Alex shares her thoughts in the run up to her graduation…
As I write this blog post, I’m at a train station. I wanted to write it here because train stations have always fascinated me. I enjoy people-watching, especially at airports and stations where people are often saying goodbyes. They are places where endings are happening all around, and I find a lot of beauty in it because endings can be such meaningful things.
But aside from their meaning, endings are filled to the brim with feelings. Fear, happiness, excitement, sadness, anger and whatever else are all feelings, that need to be felt to move through the ending process. It can be hard to face up to the feelings and fears associated with an ending. As Elizabeth Gilbert wrote aptly in Eat, Pray, Love:
“I didn’t want to destroy anything or anybody. I just wanted to slip quietly out the back door, without causing any fuss or consequences, and then not stop running until I reached Greenland.”
It can be especially hard for people with eating disorder, where the eating disorder usually functions to avoid feelings. Problems which can come up include avoiding or delaying the ending, not giving the other person a voice and ending without closure. But these kinds of endings are unsatisfying and often leave us with ‘what if?’ questions, with unspoken words and feelings.
So what would a healthy ending look like?
When my ending at The Recover Clinic started to approach, my feelings towards endings came up. I wanted to cut off and run, but with the help of my therapist these were addressed and I began to learn what I needed for my ending to be healthy and meaningful. Here’s what I discovered:
- Healthy endings require time
This gives you time to become aware of all your feelings around an ending and validate them. This time also gives other people the opportunity to discover their own feelings. In practical terms, this means giving notice to people involved if you are leaving somewhere (for example a job), and journalling or painting to discover your feelings can help. This was an image I painted to represent my feelings about leaving the clinic:
- Expressing feelings is important
Once you know how you feel, you can reflect on your feelings and decide how, whether and when to express them. Expressing our feelings and getting vulnerable can enable us to connect with others on an emotionally intimate level and offer us closure. When leaving a job, for example, you may wish to express disappointment at not doing something you wanted to during your time working with the company (whether it was relevant to your reasons for leaving or not). This offers you closure as your boss might give a reason which will stop your mind’s niggling questions later.
- Create meaning in endings
Endings can be great phases of growth – we learn a lot and make choices to lead us to further places. Therefore they can be really meaningful, and focusing on creating meaning in an ending can help. My personal favourite method of creating meaning is to use transitional objects. Whether literal (a name badge from a job) or metaphorical (a rock representing growth experienced), my way is to collect objects and put them in a hand-made box. My box for clinic includes a colouring page, stickers, self care cards and more meaningful things. Then when I think back to clinic I can look inside the box to remind myself of how meaningful it and my ending there was.