It was Dr. Seuss’ birthday this past Monday, and children far and wide celebrated by reading The Cat in the Hat, The Lorax, and other classics by the talented author. Like many kids, I grew up with the whimsical words of Dr. Seuss. But, like many adults, I have developed a much broader appreciation for them as I have grown older. In the last couple of weeks, one of Dr. Seuss’ quotes in particular has stuck with me.
Before my experience with an eating disorder, this quote was nice in theory, but I could not really apply it to my life. I didn’t know who I was, so I didn’t know how to be that person. I was so focused on my need to lose weight that I invested very little time in discovering my goals, passions, and even personality. I lived my life in a way that best accommodated others; I made decisions based not on what appealed most to me, but on what I felt I should do to be accepted.
The ultimate manifestation of this attitude was in my quest to lose weight. I thought that I would surely be happy if I lost weight. I believed that all of my hopes and dreams would become clear to me if I could just achieve this one goal. I did achieve that goal, but the unfortunate result was that I had no idea who I was when I started working on recovery. The parts of my personality that made me unique had been suppressed by my disorder, and getting them back has required a good deal of hard work. I have needed to learn to say no to things when I don’t want to do them, to act in my own best interests instead of endlessly striving to appease others. These concepts have been foreign to me for the majority of my life, but I am getting better at them with time.
The thing that I have found in recovery is that the people in our lives who love us only want us to be happy. That sounds cliche, but it is the absolute truth. When I first moved home to work on recovery, I felt as though I was letting everybody down. The reality was that the people in my life came together to help me do what I needed to do for my health, and that was an incredible gift. When I decided to move to Portland instead of Chicago, I felt like a flake for changing my mind and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had to follow through with my plans simply because I had made them, whether or not they felt right. And, this past week, I made yet another decision that is in my own best interest despite feelings of failure and flakiness.
I am still moving to Portland, and still incredibly excited and eager to do so, but I realized that my timeline for moving there did not make a whole lot of sense. I need to be in a wedding in Chicago in May, and I would like to spend at least a week in the midwest to visit all of my college friends while I am there. That would be difficult to do if I have just relocated to a new city, and I know that it would cause unnecessary stress in my life. My brother and his fiancée will also be home for an engagement party sometime in the early summer, and I would love to be able to celebrate with them. Additionally, I have been enjoying my coworkers and spending more time with them outside of work, which has helped me find motivation for recovery while still living and working here. Lastly, and most importantly, I do not want to rush through the recovery process. I want my recovery to be strong and lasting so that I am able to help others, and I have found an exceptional therapist who has made all of my progress possible thus far. I want to move only when I feel as though the time is right in recovery, and my timeline for moving felt like it was rushed.
When I first entertained the thought of delaying my move, I felt like a failure. What will people think? I thought that everybody would see me as a loser for staying home longer. I felt like I needed to just stick with my original plan so that people could see that I could follow through on things. After some reflection, I realized that I have done the hardest thing that I could possibly do over the last year and a half that I have lived at home; I have survived. I have clawed my way out of the deep, painful pit of anorexia. While others may not be able to see that, I know the hard work that I have been doing. It has been harder than graduating college and harder than finding a good job. It is the hardest thing that I have ever done. As long as I know that and can feel proud of the work that I have done, it truly does not matter what others may or may not think.
Once I decided to advocate for myself and delay my move, I was pleasantly surprised by the reactions of the people in my life. My boss and coworkers were delighted. My parents were supportive and loving. My friends were excited for me. It became clear to me that the people in my life who love and value me only want me to be happy. I am my own worst critic, and if I can accept myself, others will certainly follow suit.
Plans change, and the change of plans does not indicate failure. Each of us can only make the decisions that feel best for us at the time, and the people in our lives who matter will accept us and our choices if these choices are allowing us to live full, happy lives. Truly, anybody who will not is not worth our time.
Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud today! I hope the rest of your Thursday is pleasant and warm.