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.