National Eating Disorders Association
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Traveling, Healing, Learning

April Duckworth

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. But I was held prisoner by an eating disorder. Anorexia and bulimia told me over and over that I was neither able nor “allowed” to accomplish new goals or seek new adventures.  The intrusive voice of the eating disorder told me repeatedly that I was not good enough and that I had to follow the lies and “rules” it had created for me. That was not the life I desired. 

The eating disorder told me I could not travel, because that would most certainly be out of the “safe zone.” I would learn in recovery, this safe zone was anything but safe. To travel meant that I would not be able to control every single aspect of the day. However, while desperately trying to cling to control, I was totally out of control. My true voice was faint and weak. I had nearly lost my own thoughts and voice; I had nearly lost myself. 

Now, the topic of traveling comes to my mind often. It has become an aspect of my life since recovery, that is entirely different from the eating disorder—different in the best of ways. 

Two weeks ago, my fiancé 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 emotions. They are not clouded by the intrusive thoughts of what I will eat, or not eat. I am present. There is a distinct difference in feeling when I am in recovery, and not seeking a way to numb them. 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. My fiancé 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 pictures 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. I am awake. I am aware. I am healthy and deserving of love and compassion from myself.”

YOU are deserving of those things as well. 

April Duckworth is a teacher, designer of curriculum for art and music integration programs and published author. Recently, she became fundraising coordinator for an organization that is very dear to her heart. April hopes to share the message of recovery to all. April lives on the beach with her husband and best friend, where she continues to focus on her health, overall wellness, and her career path, which she finds incredibly rewarding.