It’s that time of the year. That time when kids start looking outside the classroom windows with eyes filled with anguish, wondering if the teacher’s banter will ever stop so that they finally get released and go. As the sun shines brighter and the leaves keep getting greener, staying inside is becoming a new form of torture. Summer is here, with her longer days to chill out and play.
Even though I’ve been working in the summer since I was fourteen, I always kept that mindset of thinking of summer as time off. Blame it on being an eternal student, as this will be my first summer without a back-to-school in 23 years. And finally, finally, I get to make some vacation plans, not having to save all those precious vaca days for some school intensive course.
Freedom! Freedom? Freedom?!!??! Fuck. Suddenly I feel overwhelmed. Too much free time is like not enough. This was not supposed to be the way. I used to crave, dream about vacation, but not in this way. I never planned vacation by myself. I never wanted to take them by myself. I’m a not a loner.
Sometimes though you just got to do what you got to do. Just like I never planned to buy a house by myself, manage it, finish my Master’s without anyone to celebrate it with, nor spend my Friday nights alone in my rocking chair with my rock reading a book about relationships, I now have to plan my vacation. Go girl, you can do it.
Except I’m done. I’m tired. And when I feel tired I am confused. Too much time alone and my mind gets in the way. Too much time by myself and I feel at lost. Without the structure of school or partnership, without my Sunday evenings with my family, without some form of love, emotional and physical connection on a daily basis, I quietly drift away. I get lost in feelings and emotions, I leave my thoughts take the steering wheel, and I end up in a place without knowing how I even got here.
I know that place well. I never know how I will get there, but I recognize it as soon as I arrive. It’s dark, yet somehow it’s comforting. It’s soothing for a while. In this place everything is structured. Finally, it feels like I’m out of the chaos. Now I’ve found a quiet spot where I can hang out and relax. I was so tired, now it feels like home.
Except it’s not. This is not home. This area is not a safe zone. I know it because I got lost some many times around here before.
This place is my eating disorder.
The structure I am creating for myself these days using food and exercise to bring me comfort as I am starting to feel more alone than ever before is dangerous. Yes, it works, just like a fix helps you dissolve the anxiety for a while. I am an addict, but I can’t abstain from the substance I am addicted to. I have to learn to navigate through meals and snacks, workouts and yoga classes, listening to my soul. Slowly, I have to build confidence that I am enough, that I won’t let fear be my guide. Damn, it’s hard. And these days, it’s even harder, because I have no one else but me to remind myself that I am worth it, that I deserve love, that I am love.
That’s usually that time of the year where I start looking outside the office windows with eyes filled with anguish, wondering if my co-workers’ banter will ever stop so that I finally get released and go. As the sun shines brighter and the leaves keep getting greener, staying inside my head is becoming a new form of torture. Summer is here, and sometimes I can’t see the point of playing anymore.
That’s usually that time of the year where I start thinking about summer camp. My own version of a summer camp. A summer camp I might be the only one to get excited about, in my own twisted way. A camp where you get to cook the food all happy campers will eat, with sometimes a not so happy smile on their face. A camp where not a lot of people get excited about S’mores, as they might have gotten too many in a frantic manner in the middle of the night. But also a camp just like any other camps, where you get to hang out with your friends and talk all day and all night about your fears, your desires and your dreams. A camp in a beautiful location, on the side of the river, with only one caveat : it’s in a mental institution. Be ready to deal with some stigma as you walk in every day.
I did walk in every day for a couple of months multiple times before. I don’t mind the stigma anymore. I think we are all fucked up in some way or another. That is mine. That is my fruitful darkness. Those are my redflags telling me something’s not quite right. This is my shadow under the brightful sun.
Usually, I get a tune up every three years. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll get to go to the camp this time. I was due last summer, and this will probably be another one where I’ll have to pass on the amazing desserts baked with love, with a side of ice cream always to feed my hyperactive Ed. It’s calling me, it would feel so good to just go there, sit and eat, without having to think. But the treatment is effective only as long as it keeps challenging you. I know the drill now, the real challenge is not anymore to withdraw from my active life and let myself be fed, to follow the rules (or play around them) and do my best to be a good girl/patient. I’ve learned that the work is to be done here and now, that I cannot escape in some wonderland or therapy facility. I know now that I can’t run or starve my way out of discomfort to find that inner sense of peace. Recovery happens when you dare to sit in apparent stillness, letting the breath bring the only movement you ever truly need.
I guess that’s what it means to grow up : figuring out that you can buy yourself your own cake and eat it too. With a side of ice cream. Taking care of yourself, for yourself, for the sake of love. Transforming your life into the ultimate version of a summer camp.