by Patty Hassebroek
I pulled into the grocery store lot and parked the car. I slowly made my way in and went back to the floral section, found a beautiful bouquet and walked to the checkout. With tears streaming down my face, I quietly waited in line and paid for them. You see, this was my turning point. For the first time in my 47 years, I not only bought the flowers...I bought them for myself. And I have to admit, a little part of me felt guilty. But this was where the tide turned and my journey of self love began.
Here's my story. I was raised in a small rural community in a loving home, the youngest of four girls. Life was pretty simple growing up on the farm. But my world was shaken in the fall of my 7th grade year when my grandfather passed away. It was the first death I experienced of someone close to me. I struggled for months trying to cope. The struggling manifested into depression, a disease that runs deep on both sides of my family. The following year, I attempted to commit suicide. By the grace of God, I was not successful and was given a second chance. This by far was the darkest season of my life. After hours of therapy and unconditional love and support from my family, I was able to climb up out of the darkness. But my junior year of high school the darkness started creeping in again and I developed an eating disorder. It started as cutting back on what I ate and going long periods of time without eating. And evolved into bingeing and purging, sometimes up to 7 to 10 times a day. The winter of my senior year of high school I was hospitalized with bulimia for 30 days. Therapy was intense, but so powerful and full of healing. That is where my recovery began. I graduated and started college at Iowa State. Due to the overwhelming size of the college after coming from a small high school, compounded by my eating disorder flaring up again, I made the decision to drop out and go to a community college. My last semester of college, I became pregnant with my son Nic. Though it wasn't planned, this is literally what saved me from my ED. I knew I had to pull it together and be my best to take care of this little blessing. I married my high school sweetheart and we have raised two beautiful children. Nic is now 27 and Paige is 24 and engaged to be married. Life has been good to us. But there was still something within me that was keeping me from self love.
I believe with all of my heart that the trials and struggles in my earlier years have made me much stronger and wiser. Everything I went through has been a powerful lesson and a blessing to help shape me into who I am today. I've even had the opportunity of being a light for others experiencing the same situations. But I recently had the revelation of just how much guilt and shame I've been carrying around all of these years. The guilt of the heartache I caused my family. The guilt of how much it cost them to put me through treatment. The shame of being so weak and being a disappointment over and over again. The self loathing I had towards myself. Not to mention I am an incessant people-pleaser. I can conjure up every bad confrontation I've had and replay it over and over in my mind until I'm completely deflated. But something finally changed within me. After all of the struggles with self love and letting go of the past, I decided it was time to take back my life and start truly loving the person I was created to be. And so began the self love journey. I went to see a therapist shortly after my revelation. Please, PLEASE people...do not ever think seeing a therapist is a sign of weakness. It is actually a sign of strength, of you saying this is enough, of saying "it's time to take my power back". It can provide so much clarity having a 3rd party look at you through a different lens. The journey hasn't been easy. Some of the same old demons still try and fill my head full of nonsense. But I'm learning to let go of the past, be grateful for every day I'm given and look forward to the future with hope. That is where self love begins.
How many of us have bought flowers for others but have not ever bought them for ourselves? How many people build others up and encourage others yet tell ourselves we aren't good enough? How many believe everyone is beautiful in their own unique way but look in the mirror with self loathing? Far too often we treat ourselves like second class citizens. We tend to have the mindset that it is selfish to love ourselves. But the truth is : people may come and go in your life but the person looking back at you in the mirror will be with you for the rest of your life. So LOVE yourself! Love the beautiful, quirky, unique, amazing person that you are. Be good to others, but please don't forget to be good to yourself too.