a new perspective

How Studying Abroad Helped Me Heal

Clarity that keeps me from running toward the voice that nearly took my life.


A year ago today, studying abroad, being in a different country, leaving the little world I had created to feel safe, felt overwhelmingly unrealistic. I was planning for it without the slightest excitement to leave and to be honest, I was terrified. After dedicating most of my college life to shrinking my body and upholding this non-existent perfection I thought I owed the world, I was in no mindset to leave the control behind. It was all I knew.

Living in a different place, putting trust in myself, traveling Europe and accepting the flexibility it entails felt out of the question. I was getting by one day at a time, so caught up in the meaningless routines that I didn't give my future much thought at all. Everything I had once cared about took second place to the fate of Anorexia.

Not only were my disordered behaviors a sure reason to avoid going abroad, but I also had a hard time imagining the lack of control I would have in general. The control freak in me despised the idea of packing one suitcase and figuring the rest out on along the way. I was worried that I couldn't handle the unknown, that my family and friends wouldn't miss me, that I would get too homesick and want to come back, that I would go crazy without access to constant health fads and cooking myself and going to the gym. I was worried that my already fragile grasp on "real" life would come to a crashing finale. My real nerves were at the base of my eating disorder, but they spiraled in every direction. Anxious to experience something that might make my sick obsessions collapse, I thought it would chew me up and spit me out. But now I see, I was wrong.

While the first few days were challenging and nostalgia absolutely came to play, I've gotten settled and it's starting to feel like home. The environment is clean and fresh, beautiful scenery in every direction. Sometimes I feel like I'm in a movie.

The people here live with purpose - a kind I've never seen before. Buying things as they need them, with intentional use. The false sense of scarcity doesn't seem to guide them as it does in the U.S. economy. Here, marketing schemes don't beat common sense. People seem confident and they feel safe. It makes me feel safe too.

There are fewer options at markets and stores, which make decisions easier. I don't feel this need to buy anything and everything, or like I'm missing out when I say no. Needs are met, but not indulgent. Experiences trump objects and I like that shift in priorities.

Things I thought would bother me have brought with them a sense of calm. Not having a car, fewer appointments, fewer family expectations, a different curriculum at school, new social norms, and different languages. The typical cultural shocks of "abroad" have led me to view living in a new way. And overall, the pressure is just less. It helps me that no one here knew the type of girl I used to be - the lack of comparison is revitalizing.

It would be naive and almost impossible to expect that my troubles wouldn't follow - they absolutely have - but what I worried about hasn't been as hard as expected. It hasn't been long enough to know where the credit lies, if it's the feeling of content or the less processed food or the lack of stress, but it's all different. Life here, me, the way I see it all, it's different.

The ebb and flow may be unavoidable, but I have this resilience now that the disorder stole from me - I can save myself from my own thoughts enough to keep from self-destruction. I have a sense of clarity that keeps me from running toward the voice that nearly took my life.

I know what my life is like with the scale as my best friend, how I avoided everything that used to make me happy, the love and people I no longer had time for, I know that eventually, it all came to an end and that it would come to an end this time too.
Yeah, there is still an overpowering voice, it didn't just disappear, but it has come 270 degrees of a full circle since this exact time last year. Maybe I was able to redefine this need to fulfill a materialistic goal - I saw it for what it was once I stepped away from the environment that created the monster in the first place. And, I can honestly say I never thought I would make it here.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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