With the holiday season taking off, Rachel Zacrep,one of the co-leaders of our Southern California Chapter has written this piece about changing her holiday story.
My life sometimes feels like one obstacle after another. And the fast approaching holiday season feels like just that, an obstacle, imminent danger. In recovery, I have chosen health and freedom and meaning: a life and an identity that I get to define. I have learned to find comfort in my own voice. My internal dialogue has largely become that of compassion, gentleness, acceptance, and authenticity. I am comfortable expressing my personal values and belief system in a way that honors my truth and my experiences. And I am no longer willing to bend or stretch in a way that results in the abandonment of my own self. I am able to eat normally and remind myself that fullness is not the enemy. I am gathering courage with time. However, despite all this beauty in my life, as the holidays and my birthday (Christmas Eve) continue to get closer, I find that I am stumbling. I am not stumbling in my passion for recovery. Rather, I feel my smiles begin to waver, and I see the familiar abysmal holes of grief shroud the green of my eyes. I am finding that I can no longer feign indifference as I watch the world around me find joy in a time that magnifies my deep ache for family, home, and a yearning to be loved unconditionally for all that I am.
In spite of all the space I can now allow myself to truly feel my feelings, I find that I am struggling with channeling these feelings into old somatic pathways because of sheer panic, sadness, jealousy, and a new layer of shame that I continue to combat. I feel the crushing pressure to not breathe or speak too loudly, to fade away and not take up space. I feel stirrings of my mother’s voice telling me to feign happiness and gratitude. And more and more moments are filled with familiar flutters of panic while I wonder where I will be and if I’ll be alone. And just when I muster the courage to scream, ‘hey, I’m not ok,’ I am silenced by the choke hold of the voice that resides deep in my soul. This is the voice of my eating disorder telling me that I don’t matter. But this time, I am attempting a new feat. I will choose to honor my truth and combat these historic reactions, while still making room for joy.
This year I am determined and eager to rewrite my own holiday story. I don’t have many ‘plans,’ but I am grateful for the ones I do have. I intend to honor each holiday and my birthday by making a trip to Runyon Canyon with my dog to meditate. It was the first place I went to when I moved to LA and the solace I find there has continued to help me feel centered and calm. There, I can fall into my authentic self, choose compassion, and connect to the gratitude I have towards myself for creating the meaningful life I now have. My favorite bench will welcome me and my tears, and I will sit and tightly hug my dog- trauma babies united as one. And as I revel in the breath of the wind that whips around me, I will soothe my little girl and listen to the highly intuitive voice of my wise woman. I am excited to spend Thanksgiving with the sweet loves and openhearted family I work for. I am baking a pumpkin pie to share with them, people who want to see and accept me, just as I dreamed of in art therapy. On my birthday, I’d like to have dinner at my favorite Asian restaurant and sit in their heated patio while munching on yummy delicacies. I will get through that endeavor because I know that I deserve to enjoy food and I will be surrounded my people who love me. Beyond that, I intend to honor my voice and experience while creating my own traditions and enjoying such things as garlic mashed potatoes, and reminding my little girl that it is ok for her to feel joy and wonder. I will surround myself with people whose connection I cherish. I will raise up my voice because I know I deserve to be heard. I will allow myself to feel loved and I will even let my most raw, vulnerable self be seen. I will reach out for help or a hug because I know that this is pure strength, not weakness. I will continue to lean on my support systems so I can process what’s coming up in an authentic way. And I will keep in close contact with my fairy sister and my new Project HEAL family. But, I will also balance this with time to myself for quiet reflection: time to sit with my feelings without judgment or denial or getting swept away in seemingly obligatory holiday bustle. I will let myself cry. I will write and crochet and color mandalas and paint my nails whatever colors I please. I will dance and go to yoga and snuggle my dog. I will surround myself with the uplifting voices of Leslie Feist, Regina Spektor, Kimya Dawson, and Maria Mena. I will drink coffee at Luke’s with Lorelei and Rory Gilmore, skip though the stone halls of Hogwarts holding hands with Luna Lovegood, and rock ill-fitting gecko pajamas with Hannah Horvath. I will thumb the pages of words courageously written by Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, JK Rowling, and Lena Dunham, so as to drink in the voices that resonate with my bones and make me feel less alone. And perhaps best of all, I will finally get to enjoy holiday meals in a way that my eating disorder took away. After, I will remind myself that feeling full is ok, even beautiful. And I will continue to channel gentleness by reminding myself that it is only natural to have feelings connected to food or fullness: that I am human, that I deserve a second slice of pumpkin pie, and that I am very, very proud. I will open myself to the richness of the holidays in every way I desire. And yes, I recognize that all of this is a huge undertaking. I know that some days are going to be gut-wrenchingly lonely, or filled with temper tantrums, or just plain exhausting. But I am accepting of that. It is part of the authentic process I am now ready to embrace.
I was once told that I have an extraordinary essence that grants me the ability to create a home and a family wherever I go. I intend to hold this belief deep in the seed of my soul, now more than ever, as I begin to navigate the coming months. I am a warrior of the heart, I am worthy of happiness, and I am not alone. I can do this.