Odds and Ends of Some Writing

**Written July 27th, 2018**
I tend to see life where people are absent.
Just this afternoon I was driving down a narrow, forest-ridden winding road. With each turn came a new landscape. One bend brought a small shed, weathered with rain and snow and simply time. The next curve forced me to look across the road to a brook slithering under a wooden bridge, both coming from and leading to nowhere at all.
I steal quick glances. In this moment, they’re mine.
Today’s forecast promised grey skies.
Don’t you love when nature proves us mere guessing humans wrong?
The trees that line this road are tall, towering high above the ground and create a canopy overhead. Both sides are steep hills that become small mountains. This road a disturbance, a misfit with its home on the ground.
I glance up to the houses sitting triumphantly at the mountaintop. Pure sunshine trickles in through the cracks in the canopy, places where the trees tried and tried to reach each other but fell short. The beams of light are misshapen. Sunshine spills out where it can, maneuvering its way to the ground. On the woodchips and scattered tree branches. On the fallen logs and wild flowers and puddles of water leftover from yesterday’s storm.
It is in these moments that I see life, and I’m not sure why.
All I know is that I see, I feel, and then, I know.
There is something captivating about watching nature in an undisturbed state. The light’s ability to find its way all on its own. The way the silent hum of the engine beneath my seat falls deep into the background as I take it all in. A world on mute. I can’t hear my breath. I must be holding it, hiding it, but from what? Maybe it was taken. Nature, a thief.
I see beams, literal beams of light. They’re falling and yet they’re rising. An illusion, a comfort.
I trace the beams back to their source. Where did these pillars of magic come from? How can I see the shape of light? I feel special. Strong almost. Seeing beams is my special power. There is life in this light.
This sunshine. This light. It’s resilient, it’s present, and it’s certainly alive. It’s in this moment I long to be barefoot in the midst of it all, briefly considering pulling the car over, leaving the pieces of metal and rubber behind, chasing the swelling need to feel dirt beneath my feet.
Why is it that we don’t consider light alive?
This drive down this road was fleeting. Two minutes at most. And somehow, that was all I needed. To know.
The presence of this light was so strong. It chose its words carefully, speaking in feelings rather than words. Taking in the light as it hit the forest at every angle, in every possible area, I saw life. Undisturbed, allowed to live, to be. To not be expecting the light only to catch it radiating strongest as its heads toward sleep. Sunset.
There is no life in sight to disturb the beams. An absence of life, a void somehow filled with life itself. Life is mysterious. Where did this light come from, how will it return? Life is intoxicating. These beams, this warmth, it floods me with a rush of awe. Life is illuminating.
A winding road, a two-minute drive. Taken for granted all too often. A light show hides within the outskirts, in the places we’re not supposed to look. Eyes ahead, on the road. But brief glance to the hills, a visual climb up the mountainside. Where the people are not. That is where I see life.
Illuminating.

 

NYC Fitness Studio Round-up

**Written April 11th, 2018**

 

I’ve been an athlete my entire life. Growing up, I played just about every sport (except basketball for some odd reason??), so my love for movement was instilled in me at a young age. Looking back, I realize how easy it was for me to slip into my orthorexic tendencies. Between my eating disorder and exercise addiction, my recovery called for prolonged exercise restriction in order to restore the lost weight. For me, this period lasted about six months. I was frustrated and anxious, but the wait was well worth it. It provoked a sense of gratitude for my body’s abilities and strength that I had never had before. Since then, I’ve focus a great amount of energy on exercise and its role in my life. Living in NYC, I have a wellness hub at my fingertips. This school year, I’ve made a point to explore all types of movement, striving for balance in my workouts. Up until this past August, I had never taken a group fitness class. Now, I take about two or three a week. I love them! There’s just something about being in a room with like-minded individuals who are just ready to w o r k. I find I can push myself to greater lengths when I’m being coached by an instructor and am fueled by the vibrant, positive energy of my teammates.

One of the most important things in life is variety. In the realm of fitness, it’s critical to vary the ways you move your body. Doing the same workout on repeat will become muscle memory. Your body won’t be excited or worked in new ways, and you’ll inevitably plateau in your wellness journey. Keep your body guessing and you’ll see results. That’s why I love switching up the studios I go to; each one challenges me and moves my body in new ways. Here’s a list of all the NYC studios I’ve been able to try this school year!

Barry’s Bootcamp:

The first time I went to Barry’s I opted for a double floor workout. You have the option of either staying on the floor the entire time or splitting your workout so you’re on the floor for half and doing treadmill work for the other half. The class is focused on different exercises using weights, resistance bands, and other equipment. Depending on the class you choose, you’ll work upper, lower, or full body. I was intimidated by the treadmill element the first class, but after leaving I regretted not doing it. Double floor was pretty repetitious (you do a circuit while the runners are running, and then they come join you for the same circuit again). The second time I went I bit the bullet and tried the treadmill, and I’m so glad I did. It was so much fun pushing myself to try a new way of moving and how it called for me to use  different muscles I don’t normally use. Love how the studio is dimly lit with red lighting (because dark lighting is my best lighting, you feel?)

Favorite Class: Chest, Back, and Abs

Rate: 8/10

Fhitting Room:

I love the structure of these workouts. You begin with a warm-up, then move through circuits. This studio really emphasizes group work and partnering, which is so much fun because you feed off of each other’s energy and hype and it’s just great. I’ve met so many awesome athletes here that pushed me to get in just one more rep. You can take class with about 20 other people or opt for the Pit option, which is a more intimate class of about 12 people. I love the Pit classes, and prefer it to the general class, but they fill up quick. I don’t find the workouts here too challenging overall, but I have had some instructors who really killed it. Depends on who you get. However, I don’t go into every single workout looking to be pushed to exhaustion. I love Fhitting Room because it always creatively moves my body, and I’ve honestly learned a lot from the instructors here!

Favorite Class: FhitPit Fhix

Rate: 8/10

Tone House:

Okay. Not to play favorites, but Tone House is my favorite. Huge shout-out to my friend Seth (@kaleforniakitchen) for recommending this death sentence to me. Tone House is a killer workout. It’s like personal training on steroids. If you can survive the warm-up, you can do anything. I’ve never been challenged so much in my life. The instructors are kick ass. The workout is the athlete’s dream. There’s speed work, agility, strength, tears…you know the deal. I’ve only ever taken the 101 intro class and have 0 plans to graduate from it. The regular class is actually for superhumans and marathoners alike, so trust me on this and embrace the 101 class. Every time I’ve hit the turf here my classes have been no larger than 8 people, and I loved it. We were constantly moving onto the next challenge, always rooting for each other, and striving to work as a unit. I’m always sore for at least five days after I leave the House. I. Love. It. My favorite workout by far. Because it’s so intense, however, I make sure to space out my visits to give me enough recovery time (once a week, but usually I go once every two weeks). Totally recommend.

Favorite Class: TH 101: Core

Rate: 10/10

Physique 57:

Physique 57 is a pilates-based studio. I’ve always been drawn to more HIIT, CrossFit training styles. My mom is a big fan of this workout (they have at-home tapes that she raves about) so I figured I’d try it out and test new waters. Honestly, it was incredibly challenging for me to just slow down. However, I liked the heightened focus on really feeling each movement and being mindful of how my body was working. I took an intro class, but I did find it to be a tad easy and not exciting enough for me personally. It was nice to take a break from my usual intensity, but I wasn’t captivated with this experience. Not for everyone, and that’s okay! Totally not discrediting how hard this workout, or pilates in general, is. It takes a great deal of strength and does help shape, tone, and sculpt your body. The instructor was wonderful, and the class was about 20 people. I didn’t have a bad experience here, I just wasn’t hooked. Definitely worth a try if you’re looking for something new though!

Favorite Class: Signature

Rate: 5/10

SLT:

First semester, I was at SLT on a weekly basis. This class is pilates revamped. You do the entire workout on a megaformer. The workout calls for a lot of resistance and strength work. The first time I walked into the studio I was intimidated; I had never encountered anything like the megaformer. However, it was an Intro class, and the instructor made sure to take the time to walk me through how the machine worked and how the class would be run. I instantly felt comfortable. I really enjoy SLT because it’s a workout I could never replicate on my own, so I definitely get my money’s worth. I haven’t been in awhile, but I’d love to get back there soon! My favorite way to switch things up by far.

Favorite Class: SLT All Levels

Rate: 8/10

SoulCycle:

Ahhh, how did this one not come up sooner? I only began riding at Soul after a friend of mine at school asked me to take a class with her. Since then, I’ve been riding weekly. Before this year, I had only cycled here and there at my home gym. Cardio isn’t my favorite, but in my effort to expand my horizons, I opened up to Soul. Yes, it’s pricey, but I think it’s well worth it. I’ve taken some classes that felt like a waste of my money. My advice is to find an instructor you love. They change everything. I take the same class on Tuesday nights after work and it’s the highlight of my day. The instructor encourages lots of resistance as opposed to choreography, which I appreciate so much. This 45-minute ride once a week has definitely improved my stamina, made me stronger, and most importantly helps me focus on de-stressing and recentering myself after a long day spent between school and the office. Even if you can’t make it a consistent thing, I encourage you to try it at least once. The overall experience is kick ass.

Favorite Class: SoulCycle

9/10

Brick NYC:

I found Brick on ClassPass. It’s a similar workout to Fhitting Room in that its HIIT workout focused that is broken up into circuits. You work with partners and groups for most of it, so I liked that element. However, even after a few classes here, I’m not hooked. The workouts are not overly challenging, and sometimes too simplistic. Some of the instructors I’ve had spend a lot of time talking and then the workouts are cut short. I’m sure I just had a few off-classes, but I don’t feel like I get my money’s worth. Many of the circuits I’ve paid to do here I could have easily done in the small living room of my apartment. Not my favorite!

Favorite Class: B l X

Rate: 5/10

 

Italy Recap

ating disorders are selfish.
They aren’t welcomed, but they arrive anyway. They aren’t invited, but they long overstay their welcome. They manifest deeply inside of you, absorbing who you once were and, in what seems like one breath, blow any trace of you into dust. Everything you do, you do for your eating disorder. The disorder is loud, and demanding, and needs you. It can’t thrive without you; it needs your body and mind to carry out the actions it so desperately craves. Isn’t that a paradox then? The disorder needs you to succeed, but aren’t you just the disorder?
So when you isolate yourself and stop socializing, you do it for the sake of the disorder. So it feels safe. So it can continue to starve and whittle away without having to face lunches with friends, spontaneity on the weekends, holidays with pie. On the surface, this looks and sounds like a series of missed opportunities for you. YOU’RE the one missing out, right?
Did you ever stop to think that it’s not all about you??
That those friends who invite you to lunch sit with an empty seat where you should have been? That your best friend’s heart drops just a little when you text her back at 11:30 on Friday night and make up a thin-as-ice excuse as to why she can’t come pick you up for a late night movie? That your grandma simply can’t understand why you won’t just have a sliver of her famous pumpkin pie, the same one you two used to make together in her kitchen the night before Thanksgiving, an annual tradition?
How about this; that because of your rigid eating rules, your social anxiety, and your exercise addiction, your family can’t take a vacation? My three young, vibrant, energetic little sisters were deprived of vacations for five years, all the cost of my selfish disorder. We couldn’t possibly go away as a family. My parents knew what would happen. My crippling anxiety would kick in, a result of not having my entire day planned down to the minute. Not knowing when and what I’d be eating. If I’d be able to get my two-hour workout in. My life was structured with immense detail, and a sidestep of even microscopic size would send me off the edge. Missed opportunity for me, yes, but more so for my sisters, my parents, all who worked diligently all year long and deserved a getaway. From work. From life.
From me.

This has been a particular regret that never fails to make my heart heavy. I took this away from my family. I stripped them of any chance to bond all together without a care in the world, of laying on a beach by day and dining together at night. Instead, I acted as a blockade, a brick wall on their journey to relaxation. I forced us to always stay home, and for what? So I could lay on my bed and watch the hours pass between my rice cake for breakfast at 6 AM and my chicken breast for dinner twelve hours later? So I could wait for everyone to fall asleep before slipping off to the basement for a midnight run, clocking in at 6 miles and fueled by nothing but four grapes?
This guilt was what triggered my determination to truly challenge myself on our recent trip to Italy. My sister turned 16 in May, and instead of a party, she asked for this trip. I remember when she came to me months before, looking me in the eyes, asking me if it was okay, if I was okay.
Going to Italy has always been a dream of hers. Her laptop’s screensaver has been a series of Google images of the Amalfi Coast for years. My heart broke when she asked me. At this point, I’d long been recovered and stable. But to know that I would always be a potential roadblock…that stung. It was then that I swore to prove to my sister, and all my sisters, and my entire family, that the health and happiness I preach daily are a true manifestation.
I grabbed her by the shoulders. “When do we leave?”

I’m an intuitive eater. I move my body in ways that I enjoy and I’m long past pushing myself beyond my limits. I fuel myself with wholesome, real foods. I now share my time equally between myself and my friends and family. I have strong relationships, and am fully aware of the importance to contributing to them, not just receiving. I live balanced in every aspect of the word.
So I guess I shouldn’t have been as incredibly shocked as I was when we strolled into the airport on Friday evening, about to board our international flight. Why wasn’t I nervous? Why wasn’t I anxious about not exercising for a week, for sitting in the same seat for ten hours, for pizza and pasta and gelato? Why wasn’t I having a panic attack, or jogging in place just to “squeeze in a little more”, whatever that used to mean? I was expecting a great deal of pain, an internal battle in the face of vacation. But there was no enemy anymore. There was no voice to fight. Whatever remains of the disorder have lingered, that night in the airport they were on mute. And for that I am deeply and forever in awe of how far I’ve come. All I remember feeling as I settled into my plane seat was how damn EXCITED I was. How GOOD and FRESH the food I was going to eat would be. How BEAUTIFUL the scenery would undoubtedly be. How SENTIMENTAL it was going to be to walk around Italy with my parents, both 100% Italian. The rush felt surreal. In that moment, I knew one thing was certain; I was truly at peace with myself.
Provided that I went into the trip with nothing but good intentions, I’m almost at a loss for words to capture how wonderful my time spent in Italy truly was. I’ve long moved past rigid food rules, but one thing that I’m used to at home is having a general idea of when and what I’d eat each meal. Not intentionally, but sort of a subconscious quirk at this point. I’ve gotten used to having a certain schedule and the eating that comes with it. So being in a foreign country, with an itinerary filled to the brim with excursions and events that varied every day, I simply had no way of planning any of this out. And this was the best thing that could have happened to me.
I guess that was the very last eating disorder related element hovering in my life. My attachment to knowing. I put up with spontaneity and surprises here and there, but never for an entire day, every day, for over a week. This trip was the final push I needed.
I knew this going in, and I mentally prepared myself. In the time leading up to the trip, I used a lot of positive self talk and rationalizing to reassure myself that I was strong enough to endure this. And the more I engaged in these actions, the more excited I grew to just dive in head first. By the first day I touched ground in Rome, I was asking my parents for the nearest pizzeria; a shock to us all, considering I haven’t had pizza in six years.
What I was most excited about was not the food, though that was very high up the list, but for the challenge. I was so thrilled to push myself, to see how much I could grow. I’m confident that going into a challenging situation feeling so positive and bright contributes greatly to how it will go. I never ate the same two days in a row. Each day was different. Some days we ate lunch at 12, before our trip of the day, and some days lunch wasn’t scheduled until 2:30. I’d always pack snacks with me, just in case, but never really had to use them. That’s because I was forcing myself to just LIVE. One day we had breakfast at 6:45 in order to begin travelling down the coast at 7:15. We made a pit stop at 10:30, and my sisters, without thinking twice, found a small gelato stand and ordered heaping cones to hold them over until lunch. How intuitive, how real, how NORMAL. Instead of reaching for the RX bar in my bag, I ordered myself a cone as well. We sat on the curb in the Italian morning sun, licking quickly to avoid drinking our creamy snacks. Another day I ordered a personal pizza for lunch, only to go out for dinner later and scan the menu and find that all that sounded good to me was, well, another pizza. So I had it again. Our last night, my pasta dinner was so delicious that I ordered A SECOND ONE. You see where I’m going with this?
Growing up Italian, and I mean VERY Italian, I crave the cuisine all of the time. Being in Italy, where the food is not only wholesome, fresh, and REAL, but also outright DELICIOUS, felt surreal. The food was supposed to be my biggest challenge and yet, instead it emerged as my biggest passion. I wiped out pizza after pizza. I never knew how much I loved paninis until my first bite in Capri. I never knew how soft and creamy gelato was until my first lick danced across my tongue and tickled my taste buds, and then my heart.
My food freedom in Italy was the exact opposite of selfish; it was selfless. Because while I was enjoying myself (and trust me, I was thoroughly doing that), my family was benefitting greatly. I’ll never forget the first night in Rome, where my sister and I shared a room (the other two shared a separate room). I was washing up and getting ready for bed, but she was just sitting on the armchair in the corner, waiting. When I finally realized she wanted to say something, I walked over to her. Here’s how my eating looked that day when we arrived after breakfast: a personal pizza and a pasta dish for lunch, a heaping plate of pasta at dinner (along with three pieces of warm complimentary bread, a habit I never engage in), and three scoops of gelato with whipped cream and a waffle cone for dessert. I looked at her, her eyes glistening. What’s wrong, aren’t you happy to be here? It was her birthday present after all. I couldn’t understand why she was tearing.
“I’m so proud of you, Ang. You did so good tonight. Thank you for getting better.”
I could go the rest of my life without another compliment, another accomplishment, and I would be alright, because that moment shattered my entire world.

Italy is, in my opinion, the most beautiful place in the world. Home to rich history, breathtaking architecture, intricate artwork and sculpture, physically it is aesthetically pleasing. But to me, its beauty runs deeper than what you can see. Italy is the place where my food freedom finally, FINALLY, blossomed to its fullest extent. The place where my family and I bonded deeply over homemade pasta and fresh pizza straight out of brick ovens. Where we jumped off cliffs together into the Mediterranean Sea. Where we hiked the coast and stood in silence, in awe of the view. Where we laughed until we cried, where we were reminded of our love for each other and for our life as one unit. Where all six of us were in a constant state of gratitude for my recovery. Because eating disorders are selfish. And while I knew all this time that recovery was selfless, it was this family vacation that screamed it from the rooftops.
My sister thanked me for getting better.
I could never thank her, and my parents, enough for making this trip a reality. For giving me the final push.
I’m free and alive and thriving.
And full of pizza…but aren’t those synonymous?

To The Bone Review

Before I begin this review, I want to extend my praise to the cast and crew for bringing the issue of eating disorders into the public eye. In a time where media is by and far the largest platform for reaching youth, the population most at risk for and ignorant to the reality of eating disorders, making a Netflix film about this issue is a daunting task. While I didn’t find this film to be executed properly, I do recognize the tremendous time and effort that went into this project and that was devoted in eating disorders in general.
            As an eating disorder survivor, I eagerly awaited the release of “To The Bone” on Netflix. In the weeks before its arrival, I read up on the production process and how the project came to be. I found out that Lily Collins lost an extreme amount of weight for this role, something I found very unsettling and appalling. Lily Collins has a history with an eating disorder. This, in my opinion, is a vital factor to make note of. If a project about eating disorders, I’d prefer to have a recovered survivor working closely with the staff, even better as the main asset. This ensures a true and honest portrayal. However, producing a visual project (as opposed to a literary piece), is much trickier. I am aware that not all eating disorders leave their mark on the physical body. I understand that eating disorders are a disease of the mind, and that while the body plays a large role, not all eating disorders sufferers are walking around at a deadly weight. But in the case of “To The Bone”, where the main focus was anorexia, the film required a deadly ill body. Having Lily Collins achieve this look is sickening. I don’t know the details as to how she went about obtaining her protruding bones or empty eyes, but I have no doubt that starving herself and under-nourishing her body were important assets to this mission. And while the film does not directly promote this, us survivors know what went on behind closed doors. It’s appalling, to say the least.
            So now we’ve established that the main actress had to fall back into her eating disorder to achieve this role. Triggering. Very. As for the film itself, even more triggering. I’ve been recovered and stable for years; I can confidently assert that triggers are very far and few between for me. But for those young men and women fighting tooth and nail every day for their life, manifesting all of their will into their recoveries, this film is NOT for them. The characters blatantly engage in behaviors. Their conversations, their actions, and their mannerisms all accurately depict various eating disorders. Those struggling to break away from such do not have any need to be exposed to them. Watch at your own, cautious, discretion.
            As for the logistics, I’m pretty disappointed. Full disclosure, I’ve been inpatient twice. I’ve participated in two outpatient programs, have had my fair share of therapists and dieticians, and have spent hours of my life in support groups and group therapy sessions. Just this past summer, I was formally educated by a credible eating disorder staff on the exact procedures concerning treatment placement and the criteria. For those who aren’t familiar, there are essentially three levels of treatment that those with an eating disorder decide between. The first is outpatient care, which is an umbrella term for a treatment team consisting of a dietician, therapist, and psychiatrist (can have other professionals as well), or refers to a partial hospital program (PHP). PHP is structured so that you spend the majority of your days and meals at the hospital in program, but are free to go home at the end of the day and are responsible for remaining meals. The next is residential treatment. This refers to a home setting where those who are admitted are not medically critical but still need support in their recovery. In residential, there is a staff that works with you in groups for therapy and there is support for your meals and exercise habits. The goal of this setting is to help you transition into the real world as a recovered person. The final option is inpatient treatment, which tends to be utilized when the person is in critical medical condition. The main goal here is to restore necessary weight first and then focus on the mental aspect of the illness later, when the person is medically stable.
            In the film, Ellen is shown in a condition that is clearly very dangerous. She could die at any moment, and there are characters that voice this fear. However, despite this factor, Ellen is placed in a residential-like setting. In this particular home, there is very minimal structure. The reason for this, I honestly have no clue. I don’t know what message the writers were possibly trying to convey. Ellen is dying, and what she needs is extreme structure. Where she should be is INPATIENT, where a team of doctors will restore her weight and save her life long enough for her to THEN step down to a house-setting. The fact that Ellen gets to live in a house where there are other house members engaging in such obvious behaviors, with no structure or rules, is appalling. Nobody is REQUIRED to eat; they are just encouraged. Nobody’s language is monitored. In real treatment settings, weight, numbers, food, etc. are OFF LIMITS. Here, everyone speaks freely and only about behaviors and food obsessions. The portrayal of treatment was inaccurate to the extreme.
            There is also no storyline. I felt as if I sat there for almost two hours and nothing happened. I didn’t feel myself attaching to any of the characters. I was by no means moved by Collins’ performance; if anything, I found it distasteful. There are too many plots that begin and then lead nowhere. There are too many details that need to be explained but aren’t. Everything seems half-thought out. I’m left with a surplus of questions. The details of Ellen’s family are far-fetched and while they are plausible, they don’t fit into the story. The writers placed them in there but never fully developed them. Everything seems lost, empty, and pointless. Oh, and there is not one person who makes significant and commendable progress in their recovery. Great.
            Upon finishing the film, I’m not left with anything. I’m not moved, I’m not encouraged, and I’m not proud. I’m disappointed. This was a project that had the potential to do so much, to speak volumes to the importance of breaking the stigma, of showing pro-ana youth what they’re REALLY in for. There is no message. There is barely any character growth. By the end, Ellen undergoes a reality check and is ready to recover.
            But then it ends.
            The writers obviously intended for this to be a ray of hope, to show the viewer that now Ellen will go on and fully recover. However, this is not serving any justice to the reality of relapse and recovery. Speaking from experience, with an eating disorder, a surge of confidence is not enough. I have had countless relapses, some big, some small, but all were the end product of a reality check like Ellen’s. Maybe this is the time that Ellen REALLY does it, really recovers. While it pains me to say this, it’s more likely than not that this is temporary, and the eating disorder will wiggle its way back. The writers don’t disclose this, of course, because that’s not captivating to an audience. They want a happy ending. They want a fantasy.
            Overall, I’m deeply unhappy with this film. It’s inaccurate, filled with false hope and tries too hard to be intriguing and hold an audience. The main goal of such a project should have been to educate, to reveal the depths and truths of life with an eating disorder. If this is thought to be too brutal (which it is), then a film should not have been taken on in the first place. “To The Bone” was a terrible excuse for Lily Collins to fall back into her eating disorder.

 

The Socializing Introvert: Why Relationships Are SO Important

**Written July 13th, 2017**
             Awhile back I came across a photo online that said, “Introverts Unite!”. Underneath that, a rising fist. And even further below, more text that read, “Separately, in your own homes”
            As a self-proclaimed introvert, I have to admit I laughed and saved it, but then it hit me. This is so relatable. This is me.
            I’ve found that the majority of the people in this health-conscious, pro-wellness community are very likeminded. We all loooooove kale, right? Maybe? Probably not. I’ve met plenty of people in this space who identify as introverts. More commonly, as extroverted introverts. I fall into this mouthful of a category.  Alone time? I thrive on that sh*t. I need my solo time to recharge, to collect myself, to evaluate. However, I love spending time with the people I love. I find myself itching for human contact, not constantly, not always, but enough for me to realize that I could never be on my own the way I used to so confidently believe.
            I’m young. I love being by myself, but there’s a time and place for that. I’m healthy, I’m capable, and I should be taking advantage of this time. I should be going out of my way to go on day trips with friends, to spontaneously make plans, to put in the effort to socialize. This is probably the last element of my eating disorder-ridden life that I’m still working towards amending. Eating disorders isolate you. I lost countless amounts of friends. I lost time I’ll never get back. Opportunities passed me by. Grade-wide trips down the shore on the last day of school. Sweet 16’s. Family vacations.
            All because I thought I was “introverted”. I thought this meant my life was destined to be empty, lonely. My eating disorder thrived off of that. No socializing meant no shared meals, no body comparison, no judgement. It also meant no responsibility. To other people, to relationships, to social commitments. Socializing, at a time when standing for more than five minutes was an enormous effort (hello poor physical health!), was out of the question. It exhausted me to the point of physical fatigue. It was best for me to avoid it. I’m better off without them, without the others. Right?
            At the time of my recovery, my  goals looked like this: restore necessary weight, maintain that weight, establish a solid relationship with food, begin incorporating exercise again after a 6-month hiatus. After that point, I considered myself out of recovery. But there are some aspects of your eating disorder lifestyle that carry over into your post-recovery life that aren’t dire, but in time need to be alleviated.
            Like isolation.
            Socializing wasn’t one of my recovery goals. Clearly, I had more urgent needs to attend to. Now that I lead a healthy and happy life, where I’m not on the verge of fatal health crises, I can dedicate more time to bettering myself as a person. As a daughter, sister, friend.
            It wasn’t until I began really, thoroughly, attending to my relationships that I realized I actually loved to connect with other people. I deemed myself an introvert for so long that I was under the impression that I could never love company. To be a normal, functioning, successful person in the real world, I realized I would have to interact with others. I accepted this. But I felt as though I could never go beyond interactions in passing.
            Recently I’ve been pushing myself outside my comfort zone in terms of socializing. I push myself in the gym to lift heavier weights; I push myself in the kitchen to experiment with new flavor combinations and recipes; I push myself in the academic work to learn more and understand more complex subjects. Why was this any different?
            What did this look like for me? Instead of waiting for others to make plans with me (which I knew was not reliable because my friends are used to me rejecting invitations), I reached out to others. My very best friends, and then old high school friends who I wanted to catch up with. I made plans to eat out, to go to the beach, to have groups of friends over swimming. This used to be WAY beyond my comfort zone. Eating out with friends was never an option. What would I possibly eat!? Being seen in a bathing suit was totally a no-go. Spending the day at the beach with an unknown hour-by-hour plan was horrifying.
            I was so fed up with these fears weighing me down. These past few months, I’ve spent time catching up with friends and strengthening my relationships. In that time, here’s what I learned:
  • It’s impossible to truly appreciate life in isolation. When I’m laughing with my friends, sharing my story with them, being supported by their kind words and gestures, making memories together…it’s in THESE moments that I realize how precious life is. How surreal is it that of all of the living creatures roaming the planet, humans are blessed enough to establish such empowering relationships? It’s not until you’re lying on the beach surrounded by your old friends; the very same people who worried for you when you were sick and supported you in your rise to health, that you realize how blessed you are. As your friends push you into the pool and can aggressively play around with you without worrying about breaking you, as you come up for air and hit them back, and then you both double over in laughter…THIS is when you realize that life is not worth living in the absence of connection.
  • There’s no replacement for support.  I would never have reached this strong, stable place that I am in today had I not gathered the support and love of so many wonderful, loving people in my life. My progress, heavily based on my own thoughts and actions, was fueled by the love and care of my family, and later the addition of thousands of strangers coming together to lift me up over the INTERNET. Now that I’ve strengthened and recharged so many old relationships, I see this principle surfacing once more. When I’m with my friends, we’re constantly raising each other up. Even when we’re teasing each other and messing around, it’s all out of genuine love.
  • Everything in life is a team effort. Relationships are a two-way street. At first, I felt that the burden was all on me. That I was the only one reaching out, trying so hard, putting in so much effort. But then I came to my senses. For the four excessively long years I was sick, my friends tried and tried to reach out and include me. Again and again I shut them down. Ignored their calls. Rejected their invitations. Eventually, they stopped. Who could blame them? How could our relationship thrive when I wasn’t even in it? In the past three months that I’ve dedicated to rekindling relationships, I can’t help but realize how important it is to be present. To make the effort, to go the extra step. To run off to your best friend’s house at the last minute because her mom found a random box of old firecrackers and you just “have to come test them out”. To pause your Netflix marathon to pick up your friend from work whose car is in the shop. To agree to dinner with friends at a restaurant with no online menu to scope out beforehand. People never forget the sacrifices you make for them. The kindness you show them. The effort you make. If I want the love and support I cherish from these people, how in the world can I expect them to provide me with it without paying my fair share?
            I’m an introvert. An extroverted introvert. But nonetheless, I’ve grown to realize that this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. There is way too much stigma out there surrounding introverts. I’m an introvert, but I still recognize and appreciate the value of interaction. Of socializing. In the beginning, it’s terrifying. There’s a fear of exhaustion, of boredom, of anxiety. But here’s the thing. Anything worth having in life won’t come easy. But it will come.
            If you let it.
            So pick up your phone, text your middle school best friend who you haven’t heard from in months. Ask her to go for a hike, to grab lunch, to go to the beach. Suck up your fear, get in your car, and go. Pull up next to her in the parking lot and hug her and apologize for the past. Sit at lunch and laugh over good food as you recollect how the English teacher you both had claimed she was prom queen, and how that was NOT likely. Spend hours after the check comes just lounging back and catching up on your freshmen years of college. Get in your car to head home and just sit in the parking lot and take it all in; the laughs, the love, the connection.
            Then go home and take the next day to yourself. You deserve it.