When I was 15 years-old - and still very much dealing with my eating disorder - I met a man named Peter who told me, “You can be whatever you want to be.” For a lot of people, this is an obvious statement. It’s something I tell my daughters all the time, but for me, this was the first time I had heard these words.
At this point in my life, having been sent to live on a kibbutz at a young age and growing up with an abusive and controlling father, I was simply concentrating on survival. However, this man, Peter, opened up an endless world of possibilities to me with those simple words of affirmation.
My way of thinking at that time was still very problematic. I spent so much time hating myself. All I could see when I looked in the mirror was someone who was stupid, ugly, and fat. However, the idea that education was something that could pull me out of my situation and open doors for me gave me hope. Education began to represent my way out of poverty and to freedom from everything I so desperately felt trapped by.
Of course, back then, I didn’t know that I would go on to spend 13 years in higher education, but learning became my salvation. Education paved the way for me to begin understanding my life much better. Peter helped me get my visa to the US and helped me get into the Institute of English in San Francisco. From there I went on to pass the TOEFL exam and was admitted to Golden Gate University, a private university that had many international students.
School never came easily to me, but I was incredibly hard working. I had made myself believe that coming to the United States would fix my eating disorder. I believed that once I removed myself from my dysfunctional family and began my education I would be able to leave binging and purging in the past. I had yet to learn how deep-rooted my issues were and wasn’t able to comprehend all the underlying issues for my eating disorder. Still, I credit education as a big part of my survival.
I felt privileged to be in school and I knew that education would give me the opportunity to lead a good, fulfilling life. Unfortunately, with the stress of being in school and the pressure of having to work so much to pay for it, my bulimia got much worse during my first few months at the university. That dream of coming to school in the United States magically curing my eating disorder slowly crumbled.
My head was filled with so much information and I was filled with so many emotions. I needed a way to get it all out, to release all the stress and emotions. All I could think about was binging as much as I could and purging as many times as possible. I was overwhelmed with work and school and I had a difficult time focusing and completing my assignments on time. I felt that I was losing control of myself and regressing once again.
After my first year of college, I realized that I loved biology and psychology and I wanted to study something that would combine both. Biopsychology was the field that I was interested in, but I worried about the limitations of my English language skills and my lack of ability to concentrate and complete tasks. I was also very confused about some of my previous relationships. I was able to sort through that mess of feelings through self-reflection, writing, and opening up to a family member, and decided that the best thing for me would be to put all my energy into school and avoid getting involved emotionally with any men.
This thought was a big turning point in my life: the realization that I could feel competent, whole, and safe without having a man in my life to protect me. I was deeply happy to be free and independent. Education served as the empowerment I needed at that point -- and it would continue to empower me for years to come.
If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know that at that point I still had many years of recovery ahead of me. I write all of this, though, because I think it’s important to recognize the small steps that you can take to shift your perspective. It’s also a reminder that words of encouragement and support can change other people’s lives. What if, today, you said to someone in your life, “You can be whatever you want to be”?
If you would like me to connect you with one of our expert therapists contact us today. I look forward to hearing from you!