It was the perfect Christmas – I began the season at a party with my dear friends, took advantage of my puppy’s first Christmas by dressing him in all the festive outfits, had the perfectly accessorized outfit for every occasion, received my dream shoes, and finished the holiday season by jetting off to NYC just in time to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree before it was taken down for the year. Truth is it wasn’t perfect. It was terrible, but it looked perfect. Behind the scenes of my Instagram perfect holiday, I was deeply struggling with an eating disorder, hating myself every second of the season, and dealing with family drama because whose family doesn’t have drama over the holidays.
I am fully recovered and now work in the mental health field, but I still have to remind myself that my life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. When I was entrenched in my eating disorder, I consistently put on the front that everything was perfect – then maybe no one would know I’m struggling, or better yet, maybe acting like everything was fine would somehow fix my problems (news flash, it didn’t). I would take 100 photos and hope that maybe one was “perfect” enough for me to post on social media, with some very clever thought-out caption of course.
During my struggle, my brain was held hostage by the eating disorder, if anything happened that didn’t line up with my eating disorder and putting on the picture-perfect front, I would lose it, and the holidays were no exception. I would have a meltdown over the slightest things; I ran out of the transparent tape and had to wrap presents with the opaque tape – instant breakdown. I spilled on my new shirt – another meltdown. My eating disorder stole my joy every single day, and it didn’t take a break for Christmas.
I am finally to the place where I can enjoy the holidays, as chaotic and non-picture perfect as they may be. I can experience joy again, and that joy comes from being my real and authentic self, not some made up version that society tells me to be. This year I encourage you to find joy and be present. Instead of spending hours making sure each bow on every package is perfect, maybe spend the time writing cards to people you love. Trade in the time spent on trying to get the perfect photo for creating memories that you’ll cherish. And remember, most people’s holidays look much more like Christmas Vacation than whatever photoshopped image they are posting on social media.
Amy Sullivan is currently in graduate school for clinical mental health counseling, serves as the Southern Smash Coordinator for The Alliance and runs her initiative JOY’d. She is also a dog mom to the worst behaved chihuahua in the world and Auntie Amy to the most adorable little girl and baby boy. You can follow Amy’s recovery journey here: https://www.instagram.com/joyoveryourdestination/