I feel like an update is in order after last week’s dilemma that I posted about. After much deliberation, I went ahead and booked my flight to Portland! Each of you who responded said that it seemed like I had already made up my mind about which place to visit. You all hit the nail on the head. I guess I did already know what I wanted to do, but just needed a little justification.
Since we’re on the topic of travel, there is something I would like to share. You may (or may not) have noticed that I haven’t been saying much about my mental health struggles lately. That’s because I’ve been doing really well! I can credit my own hard work and 5-6 months of therapy to my success, but there’s another piece of the equation that really helped give me an extra shove.
My trip to New York.
I know, I know. I’ve talked plenty about New York and BookCon already. What more could I possibly have to say? Well, a lot, actually. Part of the reason I came home so giddy and excited was because I found something on that trip that I hadn’t been expecting. Something I’d been looking for for over a year.
I found my appetite again.
Let’s rewind to my college years and the few years after that. I had come out of school with a degree in Culinary Arts (Did I ever mention that I was trained to be a chef?), was running my own dessert business, and had a major love and appreciation for food. I cooked and baked all the time. Not just for the business, either, but for the sheer enjoyment of it. There was always some kind of food experiment happening in my kitchen and ideas floating around in my head. I was adventurous, wanting to try any and everything at least once. Going out to dinner was a fun experience for me. I loved getting to try new places and see what other culinarians were creating, often so I could figure out how to recreate such dishes at home. Food was not just about sustenance for me, it was a passion. Something I thoroughly enjoyed and looked forward to.
Then, in the last few years of my twenties, I lost that passion. I went through some difficult things and, as a result, my mental health worsened. My depression and anxiety came out in full-force, determined to ruin my life, one thought at a time. It was only inevitable that my eating disorder followed suit.
Last year I wrote a post, Existential Ice Cream Crisis (a spectacular band name, in my opinion), after experiencing a breakdown over a social event at work. At the time I wrote that post, I had been teetering on the edge of an eating disorder relapse. That negative voice – the one that likes to tell me I’m not good enough, that I need to be perfect, and that I need to lose weight – had been slowly creeping back into my life for some time. In that post I expressed my frustration with those negative feelings and an envy towards those who had seemingly “normal” relationships with food. Despite not wanting to fall back into my old habits, I kept teetering, until eventually I slipped and fell headfirst. The next 7-8 months were hell. I became obsessed with food again, but not in a healthy way. Instead of appreciating and enjoying food, it became my enemy. Deciding what to eat for dinner was enough to send me into a tantrum, because I couldn’t handle the stress over what to feed myself. I was hungry all the time, but my brain told me not to eat more, or else I’d gain weight. I didn’t lose too much weight during that time, but it didn’t matter. My brain and body weren’t receiving the proper nourishment they needed. As a result, I was feeling quite unhealthy, both physically and mentally.
When planning my trip to New York I did research on all the possible restaurant options I might want to consider. Given how big New York City is, the options are endless! I found places that spoke to me and my inner foodie. My eating disorder tried to retaliate by saying “No. Why are you even considering these places? Look up the healthy options instead.” But, for the first time in a long time, I shut that voice out. I was going on a trip and I was excited about it. I was not bringing my eating disorder along to ruin it for me!
So, I left my eating disorder here and went to New York. And I ate. I went to the restaurants and bakeries I had researched and improvised when necessary. I ate when I was hungry and ordered what I (not my eating disorder) wanted. As a result, I got to try some amazing food. And you know what? I enjoyed every bite of it. Never once did I go back to my room and stress over what/how much I ate. I simply let myself be content.
On the last night of my trip I called Boyfriend on the phone. I gushed over all the fun things I did, about BookCon and meeting V.E. Schwab, and about all the things I ate. I told him about the awesome French-Asian patisserie I found, where I got a white chocolate-matcha cream puff. Gotham Market, where they had amazing tacos and a delicious dessert waffle place. The Indian restaurant that had some of the best chili chicken and garlic naan I’ve ever eaten. The dim sim place where I ate…who knows what. It sure was delicious though.
During that conversation I said something along the lines of “It’s nice to be able to just eat and enjoy food again, like I used to.”
In which Boyfriend replied, “Good. Bring some of that home with you.”
I did bring it home with me. When I got back, my eating disorder was surprisingly MIA. I’ve been eating what I want again, cooking more, and playing in the kitchen. Last weekend, I was invited to go out to dinner with a few girlfriends to try this restaurant they’d been telling me about. Rather than hesitate or have to look up the menu first, I agreed to go. I ate what I wanted that night, including some foods that would have sent me to tears six months ago. And you know what? I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Food has become my friend again. Not only am I eating better, but I feel so much better. I have more energy, am less cranky, and have an easier time focusing on things. My mental health, overall, has been significantly better. It’s amazing what can happen when you actually give your body the things it wants/needs.
I know my eating disorder and other issues are still there, buried deep down. They’ll show up again at some point, whether I am expecting it or not. The next time it happens, I’ll remember to read this post and remind myself of the things I’d be giving up if I let the eating disorder stick around.
For the record, it has not been invited to Portland. I have too many doughnuts to try there!