I’ve been working on gaining weight. I lost about 20 pounds over the past 6-7 months from my already healthy figure… it started out after a medication’s side effects killed my appetite, but morphed into something obsessive as I was pleased by the ever-smaller number on the scales. I brushed off worried comments, citing the medication’s effects as the cause. “I’m working on it,” I’d say, chowing down on my one meal of the day, “see?”
Now I’m actually working on it. I’m following Gwyneth Olwyn’s recommendations on youreatopia.com, because my body is suffering from the aftereffects of prolonged restricted calories. I can tell– because I’m freezing most of the time, tired most of the time, and can’t focus most of the time. Over the past two weeks, I’ve embraced my hunger and have even eaten when I really didn’t want to, because I know it’s what needs to happen for me to emerge as my old self again.
The downside to this is not the weight gain, it’s what the weight gain means to me. The weight loss helped me feel like something was going right, when everything else felt out-of-control and scary. That’s what happens your senior year of college– shit gets real, and it’s scary. But the sense of control was illusory as I realized it began to control me.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve felt really disoriented. I’ve felt healthier, absolutely, but I feel lost without some sort of dysfunctional coping mechanism to organize my thoughts and free time. I can’t quite pinpoint what this feeling is or where it comes from, just that it lingers for most of the time when I’m alone. I want more than anything to be a fully functional human being, especially as I enter the next phase of my adult life (what I consider the real adult part). People around me are just as scared and are making it through. I think we all have some pretty dysfunctional ways of figuring this stuff out, whether it be drinking too much or the classic “senioritis” where you sabotage yourself by procrastinating and skipping classes. I can’t afford to do this, because my addictive personality is characterized by black-and-white thinking: if I drink too much, it would be almost every night of the week; if I skipped classes, it would be ALL the classes. I need to graduate, dammit! I know that those behaviors are simply distractions from the reality of what’s next, a time in life when you feel like you are jumping off a cliff with a parachute that may or may not release in time to catch you.
What I’m realizing is that I’m the only one who can catch me. Losing weight, drinking every night, bombing tests… those things won’t catch me. They’ll make the fall less scary but the landing much rougher. I want to land softly in the next phase of my life. One of the things that has helped me the most is complete and total honesty with friends and family, and an openness to asking for help. Sometimes, as embarrassing as I find it, I just really need a hug, or for someone to assure me that things will work out (and by this I mean that I won’t end up on the street after graduating). I need to over-share on twitter and realize that people relate to my daily struggles with things like writer’s block and the tiring process of taking a 100-level class with dumb freshman. I have to admit, the motivation for me to take responsibility for my health and well-being was external. I got into my dream graduate program, and cannot afford (literally) to blow my shot of succeeding there. I can’t be too unwell to take my dream vacation to Australia this summer as my graduation present. I’ve worked really fucking hard the past 2-3 years, and I want to own those accomplishments. To do this, I have to own my mistakes without letting them define me. So, I’m sitting here, uncomfortably full from my normal-sized healthy lunch (well, there were chips and a cookie involved…) and a nice cup of coffee, writing this post. I spent the last hour or so reading chapters to catch up with my psychology class. And after this, I will hopefully be liberated from my nasty bout of writer’s block and work on a paper that I have to complete in order to graduate with the honors that I’ve worked so hard to achieve. I have no doubt that something will go “wrong” today. I’ll lose my motivation to write or study. I’ll “forget” to shower or do my laundry. But perfection is the enemy of success, and I want to believe that with all of my heart, which means letting imperfection slip in and giving myself a chance to learn from it.
I hate writing sappy, happy-ending things like this, but I think “fake it ’til you make it” applies here. I want badly to break free from what “should” be and to take comfort and pride in what is.