When I was in high school, a teacher of mine who I deeply respect once said during a lecture:
“The average person is exposed to every emotion the human is capable of experiencing by the age of eighteen.”
I took him at his -almost literal- word, figuring that by the end of my freshman year of college, I’d be set for life.
Boy how wrong I was.
There is no denying the growth I have endured in the past three years. At the age of eighteen, I may have been introduced to every variety of emotion there is in the world, but I certainly did not know the crippling magnitude those feelings could grasp.
For a plethora of reasons, this blog has taken a backseat in my life. A more accurate description would be to say that it’s in the trunk. Due largely in part to simply how busy I am, the free time I do find is often allocated toward napping or catching up with friends. It’s a blessing I fail to recognize sufficiently, but the privilege of working while studying full-time is instrumental to my quality of life and well being.
But the chaotic schedule I manage is not the only factor in my blog’s neglect. Over the past few months, I have felt overall less gun-ho about constant recovery discussion. That said, today I do feel compelled to start the overdue conversation revolving around my mental health over the past few months.
And please please please please, before anyone out there airs their concern, know that I am okay. Truly, I am. When it comes to preventing relapse, I am extremely vigilant. That is not something you need to worry about with me. If anything, please take everything I write below as a reminder that there are seasons within recovery. As much as we would all prefer recovery to be a straight-shot, linear process, I – along with anyone out there reading this – need to practice grace. We need to forgive ourselves for our weaknesses while setting intentions of moving forward.
Recovery ebbs, and recovery flows.
A few months back, toward the end of the spring semester, I began experiencing unusual heart pain. Having never felt a pang similar to this, I grew concerned.
Initially, it was only an occasional twinge, occurring around midday. I mentioned it to my boyfriend but did not devote additional thought to it.
Seemingly overnight, the pain in my heart turned into daily, incessant heart flutters. Immediately, I stopped running and stopped drinking coffee. Those were the only two culprits my nonexistent science background came up with. The first available day, I set up an appointment with an on-campus doctor.
After spending over three hours with the physician, he referred me to a cardiologist, but wagered a guess that I likely was suffering from a condition called bradycardia. Essentially, it’s an irregular heartbeat caused by weakened muscles surrounding the heart.
Having been 100% honest with the doctor about my anorexic history and subsequent recovery background, he agreed that the lack of nourishment from my adolescent years was likely the root cause. I inquired as to why it would show up only now, over three years into real recovery. The only answer he had for me was that an increased intake of caffeine may have been the catalyst for the fluttering and the pain.
With a recommendation to nix the coffee, I left the fluorescent, pale white room at one of my most defeated moments in my life.
There I was, years into staying strong and choosing recovery every day, and yet I was still paying for my past mistakes. This day took me to a period of self-loathing that I am still struggling to get out of some days.
Though I’d only actively engaged in disordered behaviors for a year, I still had health issues. Though I’d been doing the right thing for three years, I still had a heart condition. I felt like I was being punished for something I didn’t even do – like someone had displaced blame onto me. I guess, in a sense, that almost is true. Rarely ever do I feel like the person I was when I was clearly defined by my anorexic regimen.
Giving up coffee helped immensely. In fact, only two and half months later I went and saw a doctor who was astounded by the progress. Great news, right? I was over the moon, and I even allowed myself to feel pride for the actions I took to do better, to take care of myself. Since then, I’ve only had coffee on occasion, but I’ve lost my taste for it. I do still drink soda, but I’m working to eradicate that habit as well.
Because of this, my mental health surrounding the subject has steadily improved. I’ll have to live with the possibility of the fluttering all my life, but now I take ownership of the condition. I educate myself. I am looking out for my health. All positive signs. All vital for my well being. Because of this, I feel good.
This summer was both a time of blessing and a time of trial. I had the best summer job a girl could ask for. I made friends out of coworkers, women who truly cared for one another and looked out for each other. They taught me about the world, love, and compassion. Not only for others but also for ourselves. It was the shining grace of my summer, and every day, though it is over, I still feel thankful.
Besides the summer job though, there was a lot going on in my life. A lot of change, a lot of commitments, a lot of decisions. While working 40 hours a week, I also needed to get through the two summer classes I enrolled in. That meant all of my free time wasn’t actually free. It meant I was writing papers and reading textbooks or trying to catch up on sleep (that never happened). To make it worse, I didn’t have the coffee I was used to relying on to power me through.
Additionally, I was back home for the summer, which is always an added tension on my mind. I love my family to death, and I could never adequately articulate how much I have thrived because of them. That said, that home is where my darkest moments were lived through too, and it’s hard to disassociate the space from the period in my life. Tack on the fact that I saw my boyfriend only three times over the whole summer term, I was feeling out of sorts and just generally lackluster.
All of these stressors left me, once again, without a menstrual cycle.
I hadn’t lost weight or upped my exercise. It was all just stress and the fact that my disordered history makes my body hesitant to trust me.
I’m really tired of fighting this fight with my body. I do everything right, and yet still something can go wrong and I am out luck. It’s an exhausting battle, and sometimes I just cannot take it. Today is one of those days. I’m a firm believer though that talking about it or writing about it makes it easier to cope, at least for me. That’s why I am here today, and I’m so sorry I’ve not been as responsive as I like to be.
For so long, whether I wanted it or not, I was looked up to by some people as an inspiration. I genuinely never set out to be an inspiration when I started this blog. After my before and after photo went viral, I was shocked and a bit terrified. I felt like my secret was out. Then, for a brief time- a time I’m not proud of- I’ll admit I was a bit star struck by it all. There was a brief time when I really liked the attention, and I wanted to capitalize on it.
But then, when I truly was firmly planted in recovery, I saw this space for the opportunity it was- a chance to do some amazing, life-changing advocacy. And that’s what I dedicated myself to- to share my story in the hopes of helping someone else. It didn’t matter about the likes or the followers or the page views. I just wanted others to get better and to experience the joy I found in recovery as well.
When I go through seasons of recovery like the one I was in over summer, I associated a lot of guilt to this blog. How could I come on here and preach about the wondrous life that follows recovery, if my own mental state was rather lousy at the time? It felt inauthentic and wrong, so I stayed away. However, then I would have days where staying away felt like the inauthentic choice, because it’s important to show that recovery is a back-and-forth, upside down journey. Overall, I just felt very stuck. Not sure what to do. Too overwhelmed to make thoughts sound coherent. So I just wrote when I felt called to do so, and let that flexibility carry me through the darker days.
I didn’t feel worthy of writing, but today I realized that’s not fair to myself. That’s not fair to the constant battle I have fought for over three years of my life. There is not a single person out there who decided day 1 to choose recovery and have been perfectly content since then. To set ourselves up with that assumption is a cruel way to enter into recovery.
So here I am- feeling like I want to write and going through with that. Because damn it, it’s my blog. It’s my recovery. It’s my coping skill. I’m going to use that all for my greater good.
If you have ever looked up to me as an inspiration- here is your reminder that I am not perfect. No one online is perfect. The internet is far too idealistic if you take it at face value. Blogposts can be constantly revised and edited- even after they are posted. This is my attempt to let you know that, with me, you are in a safe space. I’m not going to bullshit anyone out there. I want to, and I vow to, show you when I am strong, and when I am weak.
Right now, I’m on the uphill climb from a time when I was weak. And that weakness did not manifest in disordered behaviors, which is the most interesting part of it all. I was not restricting my food intake or going out on too many runs. I was just feeling blank and off. My depression and anxiety were at the forefront of my mind.
Those darker days are getting fewer and fewer again thankfully though. Today happened to be one of them though. To cope, I went to the gym this morning, and I listened to a podcast. Originally, I planned to listen to a podcast on the history of the English language (a topic I find highly fascinating, if insanely academic for a luxury listen) while I was on the elliptical. But when I really sensed how crappy I was feeling, I switched my entire routine. I walked on the treadmill at a steady 3.5 mph pace while I listened to twenty minutes of an episode of Chasing Joy. When I finished that, I posted up in front of my classroom and listened to the rest of the podcast, feeling less alone and a bit rejuvenated.
An old friend of mine sat down next to me, waiting for the class too, and we caught up about our lives. This is something I always forget but connecting with people, even in the smallest of interactions like the one I had today with my friend, energizes me. I always feel better after socialization, which baffles the hardcore introverted tendencies I possess. But it happens to be true.
Then, it started raining and got very cold at school. I was in a t-shirt and shorts and pretty miserable. My mood got figuratively and literally cloudy. When my classes ended, the first thing I did when I got home was take a nice long bubble bath and napped in a sweatshirt. Instantly felt better.
When my boyfriend came home and cuddled with me and made silly jokes, all was well again. Right now, I’m just getting back to writing this post, and I’m reading what I wrote above and it almost sounds melodramatic because I’m in such a better mood.
Note to self: spend time with others. Be honest. Use my coping mechanisms.
This is me checking in, feeling done with the typing. At 2,100 words, I’ll call it good for the day. Thank you for sticking with me, through this post, and just my life in general. As much as I’d like to say I’ll be back to regularly scheduled posting, with the life (the beautiful life! just the stressful life too) I have going on right now, I’m not too sure when I’ll be back.
Life is beautiful and worth experiencing. It’s okay to have to remind ourselves of that. We have the privilege of experiencing this world in the way that we do. It’s okay to have to remind ourselves of that every so often. I’m reminding myself of that multiple times day right now. Find what works and do it for yourself. You deserve it.
Love to you all!