I just finished my fall semester of senior year. I only have one more semester until I am sling-shotted into the real world. I am not going to lie, this semester has been hard. I took a particularly grueling class that demanded 90% of my time. I was immersed in the pressure cooker that is the job search and networking game. But the hardest part of this semester was that I had more days than I’d like to admit where my mental strength against my disordered thoughts and behaviors was not where it needed to be.
When I am in a place of emotional stress, my immediate instinct is to go exercise. But not in the “run a few miles and then feel better” sort of way, but in the “I want to run marathon after marathon until my body runs into the ground” sort of way. My thoughts are pulled to how I can punish my body for this stress. I feel myself shy away from food, spend more time in the gym than I should, and my thoughts become inseparable from the self-criticisms that are on repeat in my head.
I feel guilty for all of this. I feel guilty because I live to help other people embrace their bodies. I have spoken out about my journey and my recovery, and I fear that people expect me to be 100% all of the time. I feel uncomfortable reaching out when I am struggling, because I fear that people will feel awkward about what to say to the girl who is a recovery advocate.
I have been in a healing stage in all sorts of ways. I have been healing relationships that were hurt because of my disorder. I have been healing my body and teaching it to trust me again after years of abuse. I have inched further and further away from that part of my life. But something I have to be conscious of is that those thought patterns were so deeply ingrained in me that it is easier than I’d like to admit to return to them. I have to be conscious that when I am run down emotionally, physically, or spiritually, I am more vulnerable to that negative self-talk.
I think this goes for all of us, for every struggle. I think it is so easy to be pulled into negativity and self-criticism when we are burnt out. When we’re in the midst of finals, it is easy to let anxiety tell us that we can’t possibly take one more exam. When we’re sick and our bodies are not doing what we want, it is easy to feel physically useless and critical of our bodies. This is not something that we should feel guilty or ashamed of, but instead of falling prey to that negativity, we need to be extra diligent to care for ourselves during those times. That is when we need that extra bubble bath, that nap, that chocolate bar and a good read. Make an appointment with a counselor, talk to a friend. It is okay to ask for help and to take time for what you need.
I also encourage us all to be on the lookout for each other during stressful times. A kind word here and there can do more good than we can imagine. So although my struggle may be different than yours, I want to tell you that it is okay to have difficult times. You are not any less worthy or strong because of those times, in fact you deserve a little extra lovin’. In this time of year that can be a bit stressful, I send you all lots and lots of love.