Realigning With Who I Am

Art by Victoria Patnaude

Art by Victoria Patnaude

By Victoria Patnaude, Guest Contributor

I began experiencing challenges with disordered eating when I was 14-years-old. Recurrent depressive episodes with self injurious behavior, generalized anxiety and social anxiety created a strong undertow which pulled me from my sense of self and connection to my values. I valued the arts more than anything, and found solace in the meditative practices of creation.

When I was 15, I began seeing a nutritionist because I had expressed to my mother that I was feeling concerned about my weight. The nutritionist recommended that I count calories and my obsession with numbers began. I developed anorexia nervosa when I was 16. The fog that had enveloped my mind was so dense, I felt like I was constantly dreaming. In the shower one evening, light headed, nauseous, with clumps of my hair ringing around the bathtub’s drain, I realized I was dying.

I must not die. I must not let this kill me.

I slowly began incorporating the foods I had feared, and while my eating disorder remained, I was beginning to experience some moments of clarity. This continued as the years went on, but my eating disorder transfigured, creating new rules.

I entered college and found the new environment exhilarating and frightening. A traumatic experience blindsided me during my first year of college, and shattered my hope. I developed bulimia nervosa and began having challenges with substances. I turned 20, and realized that I may not live to see 30. I entered a partial hospitalization program in the summer of 2010, which saved my life. I returned to college and found that my experiences in treatment were informative in striving toward normalcy, but in many ways I was stuck between my eating disorder and genuine recovery.

After I graduated, I moved into my first apartment and began working. The two years that followed were steeped in depression, anxiety, dissociation and suicidal ideation. However, those two years also provided unprecedented moments of generative growth for me artistically, as I began exploring yoga, dance, and somatic movement. I had glimpses of peace and stillness which provided me with inspiration to explore those practices more deeply.

I abruptly changed states for the first time in my life: a new city and my first apartment on my own. I was still experiencing challenges with depression, anxiety, dissociation, and remnants of my eating disorder, but I also felt ready to explore listening to my intuition. I began counseling, yoga, pilates, dance, aerial arts, contact improvisation, meditation, drawing and painting. I began striving for balance and ease. I began realigning with who I am, and realizing that that person is naturally calm, feels deeply, and has so much to provide to others. My recovery is a daily practice which has allowed me to become more myself.

Today, I keep trying.

Today, I’m allowing for peaceful space in my mind for hope to grow.

It’s possible.

Image.JPG

Victoria Patnaude is an artist living in Chicago. Her work primarily focuses on the subconscious, mental health, and personal narrative through mixed media and autobiographical comics. Her interests include movement, art, and decreasing the stigmatization surrounding mental illness. She currently works at a yoga studio. In her spare time, she enjoys drawing at cafes, practicing yoga, dancing, pilates, aerial silks, hula hooping, cooking, baking, and going on walks along Lake Michigan.