Once awhile back, a therapist told me that I needed to be more rooted in reality. The context surrounding this statement consisted of a conversation about my imagination and how I constantly paint my reality to be more elaborate than it actually is. Part of me found some truth in her words and part of me was crushed by them because that was precisely how I feel time and time again. That I am not realistic, that the dreams and aspirations I have for myself are unattainable, that recovery isn’t real, that transformations aren’t real, that the most I can do is put a Band-Aid on the parts of me that keep bleeding and move on.
I feel like I am submerged in a tank of water every time I tell someone one of my goals. My actions become suspended in time and space as my body floats aimlessly through my words, not responding to what my mind tells it to do. While my mouth speaks words that evaporate into bubbles and whose language I no longer understand. Needless to say, I get nervous and try my best to disconnect from the conversation because everything within me screams that the person will laugh in my face. It doesn’t matter who they are. Could be the core of my support system and still my mind tells me that they will find my proposals humorous. Which they are half of the time, humorous in the sense of their complexity and hugeness. Like my trip to Mongolia this summer or to the Cenotes caverns last week or my most recent goal of doing a Dive Master internship after graduation next fall (preferably somewhere in Latin America or Southeast Asia). I don’t tell a lot of people these plans because I am ashamed of their grandioseness, which is funny because so many seem to find pride in plans such as these.
But the truth of the matter is that these plans are not conventional. They are not small minded. They are not simple achievements to come by. And for that reason, I don’t believe I deserve to own them. My mind tells me that I am not deserving of such elaborate experiences, that I will fail at them, that everyone will laugh in my face and tell me that they knew I couldn’t do it. This dialogue upsets me. My mind upsets me. The limitations it tries to put on what I can and cannot achieve upsets me. This is why I fight that much harder to achieve these goals, goals that according to that one therapist from years ago said are “not rooted in reality”.
Frankly, I don’t care what other people think of my reality because it isn’t theirs, it’s mine. So if someone laughs when I say I want to be a Dive Master I let them because I know that they are laughing because in the context of their reality that is a ridiculous thought. But then I take a step back and look at my reality, a reality where I have overcome so much and continue to fight invisible battles every single day that no one knows about, and I know that with a little hard work and a completely determined mind becoming a Dive Master is just a drop in the bucket. Just like going to Mongolia in July is attainable and diving last week was attainable and going to art school was attainable and working in New York. Just like finding recovery in the midst of the chaos and busyness of college was and will continue to be attainable. Just like managing to get up every day and get my butt to class or work or EDA or therapy or whatever the hell else even when I feel terrible and just want to curl into a ball and cease to exist is attainable.
Whatever I focus my attention on is my reality and I chose to focus my mind and refocus it and refocus each time is shifts towards negativity and doubt back on attainability. If I want something for my life, then I am going to have it in my life. Simple. Clear. Done. And that is me taking that therapists dumb advice and tossing it out the window because I don’t want her reality. I don’t want a reality of small minded dreams and baby steps and realistic and mundane and routine. I want passion and excitement and courage and adventure and according to my mind that can happen and that is my reality. So to become rooted in it is to dream up these elaborate dreams and then do the hard work to make them attainable.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the concepts of one day at a time and the “just for today” mantras. My recovery is built on them. Remaining in the present moment in order to navigate the surges of urges and the intense emotions is painfully important for me to combat my eating disorder and other unhelpful behaviors. But taking things one day at a time is simply the foundation for a life larger and fuller than someone in a tangled seductive relationship with an eating disorder could ever imagine.
My disorder brainwashed me into thinking that there are only two things that matter in the world: my weight and food. And still to this day, I struggle with those beliefs and have to redirect the self criticisms around food and my body multiple times a day. The difference is that after the consistency of redirecting those thoughts I found other thoughts underneath. I found thoughts about other people. My friends and my family became more important where my eating disorder has previously cut off and isolated me from anyone emotionally and or physically. I found thoughts about school, about faith. I found thoughts about things larger than my little disordered world could conceptualize. Things like hope and futures and God and dreams. Layer by layer was peeled off and underneath it all were more layers. There will continue to be more layers because a mind not subject to the control of an eating disorder is always transforming, always growing, always revealing more of its complexity. And that right there is a reality that will not align with most people’s in the world. There are few who know and have experienced the breathtaking strength it takes to overcome your own mind.
Those who do know this experience, don’t let anyone tell you what you can and cannot achieve because you have already won a war no one knows anything about and that is otherworldly strength. I have always believed that those in recovery have super powers and each time I witness a testimony to recovery that belief is just reinforced.
So to all the world travelers, imaginative thinkers, big dream chasers, and recovery warriors, do me a favor and create your own reality and anyone who tries to manipulate yours you can simply tell to fuck off.