Written by: Ryan K
Originally posted: 8/18/2015
Pretty sure everyone has some sort of emotional "baggage" that she or he carries with her or him (grammatical correctness is exhausting) wherever she or he ... You get it. If you think about it, isn't baggage just the culmination of past experiences that makes a person who she or he is? (Gah!)
I've been thinking about baggage lately because I have started dating again. I've mentioned before that I experienced a loss last year that wasn't a death but a loss nonetheless, and was in fact a loss of the romantical variety. I was emotionally invested in this relationship for many years, so it was a little bit (a lotta bit) of a doozie to handle. Because this wasn't the first time I felt rejected by this person, the feeling of worthlessness was that much more powerful. I was made to believe I'm not good enough, attractive enough, lovable enough, and yes ... Thin enough. He never verbally said anything of this nature, but being abandoned for another girl for the second time was just enough to convince me it was all true. Naturally, the eating disorder thrived on my low self esteem, and ran with it. Nay, marathoned with it. My ED behaviors became unmanageable and spiraled out of control.
Certainly I felt hesitant about dating again during this vulnerable time in treatment. In comparing ED treatment to AA (more about this later), the rule is one is not supposed to date or begin a new relationship during recovery. After much thought, I decided it was OK to take the leap. Took me a while to finally branch out of my comfort zone and a big factor was finally accepting and feeling (somewhat) comfortable in my new body. I've also stopped drinking after my roommate and I destroyed property and Christmas, and wanted to test myself in challenging social situations without using anything to help me through except my own charm, humor and wit. I'm happy to report that I am just as capable of holding a great conversation with someone new without using my ED or alcohol to ease me through the anxiety. Despite what happens after these initial meetings, that achievement alone is powerful enough to make these experiences worthy.
But what if I end up actually liking one of these chumps? That's where things get complicated. In the past, I have kept my secret stored very deeply under many layers in my brain. There is a spectrum of secrets: Some feel alright to potentially expose, and some (especially this one) are just NO. Never. Never ever ever ever.
Since starting treatment, I've learned a huge part of recovery is finally being honest with myself and those I love. If these people accept this reality and want to continue loving and supporting me through this struggle, that's way more awesome than just liking me for my pretend self. If people feel this news is too heavy or difficult to navigate, they turn their backs on me. As heartbreaking as this has been, it's also comforting to know who has always truly been there for me.
But what about new people? Yikes. This is a toughie. I've been discussing with a few other girls also trekking through this quick sand, and we all have different perspectives. Some are much more comfortable with being open and honest about what's going on in their lives, being brave enough to post on facebook to let the cat out of the bag. Some are dead set on never letting anyone in one this secret, never ever ever ever. I'm not quite ready to introduce myself as an eating disorder survivor (more like current militant), but the shame and guilt of my illness has definitely minimized.
Speaking in general terms, it's hard to figure out when the appropriate time is to tell someone new. After three dates? After a friendship is established? After exclusivity? After two months? There is no right or wrong answer, which is confusing. But more likely than not, the mystery has to present itself eventually. Although my disorder does not define me as a person, it's a huge part of my life and has been for the last decade. Kind of tough to just let that one slip through the cracks. As with people we already know, hopefully our new friends will want to keep us in their lives just the same, and if they don't, we just met them anyway.
Although varying throughout the spectrum, everyone has baggage. Everyone. And who said baggage has to be a bad thing? Airlines charge more for travelers to check in their baggage, making this more of a luxury than not. Not saying my ED is a luxury, but for now, it's coming with me wherever I may go. The goal is to eventually fit everything neatly inside a carry-on tucked safely into the overhead bin, but for now, I'll just have to pay that extra $25.
Original post can be found at www.ryandoesresi.com.