I officially live in Denver, y’all.
Scratch that. I officially live in a Jungle. Just call me Tarzan, or Jane. Whichever floats your boat.
As I lay here this afternoon, feeling both nostalgic for NYC as well as overwhelmed, terrified, and elated about everything else going on in my new life in Denver:
I’ve realized that I’m now living the exact mantra my therapist quoted at me 100x before I made this move:
“Wherever you go, there you are.”
In 5 years, I’ve lived in 5 places:
Fayetteville, Arkansas (c. 2007- 2011)
Seville, Spain (c. 2011- 2012)
Fort Worth, Texas (c. 2012 -2013)
New York, New York (c. 2013- 2016)
Denver, Colorado (c. 4 DAYS)
I’ve lived in about the most conservative state in the US – to the most liberal. I’ve lived in the state that thinks it IS its own country, and I’ve lived in a country that prides itself on siestas (can you even imagine if NYC were to implement such a thing. LOLZ. Does nodding off on the subway count?)
I’m idealistic to a fault; every place is better than the last. I’ve experienced American “life” at many different angles; in many different perspectives – but hey, GUESS WHAT?
At the end of the day, none of it “fixed me.” I still have my bloody eating disorder.
Moving – again – does not change that I have to maintain my ED, and that’s a reality I’m coping with today.
It doesn’t streamline recovery, or evaporate the habits you created over the years. I don’t get to walk into a new apartment and say “Hi Ms. Denver, here’s the trash from my eating disorder – could you toss it please? Thx!”
Changing environments doesn’t mute the voice in your head. I will always be in recovery; and no matter what stigma I surround myself with, my environment will not “cure” me.
I have to choose to cure me every day, and right now it’s a struggle to center myself because I’m vulnerable and antsy and out of place and over-stigmatized.
I’ve always had this quirky idealism about moving (lies- okay about everything).
OH MOUNTAINS, I thought before I moved, through rose-tinted goggles. MOUNTAINS AND INCLINES AND BIKE PATHS GALORE. DENVER- I’M IN HEAVEN. DENVER – YOU’LL CURE ME. THIS IS WHAT I’VE ALWAYS NEEDED. DENVER- YOU’RE MY NEXT LOVER. TAKE ME IN.
I’m like a stage 5 clinger to cities. (Insert mental image of me wrapping myself around a New York skyline, planting sloppy kisses on the wall of the Drumpf Tower… )
I’ve shuffled through cities about as quickly as I’ve shuffled through partners – and in the past, I’ve always inevitably felt deflated when one or the other didn’t just “fix me.”
When I was in my ED, I lost faith that I could help myself. You can only read Portia De Rossi’s biography so many times, or promise yourself you’ll eat “like a normal person” (and fail) before you give up trusting yourself to actually succeed.
We’re in permanent relationships with ourselves, and when I was sick I became like the Dad who says he’ll call, and never does. I stopped relying on myself to do anything I committed to, so in turn I relied on new stigma.
SURELY IF I LIVE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY THEY’LL HELP ME REALIZE THAT BODY IMAGE IS AN “AMERICAN” THING AND DOESN’T MATTER.
SURELY IF I LIVE IN NYC AND WORK AT MY DREAM JOB MY CLIENTS WILL MAKE ME FEEL MORE CONFIDENT.
SURELY IF I MOVE HOME AND LIVE WITH MY FAMILY THEY’LL LOVE ON ME AND MAKE ME FEEL MORE SECURE.
SURELY IF I GO TO REHAB THEY’LL FIX ME.
*They- not me – THEY.
Because I relied on other stigma to “save me,” I had this belief that treatment was this like magical Wizard of Oz meant to cure me right then and there. 12 weeks – and BAM. YOU’RE OUT. YOU’RE HOME FREE. RUN LIKE THE WIND, BULLSEYE.
LOL – what a joke.
Rehab provides you the building blocks… but like annoying-ass IKEA furniture, you have to assemble the pieces together once you get it.
Stack those building blocks. Stack ’em high, low, around, and near – so you can protect yourself better against the triggers that arise in recovery.
I’ll always be tempted to go back. I can’t expect treatment to solve that lil reality. It can’t.
It has taken me over two years to confidently say that I 70% trust myself. Yes, 70%. Noted that I didn’t say 100%.
I don’t 100% trust myself. I manipulated and lied and twisted my reality for so long that I know I’m fully capable of doing it again, and on a whim.
Right now – I’m stressed. I’m unemployed and meeting new people and I’ve gone back and forth so many times to Target and Bed Bath & Beyond that I think the store managers are tailing me for potential theft of property.
I’m in a position where I’m super vulnerable to relapsing.
Scratch that, I want to relapse. I want to control what I can control.
I want to avoid and tamper the stress of being unemployed, the idleness of no responsibility, the fear of bills, the nerves of upcoming interviews, the vulnerability of having ZERO idea where anything is.
I want to relapse so I can feel my idealistic bullshit sense of “comfort” with how I look in interviews and happy hours.
Last night, I went out with my roommate and met her co-workers and I spent the hour beforehand digging through my closet trying not to despise my legs as much as I do when I’m concerned about what other people will think of me – first impression.
Everything is pointing me towards a momentary relapse. “Oh it’s just for now that I’ll restrict. It’s just because I’m stressed that I can work out for 2 hours.”
Sometimes I wanna be like “CAN’T YOU JUST CUT ME SOME SLACK UNIVERSE? I’VE BEEN IN RECOVERY FOR SO LONG – UGH- JUST LET ME HAVE A MOMENT.”
Moving will drive a sober man to drink, just as it can drive a girl like me to binge.
Every other time I’ve moved, I’ve acted profusely on my ED within days of my arrival.
In Spain, I went with stars in my eyes – so absolutely *sure* that the culture would fix me, and ended up throwing up within the first week. I was terrified of having no friends, of living in a culture that wasn’t mine, and vulnerable because I didn’t know any Spanish.
In New York, I strolled into Brooklyn and immediately found the nearest gym to run. Also, I drank every day for the first month. “IT’S JUST CAUSE I’M NEW,” I lied to myself, stumbling out of Bushwick bars.
Naw, it was because at that time I’d rather drink than eat. And drinking took away that stress of being in New York and completely overwhelmed by the culture. By how much more “cool” these Brooklyn hipsters were than me.
And now, now I’m here. I’m in Denver, and I’m feeling all of those things again.
I drive and see all these people flying by on their researched $1500 bikes. I talk to new people who ask if I know about this or that – and I don’t.
I am writing this and staring outside my bedroom window onto the mountains that I know I’m idealizing.
My feelings are all still the same this time around, so I guess the question is – what’s the difference now vs five years ago?
Being honest and “in reality.” Being upfront about the expectations I have for this new section of my life.
Denver is NOT going to paint over the years of my eating disorder. Those mountains – while beautiful and calming – they aren’t going to keep me from over-exercising on them if I choose to.
Writing this today, I’m reminded that I have to make this the life I want to live.
I have to keep expectations in line with reality.
I WILL be lonely for awhile, that’s a fact. I will feel vulnerable when I meet new people.
I will likely STILL be lost – 3 months from now.
These are all things that will occur, and are occurring now as I lay here in my bed.
However, I sit here today feeling nostalgic for New York, and in a way it reassures me of all the new things I can expect in Denver as well.
I’m reminding myself right now that I once felt this same amount of vulnerability in New York – and guess what? I ended up making a beautiful life. I miss that big ole city today BECAUSE of all the pretty connections and things I did.
Ultimately, I helped myself thrive in New York, and I helped myself get to this point as well.
I went with my gut; my intuition; my reality – and I moved out here because this is the lifestyle I craved. I made a list of what was important to me, and I’m embodying it.
So I ask myself: What can I expect from Denver?
A Job. I will have a job soon.
Money. I will have money again soon.
Friends. I will meet people and idealize them in the beginning, realize they’re just as human as me, and fall in love with them for who they actually are.
Outdoor Activities. I will hike a lot, and that brings me joy. I won’t hike every week like I like to THINK I will, but I will hike more than I ever have before. I won’t count calories, because I won’t download the app that could. I bought Rollerblades yesterday – I’m going to suck at it- I’ll fall; and then I will get better. I’m going to get a bike from my parents for my birthday in April. I will freak out learning the bike rules, but I’ll learn them eventually.
A Badass Apartment. My apartment feels like a home. It is SO different than New York. I have a BATHROOM again!! AND A DISHWASHER!! LAUNDRY!! A WALK IN CLOSET! I’ll never take them for granted again because I lived in New York without any of these benefits.
Relationship. I’ll have one – maybe 10. I don’t know, but I will meet people that catch my eye, and I will catch theirs. I’ll have that wonderful feeling of being interested in another person. I’ll feel all the anticipation of the beginning of relationships, and all the sadness of one when it ends.
Nights I’m Overjoyed. I will be walking down the street on random days and look around and think to myself “My God you live here and it’s great. The air is clean, the people are friendly, the life here is an outdoor playground.”
All of these things I will have because I will create them, and make them happen – just as I’ve made everything else in my life.
I know I don’t need to relapse today to feel better. Inevitably, it will only hinder me from feeling all the things I’m meant to feel when you move to a new place.
It’s okay to be scared, my therapist said the other night. Be scared. Be vulnerable. Feel it all – that’s what you’re meant to feel to get on to the next thing.
Tis true, I think as I finish this, but this is the reality of moving with an eating disorder.
It’s still with me, it sits along side me in this new Queen-sized bed, but I can live in spite of it.
And I will.
Happy to call you home, Denver. Ya betta’ get used to me.
“Guess what? When it comes right down to it, wherever you go, there you are. Whatever you wind up doing, that’s what you’ve wound up doing. Whatever you are thinking right now, that’s what’s on your mind. Whatever has happened to you, it has already happened. The important question is, how are you going to handle it? In other words, “Now what?” – Jon Kabat-Zinn