I did a personal and professional workshop at work my junior year at the university of Arkansas. In this workshop, we took the Clifton Strengths finder quiz to discover our top five strengths. After taking the quiz, my top five strengths were identified as follows:

While all of them are pretty spot-on for me, this post is going to focus on my strength of positivity.

This is my favorite attribute, my favorite strength. I had an evaluation at work my junior year and Kristin told me that I’m like this beam of light that walks around the building, a friend to everyone. Another supervisor there, Jeana, would often call me “Positive Polly” because with every problem I offered a positive view.

Through my toughest experiences, I stayed positive. I tried to make sure I stayed happy and good on the outside and focused my energy on making others happy.

I live to make people smile, to make them laugh. My absolute favorite phrase that someone could offer me is, “You just made my day!” I show love with all of the love languages. I write notes, nice cards, and send texts of gratitude when I feel it. I bake cake pops and cookies and get random little gifts to people. I love quality time, even if it is just sitting with someone at a coffee shop or taking a walk around campus. I could even sit in complete silence with someone and be content just by being with them. I hug and give comforting pats on the arm. And my favorite, acts of service, is a daily thing for me. You are working a triple and don’t have lunch packed? I’ll go get you some food right now. You need your laundry folded? Your dog walked? A ride to the airport? I’m in. I’ll even do it with pleasure and joy and enthusiasm because I know I’m helping you and making your day easier. Giving me the opportunity to make someone’s day is the one sure fire way to make my day.

People have always identified me as positive, always happy, always making other people happy. This is something that others really love about me. I’ve been told that my joy and happiness is contagious. I’ve been told that people leave conversations with me feeling happier. It is something that I’ve always really loved about myself.

So, all of last winter and spring, I was struggling. There was darkness everywhere. I wasn’t feeling happy, so I hid from people. I didn’t want to bring them down, make them anything but happy. I didn’t want to burden them. I hid and I hid. I wasn’t this beam of light any more. I couldn’t find my light. I wasn’t giving people gifts, spending quality time, doing acts of service. I was lucky if I could get myself out of bed or answer a simple text message.

And I hated myself for this. I wrote in my journal that the one good thing about me is my positivity and kindness and service to others. And if I can’t even do that, what’s the point? There’s nothing good about me. I am unable to be positive and happy and that is what everyone loves about me.. so why would anyone love me now? What is there to love? I’m an empty shell. All I care about is food and weight. All negative and dark and depressed and scared.. none of that would make anyone’s day better.

Today I drove from Oxford to Fayetteville to get a healthy reset. I’ve been struggling a bit to eat meals, and gotten back into the habit of weighing myself every day. So I decided to take a little vacation away from my scale and away from the loneliness of my townhouse, back to the place with all my people, all my love and support. I don’t want to get stuck back into my old habits so I needed a good, fun weekend not stuck in my head.

And you know when you’re on a long car drive and you’re playing your favorite songs and pretending you’re a guest on Ellen? Okay well I may be the only one who does that. But anyway I was about two hours from Fayetteville and I was imagining telling my story to Ellen and chatting away with her as if we are best friends. And in this imaginary scenario, Ellen asks me what got me through these tough years, all this struggle. The audience listens closely.

I tell Ellen about the amazing people in my life who got me through. “No not what other people did! What did you, yourself, do that got you through. Ultimately it was you who got through this. You overcame.”

I think about this. I think back to my fourth week of treatment where I told Leila that I was scared to leave Renfrew. Renfrew felt so safe. I felt safe from everyone and everything including myself. I think about what she told me. “YOU made this place safe. YOU did. YOU worked hard and opened up and challenged yourself. YOU did that. In your mind. YOU.”

I thought about what I told her I wanted from life with recovery and what my eating disorder brings me, how they’re completely different and the opposite of each other. I thought about what she followed with, “Olivia you are so kind to everyone and like a beam of light.” I can still see her bringing both hands around her face, her fingers pointing out like rays of sunshine as she said this. I can remember crying as she said this because I thought I lost that light. But she still saw it.

“You have the ability to go out there and make it safe again. You can find a good therapist and keep writing and take a creative writing class and do art and find a church and be happy. All of that power is in you and in your head. You have the ability to make yourself feel safe.”

And finally I thought about how I was scrolling through Instagram two days ago and I saw a quote I loved. I reposted it on my story.

“Staying positive doesn’t mean you have to be happy all the time. It means that even on hard days, you know that there are better ones coming!”

I imagine answering the question differently now. What got me through the past few years, the trauma, the darkness, the emptiness, is my positivity. My light got me through.

I wasn’t happy all of the time. But this doesn’t mean I didn’t stay positive. Many days I believed things would get better. I believed that better days were in the future. They may have felt lightyears away, these thoughts and beliefs may have been very deep beneath the surface most days but they were there. I had faith that all of this was for some bigger purpose. It would make me stronger and I’d get through. I’d be able to help others because of this.

Often times I didn’t believe I could do it or live another day in the dark, but I always got through each day. I found light in my friends and loved ones. I went to therapy. Even in the darkest days I looked for the light and believed it existed. Many days it felt out of reach. But I knew it was there. Even if it was only a little spark.

I don’t think anyone could take away my light. Yes, it can be dimmed or hidden but it is something that cannot be taken from me. My light, my full and total love for others and passion to bring good to this world, cannot be extinguished.

I aspire to always be a beam of light for others. But I cannot give light to others unless I find light in myself.

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