By: Danielle Michaud, Project HEAL Social Media Intern
Even though I had friends growing up, I never felt as if I really belonged anywhere. I could not admit it to myself for many years, but I always felt a sense of perceived inferiority, somehow different and therefore defective. I suppose my battle with low self-esteem began at an early age. It only worsened with time as I battled my eating disorder. Anorexia is truly a disorder rooted in tremendous self-hatred. For a while, I was able to maintain an active social life. But I began turning away social invitations time and time again. Not only did I have severe social anxiety, but really, I could not wrap my mind around how anyone would want to spend time with me. I didn’t even want to spend time with myself.
My friendships began to dissolve because I pushed people away. My mind twisted this reality – instead of attributing my seclusion to the truth that I was isolating, I instead believed that I was disliked and not worth someone else’s time. In periods in which I was functioning better, I was better able to face up to my fears. I would contact my friends and try to make amends. However, inevitably I would spiral back into paralyzing anxiety and depression and the cycle would repeat itself again, growing worse every time.
I began to withdraw completely, with the exception of going to work and putting on my game face for my coworkers and the people I assisted at my job. I was – and am – incredibly grateful for that interaction because I enjoyed being around people and allowing myself to get comfortable enough around them to engage in both serious and hilarious conversations. By nature, I am fairly extroverted and genuinely enjoy getting to know people and their stories. But my fears kept me trapped.
I firmly believe in the importance of friends and a support system in recovery and life in general. I am starting to emerge, allowing myself to be more open and vulnerable in reconnecting with people I care about. I feel fortunate that I have some truly wonderful and forgiving people in my life. I was blind to the idea that my disappearance even had any effect on them because I was so lost and deep into my descent into misery. I had effectively made myself alone, but life is not meant to be lived that way. I am reclaiming my relationships and livelihood as I begin to move forward.