Freedom Friday: Make Yourself Priority

One of the greatest things you can learn in recovery is to start asking for what you need, standing up for yourself and giving yourself a voice. You learn that at times, you NEED to be selfish. For many, it can be one of the hardest things to do. For me, it took years to do. It felt completely unnatural and out of character for me. It was going against all that I knew, all that I believed I was. I have always been a people pleaser. It was my mission to make everyone happy and to not ruffle any feathers. But you know what? Sometimes, birds need their feathers messed up. They can’t be perfect all the time. And neither can life nor I. it is okay to cause some disturbances if it means that it is for the betterment of your health. If it means staying sick or moving forward, it is okay to cause some waves. You will learn how to ride them in time and practice. They don’t have to drown you if you are persistent and stand firm. 

I spent far too long in calm waters. What that did was hinder my recovery. I took a backseat to my own life, letting everyone else make my decisions and walk all over me. I did what was best for everyone else, ignoring my needs. I sacrificed my health and happiness so that others could have it. In many cases, that is a wonderful thing, but when it is robbing you of life and keeping something in you alive that is killing you, it is not good at all. For recovery to truly work and sustain itself, you have to do it for you. Your decisions need to be your own and the path you walk must be created by you with your sole footprints. Not standing up for your needs will not allow that. Your path will be paved by everyone else, taking away your ownership of recovery. This can have severe repercussions. I speak from experience.

The more I would people please and silence myself for the benefit of keeping the status quo, the more powerful the anorexia became. I used it as my voice. It was my way of communicating my unhappiness, my struggle, and my way of trying to alert people that what was going on was harming me. I felt I had no control anymore in certain situations. I was giving it to everyone else through allowing them to dictate what they wanted for me and letting them use me. The quieter I became about my needs, the more powerless I felt. The more powerless I felt, the more the anorexia invaded, taking advantage of my vulnerability. Then, the more the anorexia took over, I was silenced even more, enabling me from being able to state any of my needs. The anorexia convinced me I was unworthy of having my needs met and undeserving of happiness. It wanted me mute. It wanted me to let people abuse my generosity and passivity. One of its favorite qualities about me was my people pleasing. It meant it could stay alive in me. Helping everyone and saying yes to everything meant no time for self-care. It meant delaying meals and postponing sleep. It meant turning down things that would help me or make me happy. It meant distracting me from taking care of myself properly. The longer I let it go, the worse things gets. The thoughts become stronger and increase, the voices become louder, the rituals intensify, the urges strengthen. The less I meet my needs, the more skewed my thinking becomes-lack of sleep and nutrition will inevitably do that to you-resulting in lapses. It is a vicious cycle. But it is one that can be stopped through one task, seemingly simple but yet so complicated for me; standing up for myself. People do it all the time. I am surrounded by people who say no and state their needs. I see it all the time. It isn’t some foreign concept in the world. You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to do it or have some magic powers. You just need your voice and self-esteem, even if just one iota of it buried down deep, to do it and see you deserve it.  

I am far from perfect at doing it. I sit here writing about it like it is the easiest thing to do, but it is far from it. I struggled immensely to begin the practice of self preservation. It was hard to say no to people. My helpfulness and my constant willingness to be there for people came to be expected. I didn’t want to let anyone down. I put my worth in my services to others.

However, as much as helped everyone else, it wreaked havoc on me. I was living off of very little, disrupted, obscure sleep in order to stay up to talk to people. My eating got impacted, my thoughts intensified, my anxiety increased. I was getting sick. I was irritable and always felt on edge, ready to break down at any moment out of pure exhaustion. Any positive changes I wanted to make on behalf of my health kept getting postponed while I directed my focus onto other things. My selflessness proved to be a great hindrance to moving forward. My recovery, the thing that I needed most in order to fully help others, was the thing most neglected. Here I was giving advice on issues that I could not even get through because I was neglecting to face them as I put all my attention on supporting others. I wanted to make everyone else’s life easier while mine was falling apart. But it felt safer to me to help make others whole while I shattered than to learn to say no and put the care on myself. Disordered Jenna clung to it as a way to stay sick and in her comfort zone. It was a way to hide the truth of my own mental, emotional, and physical stability.

But I knew, if I ever want to regain my control and return to some “normalcy” and gain back some freedom, I needed to speak up for myself. I needed to say no, to tell people I cannot talk, that it is time to put myself first. If I didn’t, I was going to keep digging myself deeper into the hole and have an even harder time getting out. I needed to stop it then before it got any worse.  I needed to be selfish, and I needed to be okay with that. Recovery demands it. If anything in my life was going to bring me down the wrong path again, it had to be hanged. I needed to do what was right for my health and nothing else. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, was worth going back to the darkness and pain and. I could not let anything lead me back or give me a reason to return to the anorexia.  If that meant creating inconvenience and causing some waves, then so be it. It didn’t make me a bad person. It didn’t mean people would stop loving me. It meant that I am gaining a voice, restoring my health, allowing my own self love to grow enough to know I deserve happiness. It meant I was moving forward in my recovery. It was one step further from the anorexia and one step closer to freedom. I needed to break out of my comfort zone and state my needs at whatever cost and not back down. I must advocate for myself and my needs.

This is my life, my recovery, my health, and I refused to let anything or anyone compromise those. I, just as much as anybody else, was and still am worthy of health and joy. I, Jenna Laird, was entitled to some selfishness, if you want to call it that, if I wanted to be free.  I actually see it as more of a priority. It was my only way to see the beautiful life awaiting me. It was my only way to get to the point where I can truly fulfill my purpose in full health, in truth, and in love. 

Love, light, and bravery, J.L.