Monday, I packed my bags in preparation for my red eye flight home that night. It has been seven months since I was last in New York and a year since I slept in my bed. I left home last May thinking I would be away for a maximum of forty-five days (oh, how naive). Never in my life could I have envisaged the path in front of me, that which constantly shifted and forked. I could not have possibly foreseen the winding ways, nor could I have known the places it would take me.
Of course, that’s exactly why we do not predict the future. Us, as humans, lead unimaginable lives filled with plot twists and climaxes that put Fight Club to shame. If someone had told me what was ahead, I surely would not have endeavored onward. The mere thought of spending a year and a half discovering happiness would have left me in tears. I would have agreed to perish right then and there in the sad, trapped mind of an eating disorder. Yet, today, to even imagine having taken an alternate road gives me goosebumps. The notion of leading a partial life keeps me in a perpetual fear of which I work hard at escaping. In the past year, I have evolved immensely. The person I once was, I can’t even completely recall. Who I departed as, I am no longer.
The general theme of my past few weeks has been letting go (with the Frozen song on repeat in my mind, in addition to an image of me twirling in an ice castle). Bringing my conscious awareness to simply staying present these past several months has helped significantly, and putting more of an effort on recognizing the changed person I am without a clause of my past has moved me even farther along. However, staying concrete in being changed in a mostly unchanged environment in which my eating disorder fostered and grew was a challenge I have not previously been able to conquer. I was anxious.
In packing my bags, I remembered the last time I’d packed them to head on a flight to southern California. I had known less than twenty-four hours prior that I would be leaving and I hurriedly stuffed a handful of my belongings into the suitcase, while cramming everything else in my apartment into large, brown boxes as stiff as my pained nonchalance at the whole matter. I guess I’m stubborn when it comes to learning from experience as I, again, thought I’d be away for three or four weeks, a mere tune up. Seven months later, I still packed last minute, though in a far more relaxed state, and the mental tools I needed were well prepared for my four day excursion. My faux nonchalance had been replaced with picked-at cuticles, though the bubbles in my chest were a combination of excitement and anxiety of the unknown.
When I entered my room, the overflowing brown boxes stared back at me, just as I’d left them on the UWS, though a little more worn down busting with baggage, as am I. Yet, they were just boxes. The bed of my home hospitalization which I avoided sleeping in at all costs, was just a wooden frame with a comforter on it. The haunted house was just a home and the ghost town was just a quaint village. I could watch.
My goals and hopes for the visit were that I would be able to “stay and stay”, a phrase a previous therapist of mine titled the experience of being able to stay in the moment both mentally and physically. I didn’t know if I would get swept into the racing river of my past. There is a super power us of habit develop called neuropathways: the tracks our sleds have made to make it easier to easily slip back into old patterns, destructible or not. I was scared I would once again experience the same zombie-like need to obey orders I couldn’t even hear, but felt. I didn’t want to walk into the death mold into which I’d once snugly fit.
I had packed more than just clothes, though. I spent months preparing for this trip. From EMDR to talking more than even I desired about the subject, I knew what to expect. I had visualized and re-visualized. I had thought about it and dreamt about it and cried about it. I was packed, and, honestly, I am different.
To be able to observe all the triggers that once held such fantastical weapons against me and see them as what they were, felt like a deep breath. One of the first I’ve had in a while. My therapist so often told me she wanted to me to be able to go anywhere, even home, and be okay and, for the first time, I understand why. I can today comprehend what it means to know the security inside oneself. I still believe there are places in the world which foster growth more readily for different individuals, where the effort needed to stay isn’t as great, but, at the end of the day, it is the person who holds the wand. I have a center and a core foundation of self that keeps me safe. It is not my surroundings, nor others who protect me, but my decisions and actions. I have choices. I am free.