I don’t want to die in a cubicle

The following ramble you’re about to read (if you have the willpower) doesn’t have much to do with recovery so I apologize.  But I want to get it off my chest so I don’t waste too much of my time dwelling on it.  And please, if you have any thoughts you’d like to share, I’m all ears!

This week I was given the opportunity to apply for a full-time job at the company my dad works at.  If I had been offered a job, I would’ve been working 10 hours a day 5 days a week to talk on the phone with cranky customers who posses little to no brain cells.  I’d also be paying for gas and insurance for a car that I don’t yet have to drive to a job that is an hour away…

Basically, I’d be paid a lot of money and spending a lot of money at the expense of my soul.

I passed it up.

Now my dad is pissed off and I feel like shit.

But then my mom reminded me how furious he was when my sister started studying Arabic at Tufts.  He thought it was the most pointless endeavor and had no future whatsoever.  Since then she has been accepted into some of the best intensive language study programs, traveled the world, lived in Egypt for a summer, and before she even graduated, was offered a full-time teaching position at a prestigious school in Boston.  Not so worthless anymore, huh Dad?

Also, I’m not keen on taking advice from someone who did nothing with his degree and hates his job.  My dad received a degree in Physical Education, and aside from playing for a community football league when I was a baby, I don’t recall him ever pursuing it.  Instead, he became a computer consultant, and I watched him hate his job throughout my childhood and now continuing into adulthood.  He will probably hate his job until he retires.  I refuse to make that mistake.  I cannot sacrifice my happiness and sanity for a paycheck.  And trust me, I am not so naive to think that I will never have a job that I hate.  It has happened before and it will happen again.  But I have worked in a cubicle before and it took all the strength left in me not to throw myself out of the 18th floor window every day.  I know there are college bills to pay, and I fully intend to get a job come September.  I’ve already started the hunt and am applying.

I want something that will allow me to have some freedom to pursue other endeavors.  A part of me feels really guilty and selfish for not working this summer.  But the other part of me believes it was the best decision I could have made.  I needed time to recharge.  This last semester sucked.  A lot of great things came out of it, but by the time I graduated, I was in such a terrible headspace.  It’s been nearly three months since I graduated and in that time, I’ve changed my lifestyle considerably and I have a better sense of who I am.  Physically and mentally, I feel the best ever have.

I want to build a life my way because, after all, it is my life.  Maybe I am making a huge mistake.  Maybe I’ll crash and burn.  But I’d rather that than not try at all.  After five years struggling with depression and an eating disorder, I know how my mind works.  I know what is good for me and what will potentially derail me.  A full-time, corporate job would be the kiss of death.

I love my dad.  I know he just wants the best for me and to live a long and happy life.  But it pisses me off to the point of tears that after 23 years, especially in the last five, he still won’t accept that I am not someone who treads a traditional straight and narrow path.  I will never be that girl who after graduating from college immediately gets a corporate job, gets married, and settles down with a family.  It’s not going to happen.  With me or my sister.

Get over it.

Sometimes I underestimate the power of Time…

Today I met and caught up with my one true love and best friend since 2nd grade, Rachel, for the first time in 2 years.  You’re probably thinking that that’s an awfully long time to go without seeing a best friend, let alone talk to them, and you’re right.  Yes, we both lead busy live and she moved to Germany, but a big reason for our time apart was our own personal growth and recoveries.

When I moved back to Keene 2 years ago, my ex who also happened to be one of my best friends and biggest supports decided that it was in both of our best interests to part ways.  As hurt as I was and as horribly as he handled it, it was what I secretly wanted too.  I honestly can’t say that I was mad.  Sad, yes.  But not mad.  For once in a very long time, he finally did the right thing.  Even though I was making considerable progress in my recovery, the year after I had gotten out of treatment was a tumultuous emotional roller coaster for me and had put a strain on both of us that neither knew how to handle.   That aside, we already had a long history.  I did the best I could.  At the time, I never thought he cared enough.  But looking at back, I think he did the best he could too.  He didn’t know how to handle it.  It’d be very easy to blame everything on him, but I can’t.  He made mistakes and I made mistakes.  Helping and understanding people in recovery is extremely hard.  It takes a lot of strength and patience and compassion.  In the end, I believe he knew he was holding me back.

By September, we were done.  Even though I knew it was a good thing, it also left a huge hole in my already very small support system.  I was terrified.  I had never been without him since I had developed a full-blown eating disorder.  He was the one who convinced me to go to treatment.  He had been with me through some of the bleakest periods of my life.  I started to wonder whether I could do it without him…

And that’s when I realized, it was finally time for me to stand on my own.  As much as loved my best friends and knew they loved me, I always felt like I was still perceived as a disordered being.  Whether that inkling was true or not, it was holding me back.  It kept me stuck in the disordered mentality and despite whatever progress I made, I continued to define myself as such.  It was like when you visit or move back to your hometown after college and people still see you as your high school self.  It doesn’t feel good.  So I decided I needed to break away, not out of anger, but necessity.  With already one best friend gone and starting over at Keene, it seemed like the right time to do so.  It was time to be fearless.

Soon after the Fall semester started, I was cast as Janet in my college’s musical production of The Rocky Horror Show.  The impact of that experience is a story for another day, but it became the support system I needed.  I met new people who got to know me as Kristine, not an eating disorder.  When I opened up about my struggles, I was met with admiration and understanding, not judgement and negativity.  I finally was becoming the recovered person I always wanted to be.  I can’t begin to describe how much I grew over the next 2 years.  I was confident.  I was socializing.  I was free.  Not only did I grow, but I broadened my support system.  Now I have an abundance of friends and family who I can count on.  I don’t have to dump all my issues on one person and strain our relationship.

Aware of the transformation I have undergone in the period apart, I admit, I was slightly apprehensive about seeing Rachel today.  What if too much time had passed and we were two completely different people?  But despite that nudge of insecurity, I knew we would slide effortlessly back into place.  Sure enough, it was like no time had passed.  We’re still two kids sunbathing on the playground map during recess.

Maybe I didn’t need to take that much time away from her and my old supports.  Regardless, the time apart gave me the space I needed to grow out of the mold my eating disorder and depression encased me in.  I am in such a better headspace.  Even just over the course of this summer, I feel so healthy – mentally and physically – and I can see that in my best friend as well.  Just in the way we talked and carried ourselves, I could see we both have a confidence that we didn’t have before.  We’re more sure of ourselves.  We may be uncertain about the future, but we’re certain of our worth and growth.  I’m so proud of us.

I hope to continue reconnecting with old friends.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to reconnect with my ex/former best friend.  I never thought I’d say it, but after today’s success, I’d like that.  He crosses my mind occasionally and I wonder where life has taken him.  Wherever he is and whatever he’s doing, I’m sure we’re both happier where we are now than we would have been if we hadn’t parted ways.

Perhaps time and space don’t need to be perceived as bad concepts in relationships, romantic or otherwise.  I don’t think I’ve ever understood the healing and evolutionary powers they possess until today.  Time and space could be my allies.  Taking chances and a tenacious heart could be too.  Maybe I don’t have to fear them so much.  Maybe there are times to stay put and what you want will come to you in time, and maybe there are times to go out get it for yourself.  I’m finally starting to feel comfortable with treading both paths.  Maybe it’s because I’ve graduated and everything is wide open, but for once I’m facing uncertainty with unwavering eyes.

Come what may, I will be okay.

What does your weight/body image mean to you? How has your body image changed throughout recovery – has it gotten harder or easier to deal with?

Nothing.  They mean absolutely nothing to me.  Some days my ED voice tells me that my body is all I’m worth.  But the reality is that my eating disorder will always be an unhealthy coping mechanism, a diversion from the actual problem.  When I feel shitty about my body, it means something completely unrelated is wrong.  Berating my body hurts less than what is actually hurting whether it be depression or just a dump in the road.

Thankfully, my body image has changed considerably.  The way I view my body doesn’t hold me back as much anymore.  I can say now without even flinching that I am beautiful.  This year I’ve really grown to love my curves.  Bad body image days happen.  It still boggles my mind that I can wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and think, “Goddamn, I am a sexy goddess.”  But then when I eat something and look in that same mirror literally five minutes later, I’ve magically gained 50 lbs.  It sucks.  Still, on most days, I can say, I am beautiful. 

But I don’t think I ever would have been able to say that if I didn’t learn how to love the me that really counts – the person on the inside.  My eating disorder has always been about hiding the things about myself that I saw as ugly and shameful.  None of these things were physical.  If I became perfection on the outside, no one would ever see the imperfections on the inside.  It took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to open myself back up after I tried to starve them out of me.  I have flaws.  Plenty of them.  But so does everyone else.  It was hard to convince myself that letting people see the “ugly” sides of me wouldn’t scare them off.  And sadly, they did.  It hurt at the time and even looking back it stings, but the people who didn’t stay made room for people who would, and now I have an abundance of friends and family who love me for me.

I am beautiful.  My heart is beautiful.  My mind is beautiful.  My body is beautiful.  Feeling strong makes me feel sexy.  And I mean, c’mon.  I had to dance around in granny panties in front of an audience.  If I was able to make that sexy, I am sexy.

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“Wow, she’s really let herself go.”

The most feared comment among recoveries.  But I can’t say it’s not true.; I have let myself go.

I’ve let myself go to the movies and eat Buncha Crunch and buttery popcorn.

I’ve let myself go out to dinner with my really cool family.

I’ve let myself go to parties and dance and drink all night.

I’ve let myself go hike mountains.

I’ve let myself go on adventures with friends and fill up on nothing but laughter.

I’ve let myself go sing karaoke with people who are in no state to carry a tune.

I’ve let myself go skinny dipping on the 4th of July and watch fireworks dance on the water.

I’ve let myself go for a walk instead of a run.

I’ve let myself go on coffee dates on crisp Fall days.

I’ve let myself go on a real first date.

I’ve let myself go have great sex with someone I love.

I’ve let myself go have bad sex with someone I don’t love.

I’ve let myself go become a part of a family of friends that love me for me.

I’ve let myself go stand up for myself when I was being treated badly.

I’ve let myself go sing and act onstage without worrying about whether the audience deems my body beautiful.

I’ve let myself go walk across a stage to grab a diploma.

And most importantly,

I HAVE LET MYSELF GO FURTHER THAN YOU EVER WILL IF YOU THINK WEIGHT IS THE MEASUREMENT OF HAPPINESS.

I have so many more places to go.

And so begins the final stretch of summer…

August is upon us and I have made it my mission to exercise every single day.  But when I swore my declaration of body-hate independence, my mom asked me, in almost an accusatory way, why bother doing something if I don’t like it?

A very good point.  In fact, I consider it a rule of life.

But the truth is, I don’t hate jogging.  I hate the deathly humidity we’ve had this summer that has put a major dent in all my jogging prospects.  Some people find the heat invigorating.  If you’re one of those people, I envy you.  Truly, I do.  I wish it didn’t melt me into a pile of misshapen goo.  But walking, nevermind running, in 100 degree weather is horrid.  I don’t enjoy it.  So I don’t do it.

However, aside from the unbearable heat, I mostly hate the build-up to get my stamina to a place where jogging isn’t torture, but rather a second-nature daily activity.  I’m not looking to be an athlete or to run a marathon.  I just want exercise to be a part of my lifestyle.  Permanently.

When I look back on last summer, I can’t help but feel a little twinge of frustration at where I was then and where I am now.  As far as stamina goes, that is.  I started jogging regularly around the end of August right before school started.  After a summer full of many nights at the bars drinking with friends (no regrets btw), I was feeling sluggish mentally and physically.  So I decided I needed a change.  I stopped drinking and slowly started exercising.  I honestly thought giving up alcohol would be harder than exercising regularly, but it wasn’t.  In fact, it was really easy.  And it made a huge difference!  Usually I have a hard time keeping myself motivated and on track, but this time around it wasn’t much of a challenge.  Maybe it was because I knew I was going to be performing a lot and was stressing about looking good on stage.  Or maybe it was because I was expecting my then-boyfriend to be even more supermegafoxyawesomehot after bootcamp.  Whatever the reason, it worked.  I was diligent and kept myself at a healthy moderate level of exercise.

I want that back.

And I can have it.  I strongly believe it’s an issue of mind over matter because I do not think that I am horribly out of shape.  In the past few months of getting back in touch with my recovered self, I’ve come to realize that I associate negative self-talk with exercise, which makes me afraid to do it.  Who wants to subject themselves to self-loathing?  I don’t.  It certainly isn’t very motivating or at all nice.  I need to break through that fear.   I need to break through that chain of negativity we all wear when things get tough.  THAT is my ultimate goal for August.

I’ve made a lot of healthy changes this summer and hopefully August will prove to be just as rewarding, even if it is in small doses.  I cannot wait to welcome back the brisk Autumn weather with open arms.  But until that happy moment, I’ll just chip away at my goal and think happy thoughts.