I had never been very good with change. A new routine, an unfamiliar environment, a brand new job ― anything different, really. Despite my awareness of this, I decided last year to pack up my life in Australia and move all the way here to Minnesota ― seeking adventure, freedom and self-fulfilment.
For a lot of people, this kind of choice would be considered bold and brave — something to be admired, but for me, it was also a potential risk to my mental and physical health.
In times of change and uncertainty, Anorexia would come to me as a friend, providing an evil shoulder to lean on. Years ago, when I moved out of home to attend university, I felt completely out of my depth, overwhelmed and terrified. I was away from my hometown, my family, my friends, my bedroom. Everything that had provided comfort and stability was suddenly gone and I was left sitting alone and frightened in my dorm room.
I wasn’t at university long before Anorexia introduced itself to me for the very first time and provided ― what I thought ― was some much-needed comfort and company. It initially spoke to me with reassurance, introducing goals to strive for, giving me the illusion of regaining some of the control that I had lost since moving away from my safe-haven. Suddenly I had routine, structure and purpose.
Of course, what I had also gained was a severely poor state of health. I was constantly exhausted, unable to concentrate in class and the pressure to continually push myself to the limit rapidly took its toll. Anorexia’s assessment of my initial success did not last. Suddenly I was not good enough. Despite all efforts, I could never quite reach the standard its evil voice had set for me. I soon learned that Anorexia was no longer a friend, but a harmful enemy.
Years on, with family support and medical care, I slowly began to fight back. I realized what my health was worth ― what I was worth. As I grew mentally and physically stronger, Anorexia’s voice weakened and became a faded memory in the back of my mind. Its voice, more often than not, was replaced with one of kindness, encouragement and compassion.
With my continuously challenging progress of recovery, last year’s decision to internationally relocate was always going to be a potential risk. It could have been the ultimate opportunity for Anorexia to crawl its way back into my mind, to once again take advantage of me being out of my comfort zone. However, to my astonishment, something entirely different has happened since being here.
Instead of eating the same calculated meals every day, I have been eagerly trying a wide variety of amazing, unique American foods. For the first time in years, I am excited about which meals I will be able to enjoy next. Nothing is ever off-limits, nor measured, tracked or compared. It is all savoured.
Rather than enforcing a relentlessly rigid schedule, my new job requires rotating shifts which means with every week comes a freshly renewed lifestyle. Sometimes I have to work late so I sleep in and enjoy an afternoon walk. Other weeks, I get the chance to get up early and move my body in the cool morning air. It is wonderfully impossible for weekly comparisons to be cruelly drawn.
The desire to experience cultural events, to connect with people or enjoy a thrilling sporting match means I frequently choose to attend a Wild game or have dinner with new friends over forcing myself to work out or stay at home with a “safe” meal. Living life and seeking meaningful relationships now take precedence.
The foreign, but exciting experience with ice and snow this winter has been encouraging me to seek alternative ways to relax. I have been allowing my body to stay indoors and be still through reading books ― a pastime I had lost in childhood. I laze, I read and I watch movies without any nagging obligation to do otherwise.
What I have come to realize since being here in Minnesota is that change is not something to be feared. Embracing change, no matter how big or small it may be, has the potential to encourage a mindset of self-care, freedom and power over punishment. It can lead you on a path to truly loving who you are, inside and out.
I have been exposed to so many changes here in Minnesota and yet my body is nourished and my mind is clear. For the first time in years, I really believe that I am beautiful, worthy and free. This sincere belief within myself is truly the most amazing and important change of all and one that I would encourage anyone to aspire to.