Lessons Learned: A Reflection On Years Passed
By Nicole Keay
As we enter a new year, I breathe a sigh of relief and release. Last year I was saying “bring on 2017! I can’t wait for this year to be over”. I thought 2016 was the hardest year I’d ever faced. It challenged me and pushed me in so many directions I often didn’t know up from down. Both 2016 and 2017 made me face many hard truths – truths about my relationship with my mind, my body and my relationships with others. As much as I couldn’t wait for it to end, I think it’s important to address and acknowledge the lessons I was forced to learn, and then again the following year.
2016 got off to a great start. I set goals to truly heal my relationship with my body and thought I had let go of the negative thoughts that kept me stuck in the same cyclical patterns. My eating disorder was no longer going to be a thorn in my side. As my crutch for years, I was ready to stand on my own two feet. I approached each day as a new one, letting go of any slips, being kind to myself and committed to moving forward.
Everything was going so well, almost too easy that it seemed to be too good to be true. Which in my anxiety-filled brain means it likely is. Three months into the year I faced a whole new health challenge, one that would rock my world. I am sure my family and friends feared that I would go backwards, that my old coping methods so newly pushed aside, would seem all to enticing.
Endured I did as I entered into my journey with cancer.
Cancer is a whole other story that doesn’t fit the space of this blog and best left for another time... Fast-track to 2017 – the world seemed a whole lot safer. As a 34 year-old who was now menopausal, the daily pregnancy announcements and baby bumps showing up on social media posed a whole new challenge. Compiled with a few other stressors and a lot of ups and downs, I spiralled. I didn’t turn back to ED behaviours but I hit a bout out depression like I’ve never experienced before.
So now here we are, about to embark on a new year…
In the past two, I learned a few valuable lessons. Lessons that I think all of us who have ever suffered an eating disorder need to remind ourselves EVERY SINGLE DAY.
That I am stronger than I think I am.
That I am enough.
That I am flawed and imperfect but that’s okay.
That my life is what I make it.
That I am in control of my own happiness.
That my unhappiness is partly my own doing.
That my body is not my enemy.
That I may not be where I want to be but that’s okay… my time will come.
This last one has been the hardest to accept and acknowledge. I know where I want to be and I know what I want to let go of and I know the Nicole I believe I will be. Instead of battling where I am today, I need to accept and embrace it. I have the power and the control over my state of wellbeing and how happy I choose to be in each and every moment. I learned through recovery that no relationship, no job, no amount of money will magically make it all better. I learned that, that shift had to come internally. I had to stop relying on others to make it happen.
In this bout of depression though, I couldn’t see the light. I felt like I was treading just above water – struggling to stay afloat. When you’ve overcome an eating disorder, you fight a long battle. When you encounter cancer, you have no choice but to go through the motions and stay strong. It is what keeps you going. Others see you as strong – a fierce warrior who is one to be reckon with. I didn’t feel worthy of the sentiment. I felt I only did what was necessary to make it through. Once through, I felt I had to do EVERYTHING to prove I was just as strong as they had once seen, instead of readjusting to where I was, in the present.
I think what we fail to see and what we miss day in and day out during times of struggle, is that we don’t need to be everything all at once. What we need to be is true to ourselves, right there, in that very moment.
So ask yourself… where are you right now?
Where you are at, right now, in this moment, is where you are supposed to be. It may not be what you want, it may not be what you expected, heck it may be more than you had anticipated – whatever it may be, it is okay. If it isn’t what you hoped for, know it is temporary. It doesn’t define you or the rest of your life. Remember your worth… it’s there, it’s in you. It will ensure you get to where you are meant to be. The more you force it, the more you push for it, the more unlikely it is to happen. Stand up for what you deserve and let the rest fall into place.
When I was struggling with my eating disorder, I set new years resolutions every year that I broke within days of January 1st. I would then spend the next weeks, months, beating myself up for failing. This year, I look forward to the New Year. The idea of it energizes me in a way I’ve never felt before. I enter 2018 knowing I will be okay, regardless of where I am at. I didn’t come this far not to be.
Maybe 2018 will be my year, but if it is not, that is okay. Maybe 2018 will be your year, but if it is not that is okay too.
Let’s love ourselves enough to know that good things will happen. I, first and foremost, need to look out for myself and ensure that my happiness and health is at the forefront.
As you head into the New Year, I hope you can adopt or at least entertain this mindset. I hope that you can look past the what-ifs, the empty promises, and the mistakes. These things do not define you. See them as opportunities to grow, to love yourself, to know your worth. You can get there, I promise.
Nicole is the Looking Glass Foundation's Communications Manager. Her passion for working with eating disorders comes from her own personal journey. By having authentic conversations and sharing our stories, Nicole believes that we can work to eliminate stigma by creating deeper awareness and understanding for eating disorders, and mental illness as a whole. She loves yoga, a great cup of coffee and spending time outdoors with friends and family.