This is my 100th blog post 🙂 Thank you to everyone who reads my posts, have commented, and encouraged me to keep this going. I am glad I am doing this.
Yesterday was my last day working with my middle school students. I cannot believe that it has already been a full trimester since I started working with them! When I walked into the classroom on the first day, I could tell that the students were wary of me being there, and nervous about having two teachers instead of just LP. Some of the students went to the elementary school that M works with so I did get some bonus points with those students 🙂 They were probably the students that warmed up to me the quickest.
At first, I was just a volunteer. I felt that way and so did the students. Also…I am pretty horrible when it comes to remembering names. And, I will admit it is pretty rough when you cannot remember the name of a kid who is misbehaving. Thankfully, the other students would help me by whispering a name to me if I asked them who someone was. Slowly, the students went from accepting me being there, to seeing me as their actual teacher, and then finally I formed great relationships with them that were fun and also had respect between us. I was unpaid and it was my choice to be there. I still worked hard like it was my job and they were in my classroom. Because, it really was my job. I had committed to taking care of those students and I could not just half ass my job!
Those students are amazing and it has been such a joy getting to see them grow and mature more. One student began the trimester being a little smart aleck. He would talk back to me and LP, ignore directions, and act like he thought he was superior to everyone else. Over the length of the trimester he has learned how to be more respectful, engage with the other students without being so combative, and we got to a place where my light but firm humor helped in stay in line. They cooked for the last time on Monday and one of my students was chopping up garlic like a pro. The first time we were working on our knife/chopping skills, the kid could barely hold the knife the correct way. His confidence in his abilities has grown so much and I love seeing him using his new skills. The class is named “Lifeskills” after all, haha.
At the end of class, two of my sweet students gave me cards and they made my heart melt. They are so sweet and made me so happy. One girl wrote, “I don’t know how you deal with us!” which made me laugh. She is a great kid. Being thanked felt good, but them writing and telling me that they are going to miss me felt best of all. One of my students would always say, “Hi Lily!” every time she walked into the classroom and truly seemed happy to see me. Even though I have had clear evidence, for a long time, that my students do appreciate me, my eating disorder lives to tell me something different. It tells me that I was not be enough for those students, that I failed, etc. However, I will use their adorable cards to remind myself that they truly did appreciate me and my work.
I do not think that the students realize how much they have done for me or taught me. They reminded me of the idea, “Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional.” They teased me when I did not know certain references they made and I teased them back when they did not know things I know about. Those kids brought more fun and lightheartedness into my light during a really difficult time where I was significantly struggling with my eating disorder. Although the class was for teaching the kids different skills, we spent the vast majority of the time focusing on cooking, and that ended up being a blessing and challenge to me. Part of my job was to teach these kids how cooking can be fun and that cooking is an art. I have been cooking since I was 10 years old. I got really into it and I spent some time interning in a restaurant. These days, I cannot even remember the last time I cooked something other than a piece of toast. Seriously.
I had many days where I just wanted to cry while the kids were cooking. Just the smell of the food was triggering and so hard to be around. However, seeing my students faces when they tried their food reminded me of how food is for enjoyment, not just a meal plan I hate. They offered me some of what they made in a kind and cute way. A seventh grader gave me one of his extra cupcakes, I had pasta again when I taught them how to make it by hand, and more foods that I have been scared to eat. Eating disorder thoughts still came into my head and it never became 100% easy, but it definitely helped me. Honestly, I feel a little nervous about not being in that environment anymore. Those kids gave me motivation to keep eating so I could be a good example to them. If I had a day where I restricted a lot, I could barely focus on the kids and I know I was not being the best teacher I should be on those days. I tried to make sure I had eaten so I could be there for my students. I tried my best to make them matter more to me than eating disorder thoughts.
I am still having a really challenging time when it comes to my eating disorder. It is so hard to fight the urges and the voices in my head. Other urges beyond restriction are also showing up. Some days are the kind of days where I just need to take things a nanosecond at a time. Other days are easier and my thoughts are not completely consumed with thoughts of weight, calories, food, my body, etc. and I can spend mental energy on things I truly care about deep down. Thank goodness I have AAC and BC who refuse to let me fall all the way into unhealthy behaviors and the bad thoughts. I am trying my best to believe that my life can be more than the pain I feel, the insecurities that plague me and keep me from living life, the anxiety that keeps me up at night, and that my whole life is not meant to be centered around an eating disorder.
“Recovery feels like shit. But so does my eating disorder. At least recovery gives me a fighting chance to someday be happy.” Right…? I sure do hope so.