Part 3 of Kalina’s Story – You can read Parts 1 & 2 Here
I am ready to go out. I am meeting Eva for a coffee. I feel nervous, my hands are sweating, my breath is rapid and short. We have not seen each other for a while, so she is not fully aware of what I am going through. To be honest it is not only Eva I have not seen recently. I was avoiding most of my friends. It felt safer to sit with numb emotions in my black, dark box. I did not need to face the world. I did not need to face conversations. I did not need to explain over and over again that I am not well, that I feel ashamed, that I feel like a failure, that I am losing myself, my soul, my life. It felt safer to sit with numb emotions in my black, dark box….but was it really? I could not truly tell. The only thing I was sure of was that I was miserable inside. So something did not add up.
One day I gathered my courage and I reached out.
It was difficult, like a massive challenge, but I did it! I texted Eva. I suggested a catch up. I timidly told her that I am fighting anorexia. Without going into too much detail I mentioned that I am struggling to make sense, that I keep losing the thread of conversations and my concentration is all over. I say that I look awful, that my skin is pale, half of my hair has gone. I wanted to prepare her for what to expect, I was afraid to be judged. Surprisingly for me my friend was happy to arrange a meeting. It was not important to her how I looked or whether I made sense or not…she was just happy to have a chance to see me again. I felt touched, something cracked inside me, tears of hope started to fall down my face.
So here I am… ready to go out. Just a quick look in the mirror before leaving and… I cannot stand what I see. I start crying. I see a fat, ugly me. I cannot go out like this! She cannot see me like this! I need to wait a bit longer, I need to lose more weight. I think I should cancel the meeting, curl, and shut down. I feel overwhelmed, almost dizzy. Why is it so difficult? I shake. I fight my internal battle.
Somehow I manage to pause, to take a deep breath, and calm down. I quickly open the door. I can do it. I have made my decision. I am going out.
We meet in our usual place, and exchange a big hug. I almost forgot how good it is to meet people I enjoy being with. Eva says that I look well. I mumble a quiet thank you and my mind starts spinning. I knew it! I am fat. She would not say “well” otherwise. “Well” means fat, she could say slim, skinny, but she did not. I am convinced now, I have extra kilograms on me! I need a new plan on how to get rid of them. I cannot fail this time! I make a mental note in my head and we walk towards my next challenge – a cafe. I have not been out for ages. I have already decided that I will just have a coffee, no food. It is too scary. I can get an idea of the ingredients the chef uses, but I have no chance to check how much. I cannot afford any extra olive oil, butter or too much quinoa! Better be safe than sorry. No food this time, thank you very much.
We go inside. I feel uneasy, but I can do it! Eva talks to me, asks questions. It is so difficult to focus as on the way to the table we pass a counter with cakes. OMG! Tiffin, carrot cakes, rocky road, scones. They all look amazing. I can smell them with my whole body. Not this time though. I have my rules and not eating sweets is one of them.
As earlier planned, I order a coffee and try to come back to our conversation. There is a moment when I think about changing coffee to a tea to avoid calories from milk, but I feel a bit ashamed to do it, so I decide to take a hit this time. I can always walk longer to lose it.
Slowly I am coming back from my internal world. We talk and I start relaxing. Eva is honest, she shares that she does not know much about my illness. She has done some research, but she feels a bit lost. There is a lot of information available and it is so confusing. She is hungry, but she doesn’t know if she can eat in my company. She asks if I am comfortable in the place. When she speaks I feel that I start to connect, I feel like I want to share with her more, tell her my story. I feel that she is there for me, she is prepared to listen and not to judge. She does not throw pieces of advice at me, does not tell me “What is wrong. Just eat. How difficult can that be?”. Just do this or do that.
Suddenly I have my AHA! moment. I realise that I have a great time! I realise that what I need from people is to accompany me on my journey, just be, listen.
What I do not need is someone to tell me what to do, try to fix me like, have an ideal solution or offer me a chit chat chat about nothing, pretend that everything is fine, because it is not! I am struggling every day and I do not want to pretend anymore.
My time with Eva made me think about real connections with people. I am hungry for more of them.
How about you? Have you ever thought about what a real relationship means to you?
Do you have in your life someone who needs you, who is struggling? Have you ever thought or asked that person about their needs? Have you ever thought about your needs?
On my journey I noticed that just an honest presence of the person I am with matters. It might seem like nothing, but it means a lot. It seems easy, but it can be hard. Especially now, in a world full of distractions from outside – phone calls, emails, messages, facebook, instagram, another meeting, picking up kids from school, shopping, cleaning…. We can be lost.
I discovered that I am getting better when I feel true attention, when people ask “What can I do for you?” and really mean it.
I feel that real connections are important not only when it comes to mental health support. It is important in everyday life. It makes it more fulfilling, more real. I am curious what you think…