When life is just life…

What’s past is prologue, and the world awaits.” 
― Lisa Mantchev

A lot has happened over the course of the last few weeks, and at the same time, it seems that I am just living. Living a normal human existence – complete with bumps in the road and victories to be celebrated; with miscommuncations and conflict resolution; illness, and well, more illness. Given the circumstances, I’m living my life the best I know how.

I really, really love my hair like this. Apparently so does everyone else. ;)

I really, really love my hair like this. Apparently so does everyone else. 😉

Part of me feels like I have nothing important to say, and another part of me is yearning to shout from every rooftop I pass that life is so much better this way. I’m doing all of these really normal things that wouldn’t seem like a big deal to most people, but to me, I feel like I’m doing them for the first time. For instance, I handed in an assignment on time and I felt like there were fireworks going off inside my soul. I coordinated the Welcome Tent at Homecoming for nine hours and when I got back to my room (despite having incredibly sore feet and being completely exhausted), I had a dance party for one. I’ve called and made difficult doctors appointments, gone back to see the family I lived with in New Hampshire, coordinated transportation for my church, and spent a weekend house/dogsitting. I cut my hair short again. That’s really just a snapshot of what my life has looked like since I went back to school in August. Most of that seems pretty ordinary, but for me it was so much more than that.

hbd lexI also turned 22 a few weeks ago. (I tried to write a blog on my birthday, but no such luck.) 22 was by far the most meaningful birthday I’ve had yet. My family came down and surprised me with my best friend. We share our birthday, and it was the first time that we were both well enough to celebrate it together. That weekend will forever go down as one of my favourite weekends of my Gordon experience even though it really had nothing to do with Gordon at all. I will never forget leaving the Rend Collective concert during intermission to go meet my family who had roadtripped down to spend the weekend with me and then having Sarah get out of the van. They left on Sunday, the night before my birthday, and that gave me plenty of time to reflect (a.k.a. cry). Throughout the week, my friends continued to celebrate me and I felt so loved, simply because I’m me.

22 is significant because it’s the first year that I’m actually looking forward to. It’s the first year thatnew beginnings ocean I can trust that I won’t spend it trying to destroy my body, and subsequently my life. It’s the first year that I’m allowing myself to own my life and everything that comes along with it. I’m realizing that growing up is not as scary as I thought it was. That realization might have something to do wth the fact that I live on a floor full of 18 year olds while I’m 22. I’ve so appreciated my floor this year though. Those girls are fantastic. 22 is a year of embracing possibilities and savouring the present moment, because there will never be another time in my life that I am filled with such wonder and pride with every little thing that I accomplish.

It’s quad break now, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more thankful. Although life is good, I’m facing some challenges healthwise, so I was more than ready for this weekend to come. I’m actually home right now. I decided that I wanted to come home for break. This is the first time I’ve ever been excited about the the prospect of coming home. Home is a safe haven, finally. It feels right. I fit here in my house with my family and my dogs and my bed. I fit here with Sarah. I don’t want to stay, but this is now a place I can trust will be here waiting for me no matter where I go. After years and years and years of aching for home, I can finally appreciate it for what it is.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that right now, life is just life. It’s spectacular and awful and everything in between, but mostly it’s just going on.

I can finally resonate with that frequently overused quote by Robert Frost.

“In three words I can sum up everything I know about life: it goes on.”

Celebration is an act of bravery.

I’ve been trying to write a blog post for a few weeks now on the power of celebration, but I haven’t had any idea how to begin. I’ve got quotes and dictionary definitions; I’ve got stories from the past and the present; I’ve got analogies and metaphors. None of that felt right. None of it felt mine. 

Celebration is something that has, for most of my life, just been this lofty concept. It was associated with huge milestones, big parties, and often, a lot of alcohol. For various reasons, this kind of celebration was not a part of my life. 

(Source: pinterest.com)

About this time last year, the idea of celebration as a spiritual principle was introduced to me through a conversation with my now pastor. It’s one of the core values in my church, and I saw it demonstrated first hand when they blew me away by celebrating my life on my 21st birthday in a very active and intentional way. In hindsight, what I experienced here was celebration in response to a call to action. 

Abraham Heschel, a Jewish theologian whose name I have only heard from the Biblical Studies majors here at Gordon, says this: “People of our time are losing the power of celebration. Instead of celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained. Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation. To be entertained is a passive state–it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or a spectacle…. Celebration is a confrontation, giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions.” Please hear me when I say that fun and parties are definitely a very important aspect of celebration, but like Heschel says above, I think that some people have the misconception that a celebration is simply a time to party, to be entertained; rather than an opportunity to recognize, mark, or honour what it is they are actually coming together to celebrate. 

Throughout the year, I have learned that not all celebration requires tons of festivity. Sometimes celebration looks more like gratefulness than anything else. I’ve found that as I’ve begun to train my mind to view the world through a lens of gratitude, it has made celebration come so naturally. For instance, when I say that I’m so grateful for the relationships that I have with my family, I am able to celebrate the progress that has come from all the hard work I’ve done to get to this place. Or when I say I’m so grateful that for my new job, I get to celebrate the fact that I’m capable of showing up to work on a consistent basis now. 

People also love to be celebrated. This, I have learned, is something that is easily forgotten in our egocentric world. It feels incredible when someone celebrates you just for being you. To be recognized and acknowledged for your mere presence in their life is so lifegiving. It’s such an intentional act of care that leaves deep imprints on the heart, but it could be as simple as writing them a card, taking a person out for coffee and buying their drink, or just verbalizing how grateful you are that they are a part of your life. As I’ve begun to recognize all the people in my life, I try to make a point of celebrating them as often as I can. If I’m not careful, it’s easy for me to slip back into a self-centered mindset of taking everyone for granted. That’s not the kind of life I want to live.

(Source: pinterest.com)

I’ve learned that while celebrating large scale events and victories is important; it’s equally, if not more, important to celebrate small victories. I have found this to be so useful in the process of my recovery, but also just in life in general. The path to success is filled with many challenges and hardships. Sometimes the process just seems so ardous and like there is no progress. This is the reason why it’s important to celebrate the small victories. When I pause to acknowledge the small victories and the incremental progress, it fills me with renewed vigor for the next leg of the journey. It gives me something to build on and those feelings of defeat and discouragement no longer have a foothold. 

I think it’s important to realize that one does not have to feel like celebrating to celebrate. To celebrate is a choice. It is a choice that anyone can make at any moment. It is one of the bravest choices a human can make in the midst of what seem like impossible circumstances. When life is filled with burdens, one of the best things you can do is lift your eyes off of those burdens and onto something else.

If celebration seems impossible, try to take a step back and focus on gratitude. This has virtually the same affect, and can begin to shift the internal dialogue almost immediately. When I was in treatment, we were assigned the task of keeping a gratitude journal. I really struggled with this for a long time. Finding things to be grateful for when nothing seemed to fit was so hard. My life was scrambled and chaotic. I didn’t know what I was living for, so how could I even begin to navigate the waters of gratefulness. Once I started to do it regularly though, I really did find that my thoughts began to shift. I started thinking in terms of what I was grateful for in the midst of really hard times in my life, and those three things that I was grateful for each day became the light that I clung to so tightly when I was almost completely immersed in darkness. 

I’ve carried that forward with me, and I choose to be grateful. I choose to celebrate. But it also comes so naturally now…like breathing. I’m so thankful that I’m still breathing. 

This probably all sounds so cliché, but there really is so much power in celebration, so much freedom in gratefulness. When you choose to celebrate, you are choosing joy. When you are choosing joy, you are embodying strength, courage, and bravery like never before. 

Of all the lessons I’ve learned over the last year, this is definitely one of the most significant, and one that I hope to carry with me for the rest of my life.

(Source: pinterest.com)

 

Connection like this, it’s a privilege.

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.

(Source: amyjalapeno.com

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. 

I honestly can't believe I ate that thingon Saturday night. Thanks, Lacy, for convincing me to try it.

I honestly can’t believe I ate that thing on Saturday night. Thanks, Lacy, for convincing me to try it.

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. 

I told myself a different story.

“There are times in our lives when we have to realize our past is precisely what it is, and we cannot change it. But we can change the story we tell ourselves about it, and by doing that, we can change the future.”

~ Eleanor Brown

Two and a half months ago, one week before I went home for the summer, I began this blog post with that quote. In it, I wrote about how I had convinced myself that I was going to relapse this summer. I wrote about fear, uncertainty, and doubt. The ambivalence I was experiencing at the time colours the entire post. I posed a number of questions to which, at the time, I had no answers. 

Two and a half months ago, I had no idea how good it would feel to be in my new dorm room on the Friday night of a long weekend, having just completed my “first week of classes”. I had no idea how proud I would feel of being able to come back and report progress rather than relapse. I had no idea how my freedom would be celebrated. 

This summer, I gained an understanding of what it meant to tell myself a different story. I learned how to change my own narrative, and oh, what a powerful lesson that was. I realized that I was capable of things that I never even imagine could be possible, and I realized that whenever I made changes in my own life, there was a ripple effect that trickled into the lives of those around me. 

Initially, going home felt both foreign and familiar. I was forced to choose how to respond to various challenges that were thrown my way early on. I didn’t always put my recovery first, and when I didn’t, I was able to see a noticable change not only within myself, but also with the way that others treated me. This taught me that I much rather be treated like a healthy person, than someone who needs to be taken care of. 

(Source: obu.edu)

(Source: obu.edu)

The summer progressed and the things that were hard at first – being in my room, eating with my family, etc – all became routine. They were no longer scary. It was then that I began to experience a sense of profound loneliness. I loved having my friends and my family, but I found myself yearning for my other home. I missed feeling connected to something bigger than myself. That loneliness translated into self-imposed isolation. I began to believe lies about my worth as a human being again, and I was comparing my relationships at home to my relationships at school and feeling discouraged. It was impossible to feel connected at home, and I was doomed to a lonely, isolated existance in Canada forever. (Dramatic, I know…but it’s me. What do you expect?) I was challenged once more to examine the story I was telling myself. I realized that I was not destined for a solitary life – not in Canada or anywhere else. I realized that relationships would look different in different places, but I was reminded that even though my friends were scattered all across the globe, I was still cherished by them. I had a friend in Sri Lanka check in and send me her love, one in New York City telling me about her fun experiences there. I reconnected with 3 friends in British Columbia and California. And right there at home, I had my person. My person who means the world to me. I felt alone and isolated becase that’s just how I was supposed to feel at home, but by examining the facts, I was enlightened to the fact that I am, indeed, connected to the world ouside my house.

When it came time to begin preparing for my return to school, I was filled with a profound sense of sadness. I was going to miss the life that I’d built for myself at home. It was very different than my life at school, but home had become a safe place. By changing the story I told myself about everything related to home, I successfully transformed my experience. Because I did the hard work of creating new experiences there, I don’t have to be afraid of it anymore. 

My return to campus was filled with running hugs, squeals of excitement, declarations of love and joy. I saw all the people who loved, supported, and walked with me last year and found that being able to come back to school and say, “I did it, guys! I made it through the summer, but more than that, I actually had a pretty good one!” was so much more pleaasurable than returning to school the same way that I did last year. The smiles that spread wide across my friends’ faces as I told them of my numerous adventures and revelations this summer breathed life into the depths of my being. Their words of affirmation and celebration of my progress assuaged the fears I had of what it would mean about my relationships if I were to come back after the summer saying that I did well. 

I changed the stories I told myself about the summer, and by changing the stories, I was able to make choices that would lead me to this place of tremendous growth. I have worked so hard to get to the place where I can say I am proud of the work that I have done and the choices that I have made. The lessons I learned the summer were invaluable, and I am so glad that I gave myself the opportunity to grow.

I did it. I made it through the summer, and I proved myself wrong.

I am victorious.

Six months later…

I was trying so hard to hold it together that day.

I was trying so hard to hold it together that day.

Six months ago today, I cried my way out the doors of my treatment program wearing my flower crown and clinging to that heart shaped stone. I had been there for 32 short days. To this day, I can still feel the sheer terror that coursed through my veins as sobs wracked my not-as-fragile frame. I was not at all confident in my ability to maintain recovery outside the safety and security of that House on the Hill.

I have fought like hell to get to the place I’m at today, and I am proud of the woman I am becoming. The thing is, I still feel that fear sometimes. It takes different forms, but I still feel it. More often than not, it shows itself in my fear of letting go of the little things. Those fears of being alone, of not having a plan B, of not acheiving academic success now that I’m no longer sick. The tangible realities of recovery – giving up important relationships, being just a person without the clause of an eating disorder.  As I wrote a couple of months ago, the fear that shows itself time and time again is the fear of my own ability to get better.

In all honesty, this week has not been an easy one. I was making poor choices with little regard to the consequences, but I also knew there was a line that I could not cross. I made the conscious choice not to cross it, even though I had multiple opportunities to choose otherwise. When I found out that yet another person that I cared about once upon a time passed away today, I began the swift downward spiral in my head. It happened last time too, but within an hour, I had managed to talk myself off the metaphorical ledge and turn my week around. I realized that if I didn’t choose differently, I stood to lose some of the most important people in my life, and this time…it would be on me.

I’m doing really well, and I know that I am because of weeks like this. Everything went wrong, I fell apart, and then I pulled myself together and kept putting one foot in front of the other. That’s what this is about. I have chosen to keep stepping further into the unknown, simply because it is my only option. For me, there is no other way. I am certain that as long as I continue on this trajectory, I am going to live a “recovered” life.


Regardless of how long a woman stays in the program, she is given a graduation ceremony on the day of, or in certain circumstances the day before, her departure from the home. This ceremony includes reading an Eater’s Agreement aloud, recieving words of encouragement and affirmations from the clients and staff alike, and blowing out a symbolic candle.

The Eater’s Agreement was one of the most significant assignments I was given during my time. My perfectionism kicked into overdrive when I sat down to write it, and I re-wrote it three times before I was finally satisfied that I wasn’t doing it wrong (i thought i was doing everything wrong while i was there. it was a thing.), but more so that I was saying everything I felt needed to be said.

The Eater’s Agreement is a tangible reminder of the critical recovery work that was started in the program, and it speaks to what your healthy self desires for your life. I wholeheartedly support the concept and think that it would be a valuable addition to any longer term residential program. Since I left the program six months ago, I have gone through multiple seasons where I read my Eater’s Agreement out loud every morning before I even put my feet on the ground. It served as a daily recommitment to the long-term life that I wanted, and a motivation to complete the everyday tasks necessary to acheive those long term life plans.

I don’t read it every day anymore, but every so often, I’ll go back and read it. The thing I love about it is that it speaks both to my past and my future. It’s a reflection and a road map simultaneously.

Given that I read this aloud six months ago today, I feel it is appropriate to share it once more.

Without further adieu….my eater’s agreement.

Until this point, I have spent my whole life running from emotion, shielding myself from vulnerability with my intellect. I have existed in a fragmented, broken manner for years. The time for that has come and gone.

 From this day forward, I hereby agree to live wholeheartedly. I accept that in order to do that, I must allow myself to sit with intense emotion. I must be honest, and speak my truth even when it hurts.  I agree to nourish my body, soul, and spirit on a consistent basis.

 Through the years, I’ve fought so hard to maintain an image of strength that people look at and admire. Over the last four weeks, I have learned that true strength is not found in hiding my emotions. In fact, it’s entirely the opposite. True strength is found in vulnerability. It is found in the willingness to look at circumstances that are so overwhelming, and feel seemingly impossible and decide that I am going to do it anyways.

 I agree to find my strength in vulnerability. I agree to stand firm in my recovery, not by fighting my way through every meal and pushing hard against every obstacle, but rather by acknowledging my weaknesses and surrounding myself with people who will build me up and fight alongside of me. I agree to ask for help when I need it, instead of trying to tough it out on my own.

 I agree to turn my back on isolation. My eating disorder has convinced me that it has been my only companion for far too long.  I am reclaiming my relationships. I agree to reach out when I feel alone, but more than that, I agree to invest my full self in each relationship that I choose to enter into. I acknowledge that I was created for community, and that people are an important part of my life.

 I agree to accept that I have needs. I will voice them, and actively seek to have them met. I understand that to have needs is not a bad thing. To have needs is to be fully human. I agree to let go of my own judgment of myself for having needs, and instead radically accept that I am a worthy human.

 I acknowledge that I have played the role of the victim in the past, but that role is no longer mine. I declare that I am taking back the power from my eating disorder, but also from everyone who’s ever tried to tell me that I can’t do this.

 I’m walking out the doors of this house on the hill with knees knocking and hands shaking and my head held high. I am choosing to be proud of the work that I’ve done here, and I agree to continue the work that I have begun here. I agree to feel the fear and do it anyways.

 This is not the end of my story. I will overcome. 

**Even if you are not in recovery from an eating disorder, I think that writing something like an Eater’s Agreement could be beneficial. It’s sort of a declaration or decree of the things that you are comitting to work on in yourself, and it’s a great thing to reflect back on when you lose sight of who you really are and what you stand for. If you choose to write something like this, it’s not mandatory to share with another person. However, I strongly encourage you to take a risk and share it with at least one other person. I say that partially because it’s a great source of accountability – having someone who checks in on you from time to time to see how you’re doing with the things you wrote can be very beneficial. As well, the risk involved in sharing something so personal with a person has the potential to strengthen that relationship and even prove to yourself that allowing yourself to be vulnerable with another person may actually be worth it after all. So, think about it.**

i am allowed to move on.

My best friend has a blog, and on this blog she posts daily victories. This is her victory for today.

Friday, August 1, 2014
Victory: Realized that I’m starting to think less about going back and more about moving forward.

Sarah and I at Albion Falls. One of our many adventures.

Sarah and I at Albion Falls. One of our many adventures.

Yesterday, after we began to work on our recovery boards and prepared and ate our dinner, we went on a trail walk on one of the many beautiful trails in my city. A typical evening for the two of us. Our conversation topics ranged from, “Serious question. What should I do with my hair?” to, “I can’t decide between nurse practioner or wild life biologist.” to, “Keep walking, Lex. Keep walking.” (Sarah’s become just as hypervigilant about dead things as I am, but it’s because she knows how afraid of them I am and wants to shield me. True friend material right there.). Our conversation was not dominated by talk of treatment or eating disorders, and while those topics did arise at times, it presented itself in a very recovery-oriented, hopeful manner. This is very different from our friendship only one short year ago.

When I read her victory this morning, my heart leapt for joy. I was so pleased to read it because finally, after all those years of holding onto hope for her, she had found it in herself. But…it also made me stop and think.

Me too.

I am starting to think less and less about going back and more about moving on with my life. I’ve been spending less time pining for what was and more time thinking practically about what will be. Less time thinking about the most convenient time to relapse and the deductible on my new insurance plan and more on potential job opportunities for the year after I graduate. Less time staring in the mirror, and more time in the world.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had goals for my far distant future. Goals that I never thought were attainable because I had to be healthy in order to acheive them. Now, those goals aren’t just lofty, unattainable dreams. They are distinct realities. I am going to graduate from college in a year and a half. Grad school isn’t that far off.

Only a year ago, I sent my dietitian an email in which I said, “I think it’s finally hitting me that this could be my last relapse…and I don’t care.” I meant that I believed that I was finally going to allow my eating disorder kill me. I had lost hope of ever getting better. I think I was right though. I do think that was my last relapse, but for entirely different reasons.

I spent so long waging war against my body. I created chaos everywhere I went because I was afraid of what it meant to be stable, what it meant to be okay. It was exhausting. I decided, after a very long time, that it was time to lay down my weapons of self-destruction, stop creating chaos, and give myself permission to be okay.

I’ve worked incredibly hard to get to where I am today, and while I never thought I would ever get here, I’m glad I have. I’m not better yet, but I’m getting there. I’m getting there. The idea of going back is there, but the pull towards life is so much stronger.

I am allowed to be okay. I am allowed to get better. I am allowed to move on. (And I’m so glad I don’t have to do it alone.)

 

Throwback Thursday: What is home?

Originally posted February 28, 2012

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.

~ Maya Angelou

For my entire life…I’ve moved from one house to another to another. I’ve had many different bedrooms, schools, groups of friends. Each time, I have had to adjust to a new “home”.

Unfortunately though, I’ve never felt safe at my house, my school, or with whatever group of friends I have had at a certain time.

I have never had a true home.

You may ask, “What? How could you have never had a home?”

Well, to me, a home is a safe haven. It is a place where I can go escape from the troubles of my world and just be myself. It is a place where I know that I am loved unconditionally and I will never be rejected.

To me, a home is consistent. There is a sense of continuity – a place that I am comfortable enough to put down roots without the fear that everything will be torn out from underneath me. It is not a place where I don’t know what to expect from day to day. I have never felt safe enough to settle and put down roots.

There is a sense of privacy and boundaries are respected, but there is also a supportive environment that enables a person to grow into the best person that they can be. There is balance somewhere between having to be independent and take care of myself and being smothered and overprotected.

A home should be a place where kids are allowed to be kids. They shouldn’t have to take on adult responsibilities in elementary school. Age appropriate expectations are so important.

I have lived my entire life in fear – of my parents, of my peers, of lack, of myself.

Throughout my life, I’ve come up with different ways to keep myself safe and meet my need for security. The most consistent method that I have used is my eating disorder.

My eating disorder has been there for me to fall back on in times where everything seems uncertain. It is the perfect place to retreat into when I don’t feel safe. Through my eating disorder, I was essentially able to say that I don’t have needs, so I wasn’t disappointed when they didn’t get met. At the most extreme times of the eating disorder, I didn’t feel anything. I couldn’t think about anything other than food, and that was good. My life was crumbling around me and I was being abused and taken advantage of, but I was okay because I had my eating disorder. Thinking about it now, it’s like the eating disorder became my protective shell…it became my home, and it stayed that way for many years.

The only other place that I felt safe was at Mercy. I allowed myself to come out of my protective shell and put myself out there. I still feel at home whenever I walk through the doors of Mercy Ministries. At Mercy, I fit. I belonged there. All my needs were met. I had support, and I created a family. Sometimes I get glimpses of “home” when I talk to some of the girls I was there with, specifically my friend Katherine. We may not be related by blood, but there is no doubt that we are sisters.

Anyways, now that I am going to treatment and the eating disorder isn’t functioning in the role that it used to function in, I feel lost. I feel more lonely than ever, and this time, I don’t know what to do about it. I kind of want to move – to recreate Alexis yet again…because that’s what I know how to do.

Every time I have moved, I have gone into it hoping that I finally find a place to call home, but after all those unsuccessful attempts, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not location that determines a home.

I have to find a place within myself where I am satisfied with myself in order to be at a place where I can maintain a “home” environment. I need to surround myself with the right kind of people.

It’s not the location that matters.

It’s me.


The concept of home still holds so much power for me.

When I wrote that post, I was really struggling to find where I belonged. I was commuting to college in Toronto, living at home, searching for schools to transfer to in the States, and still, struggling intensly with the eating disorder. I wanted to run away or to disappear inside myself because I couldn’t figure out where on earth I was supposed to be.

Now? I’ve created a home for myself in Massachusetts. It may not be my forever home, but it is for now. I’ve put down roots. I’ve invested in people, and they’ve invested in me. I’m learning to have healthy boundaries with the people that I love, that has only served to strengthen the relationships that we’ve developed over the last year and a half. Being at a Christian college with res life guidelines and expectations from the college provide me with structure and expectations, but I’m still treated like a grown up. I still go off campus and I do my own thing. My friends have seen me at my lowest, and they’ve loved me through it. They’ve stood by me when they were absolutely terrified, and they walked with me as I grew into a person who could stand on my own two feet.

There’s a familiar rhythm to life when I’m home in Massachusetts. Life is filled with unexpected obstacles and extraordinary victories, and I don’t always feel happy or comfortable. I don’t ever want to feel completely comfortable anywhere that I go, because that doesn’t foster continual growth.

I was right about one thing though. I did have to go through a process of giving myself permission to just be where I was before I began to feel like I belonged.

Home is me, absolutely, but it’s so much more than that.