This current season has provided an opportunity to pause and reflect on what I have learnt in recovery. The journey hasn’t been easy, but I have come to appreciate all the victories, and am gradually understanding that mistakes are not a bad thing, but a way that we learn and grow into our most authentic selves. Sometimes the rhythms of the day have been more peaceful, like ripples in the ocean as I have learnt to give myself grace, accepting myself and being proud of the person I am becoming. Other times the waves have been mighty, the chaos making it difficult to consciously listen and respond to what I need. I have acknowledged that there is no controlling the storms of life, just learning to ride the waves, and trusting the rhythm of each day. Here I have shared some lessons that have helped me to grow and thrive, in the hope that it will inspire you to make your own list, and celebrate and be proud of all that you have achieved.
- Comparison overlooks a story
When we begin to compare aspects of our own lives to how we perceive others, we often approach this without the full knowledge of the truth, making judgements only from what we can see. It is important to remember that when we measure ourselves up to another person, we are unaware of whether they have a healthy mindset, where their heart is and we cannot know the current season of their story. Everyone we see, whether we speak to them in person everyday or follow their presence online, is at a different stage in their life journey, and what may work for them right now, may not work for you and that’s OKAY. Rather than focusing so intently on what we think others are doing, it can be so helpful and refreshing to just decide to focus on what works for us and how we can best help ourselves. I promise you this isn’t selfish, it’s the kindest and wisest thing you can possibly do.
- Keep communicating
Communication is something that I have always struggled with. Sometimes the thought of telling someone how I truly feel makes me so uncomfortable, that I just feel it would be best for everyone if I kept things to myself. But whilst it may feel uncomfortable and awkward at first, I always end up feeling so much more free knowing that I have shared my burden with someone else so we can figure things out together. At times, I find it takes me a while to actually figure out what it is that I am feeling and what I actually want to say. I have found that in this situation it is helpful to find a blank page in a notebook and just scribble down any thoughts that arise. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it can help to work out what I really need. If you listen and respond to your body, it will usually tell you when you need to talk things through with someone. The burden of your thoughts is so much easier to carry when it is shared.
- Always make time for creativity
One of my favourite things to come from recovery has been learning to reconnect with my creative side. For a long time, I felt that I had kept the artist in me hidden and suppressed, when all she wanted was the space to truly flourish. The beauty of being creative is that everyone has their own unique way to express themselves. Dancing has always been one of my favourite creative outlets, but in taking a break from exercise to really give my body a chance to recover, I found other ways to be expressive too, such as through drawing and sewing. I even bought my own sewing machine recently to keep me occupied during this season! Learning to make creative projects a priority in my daily life has been the ideal form of self-care, allowing me to rediscover myself again.
- Human opinions are personal expressions, not cold, hard facts
Often I give people’s words a lot of power in shaping how I perceive myself. Words have always meant a great deal to me and I have noticed myself trying to change my values to receive the approval of others. I ask myself why I am willing to give others so much power: just because someone says something, it doesn’t mean it’s true! Establishing clear boundaries and highlighting where compromises will absolutely not be made in order to ‘please’ someone else have been so important. Taking back this power and telling myself that I don’t have to let others’ words and opinions affect me so much is tremendously liberating. This definitely takes some practice though, and I’m definitely still learning and growing in this area of my life.
- Empower others to put things right
Throughout the recovery process, your loved ones are learning just as much as you are. Sometimes this can be easy to forget, and it can be frustrating when the people you love say things or act in ways that are unhelpful to you. Just as much as you are learning to give yourself grace on this journey, it is important to be patient and gracious with them too. It is important to find a balance between giving others grace for their mistakes, but also empowering them to put things right by telling them how you truly feel. When someone does something that is unhelpful to you, don’t be afraid to use your voice and let them know in a gentle way. Calling someone out isn’t being mean, it’s empowering them to make things right.
- Build relationships on truth and grace
Talking of relationships, I have found the concepts of ‘truth’ and ‘grace’ serve as useful foundations for my interactions with others. These have been vital components in my relationships during recovery. ‘Grace’ means accepting others for who they are, and being willing to show them patience as they walk alongside me. ‘Truth’ means calling others out in love and helping them to grow and make adjustments in how they approach the healing me. I have found that my most solid relationships during recovery have involved a lot of truth and grace from both sides.
- Food is not a case of ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it’s about the nourishment needed in the moment
Black-and-white thinking is something I have particularly struggled to let go of. Many times I have listened to and given in to the rules that my eating disorder has told me about food. Particularly during social gatherings, I have found that I spend so much mental energy on whether the food available is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, that I actually lose out on the joy of the moment. The bottom line is that when your body is telling you it’s hungry, it is so important to eat. At the end of the day, food is nourishment, and you know that you are your healthiest self when you choose to give your body what it needs, rather than stressing so much about whether your choices are correct. By giving your body what it needs, you are ALWAYS doing the right thing.
- Give yourself permission to suck at stuff
The beauty of recovery is that it provides you with space and time to experiment and find out who you truly are and what you love. Diving into new things can seem scary at first, particularly if you have a perfectionist mindset, but there’s something so exciting about starting with a blank slate and getting to choose how you want to live your life moving forward. Always when giving new things a go, there will be some things that we are just not great at and that is absolutely OKAY. It is actually very helpful, as it helps us to find and celebrate those things that do truly work for us. Of course, even if you’re not the best at something but absolutely love to do it, that’s great too! We are free to choose to do the things we love, regardless of how we measure up to anyone else. At the end of the day, you owe it to yourself to invest in what makes you your healthiest, happiest self, so let those things guide you.
Written by Maddy Jewell (@gracefuelled),
Maddy Jewell is a Cardiff University student working towards a degree in Human Geography and Planning. Her recovery journey over the last two years and her heart for people have inspired her to use her writing to reach out to other girls who are facing similar battles. She loves sewing, dancing and days at the beach, and dreams of one day shaping cities that are both liveable and sustainable for future generations.
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