It’s taken me a long time to write this entry.
Not because I’ve run out of things to say; actually, it’s quite the opposite. I have so much to say, but have no idea how to say it. Mostly because I am petrified of how certain people - whom I love, whose opinions I value, and whose respect I crave - are going to react. However, one of the most important things I have learned during my recovery, and perhaps the hardest to put into practice, is that I cannot live my life trying to please others and somehow expect to find my own happiness. While it is true that there is almost no greater satisfaction than seeing a smile on someone’s face and knowing you put it there, this kind of happiness pales in comparison to that felt when you see a smile on your OWN face, and know that you yourself put it there. I can’t remember the last time I smiled for myself.
I can’t remember the last time I did something for myself. It is as if, for every action I have committed over the past several years, I can easily find some sort of external motivation; someone else’s reasons, if you will. But I am hard-pressed to find MY reasons. Even when I first started my recovery almost six months ago, my main motivation wasn’t for myself. I was sick of hurting the people I loved: causing them worry, breaking their trust.
Now I’ve started doing things for myself. It’s hard. It means I have to ask people for help when I need it. It means I have to tell people when they say or do something that triggers Ed’s voice. I have to tell people “no” sometimes. I feel selfish.
But as my mom said today “Since when is that a bad thing? Somewhere along the way “selfish” got a bad rap.” And she’s right. Since when has taking care of yourself been a bad thing? Do people look down on you for showering? I hope not. I’m inclined to think most people would actually want you to shower.
I want to get this right, but the truth is there is no easy way to go about this. And I thought going public with my eating disorder was going to be difficult. Compared to this, that was a piece of cake (and we all know how I feel about cake). So I’ll just start. For those of you reading, I don’t expect you to understand. Some of you might, some of you won’t, and that’s okay. All I ask is that you believe me, and that you respect me for staying true to myself, because right now, it’s the hardest thing to do.
"Ugh. That was not the response that I needed. Can't you just support my recovery, instead of telling me all the reasons I'm supposedly going to hell? I need 'I'm here for you, you can do it,' not 'you're a sinner.'"
I posted this status on Facebook two days ago. It was my raw reaction to an email I received from a very close friend – someone whom I have been out of touch with for quite some time (to be fair and clarify, this person was referring to something else, not my eating disorder, as sinful). This person has been one of my best friends over the last couple years. He is kind, funny, outgoing, and has a strong faith in his religion. He is a wonderful person and I value his friendship completely. However, after a lull in communication, when I revealed to him that I had been struggling with an eating disorder for the past few years, I was surprised that news of my life-threatening illness took a back seat to the other piece of information I disclosed: that I have been for the past 3 months, and am currently still, living with my boyfriend.
Now, I know that this lecture came from a place of love. This person honestly believes that I cannot be happy unless I live by this rule, and many other rules of God. And he believes that I believe that. And I respect that. I see the reasoning behind these beliefs. I agree with a majority of them. They are not irrational. But they (not all, but a few) are not for me.
To be fair, I did at a point in my life commit myself to these rules. I did it for love. Love for God? Not exactly (although I do love Him). Love for a boy? Yes.
Isn't that always how it goes?
But let me start at the beginning.
I’ll try not to bore you with the details: I don’t want to draw this out. A year and a half ago, I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Most of you know this as the “Mormon” faith. I love these people. They are kind, compassionate, and eager to befriend and lend a helping hand. They are energetic, happy, and fun-loving. They treasure the family above all else, and the entire congregation is such a tight-knit community, I’m surprised they don’t have their own zip code (minus Nelson, NH, which already has this phenomenon – shout out to all my Schillemats J
I love the Gospel. I love the Bible. I love the Book of Mormon. I love the strength and inspiration that I have drawn from them in times of need, and the comfort I have read whilst reading them. I have lost count how many times I refer to 2 Nephi 2:11 in the Book of Mormon:
“For it must needs be, that there is an aopposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.”
I often remind myself of this scripture when I feel overwhelmed by unfortunate events. It reminds me that, although hard times suck, to be quite frank, we wouldn't be able to appreciate the better times without the contrast they provide. I love how these and countless other passages have lifted me up in dark times.
I occasionally drink alcohol - in moderation. These occurrences are few and far between, rarely ever to a point of intoxication, and currently non-existent while I am in recovery.
I believe in the power of love, whether between opposite-sex or same-sex couples.
I live with my boyfriend. A wise relative told me “Who you love and live with is yours. And love is always right.”
I believe that I and the man I marry will have God’s blessing regardless of where we are married.
And last but not least, I believe God loves me for who I am, just as he loves all of his children, and that I will not go to hell for believing these things. I believe that if I live my life to the best of my ability, love as fully as I can, treat others with kindness and compassion, and stay true to who I am, I will be welcomed into heaven, where I will live eternally in bliss with my loved ones.
Today, I unloaded my anxiety around the consequences of staying true to my values to my therapist. She turned to me, leaned forward, and said “the sky is pink.”
Again, “the sky is pink.”
Me: “I’m not exactly sure what that means…”
She proceeded to tell me that just because someone else’s sky is pink, doesn’t undermine the fact that for my, my sky is blue. Or green. Or whatever color I please. She then used my favorite analogy of the day (sessions are often filled with metaphors):
Imagine you live your life sitting in a chair. Your chair is comfortable; you have had it for as long as you can remember. It is perfectly shaped to the curves of your body, sturdy enough to carry your weight, and supportive of all your weak spots. Through the years you have tinkered with this chair: added arm rests – good move! Made it swivel – eh, made you too dizzy. Added wheels – best decision EVER! Threw a bead massage cover over it – ugh, too lumpy. Through all the tweaks, some stuck, some just weren’t a good fit. But none were a waste. You love your chair. It is everything you need.
Everyone’s chair is different. But different isn’t wrong. There’s more than one way to build a bridge(this is the cat-friendly version – but the same applies to chairs, in case you were wondering). Just because someone tells me my chair is uncomfortable, or imperfect, doesn’t mean I have to throw it away. Some people may not approve of my chair: understandable, my chair is custom-built for me. But the beautiful thing about my chair is: if you don’t like it, you don’t have to sit in it. And that’s okay.
What does this have to do with my recovery? I have been struggling with my identity ever since Ed came into my life. Ed’s biggest weapon against my attempts to do so is fear. Fear that people will not love me or accept me for who I am or what I believe in. Fear that I will lose people I care about. Fear that I will disappoint people. Fear that I will not measure up to peoples’ expectations. But to live a happy life, the only expectations I have to meet are those I set for myself.
This is the what I have struggled with the most the past two days, and is by far the hardest thing I have done this past week. The “people-pleaser” in me is not to be overlooked. But I cannot overlook my beliefs or values either. I hope my honesty falls upon warm hearts and is received with respect.
As is often with true with recovery, I don’t need you to understand. I just need you to believe me.