When I was younger, being alone scared me. I felt isolated and unimportant on my own. I needed other people to validate me, I was obsessed with social interactions - prone to overthinking when given the chance to settle in my own thoughts. But, as high school came to an end and the months to college approached, things changed. Being alone felt comforting. I was myself in this space and I began to cherish it deeply. It was only here that I was truly able to do what I wanted, to understand myself, to learn about the things I had never given a second glance. It started to feel like a sign respect - I was worth putting time into.
A lot of people blamed my eating disorder for this change of heart and I used to believe them, but I don't anymore. Because, as awful as the disease was, it taught me more than I could have imagined. I was forced to grow up years before, but the experiences I went through living with Anorexia could not possibly leave me the way I was before. A lot of that was unhealthy, but some lessons will always be in my heart. My personality changed from the distortions and my priorities were twisted - I can admit that. I'm healthy enough to see it now.
When I was really sick I had to be alone. I could not get away with half of my disordered tendencies if a friend had seen them, nor did I have the time or energy to really be an actively social person. That's not true anymore. Those times were dark and disorienting, they brought me further from my body, sunk into lies. know that food should not dictate my life, that exercise should not take precedence to relationships, and that my own opinions of body image and weight are not always to be trusted. But I know other things too. I know that I know myself better than anyone.
I know that I love quiet nights, that cooking connects me to my food and fosters a sense of appreciation, that sleeping is the best thing I can do to rejuvenate my body. I know that I actually like shopping alone and love going on walks outside. I like sleeping by myself. In the recovery of my eating disorder I have found a beautiful, social life, but I find joy in these breaks of solitude. It allows me to process the things I shove down. I know that my best writing is found in solitude, that it's almost always these hours which allow pain to be turned into art. Being alone is the only way for me to accept the things I can not change, to let go, to breathe, to comfort myself - and to calm the girl that was never comforted before. Alone is the only place I can make sense of a lot of what I still do not understand - childhood, the eating disorder, my own mistakes. I need it to move on.
It's understandable, but unfortunate that the lying nature of eating disorders bleeds into other parts of life. People begin to think that if you're not telling the truth about your eating and workout routines, you must not be about other things too. But, I've never been a liar. Yes, Anorexia forced me to downplay my symptoms, I felt a sense of obedience and pressure to choose her first, but I'm not a liar.
As much hatred I have for my own inner critique, I have become someone that I am proud of through the pain. Each day I'm learning to love myself with a thousands of bumps along the road and in this process I have discovered that personal boundaries and fighting to respect you own needs is crucial in proving that you are worthy of choosing you.
Being alone has taught me incredible things, it has made me sure of who I am because only here am I absolutely able to see myself. I have concluded that my lack of self all those years ago, was from the inability to spend enough time to get to know her in the first place. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted because I never took the time to understand outside of everyone else's expectations. How could I love someone I didn't even know?
The summer I spent in treatment showed me that despite the disorder, I had changed for my own good in other ways that had nothing to do with food. I learned how to cope with trauma and I did my best to face resentment toward my parents. I recognized that I am my worst judge and other people can and will help me out of this tunnel. I was no longer the person I was in high school because that person never had an idea of who they were. And no, my anorexic self is not who I want to be. I love being with people, I want to make memories, and deep down I live for unforgettable experiences, but I will also never be who I was five years ago. How could I be? I'm changing for the better in every way.
I'm finally coming into myself, not manipulated by a mental disorder. Continually working to feel better and learning what makes me happy after years of misaligned priorities. I have found a passion in writing that led to a presidential position at a newspaper and I got accepted for my dream internship. I have strong relationships again (which I couldn't have when weight was my best friend) and I travelled all over Europe. I know more about myself now than I ever have before. 12 months ago I don't think I'd ever said "self love." I was and had always been looking to change.
The more I align my actions to my gut instincts, the more assurance I have in myself, the more respect I gain, and the less I need other people to make me feel accepted. Being alone may seem like a small task, but if you're anything like me, it can change everything. It can show you where you want to go, who will be there for the ride and what you want to accomplish before time runs out. Life is so incredibly short, too short to believe that living for others is worth your while.
When you know who you are by yourself you can attract the people that won't try to change you. And that makes it all worth it.
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