Internal satisfaction vs. external recognition – an old journal entry.
Lately, I am running out of enthusiasm in writing about my experience with anorexia - frustrating, and same time liberating. In recovery, you long for the day where you can no longer relate to the illness; at least I do. While aware that it’s a matter of years, I know it will ultimately happen. I’ve been pretty clear that I don’t support the idea of remission; I’m an advocate of full recovery. Maybe it’s my recollection of life without anorexia that allows me to envision a return to an ED free context. Maybe it’s my enduring positive mindset. But, on top of achieving that level of recovery, I also believe that full recovery holds ongoing personal growth.
Going through and outliving an experience this challenging, it’s unconceivable I approach life under past lenses. I think that coming head to head with suffering and loss, you gain an appreciation of life that charges you with a firing desire to brave out all future challenges that come your way, finding an exciting ambition to develop into a better version of yourself, each day.
During recovery, as I found rising joy in writing, I also started dreaming of a more creative career, composing for various publications, contributing to the work of different ED organizations, collaborating with sufferers, even developing a personal blog. All my ideas came in the light of a deep desire to help others, who currently find themselves in the depth of mental illness, be it anorexia or any condition pertaining to mental health. Hoping that it comes as a form of support to some, I wanted to expose my story, propelling our human ability to heal ourselves. We possess ultimate control over our mind and with adequate knowledge, patience through perseverance and most importantly belief, we can eradicate any roadblock, creating the future we always envisioned.
I found that searching for purpose in my illness, my healing, or my journey was an effective means to an end: recovery. I longed for my “old life” to resume, and I had to come quite far in the process for the following to hit me. Finding meaning didn’t entail discovering that one thing to devote myself to, dropping everything to fully adopt and pursue this greater cause. Finding meaning didn’t entail a full “makeover”. Finding meaning simply meant uncovering my values and gaining confidence to live by them, to be authentic. Six months into recovery, I noticed my passion for writing, connecting with, and helping others. But twelve months in, I realized this call isn’t mutually exclusive with my “old life”.
I always went back and forth between the feelings I gained from internal satisfaction, and the pleasure I found with external recognition. After all, I wasn’t a high achiever just to please my parents, or impress my peers. I personally thrive in my titles and accomplishments. But writing through recovery and envisioning myself as someone who can help others in their journey brought me inner happiness. It made me smile and I was continuously inspired. I was excited to wake up in the morning to go write, I was eager to educate myself about the field, I was reading books in between subway stops, I was interested in hearing other peoples’ journeys, methods of recovery, new passions and professional opinions. I was taking small steps in this direction I dreamed of.
But my biggest realization was yet to come. Indeed, I can nurture my internal satisfaction, all while continuing to build on that external recognition. I can reestablish my old self, whilst living for my true passions: those things closest to my heart. When it came to deciding if I’d rather get back into the world to pursue those matters that bring me internal satisfaction, versus moving on past recovery, to pursue goals that will foster external recognition, why choose when I can have both.
Getting anorexia was like breaking something valuable, working hard to re-create it, and, through the process, ending up with an improved result. In that sense, all pain, loss, defeat or suffering, although undesirable, can end up a blessing.