When I was a child, my family and I would make the 12-hour car ride to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where we would stay for about one week, enjoying the refreshing and relaxing atmosphere of summer vacation. Although these vacations stopped long ago, I reminisce on them fondly and hope to revive them sometime in my future, whether that be with my current family or with my future family.
What my parents did not notice at the time was that eight-year-old me was using Myrtle Beach as a means to find myself. There would be times when I would float in the lazy river, late at night, thinking about the world around me, thinking about my family, thinking about school and my friends and what the future held. There would be times when I would sit in one of the compartments of a playground in the back of our hotel, right on the beach, and allow my imagination to roam free, to transport me to a place where I would be at my happiest and wisest, at my most blissful and successful. There would be times when I would go to the beach very early in the morning to meet the sunrise and enjoy the warm rays caressing a cheek that had not yet seen suffering or felt pain. I look back on all of this and wish that I could have it once more.
It seems that, at eight-years-old, I knew what I needed to do to feel content with myself and at peace with my circumstances, for I knew the importance of grounding myself – finding the places that made me feel safe and alive and happy. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was that place for me: the nighttime visits to the hotel playground, the sunrise walks on the beach, all made me feel at peace, for I knew that even though I was alone in those moments – yes, I very much enjoyed spending time by myself, introspecting on my young life –, I had people right by my side whenever I needed them there. My parents were just inside the hotel room. Our family friends were in the lazy river nearby. My baby sister was with my grandmother, both of whom rocked each other to sleep.
I found my place in the world at eight-years-old – a place that encompassed my greatest memories, adventures and discoveries and made me the happiest I had ever been. Since that time, however, that happiness had slowly gone away. I lost sight of the places and spaces that once grounded me and made me feel whole.
My family and I stopped going to Myrtle Beach when I was thirteen-years-old. A year later, I developed anorexia nervosa, followed by bouts of bulimia and serious cases of clinical depression, anxiety, disassociations and suicidal ideations. My high school years were non-existent, spent predominantly in treatment facilities, hospitals and within the four walls of my bedroom – at the time which felt like a protective coating on my bruised soul, continuously ripped apart by the outside world. I struggled with my illnesses for over five years and am still struggling with them today.
Yet, struggling with them today is not the same as it was in high school. This time around, as I undergo my second recovery from anorexia and restrictive eating, I am approaching my journey through an entirely different lens: the lens of self-discovery, challenge and embracement of everything that this beautiful world has to offer me.
One of the greatest things that I hope to find as I recover today and work towards finding the inner happiness and peace I lost many years ago is a place, a space, even a person that will ground me and make me feel safe and OK with myself. Whatever this grounding force will be, I know that it will feel much like Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, felt: completing.
Everyone deserves to have a place in their life that he or she can always turn to in times of stress and turmoil, fear and discomfort, even happiness and celebration – a place that will make the chaos and unpredictability of the world feel natural and safe. This place will bring happiness. It will bring ease and peace. It will be eye-opening and uplifting. It will make a person feel the feelings that will warm the heart and gently caress the soul. This place will be beautiful, and within it, everything will make sense.
I will continue looking for my place in this world, and I encourage you to do the same. Perhaps, a return to Myrtle Beach may be useful. Or, perhaps, the place I have been looking for has been in front of me all along, and I just have not been able to see it. Regardless, though, I know that once I find this place, everything will make sense. It will be just another source of power, safety and happiness that I need in order to not only continue on my recovery and building the life I envision for myself, but also to empower others in finding their grounding space so that they too can experience contentment, safety and happiness. Simply put, a life without one’s own space is no life at all.