"Sherri, why don't you wait by the car," my friend Heather suggested quietly, "this will not take much longer."
We were on our way to the airport after a five-day girls getaway in Palm Springs to watch the Paribas Open, a professional tennis tournament where all the big names compete. I knew we had an hour's drive to the Ontario airport, and already I felt we were at risk of missing our flight back to Portland. After five days, I felt jittery with a desperate need to be back in the comfort of my own surroundings. When it was suggested we stop at a Starbucks just off the highway, I calmly expressed my time concern, but in an attempt to "go with the flow," I left it at that. Of course, we ended up driving two miles to the slowest Starbucks EVER. As we waited for our order, I alternated between obsessively watching the time and giving the baristas a look of death. Pacing, pacing, pacing, feeling my face become flushed and my heartbeat echoing in my ears. Hold it together, Sherri, you have almost made it.
For many years it felt like "everyone" went to the Paribas Open. I peered enviously at social media as FB friends posted pics; cocktails by the pool, outdoor meals under twinkling lights, and courts adorned with players such as Williams, Rafa, Djokovich, and Hingis. I desperately wished I could be a part of such a fun adventure, but I knew my structured, rule-bound anorexic world would prevent me from ever being a part of such a trip.
When I did received an invitation to join a few tennis friends to Indian Wells, I was high off my successful girls' trip to Bend, and I responded quickly “YES" without thinking. I figured by the time the trip arrived, I would have six more months of recovery under my belt—a no brainer. Of course, as the trip approached, reality set in. This trip was going to test my recovery far more than my quick weekend getaways had. Although I was much more flexible around food, after seven months in treatment, I still struggled with two things; timing of my meals and sitting. Eating an early lunch or a late dinner continued to raise my anxiety, making my stomach tense and my heart race. making it difficult to focus on conversations. And I sucked at sitting still. Thirty minutes was my limit before my skin felt like it would peel off my body, my mind consumed with how I could get movement. I was aware of being fidgety and distracted. My body language signaling "distance from the tribe," as Kirsten put it. I so wanted to be a part of this tribe. Ann, Heather, and Joyce were some of the most thoughtful, smart, funny, adventurous women I knew. Over the past year, our friendship started on the court had progressed to fun outings and female bonding off the court. Just being around them brought out the authentic qualities I had buried inside of me. I felt more like my old fun Sherri self when I was with them.
But five days? Between flight times, match schedule, and the preferences of three other women, my need for structure, planning, exercise and vegetables would be tested like never before. I would have to work OT to keep my Anorexic Brain from taking over and revealing a side of me these women had not yet seen.
Long story short. If my recovery process was a marathon (and it felt like), then this trip was my Personal Best. In Palm Springs, I was able to push through the discomfort and achieve things I deemed impossible less than a year earlier. Most importantly, I spent five days connecting with three fantastic women: sharing laughs, struggles, cocktails, and sunscreen. As with the Bend trip, I enjoyed just "being." I never felt the need to share with them my battle with anorexia, nor did they ever seem to notice. Despite my freakout at Starbucks, it was by far the best girls trip I had been on. Ever.
Returning home from that trip, I was more confident than ever regarding my future in treatment. I had achieved my goal. My life was filled with a loving, supportive group of friends. I felt connected, no longer watching life from a isolated distance. Although physically in seven months I had only gained a little weight, emotionally, I felt as if I had gained fifty pounds. Life was good.
At least I felt it was good enough.
Late night meals. Hours sitting still. Leisurely walks.
The things I never thought were possible for me. With these women I found the courage to push through the discomfort and find fun, support, laughter and lifelong friends. (With my tribe, Joyce, Heather and Ann, Palm Springs 2017).