I walked up to the door to find the manager opening it for me, smiling and saying, “Happy birthday!”
“Oh, thank you!” I replied, surprised. She must have seen on Facebook, I thought. But then,
“There’s something waiting for you.”
My heart began pounding with nerves and excitement. I dropped my gear on the stage and looked around, searching for the source of the ‘something’ she mentioned. It took less than a second to find it: A bouquet of sunflowers, with a card that read, “You did it.”
I didn’t realize National Eating Disorder Awareness week was coming up when I piled a mound of gluten, dairy, sugar, and booze onto a plate (or into a cup, depending) and spent two hours chewing non-stop. 2,000+ excess calories later, I waited for the, “What the hell have I done?” thought to present itself - and it never came.
I was a chronic binge-eater from ages 15 to about 24. When I first began my clean-eating and weight loss journey two years ago, I still binged; I just binged on chickpeas and carrots and paleo muffins and vegan pesto.
It wasn’t until I hit rock bottom last year and rebuilt my beliefs and self-care with a beautiful new foundation that I found myself able to stop the compulsion, and really get to the root of what I was experiencing and fearing underneath the addiction.
**Trigger warning: Sexual trauma**
As I write this, I sit in the middle seat of Row 23, glancing out the window at the clouds below as Flight 807 leads me home.
I’d never been to Chicago before, and I wasn’t disappointed. I caught Lake Michigan on a windy day and felt waves bigger than the ocean. I found the biggest rubber duck I’ve ever seen (we named him Aqueductus, and yes, I brought him home with me). I had a pumpkin hazelnut sundae, the best gluten-free muffin I’ve ever eaten, and chocolate banana tea, and I sang karaoke for the first time in years (my Diva self had never been so elated).
But the most significant part of this trip wasn’t the waters, the nightlife, or even seeing my best friend (love you so much). The most significant part of this trip was that I made the journey alone.
***IMAGES CONTAIN NUDITY***
I’ve always done my best to shimmer, to softly impart my sparkle onto the lives of those around me.
Ultimately that’s what we all want to do, right? Live our best lives, connect with those around us, and leave our mark on the world.
A year ago, I discovered the secret to offering my full shine: I began to love myself first before pouring my pieces into those around me, and I felt, for the first time, like I was whole.
I’d already been an advocate around mental illness and trauma stigmatization, but with this new discovery, my message changed: Rather than coming from a space of depression, I came from a space of self-love. I yearned for the people around me to embrace their own self-love journey, so I shared mine, and began to follow my dreams and aspirations in new, uninhibited ways.
Six months ago, I hit a snag.
*PLEASE NOTE: The following may contain explicit language and content which could be found triggering.*
I don’t really know how to tell my story right now.
If you’ve been following me for awhile, you’ll know I used to have a different blog, a Tumblr page I used to express my inner thoughts and demons as I came to terms with the trauma I’d been through.
It was liberating and nerve-wracking to share my experiences. There were times I delved into details of my eating disorder experiences or manic thoughts patterns, or wrote open letters to those I’d felt abused by.
Eventually, I stopped writing that blog. It was therapeutic for me, helpful for some, and hard for others to swallow. My family and friends hadn’t known I was struggling so deeply. I'd felt such a strong obligation to hold up an “I have my shit together" perception that even the people close to me didn’t know how badly I was struggling.
Once I’d put those struggles into the world, I couldn’t hide from them anymore: I didn’t have my shit together and no matter how much I pretended, I wasn’t getting any closer to happiness or inner peace.