In the quiet moments when I look back on my life, I realize the greatest hardships, challenges, and tragedies have always brought me to my greatest good.
I think about the ways in which my voice has changed over the years; how it’s gone from soft and tentative to purposeful and powerful. I think about how, through the pain, I’ve learned that I can be more amazing than I ever thought possible.
In my life, I have been put through some pretty intense conditions, but came to understand because of them, our paths in life can change for the better.
Tragic events and unfortunate circumstances can lead us to find voices we didn’t know we had.
When I was younger I had an eating disorder. It began around age 11, became diagnosable around age 18, and stole a lot of the fun and life from my college years. By 22, I was back on track in health (emotionally and physically), but my struggles taught me many things. Before I knew what was happening, I became a voice of recovery.
I learned so many things along the way as I pushed my way through anorexia and into recovery. As new life opened up to me I felt compelled to share my lessons with others. I became a moderator on a very popular recovery website and forum, encouraging others in recovery and leading by example. Eventually, I became a resource person for my area through a national organization called ANAD (Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders). After that, I became a support group leader as well.
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It’s been 8 years now since I began the support group I lead in my area. Since its inception, I made the choice to go back to grad school. I worked for my MSW (Masters in Social Work) and a license to practice. I’ve been helping people with eating disorder recovery online and in person for years now. This has included everything from making weekly YouTube videos to being a guest speaker for a NEDA event.
Through the pain of an eating disorder, I found a voice.
There have been other sorrows in my life too. When I learned about the sexual abuse of someone close to me, I became involved with V-day, an organization seeking to stop violence against women. I performed in the Vagina Monologues twice for the cause–something I never imagined doing prior to the sadness I learned hitting so close to home.
After getting married, I also dealt with infertility. The pain of such an experience shaped a voice I didn’t know I possessed, even though I never used it on a large-scale.
And two years ago, I became a widow. After my husband’s suicide, I started a widow blog, using a new voice to share my pain, heal, and ultimately help others. I met other widows. I went through the worst pain I’ve ever experienced.
As days turned into weeks and weeks turned to months, I realized my life path had been altered in just as many good ways as bad.
I gave a talk on grief and loss after suicide recently at a university in my area. Staring into the faces of students as I spoke, I could hardly believe where my life had brought me. While I could easily be angry, frustrated, or distraught forever, instead I was grateful.
Now, I work in hospice care, counseling and assisting dying patients and their families through grief, loss, and end of life. Would I have done this work if not for my experience of pain?
I doubt all of life’s heartache is behind me. I turn 32 this year and may well face many more challenges in years to come. To say I am prepared would sound odd. I’m not so much prepared as I am accepting. I accept the reality that both good and bad things will blow through my life. I know I have the resilience and the tools to always weave the tattered shreds of pain into the beautiful tapestry of a new voice.
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