Acceptance and Healing

Yesterday I spent my evening with one of the best friends I made travelling in San Diego. J lives in Melbourne around the corner from where I am living. Since the day I met him I have I adored him as my friend for life.

J and I walked along the beautiful river that is across my street and viewable from my house. We walked and chatted for around an hour about anything and everything. While walking we discovered some gym equipment that has been placed by the running lanes in a mini Muscle Beach attempt. After testing it out for a while we carried on walking and talking.

We had already been talking about fitness when we came across the impromptu gym. J has recently embarked on a new health and fitness routine since gaining weight in America during his travels. He talked about how he was in the best shape of his life before heading to Canada and America for his six months away from Australia, but had known and accepted that he would gain weight during his trip and would just deal with it when he got back.

I talked about how I was in the best physical shape of my life before I left for America also, J already knowing of my eating disorder we discussed my gym routine. After playing on the leg-press during our walk I expressed that the leg-press is my favourite piece of equipment at the gym; I always leave it for last as my grand finale. I told J how I had built up my strength from being able to push 40kg at the beginning of my training to pushing 100kg just before I flew to America. My routine being ten reps of 40kg, then ten of 50kg, then ten 60kg, ten 70kg, ten 80kg, ten 90kg, and finally ten 100kg in one sitting. Since dancing my legs have always been my strongest, with my upper body strength being embarrassing in comparison.

Before I travelled I was at the gym every day, and ran 5 miles in the countryside every few days – weather depending. Part of this was my eating disorder, I needed a visible physical reward for my lack of eating and something to stave off the effects of the occasional 6,000 calorie binge.

While talking to J about the gym, my old routine, and how I felt in my body – ignoring my eating disorder and simply thinking of the physical feeling after the gym – I realised how much I missed it. I became passionate about exercise as I was talking to him. We both did. Walking around the river, chain-smoking as we walked, I remembered our bike ride in San Diego where I was prompted to quit smoking for a month due to one particular monster of a hill that made me walk my bike to the top while believing my lungs we about to explode with every breath. I realised my smoking will have to be replaced with my E-Cigarette a friend got me in San Diego if I want my gym routine back.

Today I felt ill and spent the day happily on the couch drinking concoctions my roommates told me would cure me and found myself looking at old photos from last year. I was struck with how beautiful I looked. The photos I have focused on over the last five months have been during my eating disorder. Instead today I looked before my eating disorder. I looked at the months before my break-up.

As I saw photos with my ex who I had been with for three years I felt sadly and knowingly nothing.

As I continued looking at photos I came across the ‘out-takes’ from my camera practice shoot with A from two months before my break-up in 2012. At the time I was my normal weight, I had no eating issues in the slightest, and I looked beautiful. I hadn’t seen it at the time.

I remember the shoot so clearly. I was so unbelievably nervous that I was physically shaking. A kept telling me I was beautiful but nothing worked to calm me down. I had a camera in my face, inches away from me, and I was shaking. She positioned me leaning against a wall to calm my shakes but it wasn’t until I asked if I could climb her garden tree that I began to calm myself slightly. Taking photos of my climbing and laughing I went as high as she would let me then allowed her to take my photo.

Climbing trees has always calmed me since childhood, I hadn’t realised this until this day happened and I looked back on certain memories of me climbing trees. It was my known calmer.

In fact my first kiss with my ex was in a tree. It was the first time he had ever climbed a tree which should have been an indicator of his upbringing however I simply encouraged him to go higher and calmed him as he panicked about how we would get down; “Don’t worry about getting down until we have to get down!”

After I had climbed the tree I then danced in her yard. Taking photos of me dancing I relaxed until I realised she had taken photos of my face; I had thought she was taking them of my dancing. She captured my face as I danced, which I had never seen of myself even when I was a dancer. My body was always in focus back then, not my face.

When I was thirteen years old the boy I loved in High School (a boy that has owned a large slice of my heart since the first day I saw him) told me a few words I don’t think I will ever forget. When we were seventeen and in a relationship he apologised profusely for saying them to me and I believed him, however the damage had been done unfortunately, as much as I know he doesn’t believe these words now, he did then.

“You’re not ugly, you’re just not very pretty.”

As a thirteen year old this was the first time my looks had ever been presented to me. I was not aware of how I looked to others until this sentence was said to me. There we no others around, I couldn’t put it down to childhood bullying, it was simply a private intimate conversation with my High School love, and he told his truth about why he didn’t want to be with me.

Since that day I have questioned the way I look so much that I have no idea how I look now, to others especially, but to myself also.

When I told my sister about my eating disorder the month before I flew to America she sweetly said “I don’t know why you don’t know how beautiful you are. I don’t have any body issues but I’ve always preferred your body to mine.”

While talking to C last year about our previous relationship that we had been in five years beforehand he said to me “I don’t think you realised how beautiful you were, I still don’t think you do.” Trying not to cry as I heard this he simply kissed my head and held his arm tightly around me while I let that sentence sink into me.

As I looked through my old photos today I began to realise how beautiful I am.

I do not under any circumstance say this with arrogance, ego, or smugly. We are all beautiful. I had never seen my beauty.

I do not know how others view me, however I am starting to view myself differently.

Yesterday I enjoyed my first real meal since I left England; a homemade vegan curry completely full of green leafy vegetables and technically a portion for two people, with bread rolls instead of rice (as I never have rice with curry – rice for me is sushi or risotto). It was healthy. I was full but not in pain. I felt good.

Today I made my first real lunch since England; a huge salad with spinach, avocado, tofu, and others. I felt healthily full and satisfied.

Before my eating issues began I had other confidence issues; I did not in any way believe I was pretty or beautiful. One female friend at sixteen had told me I was “attractive, but not pretty” a notion that contributed to my believing guys only wanted to sleep with me rather than date me because I’m not pretty enough to date, but attractive enough to sleep with. I am always on-guard for this. In fact it was this exact reason why I did not meet My American the week before I flew to America. I was petrified he only saw me this way, and so I did not meet him. Knowing him the way I do now this has been added as one of my only three regrets in my life. A moment I can never get back.

Looking at my photos I am starting to silence the old voices that nagged me and accept how I look; and I am beginning to see this is not the negative acceptance it was before.

A few days ago I asked My American what his reaction or thoughts had been when I initially told him about my eating issues. It took me four minutes to stop crying enough to reply to his message.

“No it didn’t phase me. I was sad for you, it sounded hard. My heart went out to you. I’ve had my own demons. No judgement.”

Reading those words after I nail-bitingly asked my personal question, not knowing if he would even reply, I burst into audible sobs.

The relief.

It was a weight lifting off my shoulders that I realised I had placed on my own shoulders in the first instance. I had spent the last two months believing he didn’t want to meet me because I wasn’t as perfect as I had first appeared.

He may not know how thankful I am that I met him, but that revelation has helped clear my mind more than he may have cared it to.

Step by step I will get there.

Full of eternal Hope

xxHBxx

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Different me

“Hopeless Romantic has been unleashed, sick bucket recommended.”

A year ago I decided to simplify my life and remain single. I ended my relationship with C and began vigorously planning my trip around America.

I then met a man online accidentally who changed everything more than he’ll know.

I had planned to briefly leave my American adventure for him and go to him in England when I returned in January. One flippant comment made by me in Colorado changed the relationship that I hadn’t seen coming.

The person I was when I left England is a very different version to the one typing now. I have only been traveling for five months but can see, in photos and in my self, how different I have become. Five months ago I was only what I had seen and known, I still am only this but the change is I have seen and know more. Much more than I could’ve dreamt. Back in England I was narrow minded. I had limited knowledge of experience and had been so involved in overcoming my own obstacles that I was engulfed by that for too long.

My narrow minded self had only experienced drugs, for example, in seedy University parties during my time at London where my friends were uncontrollably high on whichever drug of choice it was that night and I then spent the remainder of the night trying to make sure they didn’t OD, pass out or hurt themselves. Looking back now this was University. They did the same with me when my eighteen year old self drank too much tequila.

My flippant comment to My American (as he shall be known here) was regarding drugs. I was barely two months into my trip and had just arrived in the first place of my trip where marijuana is legal. Being a complete tourist I took photos of all the Medical Marijuana Stations and posted them on my social media site. My American sent me a jokey message asking if I was getting “baked” in Colorado, my response stated that I hate drugs and am the worst person to be in a “drugs are legal” State. Had I been asked that question now my response would still be no, but would contain less single-minded tones.

When I read my old messages back, as I have done a lot in this trip, I always think of how I would respond if given those messages now.

When I left Colorado I went straight to California. I started in San Francisco and worked my way down to San Diego. I changed the most in San Diego. Suddenly I was surrounded by drugs on a daily basis by every type of person you could imagine. My first encounter was at the weekly beach bonfire. Locals and travelers all huddled together by the fire, singing along to the guys on guitar and the one guy who made an impromptu drum set with trash cans, were sharing stories along with splifs, pipes, cigarettes, beer and blankets. I had never seen anything like it. I watched as everyone made friends with whoever was near them, some smoking some choosing to pass, all joining in the chorus we all knew then continuing with our stories. Up until that moment marijuana had been a seedy back alley, a hidden hideaway in a dark loud central London nightclub (back when smoking indoors was legal), it had been Amy Winehouse (who I had been stood behind in a North London club restroom when I was eighteen and was the highest I had ever seen anyone) – the celebrity version, not the talented musician version. I had only seen drugs with “wasters” and had only seen extremes. My friend telling me she thought she was dying as she turned white and began shaking after taking a pill she wanted me to take with her at a University party, another friend grinding his teeth so hard I could hear it as he sweat profusely and rolled his eyes back towards his head after a party, listening to a University drug-deal going bad outside my friend’s room as she told me to pretend we were asleep. My experiences of drugs had been this. So when My American asked me if I was getting stoned here I instantly jumped back to my only drug-related memories and went on the defensive; mostly because I never wanted him to think of me in the only way I had experienced drugs, not knowing any alternative.

In San Diego I became friends with one guy whose job is making glass bongs. I met him at that first beach bonfire and had initially not wanted to even speak to him. The more time I spent in San Diego the more I saw and the less I cared. That guy became a good friend to me and on my first day back in San Diego from my three week break in Hawaii, took me to my favourite burger place where we caught up on what I had missed over the three weeks and ate veggie burgers together (his with bacon) in the funky bus seat of the unique burger bar.

Having now experienced drugs in a more social manner I understand My American’s worry over my initial prejudice a few months ago.
I had never known them in the way that he does; the Californian way. To me they had only ever really been experienced with negative consequences.

I still do not smoke marijuana or take drugs, I doubt that will change, however my attitude towards them has. I also don’t drink vodka, but I don’t care if others do.

Five months ago I didn’t drink whiskey (I now love whiskey and cream soda – discovered at a college party in Baton Rouge, Louisiana), I didn’t drink red wine, I did drink soy milk and loved peanut butter (now hated), I couldn’t surf (…well this one’s debatable depending on the other’s prospective but when I’m telling the story yes I can surf), I had a deep fear of heights and insects, rarely smoked, and had predominantly male friends. These may not be strides and they may not be huge to some, but to me they all add up to the woman typing today. Five months and a lot of learning. Learning only I could do by seeing and experiencing everything that I have. It would be impossible to go back to England the girl I was when I left; she has lived too much to ever be her again.

I am now a day away from flying to Australia.

I flew to Hawaii initially to ‘get over’ My American rather than flying back to England to be with him; that didn’t work. I still think of him each day and am devastated that we can’t be what we might’ve been. However I am the embodiment of Hope. Hope that we are in each other’s futures, whenever the time is right. I’m not the woman for him yet, and he’s too much of the man he is for me right now. I have more to live until I will be quite ready. I just hope he can, and wants to, wait.

Perhaps five months from now I am writing that I flew to England to see him, or he flew to Australia and we met. Perhaps I am writing that he is engaged to another. And maybe I am writing that we are still in the same position, waiting for our time.

All I know is since meeting him everything with him felt right. I never had that pure feeling with anyone else. It could be just another lesson I will learn and look back on but I truly hope it’s not. Before him I had never even thought of creating a family, in fact I expressed strongly to my ex that I would not have children and never wanted to marry – a statement I had carried since my parent’s divorce when I was three years old.

I am now going to Australia for a year, initially, returning to America for Christmas next year. I will then potentially return to Australia for a further year, but we will see how I go.

A few months ago I was talking with My American about moving in with him when I return to England in January. Two months after we began cooling off our communication together I am moving further away. I do wonder if he knows the impact he has had on my choices, or if he just thinks I am a runaway or even if he thinks of me at all. Either way, had he told me that he still wanted me to move in with him when I was to originally return in January I would not have applied for my Australian Visa, bought my ticket from New Orleans to Melbourne, and found my house. I would’ve been with him in a heartbeat. Part of me still would.

Time is my best friend and worst enemy. But I’m using my time to experience, and that is never time wasted.

Hopeless Romantic unleashed and on the loose…last seen headed for Australia…

xxHBxx

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