Last Friday, I once again boarded a plane home, though this time with an agenda. After spending a couple of nights soaking up New York, Carvel and all, my parents and I took another flight to Boston College for a long-awaited orientation session. Despite much hesitancy, doubt, and anticipatory anxiety, I made my way through the campus after over a year of two deferrals and about six first-year orientation cancellations.
The one consistently glorious aspect of recovery is, no matter how short of a time period, when looking back in retrospect, one can always find an evolution, progression, change. From the second I handed over my keys to my rental car in Santa Monica and entered LAX as a partially anonymous human being with the familiar freedom that has, at times, held me prisoner, I was aware of the grounded center I locked onto. Each time I met a panic, whether it be over finding food in a crowded airport with a time crunch or taking seconds at a meal or even completely food-free stressors, such as being in a foreign environment with new people I may potentially form relationships with for the next four years, I grasped onto the calm in my core that I now felt far more present than that during my visit in May, never mind a year ago.
An eating disorder offers instant gratification. When life seems too large, looking at food can make that smaller. When an emotion seems unbearable, using a behavior can relieve an individual of the need to deal in that moment in unfathomable ways. It’s what makes going against human needs so addicting. It’s why insanity can seem appealing, though it may not always make sense. Physically and mentally a person with an eating disorder becomes reliant on these maladaptive coping mechanisms. Seeing my progress did the same thing.
In the moments I was able to catch myself laughing with my friends and my sister over breakfast without having to hide behind my food, I knew choosing to eat and to live were the right decisions. When I felt flooded with the apprehension that I might make the wrong choice in class scheduling or I wouldn’t like my life at college, I basked in the sanctity that I knew my morals and was proud of my actions. When questions surfaced, I knew I could choose the answers instead of backing myself into a road I’ve already traveled. When I was scared, I remembered how grateful I was to not have the same list of fears I would have had a year ago. I could keep myself safe on a basic level and everything else felt less urgent. I knew I would be okay in the end, and that felt like a first.
Some things are still hard for me, and sometimes I question how much more I can push myself before I crumble, but it is not at the expense of going backwards. It is in how much I feel happy with my life that I can’t see farther. And, even if I crumble, I know I will never stop eating my food. I have clarity deep enough to not even think of that as an option. My eating disorder no longer gives me instant gratification anymore; it just digs my hole deeper. I have filled so many holes, and with that knowledge, I attempt to fill my last ones.