We are all so caught up in the constant "GO, GO, GO" that our culture both encourages and promotes. If you're not doing a million things at once, why even bother? This mentality starts early on--as we grow up, we start to engage in multiple extracurricular activities. It's okay then, because you're young, and they're activities you enjoy. Then you reach high school and you have to start worrying about all the things that you're doing, if they're enough for college, if you're enough. This carries into college-you've gotta pad that resume, right? You eventually either get out of this cycle of doing too much on your own OR you keep going until you totally burn out and have no choice but to slow the fuck down.
Any guesses which scenario I ended up in?
Like I've talked about before, I am really good at doing a million things at once and never once coming up for air. And by "really good", I mean it goes great for years and years until I literally crash and burn from lack of rest and never slowing down.
This kind of crash and burn happens whenever I'm really sick with my eating disorder. This is the first time I've ever had to really re-examine what I was doing and take a step back. And that's completely terrifying.
Last winter, I spent time at two different treatment centers, my first time ever receiving any type of eating disorder treatment. When I first admitted, there was talk about the possibility of staying home from school that semester to get better. I swore up and down that was a choice I'd be willing to make if it came to it (spoiler: I wasn't). One month of treatment later, I was back at school. I took a full course-load, taught spin class, had an awesome internship, and traveled the Northeast for graduate school days. I graduated on time and enrolled at NYU for graduate school. I'm exhausted just thinking about this, and yet, this was my life. I didn't slow down, and I certainly did not have enough time or energy to truly commit to my recovery.
This time around has been very different. I was "functioning" and got good grades and had an internship, but I was barely hanging on by a thread. I wasn't managing, even though I was really good at pretending I was. I was actually really sick and had reached my breaking point. I knew when I had started to bargain with myself to eat so that I could take final exams that it was time for me to slow the eff down.
While considering my treatment options, school very quickly came up as something to strongly consider. "Medical leave" was thrown around a few times, which scared the living shit out of me. I was committed though, ready to actually, finally, do whatever it took to get better.
When treatment was finally settled upon, we decided that school had to be part-time, with no internships, no research positions, and limited volunteering. This was extremely hard for me because for so long I've defined myself based on what and how much I'm doing.
It's hard for me to "only" be doing school and treatment. I say this a lot in my sessions and I'm quickly reminded that it's absolutely not a case of "only". In fact, I'm doing a LOT right now. Most people take time off from school or work while they're in treatment. My team and I agreed that staying in school would be beneficial to have more structure and to maintain a sense of normalcy. However, I know that school is an addition to the treatment, not the other way around, and it's really important for me to embrace this.
And yet, it's still really hard not to get caught up in a comparison trap. I feel as though I should be "doing more", or that everything I'm currently doing isn't "enough". It's so so easy to get caught up in the really cool research and internships and jobs my friends have. But I know I really need to take it easy while I work on my health and healing.
A couple weeks ago I was telling my friends my fears that I wasn't doing enough. One of them asked me, point blank, "yeah, okay, but do you want to be alive or dead?"
This really put things in perspective to me, and this is something I've carried with me since this conversation. I am very obviously choosing life. This means that I'm slowing down, taking care of myself, healing, and choosing to be alive.
Hi, I'm Charlotte! I'm a 24 year old navigating life in NYC and mental health recovery. I am passionate about public health and eliminating stigma.