Sunny Saturday: Fun....What is That?

“Look at me!
Look at me!
Look at me NOW!
It is fun to have fun
But you have to know how.” 
 Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

I am trying to incorporate something new into my life, something that I pushed away for years and almost forgot about, something I denied myself of partaking in and vowed to never do it again. It is called having fun. Strange concept, isn’t it?

Fun…what does it mean? In the midst of the eating disorder I forgot that word. Between constant appointments, being in treatment, and living with the anorexia 24/7, there was no time for such nonsense. I wasn’t allowed to have true fun with the anorexia. If I did, it was with strings attached. The anorexia had a motive behind it. I wasn’t on the trampoline for fun but to burn calories. I wasn’t playing basketball for fun but to work off my dinner. I wasn’t watching a show for fun but to compare myself to the people on it. I wasn’t trying on clothes for fun but so I’d have access to a full length mirror to scrutinize my body. The anorexia had its own idea of fun-taunting me, obsessing, walking aimlessly through food stores reading all the nutrition labels, organizing food, measuring my body, creating new rituals, obsessively taking pictures of my body, staring at my reflection for hours. Fun was sitting alone in my room with my laptop making up calorie and time spreadsheets, composing fake shopping lists, calculating my menus and when I would run out of food to have to go shopping. Fun was spending eight hours with my granola bar eating it in specific time increments and in an organized pattern. Fun meant mornings with my scale, weighing and reweighing over and over, body checking to ensure nothing changed overnight for hours. Fun meant organizing my food, taking inventory, obsessively measuring out all of it.  This brought excitement to the anorexia at the expense of my happiness.

Even when I accepted recovery, I still was at a standstill with this fun concept. I felt I needed to devote all my time and energy to the process. I could not focus on anything but recovery. It wasn’t until it was pointed out to me that part of recovery was actually to have fun that I started to apply it. Without fun, recovery would seem like a chore, just one exhausting moment after the other. It would not be an enjoyable process. It would be hard to maintain and commit to if there was no joy in it.

Healing would come through the laughter and joy I was engaging in. Having fun would save my life. By accepting this idea, I was opening myself up to actually having real fun, to laughing, to letting loose and being silly, to do things without worrying what others thought of me. I could have fun with no strings attached, nobody dictating what that would entail. There I was, committing myself to fun for recovery but having no idea how to do it. Not only did I not know what to do but I feared how I would look having fun.

I began by literally prescribing myself fun in small increments. It began by watching a funny TV show and doing nothing at all while watching it. I had to fully be engaged. I chose The Big Bang Theory. It was the first time I could remember literally laughing out loud for almost 30 minutes straight. I became addicted to the laughter after that. I went through the guide on my TV looking for every time it would be on and recorded all the episodes. I could get used to this fun idea. I just had to get past the anxious feeling that arose about feeling this good and enjoying life. I didn’t feel like I was being me. Me laughing felt like I was being fake. What I realized was that the anxiety wasn’t from me feeling like I was being an imposter but because feeling so jovial was unfamiliar. Being with the anorexia so long lead me to the point that feeling good felt abnormal. I became accustomed to the sadness and even though it was destructive to me, it felt safe and comforting. I had to be willing to feel uncomfortable in order to recover and that meant being happy doing fun things. 

I found that I wanted to partake in bigger and more spontaneous moments of fun. I wanted to live with abandon to fun. I wanted to completely surrender to the moment and not care about anything else or what anyone else thought. I wanted to act for me and my joy. I wanted to take ownership of my life and what I did. I no longer wanted to act based on expectations or what I believe people thought was acceptable. If I want to act silly and let loose, I would. I always go back to this one moment where I completely let go, even before my commitment to recovery that I wanted to base future exciting behavior on. On a trip to Disney World I found myself standing in the front of a restaurant doing the YMCA in front of tens of people eating their lunch. I saw our waiter motion for my friends and me to join him and I literally jumped at the chance. I think my friends were in shock never having seen that side of me before, and I even shocked myself witnessing the real me coming out. I figured though you only live once, and I am never going to see these people again so why not? By losing all insecurities and fear, I was gaining the chance to live in the moment and have genuine fun. To this day, it is still one of the most fun moments in my life where I can remember being truly happy and carefree and when the anorexia had no say in that happening. I craved more moments like that and have since vowed to make them happen. With so much more freedom now from the chains of the anorexia putting restrictions and limitations on me, nothing was no longer impossible to do. It’s not uncommon now to see me dancing around my kitchen, making up words to a song, cracking jokes, doing something silly in the grocery store with my mom. It brought me even more happiness to be putting something silly into the world that wasn’t there before, to be making the world a brighter place.

What I noticed too was that being in recovery opened my eyes to the amount of fun that does exist in all we encounter. Fun came from me discovering what I enjoyed as far as hobbies and interests and pursuing those. I started writing more and talking with friends on a daily basis and going for walks. I have learned to find enjoyment in everything I do. Cleaning my bathroom, doing my laundry, organizing my closet all can be fun. It’s all about my attitude. I discovered as well while in my state of seeking out fun how much it is a necessity to the world. I saw more entrapment of others, more people in dire need of fun and laughter. I found that not only could I use my fun for my benefit but to help others as well and set them free. My hope was that people would see my joy in living and how beautiful my life was becoming through allowing myself to have fun and not care what others thought of my silliness and want to have some of it too. My hope was that my fun would find a way of multiplying. I knew that it was when I surrounded myself with people who knew happiness, it became easier for me to engage in fun and silence the thoughts of the anorexia telling me otherwise. Having been the recipient of that and knowing what life was like on the other side trapped in pain, I wanted to evolve into one of those people breeding fun. I hope I have been able to do that. I want to be known for my jovial, lighthearted, happy demeanor that people want to be around, not for the stoic, vacant, depressed attitude the anorexia forced me to adopt. Fun, I have discovered as I include more of it in my life, is authentic Jenna. Fun has brought me out from hiding and saved me by helping me to fall in love with life, by making it truly something beautiful.

Love, light and bravery, J.L.