Graduating with Mixed Emotions During Recovery
In three months, I will be graduating with my bachelor’s degree. I hadn’t dreamt of this day since leaving my previous university in 2014 when I was diagnosed with an eating disorder and sought treatment at Eating Recovery Center (ERC). And now, with the “end” in sight, I am equal parts relieved (I made it) and anxious (I’m losing a part of my identity). This, I’ve been told, is a completely normal reaction to approaching this stage of life, but I am curious as to why my eating disorder voice has suddenly become louder as this highly anticipated date approaches.
Through treatment and therapy, I explored the many factors that influenced the development of my eating disorder. Genetics, adjusting to college and severed relationships all played an active role in fueling my disorder, but I don’t think I ever assessed what stage of college it all began. The feelings, thoughts and emotions that have been surfacing are familiar ones. I’ve felt these all before when I first began engaging with my eating disorder.
I recall the thoughts I had over six years ago around my fear of graduating:
“I need to have a higher GPA so that companies will want to hire me.”
“I will have student loans to pay back, which terrifies me.”
“I am not good enough for the careers I want.”
“Who I am isn’t enough, and I need to change that.”
“Everything out there (life) seems too scary.”
These thoughts led me into a spiraling darkness that took over every ounce of optimism that had previously lived in my body. These thoughts became a toxic narrative my depression, anxiety and eating disorder convinced me was true. They encased me in fear and distrust that I would ever find my place in the world and be enough. But I finally surrendered these thoughts to ERC and asked for help untangling all the lies that had been woven so tightly around me.
When these thoughts started showing up again recently, I felt fearful—fearful of the belief I still hold in some of them and fearful of the allure of retreating to my eating disorder for comfort. I never considered that these thoughts would emerge nearing the completion of my undergraduate degree, six years later.
There is a great amount of unknown in this world. And while this is inevitable and true, I know choosing my recovery each morning, afternoon and evening is a constant I can rely on. Sure, the fearful thoughts and doubts make their way into my mind but I know I have the tools, resources and community to keep me moving through them.
This year looks and feels much different than it did six years ago.
I have no idea what the world will look like after I virtually walk across the stage in December of 2020, but I do know that my recovery will be guiding me all the way.