As a child, the first words used to describe me were always "outgoing" or "talkative". I loved being known as the funny friend, even when it got me in trouble. It was nice to be known as someone who could make other people smile.
When I took the Myers-Briggs test my sophomore year in college, I scored as an Extrovert. No surprises there; I loved talking to new people, going to parties, etc. Making friends in new environments was never something that scared me. Years of theatre performances and experience on improv teams made me feel confident speaking in public and thinking on my feet.
As my sophomore year continued, my eating patterns took a turn for the worse. Not only did I distance myself from friends, family, and social situations altogether, but I lost my outgoing personality. If you've experienced any type of disordered eating past, you can probably relate. I ate most meals alone because it was comfortable, and giving the excuses of being too tired or having too much homework were all too easy to spew out. Who cares if I don't have any friends so long as I can eat my "safe" foods?
This past summer, I had an internship away from home for the first time. Living alone didn't scare me in the slightest; I had the freedom to cook my food to my liking, to eat when I wanted, to go about my life in whatever routine I pleased. It was safe and it was easy. I didn't keep food in the apartment that would stress me out and no one could question my eating habits. I was constantly alone yet I was never lonely. This was the dream...right?
I moved into an apartment on campus this year with three of my teammates. Despite my excitement to live with my closest friends, and to have a kitchen to cook all the meals I could never make in a dorm room, I was terrified. This would be the first time that I would have to challenge myself and to let other people into such a private part of my life. I've never been someone to advocate stepping outside of your comfort zone. Why would I step out of it? It's comfortable here, duh.
In the last month I have realized how much I missed out on over the last few years. Having a social atmosphere at my fingertips has reminded me how much I enjoy spending time with others. Instead of fighting with myself and forcing myself to enjoy being introverted, I am slowly remembering who I was before the disorder. Sure, I still love to have my alone time, but it feels wonderful to know that spending time with others isn't as scary as I thought, and that it can be much more special to have an unplanned or "scary" meal with them than it is to eat safer foods in solitude. I wouldn't say that I'm welcoming this new territory yet with outstretched arms, but uncrossing my arms and loosening a fist is good enough for now.