Written by: Gracie Mayer, Facebook manager and contributing writer at Unpolished Journey
When life hands you lemons…
Do you make the lemonade?
Or do you drown in the pitcher?
When life confronts us with struggles we have three options. We can let these struggles define us, destroy us, or strengthen us.
Will you let your struggle define you?
Or will you choose to be more.
More than an addiction.
More than an eating disorder.
More than depression.
More than anxiety.
More than an illness.
More than a loss.
More than a failure.
So often life hands us situations that baffle us. We shake our fist at our higher power exclaiming “Why me?” “Not NOW” and “What did I do to deserve this?!” The danger in these times of trial is the sometimes very tempting urge to give into these struggles.
We become our struggle.
Our struggle defines us.
Our struggle destroys us.
Suddenly we are nothing more than a shell of what we one were. Our soul is no longer leading and we confine our thoughts, actions, and dreams to the box drawn by our struggle. Our worlds shrink and our authentic selves shrink as well.
In the past weeks I have been thinking a lot about recovery vs. recovered. I have been reflecting on what it would be like to be recovered—not just in recovery, but recovered. What I would say, do and feel? What could I chase if I let go of the labels of my eating disorder? What kinds of authentic connections could I build? Where would I travel? What would I achieve if I refused to let my life slip into the role of a professional patient, a perpetual diagnosis stuck in a life defined by a disorder instead of allowing my authentic self to lead.
It was in this week that I was reflecting on my 7, almost 8-year battle with an eating disorder that I realized that I wanted to live a life defined by freedom. A life where my authentic self led. A life where I reclaimed myself. My eating disorder hijacked so many pieces of my soul and tried to stifle the light that came from authentic self. I wouldn’t trade the last 8 years because I have learned so much, grown so much and met so many beautiful souls. However, one of the most special gifts my eating disorder has given me is the chance to fight for the woman I know I am and to fight like hell to reclaim her. I have had the distinct privilege of having beautiful things that I love about myself stripped from my core and hijacked by a mental illness. I watched as some of my joy faded and I tried even harder to smile and cover up the joy I felt I was losing. I watched my zest for life fizzle. I watched my silly instincts to make a face at my friends or crack a joke become more strained and forced. And finally at a certain point I realized that I missed myself. I missed my core and I wanted her back. The cliché that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone really resonates with me because I didn’t know how much I loved the child within myself until I had stifled and starved her so much that she shrunk into almost non-existence.
In the past week I decided to notice moments when I truly felt like myself—moments where I got lost in the joy of living and was fully present in my authentic self. I noticed some of the moments when my authentic self was leading. I went to a bookstore with friends where we reconnected with the inner child and flipped through books cracking jokes and making faces. I realized that how deeply I value laughing from my belly. I realized how deeply I value laughing until I pee my pants—spare change of clothes or not. I went to work and busted out singing with a customer because…why not? I felt my inner child slowly creeping back into daily life…with urges to cartwheel, when I was cleaning my yoga studio, using a banana as a banana phone (don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about), dancing the cha cha slide with a random group of students at my school because no one wants to study for finals, and allowing myself to embrace the strength of my body instead of rejecting my strong body as a failure to follow my eating disordered thoughts.
There are still so many moments when I feel a need to prove myself. I feel a need to prove that I had struggled…and then when I get comments like: “wow, you look so different” or “oh my gosh, that was you in that picture?”. I still find it hard to let be, let go, let live, let flow. I still fight with my urge to let my struggle define who I am. But recently I am realizing that when I let my eating disorder define who I am, I also simultaneously agree to let it confine who I am.
I am still constantly in the process of reclaiming myself, but this is the also the exciting part of recovery. At times the challenge of reclaiming your authentic self can be daunting or frightening because our authentic selves have taken the back seat when being consumed with the struggles of life. We may have even believed that we could never be ourselves again…our eating disorder, addiction, illness, or anxiety had become our identity. But I assure you, they are not. You are more. Life has more. MAKE YOUR LEMONADE, SWIM OUT OF THAT PITCHER AND GRAB LIFE BY THE LEMONS.