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In the past few months, I’ve been in a relationship. It’s been an experience like none other I’ve ever known before. I’ve had many firsts during this time, and I’m creating wonderful new memories that I know will carry me throughout the rest of my life.

Who would have ever thought that the love I have been waiting for my entire life was right in front of me? That the love I so desperately looked for all these years has been right here, just waiting on me to pay attention. I was honestly looking in all the wrong places but no more. The person that I’ve fallen in love with, is me.

It may sound bizarre and completely ridiculous to some, but I have never taken the time to care for myself, or see all that I really am. I never took the time for self-love and self-compassion before. I thought it was what selfish people did. Have you ever tried looking up synonyms for these 2 words? I bet you’d be shocked to learn that egotistic and narcissistic are just a few of the ones listed. But that’s what I too have always believed. If you thought highly of yourself, you were self-centered. So, I kept it humble. I was too busy taking care of everyone else around me to notice that the love I so hopelessly craved all this time, I could give to myself. I didn’t need to wait for it to be given to me by someone else, that it was enough to just have it come from me. That in loving myself, it didn’t mean that I was pompous or conceited.

The revelation of this latest journey of self-fulfillment has been so incredible. It has taught me many lessons. Every day, I am astounded at all the love, nurture, and attention I continually give to myself. I often catch glimpses of myself in the mirror and I can’t help but wonder, who is this woman, that is staring back at me. I love her and am so incredibly proud of her. So much so, that it brings tears to my eyes, every time I think about it.

How did I get to this place? I haven’t felt like this since I was a child. It feels so good.

I protect myself, stand up for myself, praise myself, and most importantly, forgive myself. Things I didn’t understand or know how to do before. I give myself the time and permission I need each day to laugh, learn, challenge, and heal. All the while being mindful and patient of the things I now want in my life – and especially the things I don’t. It’s been a rebirth to say the least.

I am one of those people who used to be on a diet, all the time. I knew all about the latest fad regimes and followed every fitness influencer, looking for the magic something that would make me look and feel the way my family or lovers wanted me to. I hated exercising with all my heart, but longed to live the healthy lifestyle. I wanted to be anyone other than me because I wasn’t good enough.

I haven’t dieted one day in over 5 months. I’ve stopped depriving myself of things because it just doesn’t make sense to anymore. I’ve spent decades harming my body, while killing my spirit in the process, and for what? You can’t claim to love yourself, while doing things to harm your life. I have now embraced what many have told me is now called “intuitive eating”, but I’m done with labels also, so I just call it “doing me”.

I eat what I want when I want-period! For years I avoided carbs because of all the idiots out there telling people that you can't lose weight eating them. Or that I shouldn't eat many different kinds of fruits because it would make me diabetic. All a load of bullshit of course, but I followed these things to the letter, like I was in a trance. What they don't tell you is that you'll definitely lose a ton of weight fast, but you'll gain it all back (and then some). Oddly enough, I now eat everything and not only do I feel better and enjoy being social around food again, but I've also lost 30 pounds. Hard to believe, but it's true. I had to fix my relationship with food first - who knew!

What I now find that I want are things that make my body and mind feel good, less anxious and fatigued, so that they can perform at their optimal best. I satisfy every single craving I have and never feel guilty about any of it. I now look at food as just that- food. There is no need to label items as good foods or bad foods. Food is simply meant to nourish your body, mind, and soul; and yes, that sometimes means French fries for fuck sakes!

I also find myself moving my body every single day. I actually long for my next walk in nature and seeing how strong my body is becoming when I weight-lift. I meditate every day and take the time to listen to my body. I do it all with such pride, knowing that I’m finally doing it all for me.

Over the past 6 months, I've watched my body go from lifeless to almost normal again. When they say that your temple is resilient, they weren't kidding. As much as I cannot wait to get stronger, I know that I must take things slow and be very patient. Something I am not good at. But, it will happen. I just have to keep loving myself in all the ways I have been. After all, my body has carried me through the worst of times, it deserves some pampering and nurture.

One of the things that I am most proud of is that I am in therapy 3 times a week and have been, every day for the past 6 months. Now, I know what you’re thinking, why should anyone be proud of needing therapy? Personally, I think we should all be in therapy! We certainly could all benefit from it, and you cannot imagine how incredible it can make you feel, until you try it. We need to forget about society’s stigmas and know that it’s important to recognize when you need help. We have no issues going to see a doctor when our body doesn’t feel well, so why are we shamed into feeling that it’s wrong to seek professional help when our minds aren’t well? So, I say it loud and proud because it has given me my life back.

I am currently seeing a social worker, who is helping me deal with trauma from a recent illness, a psychotherapist, who is teaching me all about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) surrounding my eating disorder, and a psychologist, who assists me in dealing with my depression and panic disorder. I have learned how to dissect different parts of my life and deal with things that I haven’t been able to for years. It has also taught me about emotions and the difference between anxiety and stress – and yes, there is a difference. Most importantly, I am learning to forgive myself for past and present traumas and understanding how to navigate through them to a better quality of life.

But it wasn’t always like this. If I am being honest, I just recently realized that I love working on my body, I love eating well and I love learning different ways of healing my soul. I only thought I hated it all these years because of the negative connotation it always represented. You see, people used to tell me all the time that I looked horrible, was too fat, and that I was crazy because I had panic attacks and couldn’t control them. That I should be jogging, doing aerobics, and eating only salads if I ever wanted to be skinny. That the reason I was single was because of my weight. That maybe my anxiety and depression would go away if I was thin. Soon enough, their reasons became mine, and the destructive nature of things began. I did such harmful things obsessively because others had brainwashed me into believing that I should. I did them because I didn’t fit the ideals that others had for me.

Today I do what I do, all for me. I don’t look for approval, respect, or compliments from anyone – I give that all to myself. In the past, needing these things from everyone else made me hate myself. I wanted so badly to be praised or spoken about with pride that I wasn’t being authentic about anything. But that’s all in the past. I can honestly say that today what others think of me is just that, and I could care less.

I've also realized that I don't want to be model thin - I never did. It was just an ideal and perception that was imbedded in me because of what we saw on television and in magazines. I've always appreciated beauty but it doesn't mean that because I don't fit into that box, that I can't be too. I am beautiful, I always have been. I absolutely love all my curves and personally never want to lose them. I just want to make them even more defined, while making sure that I am in optimal health.

It's taken a lot of time and energy to learn these lessons, but it was time well spent. Who would have ever thought that in the most frightening time of my life, I would find this kind of love for myself? The love that I prayed for and waited on for so long from others. I’m only sad that it took almost dying to realize that I wasn’t really living. That I wasn’t giving myself the love, opportunity, respect, or the consideration of making the most of my life. But never again! I will not squander my life for another second. I finally understand this second chance I’ve been given, and the true gift that this life is.

Sometimes, you’ve got to fall before you can ever learn to fly.

I am proud to say that I am a very different person today. I love differently, play harder and have this overall glow about me. I have a confidence in all that I do now and know that the love which is continuously growing inside of me is teaching me so much. I am happily content with all my imperfections, because I know that they make up the very best parts of me.

I cannot wait for you to meet her, this new me - because she is fabulous!

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