This question of what I want to be when I grow up has lingered for a long time, ruminating in my anxious, food consumed brain. I remember being asked that when I was a little girl and having lots of answers: a missionary, a teacher, a ladybug (oh dear!), and oh so much more; these were all built on things that I loved and what I was passionate about. But over the years, the work of perfection and grades overtook my dreams just a little bit. I remember in high school thinking about becoming a pediatric oncologist to help kids with cancer. I’ve always wanted to help people, but over time, I forgot that I also needed to be helped, too.
Towards the end of my time in Virginia leading up to college, I was introduced to the world of disabilities. It really began with my lack of concentration (hmm, food maybe?), and my desire to have time accommodations. I could not finish tests in the timing that was given to me and was oh so very overwhelmed. These were the days of trying to be paleo, do Whole 30, and as the “good” foods dwindled, although, I’ll have to say that there hasn’t been much of a change there; simply a recognition that something wasn’t quite right then and the knowledge that a change needs to happen for me to be okay, again.
Pretty soon, I became interested in the unique leaning styles that my peers with disabilities were taught. It began with more time spent in the learning center to volunteering in respite care for kids with more severe disabilities. This continued into my senior internship project working with my sixth grade teacher in another learning center, and being around kids each and every day. This love was what drew me towards Vanderbilt, and is part of the reason I am here.
I wrote my essay on my irregular heartbeat and the uniqueness of children with special needs. Little did I know at the time that this, too, was probably a symptom of my disordered eating patterns, along with those irregular periods and oh so much more. Throughout my first two semesters of college, I continued to love special education. I really loved the idea of helping these kids I had come to love, but it wasn’t easy. This time and season was filled with overwhelming, uncontrollable anxiety and deep depression. It was one of the tougher parts of my story.
The next semester was filled with practicums and special education courses, and I loved it, but I also freaked out, how could I love these kids that hurt so much? How would I provide for myself with such a low pay? Am I enough? My concentration and ability to serve others dwindled, and fear kicked in, and so I looked for a more prestigious major, for something that I could love and hold onto; for security and certainty and strength of my own. Those kids are not forgotten, but I convinced myself that I couldn’t be the one to help them.
At this time, I began to question my purpose in coming to Vanderbilt. If special education was one of the main reasons I thought I was called to be here, then why did it not feel like the purpose anymore? And this is where I think God is teaching me something new, and I am beginning to see it in glimpses. This semester, I switched to child development as my major, but along the way even begin to question my love for kids. But when I think of the root feeling underlying this, it is fear. For a little while, I would cry and search through all of the majors (a lot a while, really, and continue to do so!). I like security of knowing whether to be a nurse practitioner or a registered dietitian like oh so many of my dearest friends in recovery, a counselor, or something that others are doing, because I don’t know how to trust a God of the unknown. I don’t like to sit with the fear, and I have lost the ability to learn with the hope that my passion will take me far and my God will never leave me.
And so I am scared. Okay, pause. This is a lot about me, and I think blogging should be about others, too, and encouragement, but I promise to loop around to this, too!
Do you ever hear truth and know it to be right, but not want to listen to it? That’s what recovery from an eating disorder is like on a lot of days for me. ED, my eating disorder tells me one thing, and those who love me tell me another, and I have to actively choose to listen to those I know care for me and want what is best for me. At Vanderbilt, at least for me, the pressure for all things is high: to be in a smart major, as I like to call them, to not have a plan, and to be in many organizations and serve well. To be thin and smart and pretty, in a sorority, kind to everyone, to party and to also be there for others; the expectations are endless and utterly impossible, and I often crumble under the feelings of shame for not being able to be all these things to all those people.
And here am I, a little uncomfortable and lost, uncertain of where the passion is, where the love is, but that is okay because I know that I’m not really me. I’ll be honest, it’s pretty sucky that this eating disorder has taken up oh so much of my brain space to think, learn, and play again, but I am hopeful to take it back. I have been told recovery takes a long time, and the toughest parts about it are the loss of joy I have experienced and my personality, but what I hope for in recovery is to find out who is me, again, the truest version of Mimi that God created to be. I hope it is something even more beautiful than I can even imagine.
In this time of recovery, I want to learn to play for hours and not feel oh so very guilty about it, to reconnect with others and to not live through the shadow and direction of shame, to be resilient and fully me. I believe that love for children will return and I have hope that there is going to be a day when I my smile will again reflect a joy that is a gift that is like an overflowing well, being poured into me that I can also give to help others. I’m not certain what my major will look like or what to do with all of this, but I do know that there is hope, oh and encouragement from friends has been invaluable to me (thank you to all of the girls in support group and Bible study!!). As for this time, may I learn to keep receiving until it bursts to those around me and into this precious world.