The Nontraditional Journey

A little over a week ago, something wild happened- I graduated from college.

Yeah, you read that correctly, I Olivia, am officially a college graduate with a full time teaching job. Starting in August, I will be living on my own and teaching fourth grade. I could not be happier because I am finally living the life I dreamed of.

To say my college experience was nontraditional would be an understatement. From transferring universities, taking a semester off, going inpatient for 5 days during my JR year, experiencing wild side effects from years of destroying my body, and the other random shenanigans in this lovely life on mine, it wasn’t always the easiest. To be honest, sometimes I am even I am a little surprised that I was able to graduate on time.

This isn’t going to be some post about how hard I had it. Rather this is about how lucky I am to be supported by people who encouraged me to take these untraditional risks. You see, not many people are given as many chances as I was. Not many people are lucky to have such supportive family and friends. I was a lucky one because I never had to do any of this alone.

My mental illnesses had quite an impact on my past 4 years and to be honest, it sucked. For awhile, I used to be scared that a girl like me could ever actually recover and live a normal life. But I did it and if anyone reading this is in a similar position, just know that you can do it too.

Transitions are scary and college can be a weird time. Trust me, I know. We grow up believing that things need to be a certain way. Ever since a young age we are told that if we want to be happy, we need to graduate college and get a job. I don’t know who started that rumor, but your life doesn’t have to be that way. Its okay to take a semester off. Its okay to transfer universities. Heck its okay to not even go to a university.

When I was 18 years old I had NO IDEA what I was doing and I am glad I had enough courage to go against the norm and take that semester off. Had I not taken that semester off, I would have missed out on those 5 months of self-discovery to figure out what I really wanted to do. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Sure it wasn’t what I was ‘supposed’ to do and some people thought it was ‘crazy’, but that didn’t hurt me. If anything it helped me.

The only mistake we can make is to live a life that isn’t what we want it to be. If you are unhappy think about what you can do to change that. Its so simple really, but yet we love to complicate things because of this pre-determined idea of how things are supposed to be.

I support the nontraditional journey. I support the traditional journey. I support whatever journey you take as long as it truly makes you happy. You will end up where you need to be, but the path to get there is up to you. Make it a good one.

“The Anorexic Body”

I have been biting my tongue now for a while on the topic that I am referring to as ‘the anorexic body.’

The anorexic body, is how people who do not understand EDs, wrongly determine if someone is struggling with an eating disorder

So, let me ask you, being that I have been recovering from my anorexia for years now, how am I supposed to look?

Am I supposed to be rail thin and bony? Do you want me to have curves?

I have anorexia, so I should look like I have anorexia, right? Otherwise, am I really sick?

I am asking these questions for a reason. I am asking them because I am trying to figure out where this myth started that in order to have an eating disorder, you must look a certain way.

Granted, I know an obvious answer is media. Most often, when we see a skinny GIRL, the first thing that comes to mind is, “I wonder if she eats.” But, when we see a skinny BOY, its just assumed that he must have an insanely fast metabolism. The girl in the picture will go on to receive copious comments discussing her body shape. People will either comment things like- “BODY GOALS!” or “Gross, she does not look good at all she is a skeleton.” No one would ever dare to assume that the boy might be the one with the eating disorder. Nope, isn’t anorexia something only girls get?

I am not sure who or how these assumptions began about ‘the anorexic body,’ but it needs to stop ASAP.

People suffering with an ED are continuing to suffer because they do not meet the physical requirements of an eating disorder and therefore do not get proper treatment. It is as if there is a rule that if you don’t look the part, you’re not really sick.

I am curious about how we rooted the idea of the ‘normal/perfect’ body.

What is normal?

What is perfect?

How should my body look?

How should YOUR body look?

….does it really even matter?

A Breakthrough

Yesterday I had a breakthrough with recovery after seeing my dietician and therapist. My dietician showed me proof of my body cells clearly leading to heart failure and irreversible neurological damage; along with a high increase of not being able to have a baby or instead, having constant miscarriages. I always hated my therapist because she is a bitch to me, but I finally understand what she is doing.

I have spent so much time obsessing over what’s wrong with me and trying to get people to understand how serious my demons are, when in reality, I need to channel this energy into positive thinking. By making my main focus my ED and my Bipolarness I am not letting myself enjoy life.

If you’re reading this you might be thinking, “well duh, Liv, obviously positive thinking leads to a positive life. And that by being so focused on the negativity was hindering me from LIVING.” From now on, only positive things will be my focus. My journaling and painting is where I express the negativity. Of course I might still ask for help in regards to eating and grocery shopping, but I will get to that point where it gets easier. I AM NOT MY ILLNESS.

I looked at myself in the mirror today while changing and started crying at how unhealthy my body looks. I do not want this to be my life. It is not normal for my rib cage to show every bone so clearly and to have such protruding hipbones. This IS NOT how my body should look and I need to start loving my body AND myself.

I thank you all for the support, it really mean a lot. BUT, the only one that can save me is MYSELF and by finally realizing that I seek attention through my actions is not the way to go about recovering. I am scared to admit when I am struggling, but I need to express this in healthy ways. Hurting myself is not the answer. I am not saying that my mental health is made up or attention seeking, but I am saying that when I get so desperate and so consumed by my thoughts, I do not properly handle myself well. It is okay to just say, “Hey today is a rough day for me, but it will pass.” It’s SO much better than trying to give off clues that I desperately need help by making it physically obvious. I have a voice that can express what is troubling me. My journaling is for my demons. Not my friends. My friends are my support; not my therapist. And my perspective on my mental health is finally starting to change.

My new life begins now; A life of positive growth and positive thinking.

The Secret Illness

You know that saying that goes something like “treat everyone with kindness for they all fight their own secret battle.” We say it all the time, but do we ever actually think about it? Do you ever think about how your best friend could be depressed or anxious and hiding it all from you?

One of the most mind-blowing things for me to think about is how there are so many others who suffer with mental illness and we do not even know about it. SO many people have a struggle, yet almost every day we see perseverance in this struggling friend. We would never think he or she could be mentally ill.

I was talking to one of my professors the other day. See, I had a major panic attack in her class. It was really embarrassing for me because it made me feel like I was failing at recovery. I went to my professor’s office to talk to her about it and I went into more detail about my history with mental illness. This conversation was so meaningful because my professor said she would have had no clue that I fight myself everyday. People know me for my outgoing personality. I always have a smile on my face. It is hard for others to fathom that I suffer so much.

It’s kind of scary in a way to think about how good I was at hiding my mental illness. I got through high school with very little people knowing I was sick. (Even with missing a month of school for IOP!) And I will NEVER forget that one day senior year in English class, when my teacher made a comment about my cut wrist in front of the whole class. It took him a moment to realize the major mistake he made.

Think about the stranger you sit next to everyday on the train. Or one of your co-workers that you kind of know. He could be suffering and maybe that smile you give him is the highlight of his day.

Think about the ones you loved. We never really know how much someone is struggling until they crack. But what if we took more focus on how our loved ones actually are. Then it would not escalate to the point of danger.

It’s scary to think that people can hide their demons so well.

Everyday, my alarm goes off and I dread getting out of bed. I know that for the next 12 hours I am going to have to be a ray of sunshine, running all over the place, and pleasing others. It’s a lot of work, but it makes me feel good most of the time, so I keep doing it. Sometimes I’ll admit I do need a break. That’s when I hit snooze a little bit longer and stay a little quieter.

Every time a meal comes along I feel full just from the anxiety. I do not think I will ever understand how people get excited about meals. I still do certain behaviors, but no one knows that my weird eating habits are unhealthy.

When it’s finally time to sleep at night I am wide-awake with voices of all the things I  think I did wrong running through my mind.

Mental illness is unpredictable. It’s not a fun thing to live with. Which is why we need to show more compassion to those we love.

We need to be more inviting to companions we do not yet know well. Exchange a smile; genuinely show care about how someone’s day is. Make an effort because you never know what someone is going through. Mental illness can be silent, but deadly.

I am…

I used to only care about..

How my body looked, being the skinniest, how I looked in the mirror.

I used to only care about…

Counting calories, being perfect, eating  less than my peers.

I used to avoid hanging out with friends and participating in activities

I used to be a zombie just trying to get through the day.

I had excuses lined up for why I couldn’t go out.

I had rituals I would do before bed that Ana insisted I had to do.

With about six years of recovery under my belt I am now starting too..

Love my body, feed my body, and accept who I am.

I am starting to…

Have energy to be involved in activities, get excited about seeing friends.

Life is no longer a chore like it was before.

I no longer just go through the motions

I no longer cry myself to sleep.

I still have urges of restricting and body checking.

I still struggle with accepting my body.

I still get frustrated that I suffer with mental illness and the feeling that I’ll be like this forever.

I worry no one will love me since I sometimes forget how to love myself.

I worry I will not reach my goals and aspirations and let myself down.

However, I fight because I want to be strong and healthy.

I want to get married, start a family, travel the world.

I need to eat and take care of myself.

I need to stop inflicting pain on my body.

I am a work in progress.

I am a young woman in recovery.

I am an Ed warrior and everyday I am getting strong towards destroying my demons. 

I am Liv and I am NOT defined by my disorders.