Last night as I was sitting down to do homework, I was having a difficult time focusing because all I could think about were the incredibly beautiful transitions my life has made this past year.
This past weekend was my grandma's 93rd birthday party and in typical Cronkright fashion, there were more people running around and food being consumed than I can typically handle. As much as I hate to admit it, unfortunately, family gatherings have never been my favorite thing. My family is one of the most loving, goofy, and entertaining groups of people I will ever meet. My family is far from perfect, but they make up for their flaws with a contagious, genuine, and kindhearted spirit. So why in the world would I ever dread these big family parties?
Rather than attempting to critically think about this question and explore the root causes of this issue, for years I have chosen to beat myself up for not enjoying these family get togethers - until now. Here is a list of many of my old distorted thoughts followed by some new healthy thoughts I have recently started to believe:
1. Socially Awkward
Old Distorted Thoughts: Compared to the rest of my family, I'm quite shy and that shyness was only magnified when I was caught up in my eating disorder. In order to fit in, have fun, or relate to anyone at theses parties I needed to be outgoing, bubbly, and the center of attention.
New Healthy Thought: I don't need to be anything by myself, even if that means I'm quiet, at these parties. The less I pretend to be something I'm not, the more I will enjoy my time spent with these special people.
2. Food Centered Parties
Old Distorted Thoughts: Food has always been the focal point of every family gathering I can remember. We typically eat holiday lunches, rather than dinners, so the feast can continue throughout the entire day. Oftentimes most of the food is left out and we are expected to graze from noon until sometime after dark when we finally pass out in a food coma. Also, I always thought people were constantly watching me eat and noticing the amount of food I was consuming. Obviously, this aspect of family gatherings has never been easy with an eating disorder.
New Healthy Thoughts: Everyone has different dietary views. I think I have become particularly sensitive to this over the past year and I have finally come to terms with the fact that I do not have to eat what everyone else is eating. More often than not, people are so caught up in their own plate of food, they are too busy to even notice mine.
Old Distorted Thoughts: Due to my lack of enjoyment at these gatherings, my distorted brain makes me automatically believe I'm somehow not good enough. I tend to get in these self-destructive thought cycles: Everyone else looks forward to these parties, while I dread them. They all have so much fun, while I count down the minutes until I can leave. This is my family. They provide unconditional love. Why can't I return that love? I'm just different than everyone. I must not be good enough.
New Healthy Thoughts: I'm sure having my closest cousin ask me to be in her wedding this weekend helped me feel "good enough" at this year's party; more importantly, however, it proved so many of my distorted thoughts wrong. By discovering a little self-acceptance and self-compassion, I am learning to be okay with who I am, which ultimately helps stop those self-destructive thought cycles.
4. Personality Differences and Various Interests
Old Distorted Thoughts: I have talked about this quite a bit in this blog. Over the past year or so, as I have been stripping away my eating disorder identity, I am learning how different I truly am from many of my family members. I can only handle talking about the Detroit Tigers for so long and I have never been a big fan of football or hunting. Unlike my brother, eventually I want to move away from my hometown, experience different cultures, and find my own perspective on social issues.
New Healthy Thoughts: The best part of all, over time, I have started to realize not only is it okay to be different, but many of my cousins see themselves as different, too. Those differences are what make our family dynamic so unique and wonderful. If other family members can be different and accepted, then for goodness sakes, so can I.
5. Comfort Zones
Old Distorted Thoughts: As crazy and distorted as this might sound, for the past several years I have always felt like my eating disorder has made those around me uncomfortable. I feel badly for making those closest to me feel like they needed to walk on egg shells around me to avoid saying something that might upset me.
New Healthy Thoughts: Again, with my own personal level of self-acceptance over my past, I feel like the more open others are to discuss certain things with me. I'm not saying everyone needs to be as open as I am about past struggles, but I do think there is a sense of freedom that comes along with letting go of the shame associated with a troubled past.
Words don't do justice to my level of excitement this morning. I might not have been 100% comfortable at my grandma's 93rd birthday party, but this year's level of comfort was far beyond anything I have ever experienced. I've always known the issue wasn't with my family members themselves; it was always in my own head. To think a lifetime of distorted thoughts have made noticeable strides in the right direction in just one year is huge. Wish me luck getting rid of this smile anytime soon.