A guest post from Alexa of The Mindful Maritimer :
After I graduated college, I had a feeling that I wasn’t doing what my heart truly wanted which let me to buy a one way ticket to Paris. I got my backpack, put inside few t-shirts, my favorite bamboo toothbrush and all necessary documents. I’ve been here for the past 10 month, not only working as as au pair, but also travelling around the other countries in Europe as well. Traveling has opened my eyes to a whole new way of living and has also given me my life back after a long battle with an eating disorder.
Truthfully, I a was try to start fresh life abroad thinking that it would solve all of my problems which turned our to be more difficult than I had imagined.How many times do we just wish that we can run away from our problems? Too often, am I right? and does it ever work out? Probably not as much as we would like.
In my head I thought that by jumping on a one way plane to Paris for the year would fix all of the problems in my life, considering there was no turning back. This was exactly what I did every single time that I embarked on any trip but in my head this time, things would be different. Being in the process of overcoming my restrictive eating habits, being immersed in a culture of full fat cheese,unlimited wine and fresh white baguette sounded like a good idea at the time.
Technically, I should have known better. I mean I tried to start fresh twice by going to college and once again thinking that things would just magically change because my surroundings were different.
Before I left, there were some “ground” rules set by my “overprotective” parents, stating that I wasn’t going to France unless I gained to a certain amount that they had decided was “enough”. I’d like to know exactly what was considered enough in their minds because I can’t say that I ever got there.Gaining the weight was the easy part, who wouldn’t be motivated by a trip of a lifetime?
What my parents didn’t realize what the severity of my mental state. Actually, to be honest I was unaware myself how bad the circumstances were. The thing was that no matter where I went, my thoughts didn’t change. The first few weeks in Paris were great. I completely immersed myself into their lifestyle indulging on macarons, french pastries and wine on a daily basis. I don’t know where the whole “French women don’t get fat” stigma comes from because I sure gained a few pounds off this new diet.
I forced the family to absurd amounts of chicken breasts,spinach and eggs because I “needed” the protein. My excuse was always that I was trying to gain weight and I only could do that by eating this strict diet that I had put myself on. They would respond with comments like “why don’t you eat more carbs?” or “you know it’s okay to have a dessert”, but my response was always that I had some sort of sensitivity to what was being put in front of me.
I continued on this downward relapse until Christmas when I went home to surprise my family. At this point, I was wearing two sweaters a day,leggings under my jeans and wool socks on a regular basis. This was not only keep me warm but to try and come across as completely normal. Joke was on me.
Being home was the wake up call I needed. I can’t pin point an event the triggered my dedication to recovery but I can tell you that it had something to do with the realization of change. I went home and expected things to be different, even though I was gone for only 4 months.
Truth of the matter was that nothing changed. Here I had thought that going away would push me to make changes, yet I remained the same. So how does change happen then? My own personal changes only happened once I accepted the fact that I needed that change that I was no longer happy with the way I was living and the experiences I was missing out on.
I’ve heard it many times before that change doesn’t happen until you take action yourself and I can say that was a hundred percent true in this case. No one could force me to overcome my eating disorder but myself. I accepted I had let myself become weak and that I was no longer going to live a life of restriction and unhappiness. That December I found my voice and opened up to my family about the real troubles that were going on in my life; that there was much more that what they say on the outside. I took a picture of myself on January 7th to act as my past and what would never be how I viewed myself ever again. I vowed that I would make progress, I would gain weight and I would enjoy my year abroad.
Here I am 6 months later. Happy,healthy and enjoying life abroad while it lasts. Would I recommend travelling while in Quasi Recovery, or in an unstable mental state?
Looking back at my own personal experience and what I went through, I would say no, definitely not. Recovery needs to come first and once you are in control of that then you can do the rest of the things in your life that you want to experience. I shouldn’t have convinced myself that I was stable enough to travel alone. Starting fresh in a new country and being there alone meant that no one knew my history. I appeared as the skinny girl and that was it. My family never questioned my eating habits not did my friends because they assumed that it was normal. The sad thing with mental illnesses is that they are often not physically visible and can go unnoticed by the naked eye. What if I think I’m recovered?
If you even have the thought that you might not be then you’re more than likely not. To be honest I’d like ti know what fully recovered really is, or if it’s even possible. I believe that point of balance is going to be different for every individual and that isn’t one particular moment where you’re magically considered “healed”. You are not recovered if:
- You’re still constantly thinking about food
- You have feeling of guilt from missing a day of exercise
- You still have rules and restrictions towards certain foods
- You will only eat food that you prepare yourself
- Your social media feed is still filled with those that you know trigger you
and the list go on and on depending on your situation…
If you even think you have an eating disorder or have acquired any sort of disordered eating/exercise habits, DON’T push those thoughts to the side. They will not just go away with time, but yet get stronger the longer you prolong getting help.
Speak up and use that voice your mama gave you. Asking help is not a sign of weakness but yet requires a crazy amount of strength to admit that you need help. We all want to help, that’s not the problem. It’s more the fact of nowt knowing how to express ourselves in a way where other will catch on.