to all the versions i’ve loved before.

It’s that time of year again: back to school season.

It’s weird to think that it’s been over a year since I attended a lecture or handed in an assignment. Yes I completed a lot of ‘homework’ while away in treatment last year, and I don’t consider that the same thing. Treatment was in most ways an artificial world: hospital walls, movie nights, tears, and a lot of censored conversations. Not to discredit anything that I did or accomplished while in treatment because it was difficult and time consuming and broke me down in ways that I never want to feel again.

That movie, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, just came out and as I return to school, I keep thinking back to all the versions of myself that started school; all the versions of myself that I idolized or fell in love with.

Eating disorders are all-consuming and create a sense of home within a suck-ish lifestyle. I though that I was my best self when I was deep in my last relapse because I had a lot of friends (most with eating disorders) and ready to attend college (with no concentration/focus). Even though I was cancelling plans and overworking myself and leaving self care behind. I see now that I idolized the person I wanted to be and believed that I could achieve it by controlling every aspect of my life, down to what went into or out of my body.

There was the version of myself that I became whilst in treatment, towards the end. When my laughter reached new levels, my open-mouthed smile emerged, my love for photography returned, my energy to stand at a concert was back, my ambition to reapply for college surfaced. When I stopped letting people walk all over me (including my mental illnesses), when my knowledge of skills grew, when I started to LIVE instead of just surviving. When I wrote a self-compassion letter instead of an apology letter. I loved this version of myself because I thought it was finally ME. Little did I know that that version of myself would crumble without an even base to grow upon.

Before last year, there were many versions of myself in which I loved.

  • Grade 12: B was loud with friends, joined as many school initiatives as possible, didn’t care that they didn’t have many friends, was becoming more comfortable with their identity, had a new found love for concerts, went to prom (with a date!), was recovering from another relapse, loved working with kids, was going to university and was super excited for the next chapter of their life!
  • First Year: B was happy, loved being in university and was trying to stay on top of nutrition, attended a lot of concerts, discovered the local concert scene, got to go to warped tour, despite relapsing and taking a reduced course load tried their best, dated whoever the hell they wanted, was honest about how they were doing.
  • Second Year: B was lonelier because friends had gone to different schools, became a little more reserved, still attended local gigs, started a cool blog with a friend, found the courage to change their pronouns with friends, went to Pride, drank a lot, attended recovery groups, tried not to let their depression control everything, internalized a lot of pain, applied to new programs for university and college, got accepted to college and accepted…..

Before those years, I wasn’t too fond of my versions of self. Probably because I was so lost within my eating disorder and mental illness and self-doubt. I was failing high school most of the time, didn’t have many friends and often felt left out. I attended the same camp for 8 years and let my anxiety and shyness control who I talked to or what I attended. I wish I could go back and tell that B that things really do get better even though it takes a whole lot of time. I wish I could make things better faster and I know that I can’t because it took a lot of learning to get to where I am now.

Even my current version of self is a work in progress. AND I love it. I am sassy and spontaneous, I struggle with substance abuse and can talk about it openly, I actively use my DBT skills to get through difficult periods of time with a little help from those around me, I completed a cooking program and worked as a Bistro Cook all summer, I’m attending college for digital media (starting next week !!), I am talking to my parents and rebuilding a relationship that didn’t always exist, I am rekindling my relationship with Him and recently found a new place of worship, I have goals, I don’t let people walk all over me, I correct others when they mis-gender me, I introduce myself with the name I prefer over my birth name, I choose the people I have in my life, I attend gigs when I know it won’t hinder my mental health, I self-care, I take time to rest, and I believe in myself.

I wasn’t always this version of myself and I know I won’t be this exact version of myself for long AND that’s okay because I’m happy with the changes I’ve been making. There are people in my life who either want to be here or I want to be here. No more making excuses for getting things done. From now on I am myself, any version of that person, UNAPOLOGETICALLY.

I hope you’re here for the long haul, my friend.

Advertisements

reasons.

I have struggled with finding the reasons for my recovery recently. It might have been due to the conclusion that being a touring photographer might not be the healthiest & recovery-centred career right now. It might have been the realization that late nights spend on buses instead of sleeping or driving for 7 hours, sleeping in the morning and working late into the evening, isn’t ideal. Maybe in the future but not in the Spring or the Summer or next Fall for that matter. A few years down the road when things are changing fully for the better and I’m no longer holding onto my demons in a way that “protects” my soul.

As I ponder these things, I create a list of Reasons To Recover. Something I should have made so long ago and sure I did, here and there. But this is concrete. This is real. This is why I need to continue to fight for my freedom.

  1. To return to school.

I was in a program that was detrimental to my mental health before this treatment visit. But I had also been accepted to a program to further my craft in digital media – something I so badly wanted to persue. For treatment, I had to withdraw from the program and have to reapply for next Fall. This time has given me the time to ponder on whether or not that is exactly what I want for my life.

2.  Be able to travel.

Something that has been a trigger for so long. Going on vacation has never felt like a vacation with constant thoughts of how to be productive, how to lose weight, how to restrict meals, how to hide my body. All of this energy put into “protecting” myself instead of enjoying what life has to offer. My dreams to travel to the UK and other countries have been put on the back burner for life because of this eating disorder. I know that not eating means I won’t have the energy to exist outside of my hotel room. So I leave this fear behind, and jump into wholesome recovery.

3. Regain interests I have left in the dust.

Yeah, that’s right, I had interests and hobbies once upon a time. Sometimes I forget that someone existed before my eating disorder but it’s true. There was once a girl who twirled in skirts and who smiled to light up a room and doubled over in laughter. And that girl, was me. I used to play guitar and sing all of the time; the radio was just really intense karaoke…I used to play soccer and basketball. I enjoyed snowboarding on days off and walking the dog with my parents. All of these things that I lost interest in because my eating disorder decided what was okay and to what intensity. I want that girl who laughs so hard her stomach muscles ache and twirls in skirts back. I want me back. And I’ll leave my eating disorder in the dust this time.

4. Experience and describe real emotions.

One of the biggest losses of this relapse is that I forgot what it felt like to feel real emotions. I hid behind my hair and sarcastic remarks. I listened to my thoughts when they told me to arrange my place setting properly and eating in alphabetical order and make sure my liquids were at matching amounts. It was exhausting and heart breaking and I saw it as a safety net. Nothing could go wrong if I did these things. I didn’t feel immense sadness or shame or guilt because everything I tried to control could be justified by any thought. I was using my wise mind against itself. Feelings aren’t meant to be buried and forgotten, they are meant to be felt and shown. So why did I try to suppress so much, for so long?

I write these reasons out as I dive back into the worksheets I need to complete. As I take time to think about all I have accomplished even while my demons have tried to silence my thoughts. I am no longer just a diagnosis or walking, talking zombie. I am a human. Almost 20 and still piecing myself back together. It might take some time but at least I’m starting to move forward. Again and again and again.

I will fight for this. 

‘And David danced before the Lord with all his might.’ (2 Samuel 6:14)