Must We Suffer to ‘Earn’ The Good?

It’ll be no surprise to regular readers of my blog that I am in recovery from anorexia. For me, my illness has very much been about restriction, not only of food and water, but of all the things that make life interesting, exciting and enjoyable. As I slowly work my way out of the deep hole of my eating disorder I have come to realise that this is a far reaching problem that perhaps shoulders its way into all our lives

In the past few years especially I have denied myself my own love and support. My restriction extends beyond calories. I remember when it got especially out of hand, to the point where I would limit my experience of life.

I would deliberately keep myself quiet, I would restrict my time socialising with friends, I would never buy myself anything, I refused to do things I loved, I never went out with friends to eat, I wouldn’t spend a single penny on myself. This is of course rooted in a deflated sense of self worth and a lack of confidence which depressed even me.

Things are better now, but I still feel guilty occasionally for being “too happy” or enjoying my food or planning trips or doing something nice for myself. Anything that would result in me surpassing the arbitrarily considered “accepted happiness level”. Lately though, I have been considering my own mortality and that has served me well on the motivation front. I’m going to die one day, it could be any day. And look how I had spent my few precious years on earth!

Once I realised that my existence didn’t automatically register me as a bad person, I cautiously worked to build up my sense of worth. I came to see that although suffering is an inevitable part of life, one doesn’t have to suffer in order to be deserving of moments of happiness or success. And what a revelation that was to me. Life doesn’t have to comprise of slogging through the first 60 years in order to seize the benefits in your last 10. What if I don’t even reach 60? Then what will have my life been for? Endless suffering for a goal, an end I never achieved?

I always forget to enjoy the moment. My goals are all long term and the present has always been a means to an end. The end doesn’t always come. And if it does, well, it’s never exactly how you want it to be and you have a trail of tears and sleepless nights behind you.

The now is far more important. We don’t live in the future, now is the only time things happen, the only chance we get at experience. A few months back I did some soul searching. It was my 22nd birthday and I wondered where the past 6 years had gone, seriously. I was guilty of running through the week, drawing breath on a Saturday and recommencing my struggle on a Monday morning. I began to ask myself some pretty paradigm shifting questions: why must I struggle through the day? Why must I wear myself out to exhaustion? Why is it that I haven’t painted – something I love to do- in over 5 months? Why must I keep busy and be content with my lot? Why?

I realised that the life I was making for myself was not serving me authentically. And it was harrowing. To deny yourself the basic pleasures in life is no life at all.

It makes me uncomfortable to the point of frustration to go against the shoulds and musts. It is a challenge in itself to convince yourself that you are worth the time, the money, the good… but truly we all are.

There is no glory in self sacrifice, to bathe in our own wonderful light is our only duty to ourselves.

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2 thoughts on “Must We Suffer to ‘Earn’ The Good?

  1. One of my favorite quotes is, “We must learn to be happy where we are while we work toward where we want to be.” It’s such a beautiful balance, to always strive to be better but at the same time to realize that right where you are is perfect for that day, for that moment.

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