As I come up on the 365th day of taking and posting at least one photo of myself daily I begin to wonder what happens on day 366?  I’m not the only one wondering.  As the days dwindle on my project I’ve had the conversation with many friends about the same. The thing that surprises me most in each conversation is when someone tells me they will miss it.   For me, it’s become a habit that I will—conscientiously—have to break.  It will be a loss for me; I will grieve it.  I will also be relieved; I’m tired of my preferred angles and filters. I’m tired of the constant reminder of how often I wear certain t-shirts or of wondering why my hair line always looks like I could be a distant relative of a Klingon.

But the project was necessary.

About five years ago I did my first Project 365.  It was the same — a selfie a day for a year.  It wasn’t my original idea—I’m not that creative.  A friend had been doing it and I simply asked her about the experience when she was nearing its end.  She shared with me some of what she learned in doing the project. I took it on for myself.  At the time, I couldn’t look at photos of myself. I hated every single one and anytime someone put a picture of me on social media, I felt my anxiety skyrocket as I picked apart everything I hated when I saw it. In the little therapy I did around my eating disorder, I never dealt with self-image.  I understood the risk in a project like this one, but I went ahead. I learned a lot—mostly that my photos were not as hideous as I thought.  By the end, I could look at pictures of myself. I was less judgmental. I learned some lessons in creativity, and I rewarded myself with a new camera.

Last April I began another self-portrait Project 365.  I was struggling with a lot of things in my life and had just started to climb out of, arguably, the worst relapse I’d experienced since I had been diagnosed anorexic 11 years prior.   I’ve had many relapses over the years, but none while I was drinking.  Binge drinking doesn’t pair well with restrictive eating and exercise—at least not for long.  After about six weeks of self-deception and broken relationships later I realized what I had been doing.  It took me missing three days of lifting and being angry about that to come to terms with and begin the process, again, of self-repair.

Most damaged was my relationship with myself, though that reverberated through with the guy I was seeing at the time. Though I have since been honest with him about what was going on, it was too little too late and I accept that loss.  I did what I do when I’m broken… I write and I take photos.  Since I had turned the pen around on myself to work on memoirs, I decided I needed to also take another look at myself, literally.  I turned the camera around, too.  I started another Project 365.

As it comes to a close over the next several days, I am going to take some time to reflect, and write, more about some of the lessons that came with it.  What I know today is that I truly credit this time spent in helping me to find my voice again, to being stronger emotionally, and to really take a hard look and re-prioritize what’s important in my life and who I give energy to.  It hasn’t been easy.  My anxiety has found ways to twist me in new, and painful, ways. I’m learning to manage it. The project helped me be strong enough to ask for help.  I’m learning to be more vulnerable. It’s hard, it sucks, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.