When I was 21 years old, Anorexia Nervosa resurfaced in my life with a vengeance. I didn’t expect for Anorexia to impact me the way it did. I had been feeling like life was burning me out, and Anorexia swept in like an opportunistic pathogen waiting eagerly for its chance to feed off its victim. Anorexia fed off of me, making it literally impossible to feed myself. My health, both mental and physical, deteriorated rapidly, and my life as I knew it came to a screeching halt.
Over the last few years, my friends have graduated from Nursing school, become RN’s, and found jobs. At the same time, I’ve been in the hospital hooked up to tubes, eating 6 meals a day, learning to sit still. It is hard, and at times, I’ve felt devastated. I never imagined I would be the one, to drop out of school and not complete my nursing degree. That didn’t feel like “me,” and it certainly didn’t reflect the “A” student I had always been.
Every time I saw a post on social media about someone graduating university, it felt like a punch to my gut. My social worker once told me that shame is lethal. However, when my friends graduated and I felt “unsuccessful,” a large dose of undeniably poisonous shame crept in. My shame created the perfect scenario for me to once again tear myself down and spiral into self loathing. It all catapulted me back into my eating disorder. My “failure” of not finishing my nursing degree added to the pile of reasons to hate myself.
Truthfully, I still feel that suffocating shame rise within me. I feel embarrassed sometimes too, and my humiliation has driven me to “prove” to everyone that I am smart. am still in a place where I have to be very aware of my motivations to do things that I feel would make me appear smart. Sometimes, I am aware and am able to slow myself down; other times, I catapult into ideas that end up backfiring. Only when I feel burnt out again do I realize that I was engaging in these behaviours just to “prove myself” to people.
I constantly feel the need to show my brain that I am capable and intelligent. When I notice that I’m beating myself up and thinking I am not smart or “less than” because I don’t have a degree, I remind myself that I am successful. No, I am no longer the top of my class or “the best,” but I am here after all. I am still alive, and there is still hope for me. There’s still so much life to for me to live and love for me to give regardless of whether or not I have a diploma in hand.
I am slowly learning to forgive myself. I am learning to be gentle with myself, knowing that regret will only drive me further into self loathing. Although I can’t change the past, I am moving forward with more grace for myself, which makes all the difference.
I am 25 years old now. I still don’t know exactly what I am doing, who I am, or what direction my life is taking. For the most part, I am taking it one day at a time. For now, all I can do is start over every day. I may not have graduated at 21 or 22. I may be in my 30’s if I choose to graduate at all. But age does not hold my value, intelligence, or my success. I know now that if I go back to nursing, I will be a far more aware, confident, wise human being. At the end of day, I am grateful for all my illness has shown me, even though I’ve had to postpone my dreams.