Not what I thought it would be

So I have just about finished my first full day as a 30-year-old, and all I can think is: this is not what I thought my life would look like. When I was in my teens, before the ED struck, I was set on being a scientist. I was going to go to college, then get my PhD, do a post-doc, be a research scientist, etc. I thought eating disorders were for vain, vapid idiots (to be really honest), and I loved my independence and never thought that I would return home. I never conceived of myself as a writer.

Now that I'm looking back at this past decade, I realize that my expectations were almost hilariously ironic. The love of science and All Things Geeky hasn't left me, but I don't have a PhD, am not doing research, have learned a heck of a lot about eating disorders, and think of myself as a writer almost as much as I think of myself as a scientist. And I can tell you that for sure--for sure--I never thought I would be living with my parents, trying to be a freelance writer.

Sometimes when I think back to what I had expected from my life, I get bitter and angry. One of my therapists (from my time at Hopkins) told me I should get angry at the eating disorder, at the illness that stole so much from me. Despite knowing that I did not choose anorexia, that I could not have chosen anorexia, I still direct that anger inwards at my own stupidity for thinking not eating would make me feel better. The problem wasn't that not eating didn't make me feel better; the problem was that it did. And I didn't realize that I would get stuck.

Despite all this, the eating disorder stripped me of all previous expectations of what my life would look like and gave me the freedom to reinvent myself and create a meaningful life. Losing everything has given me the courage to risk everything to follow my dream.

I am committing myself to freelancing full-time over the next year to see if making a living as a freelance science writer is a viable option for me. I could fail miserably, and I'm going into this experiment knowing full well that this is a possibility. The pre-anorexia Carrie never would have done anything if she knew she might fail. It's why I didn't apply to super-competitive colleges in high school--I didn't want to not get in or, just as bad, get in and be a little fish in a pond full of sharks. So I played it safe.

Being stripped of everything I had anticipated in my life has ultimately given me the courage to put it all on the line. Nothing in my life right now is what I thought it would be so it's not like I'm really losing anything. I still feel bitterness and regret towards what might have been. I still am trying to let go of old goals and ambitions, even as I develop new ones.

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Emily said...

I have definitely felt the 'What have I got to lose?' sentiment as I pursue my dreams. ED has taken so much from me, which is a horrible feeling. The only feeling that could be worse would be allowing ED to continue to prevent me from following my dreams. I commend you for committing to take this risk. No matter what happens, you won't regret it!


Cathy (UK) said...

As is often the case I can identify with such a lot of what you have written in this post...

AN is NOT a lifestyle choice, despite all the garbage written by pro-anorexics and 'wannarexics'. It has nothing to do with vanity, even though many people with AN have fat phobia or BDD. And, unfortunately, during the early stages of the illness not eating (etc.) DOES make the person feel better - and so they stick with the behaviours.

Carrie, I am 15 years older than you. I often wonder how my life would have panned out had I not developed AN. Quite honestly, I don't know that it would have been 'perfect', because had I not developed AN I would still have had anxiety, OCD, depression, perfectionism and obsessive thinking. All these things were with me pre-AN and they remain post-AN.

I did do a PhD and postdoctoral research (Biomedical sciences), but that doesn't mean I am successful in life. I actually got steadily sicker over the years, while pursuing my goals and immersing myself in 'geekdom'. As a very underweight, restricting anorexic I had that 'look' about me (skeletal) which people (correctly) interpreted as "leave me alone" and "don't mention my thinness". I was left untreated for a number years; that is, until I was almost dead and unable to get out of bed, let alone work.

My biggest regret now, in my mid 40s, is that I didn't accept treatment (or respond effectively to the treatment I was given) in my teens, 20s and 30s. I would urge anyone who reads this who believes that they can live a happy and successful life while remaining anorexic that this belief is nonsense. The sooner and the more fully a person recovers from AN, the better.

I am 100% certain that you will be (in fact you already are..) a successful scince writer.

Flannery said...

"I still feel bitterness and regret towards what might have been. I still am trying to let go of old goals and ambitions, even as I develop new ones."

I am so there right now. I never did what I wanted, because ED never let me figure out what that was. I always did what other people told me I should like to do, and honestly believed that that was my choice. But now, I can feel myself hovering, about to change directions and take the path that Real Flannery knew she wanted to take all along. It might take a while, but I can feel the change coming.

Feels good.

Tiptoe said...

Great post, Carrie. I so resonate a lot with what you have written.

When I reconnected with old high school friends via facebook, so many asked them if I had become a dr. It was a bit crushing since I had wanted that but just wasn't able to fully pursue due to my own mental state at the time. So naturally, many of them were surprised I went a completely different direction with dogs.

At times, I still feel guilt and sadness over it, but I'm learning to let go of what could have been to be what I am now.

I know for sure you will be successful at science writing or whatever it is you decide to pursue. That is just your nature, Carrie.

Angela Elain Gambrel said...

This post really spoke to me. I'm glad you are focusing on being freelance writer and not using anorexia as a fall-back plan.

Stay well!


Charlotte UK said...

Carrie darling

As you know I am not an and do not suffer from any sort of ed and I have loads of regrets of stuff I didn't do in my 20's but life has panned out well and at 45 I wouldn't change my life for anything.

However, at 30 there was loads of stuff I wanted and felt I needed to make me a "better" person in the eyes of the world. I have since learnt that being happy with who I am and what I have makes me a "better" person.

Dont look back - look forward because you can't change the past but you can shape your future.

Some of the greatest "successes" in life didn't know what they wanted to do for a long time.


Anonymous said...


Yes, yes, yes! I love to hear someone say what you have just said! And, it will turn out exactly as it is supposed to turn out. It will be awesome because you are choosing to show up in the world in an awesome way.

I'm proud of you!

- Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

Anonymous said...

Trying it seems like the best idea! I think ED in a way has made me more driven, because I'm so conscious of it ruling my choices. So, I understand what you are saying. It may be for different reasons that ED drives us, but still relatable!

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Yep, sounds like life... not what you expected, the thing that strips you down to your bare self. But you are alive and you are kicking, so happy birthday and go for it! And thank you for your posts, from which I always learn something.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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