Lydia is posing in front of mountains

Graduating with Mixed Emotions During Recovery

By Lydia Rhino

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.

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.

eating disorder
erc graduate
lydia rhino
Written by

Lydia Rhino

Lydia shares her story to connect with others in an authentic way. Throughout her life in active recovery, she has rediscovered her love of education and advocacy work. She believes that her eating…

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