A Birthday Reflection

As I sit here writing this it’s a beautiful spring afternoon. The sun is hanging brightly in the sky, the gentle breezes blow through my curly hair, and the aroma of freshly blooming flowers and cut grass fill my nostrils. I hear the peaceful chirping of birds, and I can feel the beat of my own heart. It’s in moments like this that a smile spans across my face, and the trials of the week before me seem to become distant memories.

Last Friday, I was blessed with celebrating my 23rd birthday. Given my recent struggles, it’s fair to say that I was not particularly looking forward to that day. A whole day focused on celebrating me, my presence in this world, and the food that would surely accompany this day just was not appealing to me. As the day grew closer, and the events of the week leading up to my birthday unraveled, I was met with challenges, and thought provoking, emotionally deep questions. The most touching though was “what do you want for yourself in the next year?” When I was originally asked this, my eyes swelled with tears, and all I could utter was a faint “I don’t know.” The following is a letter I recently penned to myself in response to this question.

 

Dear Alissa,

Yesterday was your birthday! It was a quiet day, filled with warm wishes and waterfalls of love. I know you would have rather have spent it unnoticed to resonate with how lost, alone, and meaningless you have felt in this world lately. But, don’t you see, those all are the lies your eating disorder wants you to believe. I know deep down, even though you feel alone in this world and in your struggles right now, I know you are so aware that your creator loves you, will never leave you, and is carrying you through these moments.

There has been a lot of talk lately about what you want for you throughout this next year, and figuring it out. A question that seems so unbelievably loaded when you barely know what you want from day to day and feel as though you are just trying to keep from drowning in the sea of uncertainty. You are focused too much on the miniscule picture. Step back and embrace the beautiful, bigger picture.

This next year, WHAT DO YOU WANT? YOU? Not your family, not your treatment team, not your friends or employer but YOU? Do you want to keep dwelling on all your imperfections and “failures’’? Do you want to be miserable, hating your body when there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with you? Do you want to just drift through the motions of day to day life?
NO! I want so much more. Trouble is, at the moment I’m not quite sure how to get there. I want happiness and meaning in each breath I take. I want to love this life for all it is, all it has been, and all it is capable of becoming. I want to fully unlock my passions and be so immersed in them that I don’t have time for self-hatred, but rather love. I want to find the courage for self-love, no matter how awful I feel day to day, or what I eat, or what I weigh. I want to LOVE ME because GOD made me and He only makes good. I want to open my heart and mind to new experiences. I want to be brave. I want my life to reflect an attitude of gratitude.

But where to even start? It all just seems so overwhelming for my listless mind. Maybe, the best thing I can do to get to that place, is to be present in each moment, and find something, even if it’s as simple as the gentle breeze to express gratitude for. Maybe that’s the best place to start? As Lao Tzu once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I will find the life that God has meant for me to have one step at a time.

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Authentic Struggles

Yesterday I sat in Maiya’s office exhausted and shivering under the soft massive blanket I swiped from my therapist, Jen’s office. Maiya looked me dead in the eyes and told me, “I know you have been restricting your carbs. Do you want to tell me what that’s about?” My shivers turned to trembles, and my exhausted eyes over flowed with tears. I didn’t know what to say. I know all the non-logical eating disorder reasons why I have found it perfectly fine to restrict my carbs. The feelings of safety, of value, of control, of power. I know all those things. But they aren’t the root of all this evil I’ve been inflicting on my body. After lots of back and forth, and finally promising Maiya I would properly nourish my body at least through Tuesday when I see Jen and we can plan a course of action, I began to really understand why this relapse is bringing me so much safety. Not that I didn’t know it before, but sometimes you really have to be burned by the flames to understand.

Today, the more I thought about the question Maiya first asked me, I was overwhelmed. And in that sensation, I found the truth. Facing my feelings is insanely difficult for me. Digging up my wounds, dusting off the dirt, and stitching the pieces back together- it’s too much.  Facing the people who caused those hurts, can be just as traumatizing as when the original cut was made. Acknowledging your pain, and letting yourself truly grieve can be devastating. When I started that process, I wasn’t fully prepared. I didn’t know just how shitty it would all feel. I didn’t know I had so much pain locked away. And then Ed came calling-screaming my name. He knew what to say to make feel loved, secure, worthy. He knew how to wrap me up so tightly the way I needed someone- anyone to do for me in those moments, but wasn’t strong enough to ask. I felt I had to deal alone, and let my grief take its own course. But that was faulty thinking. All I have done since I was a child has been to isolate myself from facing my problems. I isolate myself from true connections, from living fully, from happiness, because I don’t feel worthy of other people’s care because I was made to feel like a burden every time I reached out. So of course, when things got rough, I ran full speed back to Ed. Because why not, right? (I can tell you right now – if you are flirting with this idea WORST DECISION EVER!!) I hated seeing the sad look on Maiya’s face yesterday, and felt I failed her. She told me she was sad for my sweet body, and hearing those words out of her mouth was almost too much to take. I’ve never known Maiya to be sad in the year and a half I’ve been seeing her, and I just wanted to cry in her arms yesterday and beg her to fix me. But the thing is the fixing- or the process of the fixing is up to me. No one can help me unless I let them in. No one knows what I’m going through and feeling unless I let go of my “it’s all good in the hood” exterior, and reach out with an open heart. No one can be there for me while I heal unless I am genuinely authentic. I want to get back to that place where I lived in brazen authenticity. I want to let people back in. I want to tell my best friend what has been going on without sugar coating or pretending I’m fine. I want to live by the words I wrote in my post last week, and live my life with purpose, because I am so much more than my eating disorder. I want to let go, and let others in.

As I work through these challenges myself, I want to throw out a courageous challenge to you, my readers. If you find yourself struggling with a battle that you feel alone and abandoned in, I encourage you to reach out. I encourage you to let your walls come tumbling down, and start on your own path to fully living authentically. I think you will find you’re not as alone as you think. Maybe you’re not on the alone side of this struggle but know someone who is. Send a text, a card, an invite to spend time with them. Share your story, and embrace theirs. Our burdens are not meant to be carried alone.