Written by: Emily Rutherford, who is a mental health advocate, artist (check out her instagram: @artwithanxiety), and contributing writer at Unpolished Journey.
The question always on the forefront of my mind is, “is this worth it?”
Is recovery worth it? Is living another day worth it? Am I worth it?
Self worth, or my lack thereof, has always played a role in my life from the way I view myself, to the way I so negatively self sabotage and beat myself up, or to the way shame washes over me when I make a mistake or embarrass myself immediately turning to a maladaptive coping skill to find relief.
Something I always remind myself when I’m getting wrapped up in a shame spiral is Brene Brown’s quote, “Shame needs three things to grow: secrecy, silence, and judgment.” And, “shame cannot survive being spoken. It cannot survive empathy” Now when the shame starts to wash over me, I always try to channel my inner Brene Brown and speak that shame to stop it from growing. In learning to do so, it has opened the doors to connection.
It wasn’t until this year that I found true reasons to recover. For the first time in years, that heavy, overbearing darkness was lifted and I didn’t walk around barely able to make it to the next day. I went weeks without wanting to end my life, was meditating for over an hour every day, and was for the first time ever, following my meal plan. Of course, everything comes in waves, and although that brief glimpse of light was quickly overshadowed by darkness after a few weeks, that light was enough proof that better times are possible, and that hurt and pain are not always going to be this overbearing.
Sharing my story has given me a reason to recover. I started sharing my art on Instagram, after I rediscovered my passion for it through countless hours of art therapy in treatment. From there I gained some followers and started receiving messages that my work helped them through a bad day. That then encouraged me to be more authentic and open myself, and since then, I’ve made such a great network of friends and fellow recovery warriors through the community on Instagram, and that account is a huge reason why I recover. Not only is it therapeutic to have that type of external expression through painting, but the joy that account brings me keeps me going.
I recover because I want to give back. The people that have helped me most on this journey are the members from my treatment team that shared, “I was once in your shoes.” They inspire me every single day and are living proof that recovery is not only possible, but so is using your own recovery to help others. For the past few years, my treatment team repeatedly tells me they’re holding hope for me when I can’t hold it for myself, and from that I’ve learned to put all my trust in them. There are so many times that I’ve given up on myself, but they’ve held onto hope, and that’s why I’m still here.
I recover because my body hasn’t given up on me either. Hearing people talk about body love or self love makes me cringe every time, because it feels so unattainable to me. Even liking myself feels like a stretch. But something Jenni Schaefer once told me was that first you just need to work on tolerating it. Simply start by not hating your body and trying to find things you appreciate about it that aren’t physical. I’m grateful my legs allow me to walk my dog. I’m grateful my heart’s still beating. Thinking about my heart’s resiliency shifted my perception of myself. I’ll always be grateful for my heart. I often question why it chose to keep beating when I went through every action to make it stop, but I guess it held onto hope for me, too.
To be completely transparent, lately I’ve been struggling to hold onto reasons to recover, so writing this could not have come at a better time. It’s reminding me why I hold on, and why I keep going. That there are reasons to keep living, even when your depression and eating disorder try to convince you otherwise. Recovery comes in waves and is far from linear, but if you keep hope alive it will keep you alive. I should really get that tattooed on my forehead, because it has impacted my life the most. Hope keeps you going. Hope keeps you alive. You just need someone or something holding onto that hope for you as you walk through the scary darkness. The light will come back, it always does. And that’s why I recover.