I have a small backlog of things to share beginning with my last session with Adaline from a few weeks back to yesterday when I went for my appointment with an endocrinologist specialising in fertility at KKH whom I was referred to by Dr. Jeanette. I’ll share more about the latter in my next post.
I still see Adaline regularly although some weeks she’s filled up so it takes a bit longer to see her. I think we’ve been making headway in dealing with my guilt and regret about my past. It’s strange because in my mind, I know how important it is to live without regret, the acknowledge that our mistakes are a way of learning from life and that every blip contributes to who we are today somehow. And honestly? I don’t dislike who I am today. Still, I struggle so hard to shrug off my past – it lurks in the recesses of my brain, appearing every now and then to berate me, to remind me of how stupid, how useless I am. But I’m not!
I shared with Adaline about how guilty I felt about not valuing myself, my body more when I was younger. I told her about how stupid it makes me feel when I look back and think about the compromising positions I allowed myself to get into; the humiliating things I went through to come out safe; my blind naivety in trusting people who didn’t deserve my trust. When I think back to younger Nat, I am disgusted, and I am unable to comprehend what made her act the way she did. What was she thinking?! Why did she do that?! What is wrong with her?!
I use the values I hold close to my heart now to judge the girl I was 10, 15 years ago. And that isn’t fair. Yes, I may have acted irrationally as a girl, but that doesn’t give me the right to label myself stupid, useless, unworthy, undeserving, just because of the things I did before because who I am today, is NOT who I used to be.
We all know how teenage brains are wired differently. The influx of hormones probably leads to lots of warped thinking and unbalanced reasoning with respect to choices made in daily life. Sure, I could have found myself on the losing end of things but thank God He protected me from just about everything I can imagine contracting. I am grateful and being grateful doesn’t mean having to constantly beat myself up and feel bad about the things I did. Rather, it means picking myself back up, learning from the error of my ways, and making better choices.
I believe I have. I’ve changed. For good.
In stepping away and looking at things for this new perspective, I parted ways with Adaline feeling less angry with my younger self. I felt lighter, happier, and finally, after so many years, I think I can actually say that I learned to forgive that part of my past.
I came home and shared with Flo about that session, but I added as well that forgiving myself for the suffering I inflicted on Mum and Dad especially in the initial years of my eating disorder was still a huge struggle – One that I didn’t think I could possibly overcome. He asked if I’d ever sat down and spoken to them about how I felt, or about how they feel now with respect to that period. I hadn’t. So Flo suggested I try.
While I agreed to have a chat with Mum and Dad, there never seemed to be an appropriate time to touch on the subject… Until two Saturdays ago, all four of us went for lunch together and then came back to our place for coffee. Flo pretty much egged me on to start and as much as I felt the inertia, once I began, it got easier.
I shared with Mum and Dad about how badly I felt about the way I was when I allowed the ED to get the better of me. My refusal to eat even a spoonful of food, my irrational tantrums that could get violent, my volatile temperament, my reclusiveness, my withering away, my self-harm… I hate those flashback because I feel that I could have been in control, I could have controlled myself, but I didn’t. Sure, I can blame the ED, but I can only blame it so much. Sure, I can say I didn’t know any better, but it doesn’t change the fact that I hate what I did to my family.
I know that my parents have long gotten over all that has happened. They have forgiven me, and feel that I should forgive myself too. Dad shared with me about how as a young boy, he and his friends were so playful and nonchalant about school work resulting in him not doing well enough to go to Uni here in Singapore. He managed to get into Acadia in Canada though, which separated him for the first time, from his group of friends and his big family.
For the first time ever, Dad found himself alone. That first night by himself in a place where he knew not a single person, he felt pangs of regret at not having done more at school. He knew that it was his own doing that brought him to where he was then. While he could have allowed self-pity to swallow him, he chose instead to make good of the situation he had got himself into because “we can’t turn back time and change the past, but we can look forward and make good of what we have”. And he did. Dad studied consistently in Uni, realising only then how easy studying was if done right. He did well. He graduated. He got himself a good job. He got married. He had us.
Mum and Dad shared about how proud they are of me and how far I have come. They love that I have come back to life – my wit has returned, my laughter is back, my ability to have deeper conversations with them that go beyond the ED. They love that I am able to counsel friends just as I did before, that I have a spark in me once more. They are incredibly happy of where I am work-wise, of my independence living away from them, of the new chapter of my life unfolding with Flo.
When Mum and Dad left our place to go home, I spent some time organising my thoughts and as I reflected back on the ugly past, I realised that the heaviness I used to view it with had lifted. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I felt entirely guilt-free, but I definitely didn’t see it with a weight in my belly and a desire to throw up.
I see now that I cannot live judging myself for what I feel I did wrong before. It will only trip me up going forward. Instead, I need to accept the ghosts of me, and make peace with them. I have wallowed in so much guilt and regret for far too long, but there is still time to make good out of all the experiences I have accumulated. As much as I love baking, I still have dreams for more. After Flo and I are married, after we are settled, after a few babies (God willing), after I have sorted myself out and ironed the leftover ED kinks, I hope to get a masters in counselling. I hope to help people. I hope to share my mistakes with others so that they in turn will not fall into the darkness I fell into, or if they have, that it is never too late to claw back out and live a life that they are worthy of.
It’s funny how I was doubtful whether talking with my parents would help alleviate the negativity that I felt towards myself but I’m glad that Flo proposed it and made sure it happened. It’s different knowing how they feel based on my knowledge of their unconditional love and support for me, and actually hearing the words out loud coming directly from their mouths that nothing would make them happier than seeing me live my life with valour.
I still wish I were a better daughter to them, a better person in general, but I guess there is no such thing as perfection and the only thing I can do right now is to work hard every day at being a better version of myself, and simply, being happy.