Sierra Turner: Normalized Living

Normal- this is a word that depending on my mood, I could give you two completely different answers to. If you catch me in a good moment, on a good day of my recovery journey, normallacy is something that I crave. The ability for me to live on my own, or with a roommate; to go out for dinner on a whim with my boyfriend with little care as to where we picked to eat; Friday night movies with my girlfriends eating candy and chocolate on the couch.

However, if you catch me when I’m having a rough moment, or on a bad day, my fear of being normal is equivalent to my fear of spiders (and let me tell you… I have a massive fear of spiders.) Suddenly, the idea of leading a normal life absolutely terrifies me. Growing up… paying bills… having to get a real job… getting married… moving out on my own again… the list is endless. I begin to allow the negative voice in my head to sneak in, sparking fear of the absolute worst results of everything.

What if I get bad marks in school?

What If no one wants to hire me?

What if I don’t get married!

What if I am not a good mom! 

I don’t know how to pay bills…AH!

……

Everyone has some natural anxiety- believe it or not, it’s actually healthy! Without anxiety, we wouldn’t be safe. Anxiety provides every individual with a healthy level of caution in life. 

“Perhaps I shouldn’t touch that hot burner… I saw my mom shriek once after having touched it.”

“ This dark alley looks a bit skeptical, I should just walk home along lit streets.”

 

So yes- to an extent, anxiety is NORMAL. It’s when your fears go above a normal level and impede your life, that it becomes a challenge.

 

So for me, my Eating Disorder stems from Anxiety. From the moment I wake up, I have this little anxious voice in my head telling me

“Are you sure? Are you REALLY sure about that?”

“What if that makes you gain weight? You don’t want to gain weight. Things will go out of control. And how would you feel if you were out of control? You don’t like that feeling… remember? “ 

 

It’s exhausting, to say the least. 

I am learning, day by day, that these are my fears. I am also learning how to connect the dots between my anxiety and my Anorexia. You see… it is very common for people with Anorexia to shrink into an emaciated figure, as it is similar to reducing their body to that of a child. When you were a child, were you thinking of bills? Getting good grades? Securing a top-notch, moneymaking career? I hope not…

Heck, my biggest concerns as a young child had to do with being on time for dinner, as I was often outside playing Kick the Can with my neighbors. 

As I have grown up, and been faced with expectations that are put on by society, and my own high standards, I have developed an extraordinary amount of fear- largely related to failing. So, for me, I wanted to be the furthest thing from normal, because being normal meant that I had to face these fears. 

Off I went on my journey with my Eating Disorder. Obviously there were a number of other things that triggered my Anorexia; however, a large amount of my struggle had to do with my fear of growing up. 

I shrunk my body into that of a pre-pubescent boy. I no longer had my womanly breasts, hips, bum, or a menstrual cycle. I was pulled out of school, work, and any extra curricular activities, and placed in hospitals. I had people begging me to eat, trying to feed me, and showing me more love than I had ever felt in my entire life. I was stripped of any independence and freedom. I wasn’t living. 

In a weird, and twisted way, I kinda liked it. No more expectations, no more pressures. It was just me and my illness (or so I thought). 

I spent 3 years going through the doors of hospitals, emergency departments, doctor’s offices, and treatment centers, only to come out and relapse again into my illness. This is largely due to the sole focus of weight restoration in many of these programs. 

We need to remember that Eating Disorders are a MENTAL ILLNESS. Yes- they have physical complications; however, we must treat the mind in order to pursue true recovery. This is not to say that these places didn’t serve a purpose in my journey. Each and every program I attended played a large role in allowing me to learn little bits about my illness and myself. 

So here I am,

Learning to allow normallacy into my life,
Learning to accept my new hips, breasts, and curvy figure,
Learning to find what my true passions are, and what adds light to my life,
Learning that it is okay to make mistakes, 
Learning that over time, I will learn how to deal with finances and career opportunities,
Learning that I will always be learning,

But most importantly, that it is OKAY to be NORMAL.