I grew up in an age of Disney princesses and feminism; an age where Snow White waited for her prince while the Cheetah Girls decided they needed to rescue themselves. I fantasized about being saved, yet I also wanted to be strong enough to save myself.
It was not until I was diagnosed with depression and bulimia that I needed saving. I searched for validation, acceptance, and support in friendships and relationships. More than anything, I craved love and reassurance that I deserved love.
I understand now that in order to be truly happy, I must accept myself rather than wait for others to accept me. With this realization came the understanding that I am the only person who controls my recovery. Although a support system is helpful, I ultimately am the one saving myself.
Last year, I thought I was ready for a relationship. I thought I needed another person to remind me that I was beautiful, intelligent, and that my past mistakes did not define me. This unfortunately, founded my relationship on unhealthy expectations. No matter how much my boyfriend reminded me he loved me, I felt unlovable. After months of fighting, we broke up. That was when I realized that the love I craved could not come from another person—it had to come from me. I am the person I spend the most time with; I am the one who is there when I wake up, go to school, eat, shower, laugh, cry, and sleep.
I started out slow—wearing more makeup and clothing that made me comfortable, but eventually I socialized more, voiced my opinion, laughed out loud, and loved myself even when I made mistakes. For the first time, I let people in and I let myself out.
For the first time, I am ready for another person to see me in my entirety. I am ready to be loved by someone; only my self-worth is not dependent on their love. I will love myself regardless of who loves me or hates me.
Growing up, similar to many teenage girls in today’s society, I found myself struggling with self-confidence.
I always found issues with my appearance; my grades were never good enough and I was always wishing to be someone else other than me. I constantly compared myself to “that girl” I thought I should be.
“That girl” had the perfect hair, “that girl” had the perfect body, “that girl” received a better grade on her test etc… It never occurred to me that I still received an A on the test, had a long head of hair down to my waist, or that I had a pretty average muscular type body.
When I was in tenth grade, I felt like I needed to control something in my life.
Everything felt out of control and there was nothing I could do to better myself.
I will never forget the night after my dance recital in May, when I forced myself to vomit for the first time.
I still ask myself this, and I still do not have an answer. It was something that just felt automatic.
Something that was secret. Something that I only knew about. It wasn’t that I was trying to “be skinny” or lose a few pounds. It was simply control.
However, being the type of intense person that I am, it quickly become an addiction. The first time turned into an excessive daily habit. In my “worst days”, I could vomit up to seven times a day.
Luckily, my mother knew the signs and was able to get me help as soon as possible. As much as I regretted her finding out, and feared that she would be mad, she was understanding, patient, and refused to let me sink.
My mother made a few phone calls and enrolled me in an extensive daily rehab program three days later. After a summer full of intense Monday through Friday therapy, I finally felt human again.
I learned how to eat appropriate portions and the importance of overall life balance, and the friendships I made there still last to this day.
Therapy consisted of eating our daily meals there, which was more of a struggle than I thought it would be. Many individuals struggled during dinnertime and for the first few weeks we were not permitted to speak during the dinner hour.
I grew up where everyone shared their stories around the dinner table, so this was definitely an adjustment for me. The most profound part of therapy was the after dinner accountability program.
We had to turn in our food logs that we had kept for the day, and after “tweaking” my portions for the first three weeks, eventually I realized that I needed to be honest or I would never receive the help I needed.
I looked around the room; many of the individuals were in their late 30s and 40s. They had families at home, and were stuck there all day.
I did not want that to be me. I began following the program specifically designed for me religiously, knowing they were the experts.
The individuals in my program held me accountable for my actions, which is a necessity when struggling with any type of addiction. I “graduated” from the program filled with hope, confidence, and I knew that there was no better me, than me.
I learned how every individual has their own identity, their own unique story… So, why try to be someone else, when there is no other you, than you?
Currently, I am enrolled in the occupational therapy program at West Virginia University. However, for the past year I have been second-guessing my decision, and was never truly satisfied with the profession I chose.
I always wanted more. I had always dreamt of being a surgeon, but never thought I would ever be capable. I still never thought I was smart enough, the finances did not seem to line up, and the schooling seemed to be endless.
Anytime I pondered the question in my head, I had a million reasons to shut it down. Unlike in high school, where I resorted to hiding my fears, I took positive action.
Action that would lead me down an exciting journey! So, this past summer, I had a meeting with the head maxillofacial reconstruction surgeon at our local hospital and he changed my life.
He sat me down and told me that if being a surgeon was truly what I wanted to do, I would NEVER be satisfied with anything else. He flat out told me to stop “half-assing” my life choices, and to be brave enough to take chances.
He has continued to invest the time into me, and for that I am forever grateful. I have finally decided that I will be attending medical school when I graduate in order to pursue my dreams.
Although there have been some bumps along the way, no one can stop me from being the best me possible.