“How thankful I am today, to know that all my past struggles were necessary for me to be where I am now.” ~Unknown
Ten years ago when I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, my first thought was “Why me?” and it was this thought that followed me throughout my journey. It wasn’t until I was well enough to look back that I realized how much of my life was shaped by my anorexia. But not in a bad way.
Today, I am thankful for the struggles I endured, for the deepest lows I dragged myself through, and all the places my illness took me, good and bad. If not for this experience, I believe I would not be who I am or where I am today.
Today I am happy. I am happy with the life I live and the people I surround myself with. I am happy about my body and my eating habits, and I am happy to have survived. I didn’t think I would.
Being thankful for our past experiences, our struggles, and our demons can be a hard thing to do. We sometimes wish events in our past could be erased so we could start anew. But without these events, we wouldn’t grow, learn, and change.
The day I realized this I was sitting in a small church that I had just started attending with my boyfriend at the time (who I asked to join me).
The preacher’s wife came up to me to see how I was and to meet my friend. She asked me how school was, and I said I didn’t like it that much. She then responded by saying, “Well, if you hadn’t gone, you wouldn’t have met him” and pointed at my boyfriend (who later became my husband).
This really opened my eyes, and after I left I started seeing everything in my life through this perspective.
If I hadn’t gone to that school, I would never have met my future husband. If I hadn’t worked at that job I disliked, I would have never met one of my best friends. If I hadn’t battled anorexia, I wouldn’t have found my true self.
When we are caught up in the moment, sometimes it’s hard to take a step back and look at the full picture. We see ourselves as victims and find it hard to identify what we could learn.
One of my favorite authors, Christine Hassler once wrote, “Instead of asking yourself why this is happening to you, ask why this is happening for you.”
Of course this advice is nice and everything, but at times our struggles seem pointless and we fail to recognize what they are teaching us. We may even see them as burdens or setbacks in our lives, but the way we look at these challenges can change everything.
At first I didn’t see how having anorexia could have ever been a blessing. But when I looked at it as an experience for me, rather than to me, I started to see that I had a lot to be thankful for.
I grew closer to my mother while healing. I gained knowledge about myself that I could only have gained through struggle, and learned how to take care of my wants and needs in a way that made me happy.
I found weightlifting, which allows me to confidently accept my body and move through my life with more vigor and strength (both physically and mentally). I also found my purpose, which is to help others in some way with their own struggle with food and weight.
When we see our pain as just that, we tend to overlook the positives, or feel there are none. We also prevent ourselves from finding some way to leverage our pain for good. Some of the world’s most helpful resources and beautiful works of art likely wouldn’t exist if someone hadn’t endured immense pain and struggle.
There is something from your pain or struggle that is now helpful to you, or could be helpful to you in the future. Whether it allowed you to see something from a new angle, find new friends you never thought you’d have, or create a new life purpose, there is always something to be thankful for.
Challenge yourself to look for the light rather than the darkness. I promise, you can find it. And if not you can create it.
Girl in the rain image via Shutterstock