When I’m Twenty Four

I’ve come to realize that freaking out about the future is a regular occurrence after you graduate.  It’s not just a 20-minute plot-line of a sitcom that is dealt with and forgotten by the next episode.  No.  So far it’s been a HBO mini-series with infuriating cliffhangers and no laugh track.

As I’ve mentioned before September is a rough time for me, and by the end of this month, I was feeling really low and not like myself.  Ruminating a lot, feeling lethargic, and being hypersensitive to everything going on around me.  I was second-guessing every decision, worrying about what I’m “supposed” to be doing, and letting fear of failing or getting hurt hold me back.

But then October 1st hit and suddenly I went from neurotic basket-case to employed, optimistic (but still neurotic) soon-to-be 24 year old.  How this can happen in less than a day is beyond me, but I’m just going to go with it.  I’m fairly certain it’s something I’m going to have to get used to for the rest of my life.

I’m not very good at change, or rather the anticipation of change.  I’m told constantly it’s a common flaw in eating disorder patients, but I personally believe it’s a quality shared by the entire human race so I don’t really feel like I should have to apologize for it.  Once I’m in it I’m usually okay, but that moment before the jump is when I start to sweat.  Recently, I think a lot of that has to do with feeling like I need to make up for lost time.  With everything that has happened in the last five years, I’ve put so much pressure on myself to do good and be good.  It’s too much.  I didn’t have control then, and I don’t have it now.  And if there’s anything I’ve learned since I’ve graduated, it’s that life is more enjoyable when you go with the flow.

Last week I was freaking out about my birthday that’s coming up in a month.  I’m turning 24.  That number sounds dreadful.  24.  That’s almost 25, which is halfway to 30, which means I need to get my shit together and why is everyone getting married and having kids, what the hell am I doing, who am I, I need to live my life to the fullest DEARGODBUILDMEATIMEMACHINE

….then again, it also sounds, dare I say, exciting?  Aside from money, there’s very little holding me back.  I’ve got an amazing family and group of friends I can always count on.  For the first time ever, I’m not ruled by classes and homework.  I’m done with school – I have been dreaming about this since naptime in preschool.  I’m single, and not that I’d ever let anyone hold me back, there is a certain freedom in that.  I can just work my ass off and in my free time pursue all the things that I like, which mostly consists of coffee, books, and music.  I have no obligations to anyone or anything, except to myself.  When I think of it that way, 24 sounds pretty freakin’ awesome!

I really need to remember that thought whenever I panic about the future because, as calm and collected as this post sounds, I will freak out again.  It’s just in the nature of every 20-something year old.  And I’m not going to fight it because even in the midst of my string of panic attacks and days of self-doubt, I’ve felt a growing sense of hope in me that’s been getting stronger and stronger since this summer.

No, I don’t have a 5-year plan, but I do have the next 5 days planned, and that’s a start.

All the leaves are falling…

And the sky above my head is very grey.

September is a triggering month for me.  Maybe it’s because I hit my lowest moment this month three years ago, but September always eggs me on to breakdown.  I start to feel scared and unsure of myself.  My head is suddenly covered wall-to-wall with mirrors, and the space between my elbow and wrist prickles when I think too hard.  The changing leaves begin to fall in a flurry of bad memories and feelings.  I’m constantly pulled down by waves of fear, struggling to keep my head above water.

Last September I experienced my first relapse.  It happened so fast.  In a matter of weeks, I somehow crossed the line of healthy and destructive, and by October I knew the thing that was talked about like some cautionary tale in treatment had finally happened.  I relapsed.  Everyone had always said you’d never realize it was happening when it was happening, and WOAH were they right.  To make a long story short, I took the necessary steps to pull myself out of it (i.e. reach out to supports, consult therapist, be open and honest with loved ones).  It didn’t take me long to get back on track.  But of course, life happens and I got derailed again.  I threw out my disordered behaviors for depressive tendencies.  I was not in good shape emotionally and physically for the latter half of my senior year.

But as with every year, I am reunited with September once again.  The month of new beginnings, right?  I’m much healthier and much happier, but there’s something ominous about September, and it’s off to a, let’s say, contemplative start.

This past week I made the trek up to Keene to see one of my best friends.  She’s never been without me throughout her college career thus far, so even though we’re only a week into the semester, a trip was needed.  However, my little weekend visit turned into a week long stay.  It was great.

I got engaged.

Well, fake engaged.  But if this is what it’s like to be really engaged, I think I need to reevaluate my marriage priorities.  It was quite the spectacle, I assure you.  I got to spend time with some really cool people I haven’t seen in a long time, I was reunited with my TAD friends, and enjoyed the New Hampshire air I’ve missed.  So much, in fact, I didn’t want to leave.

Now, I’m seriously considering moving back.

There’s nothing wrong with that.  I just need to make absolutely sure that I’d be doing it for the right reasons.  It’s not enough to say, “It’ll make me happy.”  No.  I need to know what about it will make me happy.  Going out to the bars and having fun with friends are not a legitimate reasons for moving back.  That’s not what I want anyway.  I don’t want to go back to hold onto the college “Golden Years”.  Besides, my “Golden Years” were more like “Bronze Years” or “Certificate of Participation Years”.  Having an eating disorder and depression kind of ruined the romanticized notion that my time in college would be the best years of my life.  However, that means that there are better years ahead of me… which is exciting, but also why I want to be smart about this decision.

My initial worry was that people would judge me for staying in my college town, but fuck it.  At nearly 24, I need to stop caring what people think of me.  Aside from that blip, I’m concerned that the reason I’d be going back is because I’m too afraid to delve somewhere new, which is partially true.  I am scared.  I’d rather be more financially stable if and when I move to a city like Chicago or Boston.  And I’m still so unsure of what I want that I don’t feel ready to move somewhere new either.  So why not use Keene as a transition platform?  Work a couple jobs, save money, but be in a place that I love and also be near supports.  From a personal and recovery standpoint, it balances out.

As great as I’ve been doing with my recovery and inculcating a healthy lifestyle here in Rhode Island, I also feel like I’ve been slowly becoming an agoraphobic.  I’ve been isolating.  Here, I don’t have to deal with social anxiety.  But I need to tackle it.  Socializing is a part of a balanced lifestyle.  Going out in Keene made me realize how much I need to work on that.  I was having fun, but I felt very self-conscious and uncomfortable a lot of the time, especially in social settings that involved food or alcohol.  I didn’t exercise much while I was there, and that completely shifted my mindset.  It scares me how easily that happened and how I rely on exercise everyday to give me permission to eat.  I don’t want to have that mentality.  I still have a lot of work to do, and once again I am reminded that recovery is a life-long commitment.  As dramatic as it sounds, I can’t let my guard down for a second.

Also, I love being close to my mom and living with her.  She’s the most wonderful and caring support I could hope for in a mother.  But I also worry that she is my security blanket.  My binkie.  And that’s moms are for, right?  It’s ok.  But after this weekend and realizing that I’ve been isolating intentionally and unintentionally, it feels like a crutch.  So I’m not sure if it’s in my best interest to stay.

Transitions and change is always hard for me, moreso than the average person.  If you think I’m over-thinking all this, I’m not.  I know how I work, and the steps I need to take to make transitions easier for me… I can’t risk relapsing again.  Ultimately, that is the biggest fear here.  I don’t want to go through it ever again.  But that possibility will be there no matter what decision I make so the important thing to do is to acknowledge it, but not let it hold me back.

I could run in circles around this forever, but at some point I need to put down the Pro/Con lists and just make a decision.

Thoughts?  Suggestions?  Criticism?  I want ’em all!