, soul, and spirit, I’m choosing to reclaim all the experiences that I have missed out on over the years. After years of sitting back and watching my life pass me by, I’m in the drivers seat again; I’m going to graduate from Drivers Ed soon. I am doing this. Day after day, choice after choice, I am doing this.
Connection like this…it’s a privilege, and it’s one that I’m never going to take for granted again.
Life is so much brighter now. So much fuller. Overflowing with possibilities.