This was originally posted on jennischaefer.com
When I got into recovery from an eating disorder, I knew I had to make my recovery worth it. I spent so much of my life dedicated to the eating disorder’s demands. In recovery, I had to relearn how to live in the world with me, as me, and at peace with me.
One thing I knew was the more I moved away from the eating disorder, the more time I seemed to have. So I got to thinking about all the dreams I had put off because the eating disorder told me to wait until I was “thin enough,” and I began to drag them out from under the rug where I had swept them. I knew that if I wanted to stay in recovery, I needed to make my recovery worth it. Discovering and living your dreams is what makes recovery worth it.
The thing about dreams, however, is that they often change. This can be especially true in early recovery. For me, the dreams I once had were no longer ones I wanted. Moving people emotionally was something that I was born to do, and I chose acting as a way to do this. I got to work in theater, television and film in Australia and the UK before my recovery. In recovery, however, I felt exhausted by the industry and did not feel that my recovery was sustainable in it, at least in the beginning. I knew I still held the deep desire to move people, but pretending to be someone else for a living just didn’t fit me quite right.
So there I was in early recovery, not quite sure about what I wanted in my life. I needed time to explore and discover, and I had to allow myself the time to do it. When I look back at my life now, I can see how I arrived where I am today by following “the next best thing” for myself in every moment—even if I wasn’t sure where it would take me.
When I was fourteen, I had a passion for writing poetry. I loved how words could be molded to move people, just like my acting could. After giving up my career as an actor, I worked for a screenwriter, researching each film he wrote. I studied how he worked and admired his discipline and creativity. However, I had already tried my hand at writing for theater while completing my Masters degree in Glasgow, Scotland. It was not my forte. But while this realization closed the door on one idea, it opened me up to discovering more.
Later on in my recovery, my mother died, one month before my first child was born. Grief-stricken and unable to attend her funeral as I was too pregnant to fly internationally, I fell to my knees in my bedroom, half-way around the world from her resting place. I cried out loud, “How wilI I give to this world as you did, Mom?” Silence. Then between sobs, I heard her deep within me: “Write, Robbie, write.” So I did. I became unstoppable. And to make a long story short, I became a designer of a maternity line with my poems printed on each item—poems that empowered women and their bodies. I was getting closer to my dreams now, as I moved people with my own words. But designing wasn’t my thing, either. After more discovery of self, I taught myself to write articles…and got paid a mere eight dollars for each one. After many trials and many, many rejections, I wrote a book. I was published on October 15, 2013, with my coauthor Espra Andrus: The book is called Making Peace with Your Plate: Eating Disorder Recovery.
I have discovered that my dreams are found through discovery, through the joy of achieving smaller steps towards a life worth living. It was these small steps that led me to my dreams today. My dream is to inspire others to take back their power from a culture that tells us we are not enough exactly as we are. I do this by speaking my truth—my new beliefs and my ideas. I do this by sharing my own story, as vulnerable as that feels sometimes. In my illness, I was never “good enough.” So in recovery, my dream is to be me and to fully claim who I am, encouraging others to do the same. For as Marianne Williamson says, “Who am I not to?”
If you are interested in finding out more about how I found my purpose in recovery, click here.