I just spent two beautiful weeks in France, yet I couldn’t help but notice my behavior was a little… ugly.
Traveling has been great for my eating disorder recovery, but sometimes I do let myself get sucked back into my insecurities. I quickly acclimated to life in Spain this year, easily picking up on the language and learning the lay of the land. But being in Paris was overwhelming. I know limited French, and it’s a maize of a city. This combination was enough to make me feel helpless and dumb, which then manifested into a spiral of self hatred.
Because I was not loving myself I was not loving others. The entire week I was lashing out at my loved ones (yikes) and bitter with strangers. I was not treating anybody very kindly because of my terrible treatment of myself.
Then on Sunday, I spent the afternoon with my boyfriend and his grandmother, who told us stories of her adolescence during WWII. A child at the start, a teenager at the finish, she told us of her family’s Hungarian origins and how they were persecuted for having Jewish roots, though the family no longer practiced Judaism. She told us of how they left Hungary because they were first political refugees, and then how they had to flee their new home in Paris when German occupation began. Their escapes were narrow and lucky. She beat all the odds and went on to become a doctor of psychiatry, writing personal and professional pieces, even working on a book well into her eighties.
Our afternoon together humbled me. I’ve never had to worry about anything like that in my entire life. I’ve never had to worry about my family being arrested at their place of employment for religious origins. I’ve never had to worry about being sentenced to death because of my ancestors’ religious choices. Her youth was harrowing. Mine is easy in comparison. And here I was, worrying about the size of my thighs, the cellulite on my legs, and the natural curve of my stomach. I wanted to cry for taking my life, my privileges, my body, my health, for granted.
The tricky thing about eating disorders is that once you acknowledge that your behavior is harmful, recovery becomes a choice. Before diagnosis, you may be participating in these behaviors mindlessly. After diagnosis, it’s up to you to choose health and happiness. Your willpower will be tested every day. It’s tough.
I knew better than to go an entire day without eating only a piece of bread. I knew better than to let a small insecurity spiral into a black hole of self loathing. I knew I was not loving others the way they deserved because I was not loving myself the way I deserved. I’m not beating myself up over it, but I will keep this in mind going forward. My time with this WWII survivor put my mind back into a healthier place.
When my thoughts are so selfish and inward, how am I bettering the world? What am I achieving when I worry about my body? Jealousy, loathing, and misery? When I get outside of my own head, and focus on what is actually important, I can do great things. I had to remind myself, that I am Jamie, the great Adventurer, and I don’t concern myself with such bullshit.
I want you to do the same. Don’t be ashamed to call yourself great. Love yourself first.