by April Ballard
I believe that traveling teaches us so much about ourselves, the world, and our relationship to both. That being said, traveling was merely a dream I had for a very long time. I very much wanted to experience new places. I wanted to feel the excitement of new surroundings. I wanted to learn and be a part of new cultures. I wanted to feel; however, I was held prisoner by an eating disorder. Anorexia and bulimia told me over and over all that I was neither able nor was I “allowed” to accomplish new goals or seek new adventures. Among this long list of goals, experiences, tasks, and endeavors, was traveling. The intrusive voice of the eating disorder told me over and over that, I was not good enough and that I had to follow the lies and “rules” it had created for me. It was not the life that I, April, desired. The voice of the eating disorder did not embrace traveling, because it would most certainly be out of the “safe” zone, which I would learn in recovery, was anything but safe.
To travel meant that I would not be able to control every single aspect of the day. I would, of course, learn in recovery, that this was also a lie. While desperately trying to cling to control, I was totally out of control. The voice of April was so faint and weak. I had nearly lost her; I had nearly lost my own thoughts and voice. That being said, when I would decide to step out into a new adventure, the eating disorder would say no, and I would listen. Traveling would have been too risky and scary because it was not in my routine and would not allow me to continue my eating disorder habits in the same way. Therefore, the eating disorder was the ruler of every aspect of my life.
The topic of traveling comes to my mind often, as it is an aspect of my life since recovery, that is entirely different in the best of ways. I am incredibly happy to say that I now not only look forward to traveling but also actually make the plans and follow through with the travels. In fact, my fiance and I have wanted to visit a new place together for months now. So, we are making this happen in June! We will adventure to a place neither of us have visited before, and share new experiences together. This truly warms my heart when I think of it. There was a time when I had neither the mental nor physical energy to do so, but the sky is the limit these days! All of this being said, this is a lengthy introduction to me sharing my traveling experience two weeks ago.
Two weeks ago my fiance and I set out for the Bluegrass state of Kentucky. We left home at 7 am with a ten-hour drive ahead of us. I am from Kentucky and it certainly evokes a happy and nostalgic feeling for me to visit. I feel. I feel these emotions. They are not clouded by the intrusive thoughts of what I will eat, or not eat. I am present. I certainly also feel tired along the journey. As a matter of fact, on our way home, I started to feel quite anxious and ready to relax at home. However, there is a distinct difference in that I am actually feeling these feelings, and not seeking a way to numb them. In addition, I am no longer disconnected from my body and mind, and am keenly aware of what my feelings and emotions are; they are no longer controlled and severely misguided by an eating disorder.
While we were in Kentucky, we drove out to the countryside to take in the beauty of the bluegrass; the rolling hills, the fences, the horses, all that makes the bluegrass what it is. We celebrated the beauty of it. While it was quite cold, we stopped and took some photos. My fiance took some photographs of me as I walked along a quiet country road. When we returned home, I looked through the photos and my initial thought was, “these are not flattering photos of me.” Then, I reflected and realized that I was allowing negative self-talk and old thought patterns to totally interfere and overtake the afternoon that we had shared. I decided to embrace the spirit of the day and that of the life that we share together. I decided to remain thankful for the moments of the afternoon and for the ability to share these moments with one another. I chose recovery. I choose recovery every day. Some days, I actively say aloud, I choose recovery and this is an old thought pattern… I am awake, I am aware, I am healthy and deserving of love and compassion to myself. YOU are as well.
April Ballard is a teacher and eating disorder awareness and recovery advocate who has been in recovery from anorexia and bulimia for three years. April also designs curriculum for a national art and music integration program. April is the founder and coordinator of the Charleston, South Carolina NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) Walk. April has been recognized and awarded on the university level for her critical thinking teaching skills. She is also currently writing a children’s book with the message of treating all beings with compassion and kindness. April is a strong advocate for eating disorder prevention and recovery. April is also committed to an educational role with helping The Stone Soup Collective where she will strive to empower individuals and families to discover their strengths, while learning to nourish their bodies, minds and spirits. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder help is available please visit: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/ to learn more.