Dear Younger Kristin,
There will be times in your life when you think things will never get better, but let me tell you that is will and it does. Your heart will be put through the wringer many times, but no matter how crinkled it gets, it still works.
Your childhood will be the best! Don't take it for granted. You are lucky enough to end up with four parents (step parents included) that love you so much. You will spend your carefree days riding your bike and playing with your friends. You have everything in the world that you ever asked for and more. Appreciate it and enjoy it. Give your step dad a break: store brand cheese and Kraft singles are literally the same thing so quit being a brat. You're lucky he stays around despite your brattiness. Always ask dad to play some basketball in the driveway even though you aren't very good and it makes you frustrated. It is the memory that matters, you don't have a career in bball anyway so just have fun. Thank mom for working so hard. You don't realize it right now, but the things she does as a single mom are mind blowing. Don't fight with your sister as much as you do. She loves you more than you know and will one day be your best, most loyal friend.
Don't spend so much time stressing over things in middle school. You won't even have any substantial memories of these three years anyway. You aren't the only girl that is experiencing a changing body. Everyone feels weird in their skin right now. One day you will learn that your brain has a way of making you feel like you're broken and wrong and everyone else is right, but it is lying. DO NOT GO ON A DIET. I repeat, DO NOT GO ON A DIET. You are a very physically active child and your body is doing what it needs to do right now, so don't punish it by packing peanuts in your lunch instead of the Doritos that your 12 year old soul really wants. You will drift apart from your elementary best friend. It hurts. I wish I could sugar coat it for you, but I can't. You will grieve the friendship, but you will also form new ones that you still have when you're an adult.
High school will be some of the best years but you wouldn't know based on your first day as a freshman. The anxiety you have the first few months of high school is very real. You're not just being a baby, it wasn't the right environment for you. You make the right decision to transfer to your dad's district. It will be one of the greatest decisions you make in your life. You meet two girls that will be your best friends beyond THS. You fall back in love with dancing and it becomes therapeutic for you. You have a talent for dancing and a hidden talent for choreography. Let that love consume you.
There aren't many things you will come to regret from your high school years. You will date a boy that makes you feel inadequate. He is WRONG. Don't listen to him. The first time he breaks your heart believe him and don't come back. He doesn't change, but you do. No boy is worth changing yourself for, ESPECIALLY him. If your heart tells you that you're not ready, believe it. You are a beautiful, smart, loving, and FUN girl. He is the only one that can't see that and appreciate it.
During high school you also develop your eating disorder. You had signs of it in middle school, but in high school is consumes your life. You will waste many days sleeping because you have no energy. You will skip lots of events because there will be food involved. Every mistake you make you will feel the need to punish yourself. This voice in your head will beat you up from head to toe 24/7. You believe it is normal, but it's not. You don't believe you have a problem, but you do. Hang tough, pretty girl because even that will get better.
Your amazing parents step in after graduation and save your life. You spend the next 8 weeks driving back and forth to Columbus every day for treatment. The first day you walk in thinking it is stupid and a waste of your time, but you will leave six hours later understanding the severity of the situation. The Center will become your safe place. A place where you dig up the darkest parts of yourself and learn to cope. You will cry, you will shake with fear, and you will heal. In the process of healing your mind, body, and soul, you will also make life long friendships. Your recovery sisters. It is a bond that is hard to describe. They understand you better than anyone else in the world.
You're going to fall in love with a boy that becomes your best friend. You connect with each other so easily. You will spend quite a few years with him before he pops the question. In that moment you feel like all your dreams are coming true. Well, buckle up girlfriend because they aren't. He will drop a bomb on you before your shiny diamond loses it sparkle. You believe that the power of love can conquer all. You do a hell of a job trying, but you learn the hard way that sometimes love isn't enough and that you can't fix someone that isn't ready to mend. You are embarrassed when you call off the engagement. Baby girl, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. You gave it your all and everyone is proud of you for walking away. For the first time you put yourself first. You feel like the world has just ended and there is no point in living anymore. Don't believe that dark thought, it is SO wrong. You will get through it. Your heart stops hurting and your face will smile again. Lean on your family and friends. Trust me, the best is yet to come.
Just as your heart is healing, it is getting ready to break again. Before you even have time to comprehend the situation, you will lose one of the biggest figures in your life. Losing your step dad is a major event that changes your life forever. It isn't something you could have seen coming. It happens so fast. It is going to feel like the ground has just been ripped out from under your feet. You will have that feeling again of the world coming to an end. The days will all blur together for a while. Through it you will become closer to your mom and sister than you ever imagined. You learn about the importance of living a life full of love and adventure the way he did. It will inspire you to be a better person and to make him proud. The hurt and loss doesn't go away. You will have many days years later when you just think of him and cry. But you will also have days when the sun is shining on you just right and it feels like he's there wrapping his arms around you.
One day you're going to go to a baseball game with your sister and friends and you're going to meet a boy that changes your life in an instant. His smile will make your heart melt. When he holds your hand you are going to feel like you just found your home. Within hours of knowing each other you are both going to feel this intense connection like you have known them your whole life. It feels like when you see someone for the first time after being apart for so long and missing them like crazy. Neither of you understand the feeling, but trust it and let your hearts lead the way. The idea of being apart is strangely painful. People are going to think you are crazy for moving as fast as you do with your relationship, but you prove them all wrong. Not only are you dating, but you are best friends. He is one of your biggest cheerleaders and loves you for who you are. He is patient with you during your ED meltdowns. He takes the lead on preparing food when you just can't. He will never ask you to change who you are. He makes all the bumpy roads you've traveled down before all worth it.
Your life isn't spared from heartache and pain, but it is blessed with an abundance of love and support that make all the hurt survivable. You accomplish amazing things in your life. You graduate college. You speak at a NEDA walk and bring people to tears. You advocate and educate others on eating disorders. You change the lives if the kids that walk into your classroom. You make amazing friendships. You learn from your mistakes and continue to grow as a person. You FINALLY become a Tennessee Volunteer even if it is through distance learning.
When you are feeling like the hurt won't go away, take a deep breath and keep pushing through. It gets easier. You are strong. You are brave. Your life is worth living no matter what the darkest parts of your brain think. Whatever you do, DON'T GIVE UP.
Because you didn't give up, today you are celebrating 11 years of recovery from your eating disorder. Happy Recovery Day!!
<3 Stay Strong and Beautiful