There are about a million quotes and sayings out there that tell us to look on the bright side of every situation. Find the lesson in everything! You know them,
“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!”
“Everything happens for a reason…there is a lesson to be learned in everything that happens.:
“When it rains, look for the rainbows and when it’s dark, look for the stars.”
“Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows.”
“There are no accidents..”
“It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you handle it that matters.”
“Every day may not be good..but there is good in every day.”
“Find strength in pain.”
“When things are going bad that does not mean God has stopped doing good, it means he is shifting things around to get them in place for more good.”
I know that these quotes are meant to bring hope and encouragement, but as a person going through a seriously difficult life trial, I find them annoying and invalidating. Nothing is worse then going through an entire year of tribulation and having someone say, “Well, what do you think God is teaching you during this time?” or “You will look back some day and see why this happened.” ANNOYING!
I’ll say this though, while it is annoying, it’s kind of true….
When I began to focus on what I was learning during this difficult period of life, something in my heart and mind changed. I started to be grateful (gasp!) for this painful season, because I started to see the blessings and good that it was bringing to my life. When I asked God to reveal why the HECK I am going through this, I started to see the transformation in myself that I don’t think would have ever happened had I not traveled through this adversity. Does it make my situation all rainbows and butterflies? Nope. However it does give it purpose and perspective!
So, I’ve decided to use this blog to share some of the “Bright Side” of recovery! A few of the lessons I have learned and personal growths that I have made!
First and foremost, I have been given my life back. This seems so cheesy, but its SO true, both figuratively and literally. My health was in such a dire state when I entered treatment that I was one run and restricted meal away from a heart attack and death. It’s honestly scary to think about. I could have died had I not chosen to get help and go through recovery. I also say figuratively because when I was in the throws of my anorexia I was like a dead woman walking. I was foggy and numb. I didn’t feel much. I was insecure and my mind was consumed. I wasn’t LIVING life! I’m not 100% where I want to be yet, but I can honestly say I’m better then I was.
I’ve grown in compassion, empathy and I’m way less “judgey.” I’m not gunna lie…I may or may not have been a bit of a judgmental person before entering treatment. I held myself at such a high level of pride and perfection that I had to be humbled. My thought was, when something goes wrong I just suck it up, and so should you. Except, that’s not actually how it goes at all. There was one point in my treatment, about a year in, that I was finally given the go ahead to start taking walks. I immediately started walking two miles a day. I knew this was a bit much but I wanted SO badly to feel like myself. Next thing I know, I break my ankle. Tibia and fibula. To say I was devastated would be an understatement. I had no muscle, was overweight and now I have to hobble around on crutches. WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?! Well, whenever I see someone on crutches now I feel for them. I understand what it’s like to be on those wretched things. Another example is the many times I’ve been judged by my weight or asked if I was pregnant. Let me tell you, I will NEVER ask a woman if she is pregnant or does she want children and I will NEVER judge someones health based on their weight again. I now go through life aware of the pain that other people may not be speaking about and I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut and never assume anything! So many of us are walking around with silent hurts and struggles. We need to be kinder to one another. Life is hard!
I can eat! This is a love/hate one, but when I’m in a healthy mindset, it’s really good to eat. I can go out and eat the bread on the table and acknowledge it is actually amazing. I can stop at PotBelly on a long road trip because I’m hungry instead of eating lettuce or waiting the 6 hours until I get there. I can actually eat and taste the desserts that I make and enjoy cheesecake without a voice screaming at me to start running it off. I can say yes to a restaurant and not have to look up the menu for hours beforehand. I can just walk right in, look at the menu and pick something! It’s crazy! I still have moments where I freak out…but 60% of the time I can do it, and it feels free!
I’ve met amazing people and some of my relationships have grown incredibly strong. When you go through something this hard, you see who shows up for you. There have been a few people in my life that have 100% shown up. I am so grateful for them! I’ve met awesome woman that have recovered and who have been crucial to keeping me on track. The girls in my support group are friends I think I’ll have forever. I’ve learned that it’s ok to ask for support and reach out when I need a breathe of fresh air.
I have a sense of peace that I have never had before. I use to live in a constant state of stress and anxiety. After almost two years of therapy and a lot of time spent in the Word, I have a peace that I never thought was possible. I still care about things, and suffer from anxiety, but my ability to go with the flow, and accept what life brings has increased greatly. I’m taking more things in stride. I’ve realized that things happen when they need to and worrying about it gets me nowhere but crazy.
I will NEVER, ever diet again. I feel like I’m special because I understand this great secret of accepting my body for where it ends up after all of this and being ok with that instead of struggling for another 50 years to perfect it. I get to not buy another diet book or buy into another Facebook beach body ad! I get to enjoy all foods and listen to what my body needs. I've learned that health is important, not size. Even now, at my heaviest recovery weight, I will still never diet. It just isn't worth it!
I’ve discovered self care! AMEN TO THIS! I wrote a blog about this before, (You can find it here) so I won’t bore you with a re-cap, but this has been a true blessing. I actually take care of myself. I carve out the time to do things that bring me joy. It’s amazing!
My relationship with my heavenly Father is stronger then ever and my prayer life is something I can’t go a day without. I’ve leaned heavily on my faith during this time. God’s word and promises continue to bring me the encouragement and rest I need. God gave me the push I needed to enter treatment and He has continued to carry me through it.
I have a self validation and self respect that I have’t had in years. At some point I started finding my worth and validation in how others viewed me and in their opinions. Throughout recovery I have learned to turn to God, myself and a few trusted friends for that validation. I know how I feel and what I think and I don’t really need all of you to agree with me! (Look, I’m not some crazy person who doesn’t care about what anyone thinks, but it matters WAY less then it once did.) When I was consumed with how everyone else treated me and what they thought of me, I lost my self respect. I allowed people to take me for granted and treat me in a manner that is far below my worth. I've realized it is ok to set boundaries and say no and that I will NOT be treated disrespectfully. When someone hurt my feelings I would tell them, but when they didn’t care I would crumble into a puddle of pathetic-ness. Not anymore. I not value myself audit's a great feeling!
I now have healthy coping skills. It took me 32 years to understand that stuffing my feelings down and communicating poorly just isn’t a good idea. Who knew that you could be hurt by someone and allow yourself to feel the sadness instead of displacing it with starvation?! The knowledge that I have gained over the past year and half when it comes to communication, mental health, coping with stress, anxiety, relationships, hurts and disappointments is worth more then gold. Life hasn't stopped handing me lemons, (dang it!) but I can deal with it way more effectively then I ever have before.
I’m gaining my identity back. I lost myself. I know how and I know why and I know when, but not really. Just slowly over time. As my eating disorder grew, my identity got lost. Instead of being the bold, fun, strong, confident Sara that I once was, I slowly minimized myself to a pant size and a calorie count. I praised myself for going a day without eating and for losing a pound in six hours. My identity was my looks, my eating disorder and how people viewed me. This has been one of the BEST things about recovery. Although it’s been hard, I am slowly getting my identity back again. I’m Sara. A child of God. A woman with strong convictions and a strong faith. I’m creative and love photography! I’m bold and I actually have purpose now! It’s great!
Patience - I think I will never perfect this one..I mean…slow drivers and loud chewers I just will never be chill about…but I do have a new found patience that only came about by a glacial recovery process. For over a year I would set timelines for my recovery, and they would pass by in the blink of an eye with no change. After having full. on. breakdowns the first few times this happened, I realized I need to sit back and let my body do its thing. This is going to take time and I need to be patient about it. Since I’m still not perfect, I have a breakdown about once a week, but hey, that’s not too shabby when it use to be every day, at every meal, in front of every mirror! Winning!
Recovery is definitely a very long and hard process and a lot of times it feels like the bad is outweighing the good. When I concentrate on how long this is taking, my weight or how weak I am I get discouraged FAST, but when I sit back and think about the good that is coming out of this process it’s actually amazing! I’ll take the heavier, more patient, compassionate and healthy Sara any day over the perfectly thin, insecure and frantic Sara I use to be. I am still on my journey and have days where I’m not as confident in this as I should be, but it’s a process. I’m being refined. I had to be knocked down to be built back up to a better, stronger me. I'm a little over half way through the recovery process. If this much has changed in a year and a half, watch out! In another year and a half I'll be unstoppable!
- Sara -