“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the opportunity.” – John F. Kennedy
Life is a roller coaster
Our lives are full of unexpected events and happenings. Positive as well as negative. We all experience crises at some points and in different areas of our lives. And that´s what makes life interesting. When a crisis arises, we often feel frustrated, desperate and wish that the situation was different. But I strongly believe that everything in life happens for a reason and we are all here to learn certain individual lessons. Without the bad we wouldn´t be able to appreciate the good.
My life was struck by several eating disorders from age 13 to 19 ranging from anorexia, orthorexia, bulimia and binge eating. Yep, I went through pretty much all of it. I remember being so desperate and wondering: “Why me? Why do I have to suffer ? What did I do wrong to deserve this?” But eventually I learned that everyone has their own struggles and nobody goes through life without any mental and emotional scars left. Crises makes us stronger and helps our personality to become even more interesting, wide and profound. They change our attitude and values in life and make us grow as human beings. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my Eds and I strangely would not want to miss them because of the amounts of insights and experiences they brought me on so many different levels of my life.
We should all stop judging events and instead ask ourselves what purpose they serve and what they might be good for even if it´s not obvious at the first sight.
Fortune? Misfortune? Who knows?
My dad once told me the famous story about a Chinese farmer that went like this:
Once there was a Chinese farmer who worked his poor farm together with his son and their horse. When the horse ran off one day, neighbors came to say, “How unfortunate for you!” The farmer replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”When the horse returned, followed by a herd of wild horses, the neighbors gathered around and exclaimed, “What good luck for you!” The farmer stayed calm and replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
While trying to tame one of wild horses, the farmer’s son fell, and broke his leg. He had to rest up and couldn’t help with the farm chores. “How sad for you,” the neighbors cried. “Maybe yes, maybe no,” said the farmer.
Shortly thereafter, a neighboring army threatened the farmer’s village. All the young men in the village were drafted to fight the invaders. Many died. But the farmer’s son had been left out of the fighting because of his broken leg. People said to the farmer, “What a good thing your son couldn’t fight!” “Maybe yes, maybe no,” was all the farmer said.
At first, I was so upset about my eating disorder. I couldn´t understand why I had to sit in an inpatient treatment center while my friends were on summer break partying their guts out and enjoying life to the fullest. But during my recovery process I realized that it, in fact, served multiple purposes in my life.
Here is a list of the top 10 lessons I took away from my eating disorder(s)
- It made me more mature and self reflected.
I have a different and more mature perception of life now, and I got in touch with a lot of topics many people start getting in contact with at later stages in life. I had so many deep and purposeful conversations with people I had otherwise never met. It changed me as a person and made me question my entire life, values and attitudes.
- I learned a lot about psychology & neurology.
Which helped me understand myself, my thinking patterns, personality and habits a lot better. The knowledge I’ve gained through reading x amounts of books about the topic helps me now becoming aware of dysfunctional patterns in my life and therefore taking action before they get out of control. I know how to rewire my brain and establish new habits.
- It made me realize that I am someone who is prone to addiction.
I am a curious person, and I normally try to get the most out of life by taking any opportunity to experience something new. Without my insights gathered from my Eds I might have tried certain things that I might have gotten hooked on that would have ended up a lot worse – who knows? Now I know I need to be careful and better leave my hands off when it comes to alcohol, nicotine or other things that might trigger dependency.
- I learned how to cope and prevent depression at an early age.
Depression is a comorbidity that often occurs together with an eating disorder and is one the most common mental illnesses developed by many people at some point in their life. I learned how important a healthy work-life balance is for mental stability and happiness. I used to overload myself with tasks and a schedule that was impossible to fulfill and I would cope with the stress it caused with my disordered eating habits. I learned many strategies to prevent and deal with depression on a daily basis that now make up a keystone in my life. A balanced life is a happy life.
- I now have a healthier relationship with food and my body than most people have.
So many people struggle with chronic dieting, body image, the topic of food and exercise. Many fail to accept their natural set-point weight due to wrong information distributed by the media and get lost in a lifelong fight against their nature. Even if its not a full-blown eating disorder, it´s an issue they carry around often for a really long time that only causes them stress and and agony. I went through the extreme version of it, but now I have a so much more peaceful relationship with food, I know there is no point in dieting and learned heaps about nutrition on top!
- It gave my life a purposeful mission.
I was always drawn to the industries which typically breed eating disorders. Whether it was dance, film, modeling, fashion or media, you name it. And yes, It definitely was a trigger for me as well. Now recovered, I refuse to transition into a different industry (because they are full of creativity and positive attributes) but instead want to be a role model and prevent and help people of all genders when it comes to topics like mental health and self-acceptance.
- It made me stop judging other people and turned me into a more compassionate, spiritual human being.
I met so many amazing souls along my journey and realized that nobody is perfect. Everyone has their own story and background and you never know why a person is behaving or looking the way they do. Never judge a book by it´s cover. I realized that giving and helping others is so much more fulfilling than receiving. Getting out of oneself and focusing on others can be very healing.
- It made me appreciate life in a deep way.
If your mind has been consumed with damaging thoughts and self-destructive, compulsive behaviors 24/7 for several years, you will learn to appreciate the beauty of even the little things in life. Freedom and health will become top values and you will realize which things really matter.
- It helped my self-confidence.
Even though I still struggle with my identity, confidence and self-image, I am a lot stronger than I used to be. I know now, If I was able to beat this illness which is so hard to overcome, I can eventually handle anything life throws at me no matter how challenging it might seem.
- It helped me redefine my idea of beauty and perfection.
Beauty and aesthetics have always been a very important topic in my life. And I am not only talking about beauty in terms of physical appearance but terms of art and the beauty of life. I had a strict vision for myself what I thought was beautiful and what not. I was obsessed with perfection and unrealistic standards in every single way. According to the lessons of Japanese and zen aesthetics, symmetry is forbidden because it suggests the idea of perfection and order which don´t exist in the real world. The beauty lies in imperfection, incompleteness, instability, simplicity, incalculability and unconventionality.
A beautiful thing is never perfect.
These were my top 10 lessons I learned from this episode of my life and which made me the person I am today. I am still developing and healing but I am proud to be alive and need to remind myself more often that life isn’t a race and everyone shines when it´s their time. Setbacks don’t mean failure. An arrow can only shot by pulling it backwards.