I asked a co-worker this question the other day, and he jokingly responded with some sort of comment about hearing his heartbeat, waking up each morning and not being dead, etc. etc. While that is clearly a true statement, there is more to living then just being alive in a physical sense. I was talking more about an emotional, mental and spiritual level of being alive. As part of my recovery, I’ve been trying to establish and get a clear understanding of what it is that I enjoy about life, what types of things I do or enjoy that are more prominent and important than any eating disorder could be. In order to fully let go of an eating disorder, which is a full-time, all-consuming job, you have to find something(s) to take the place of all your laborious thoughts and anxieties over food, weight, calories, eating, body image, and the like. Otherwise, there’s this big void of ‘nothing’ that will fill your life.
I think I’ve struggled with finding that thing or things in the past that really make me happy, that I personally enjoy, that take me to a new level of happiness and contentment. Since I couldn’t find anything that was ‘mine’, I felt lost. I wanted to be good at something. I wanted to be a good artist, or a good photographer, or a good writer. I wanted to find my calling. But the more that I looked for that calling, the sadder I got. Why? Because I was expecting just one thing to be my go-to thing. Maybe I had a warped sense of what I needed in order to fulfill my life because my eating disorder was one big massive thing and that, and that alone is what took up all of my days. So perhaps I thought that since my eating disorder was one beast, I had to find just one thing that could replace it and be ‘mine’. Nevertheless, I drove myself up a wall because I am not a wonderful artist, I’m not an amazing photographer, I’m not a poet or skilled writer.
After searching and looking for the one thing that I could call my own, I gave up and felt like I’d never find it. But then my approach changed. Life and people aren’t made up of just one singular thing. We are a composite of our beliefs, interests, passions, and purposes. We are three-dimensional, with layers and depths. How could I look for just ONE thing to fill that void? It’s simply impossible. So that’s when I slowly but surely started to peel away those layers of who I am and what I enjoy and love. I started to find the things that make me feel alive.
I started to do more things and widen out a bit and by doing so I started to be able to tell what things I enjoyed. But it was more than that, there were some things that made time disappear, hours or minutes flew by and I had no idea. I would have those moments where I could completely submerse myself in what I was doing and feel completely consumed by what I was doing. It’s a healthy, natural escape that I never experienced before. My eating disorder was that escape, only in an unhealthy way. It allowed me to escape any feelings by restriction or by binging…either numbing the pain by starvation or numbing it by covering over it with food and more food and more food until I felt sick. So I’ll share a few things that I recently discovered and am still working on implementing and using as my ‘go-to’ instead of resorting to eating disorder behaviors.
1) Photography. “What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.” – Karl Lagerfeld
Photography is beautiful. When I pick up the camera, I have no sense of time or place. Everything else that is on my mind completely melts away. It’s almost as if the camera is in a complete world of it’s own and when I pick it up, I become a part of that different world. Every other thought or concern seems to just melt away. However, it’s not just the act of taking pictures that I love. I also love looking at photography. There is something so magical about a photo. Just like the quote says, it’s a moment captured in time that can never be duplicated or replaced. Each picture contains a story of its own. I find that I can look at a picture and sink myself into it. I think of the circumstances that may have led up to the picture being taken, what is captured in the picture, the story it tells, the secrets it holds, the mystery it maintains. There is so much to be deciphered and interpreted by a picture, yet often times it’s something that is viewed differently and understood differently by each person. I love that. It is similar to a poem with no clear meaning or intent. It’s left to be deciphered by the person who reads it. Much like a picture. I just love it.
2) Music / Live Music / Concerts. “There’s nothing better than live music. It’s raw energy, and raw energy feeds the soul.” – Dhani Jones
This has been a somewhat recent discovery for me. There is something completely electrifying about being at a concert and listening to live music, especially when the music taps into your emotions in one way or another. I’ve had the occasion to be at some concerts that are a completely captivating experience and one that leaves you feeling completely out-of-body (but in a really great way!). When I’m at a concert, it’s like I am a different person. All my apprehensions, worries or fears disappear. When I normally am super conscious of how I look and how others perceive me, at a concert, I become concerned with only how I feel in the moment, attuned to the music and how it makes me feel, and the world and everyone else in it fades away. When prior reservations about dancing or moving to the music would be on my mind, when I let myself become part of the music and be free to move, I have no cares about how I look or what others think of me. It’s just me and the music and it fills me with an inner peace and solitude. I can be free. I can be me. It is a raw energy that just consumes me. I feel so alive during and after I leave a concert. It’s thrilling.