Topic Tuesday: Acceptance
“Romanticizing and Accepting the Past” (By: Emily Heard)
If you log on to any social media network you are guaranteed to see some posts romanticizing self-harm, eating disorders, and even suicide. Phrases such as ” Suicidal people are just angels who want to go back home” link websites in unity. If you have ever been suicidal you know that it doesn’t feel elegant, light, and nostalgic. It feels like hell. It is very likely that the posts have been made by people who were in a sick state. Mental illnesses, especially eating disorders do an incredible job at romanticizing the past. When I look back at my worst or even recent times in my eating disorder it doesn’t seem that bad. The medical problems and emotional states are blurred. I would give anything to go back and watch a day of my life during the worst of my eating disorder. I want to watch as I turned down plans and realize how I wasn’t truly living. When I re-lapsed it was partially because I couldn’t recognize the pain the eating disorder had already put me through.
The eating disorder is a parasite. It sucks the life from you meanwhile convincing you that you need it to live or to be complete. It’s like when someone is stabbed and they are afraid to remove the knife because it hurts and may cause more bleeding. But taking the knife out is the only way to heal the wound.
When I experience these thoughts today I re-read my journals or tell my therapist. My therapist who has been with me since the beginning can assure me that I was not present in my life in the beginning. If you ever feel like this, I highly suggest re-reading things you wrote down during your worst or go back to a place you can remember the pain. While it will be difficult, going and standing next to the bed where you cried yourself to sleep may remind you of the pain that you do not want to relive.
If I look back on my life still having an eating disorder in 5 , 10, or 20 years, will I honestly be able to say that I have accomplished all that I wanted to? The odds are (if I were still alive at that point) I will have spent that time purging, starving, self-harming, etc. Or maybe I would have started recovery but still struggle with the behaviors. But I wouldn’t have truly lived, not really. I don’t want to spend my wedding day worrying about the cake. I don’t want to destroy my chances of having children. I want to still be around to graduate college. I want to see the world. I want so many things out of life and even though some days it feels like I am drowning, I refuse to sink. I am no longer looking back the way I used to.
Romanticizing the past keeps us from focusing on the present. It steals the joy from today. I have stopped trying to go back to the person I “used to be” before my illness. I am learning from the past, but not trying to reduce myself to my past experiences. I am a person years in the making, and I am not going to try to delete any of the things that made me who I am.
About the Author
Emily Heard is a Nashville native who continues to explore how nature and movement can aid in the long term recovery process. She is thankful for support from her loved ones, outpatient and inpatient teams and everyone she meets who adds vibrancy to her life.