Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Response - Tried & True

It's gonna be a long one, folks. This week, someone left a comment on my latest post Video: To the Girl. I read the comment several times, and every time I began a reply, I realized I had far too much to say to simply keep it in the comments section. Furthermore, the way this commenter feels is how so many eating disorder sufferers feel. She is precisely who I was writing/speaking to in To the Girl and I’m glad she chose to leave a comment, so that I, in turn, could offer more. So today, I’d like to display her comment and my (lengthy) response. Thanks, J. I hope you will keep fighting.

“I've listened to your poetry, and I think I am locked inside the only place where I feel sheltered, where I feel safe. With anorexia I lost myself in my search to find something else to hide behind the real me. And now, I have nothing. Now I am only ‘the girl0. And I don't know what to do.

It’s understandable that you’re feeling at a loss. No amount of words or videos will be able to break you out of the place in which you feel you are locked. What a scary thing to feel trapped inside a place of safety while at the same time feeling you are nothing but a shell.

I struggled with anorexia myself and I lost myself too. Or rather, I put my whole self on hold and hid. Every day I hid. Only as I got better and better was I able to realize that there was so much more to me than my eating disorder. If you don’t like the real you, the first step is to begin that process. When you feel okay with yourself, but feel you have no identity, step two comes into play.

You only think you have nothing, but really, you have tools. The hard part is discovering how those tools work and you can bring yourself to begin using them. None of this is easy. And of course, at many points in this process, we all feel like giving up—or even that nothing is working. Thing is, this difficult days and the pain we feel as we experience what it’s like to live without an eating disorder are part of this process. And who wants to sign up for THAT?

It’s scary at best. But you know what? It’s necessary. Or what you’re doing is kissing your life good bye. And let’s face it, life as you know it right now isn’t so great.

After reading your reply, I immediately remembered three specific blog posts I’ve written in the past two years. I found them and I’d like to repost bits here, as they apply. Full links are also offered, in case you’d like to read more. In my post We Are All Special, I touched on something that hits home for so many of us:

So often, there is a feeling of "specialness" associated with having an eating disorder. It's a big part of the reason people are afraid to really recover. They fear losing that specialness, that part of them that makes them someone, that feeling of power, that deep seated persona.

The thing is, we are all special. Specialness does not die with your eating disorder--it just gets re-applied, reassigned to something WORTH that feeling.

I went on to question our thoughts and put the facts in front of our faces, but I ended with:

Your mission, if you choose to accept it: FIND OUT what REALLY makes you special.

Because I promise you--it's NOT your eating disorder.

In my post Filling the Gap, I discussed the problem we all have to face at one time or another: what to do when we decide to leave our eating disorder behind. We’re left with nothing and suddenly there’s a lot of empty space. It can be daunting. I talked about all that is waiting for us if we bother to discover it:

And there is so much waiting for you. There are a thousand possibilities at your fingertips, from the simple every day things to the more complex life goals. You just have to ask yourself one question.

What do you want to do?

It’s an open question with many possible answers…and that’s the beauty of it.

I asked a lot of questions:

What's in your head and your heart? What are your passions? What makes you feel good?

Do you want to make new friends? Do you want to go back to school? Do you want to get out in the job world? Do you want to pursue a dream you’ve often had in the back of your mind? Do you want to have a family? Do you want to travel?

But of course, we can’t always do everything we want to do. The fact of the matter is:

A lot of things can prevent us from doing what we want to do. BUT—and this is a big but—you never let things be an issue when finding a way to fit your eating disorder into your daily life, did you?

I asked you to think about what makes you happy and come up with three things;

Then find a way to incorporate them into your life. Fill that gap.

I can see that this post is already about as long as I anticipated it would be, but I have more to say. You spoke of being locked inside a place and what I need to tell you is that YOU have the keys. In my post Locks and Keys, I tried to figure out when everything started for me. I questioned the importance of knowing where it all came from and I described early memories and events. I explain feeling special for being the thinnest girl. I asked:

Why do memories like this embed themselves in our brains to be picked apart later in life?

Is the brain molded from an early age in a way that could possibly fuel anorexia? Or is the brain already predestined by its very makeup to struggle with anorexia?

But then:

Questions, questions, questions. I don't think the answer is the important thing.
I think learning yourself, figuring out what to do with what your mind IS—no matter how it got that way—is the key.

The real question is: If you have the key, where is that lock? Or more specifically, where are all the locks?

We have so many locks within us. Some pertain to past behaviors. Some pertain to guarded memories. To abuse. To family. To bullying. To trauma. To friends. To pain. To sadness. To depression. There are many locks.

What takes so long is finding them all—each and every one—and inserting that key. And turning it. And watching that flicker of light that happens when you have an epiphany…or a revelation…or a moment of peace.


I know I make it sound easy—and it’s anything but easy—but you have to be willing to see it as it is and give it a shot if you want things to change. Some of the locks are hidden, but once you find them all, you’re on your way.

It's tough to get there. It's tough to find all those locks and make the (courageous) decision to turn that key. But it's something to look forward to. And something to work toward.

And it WILL happen.

And one day you'll be free.

I hope I’ve made sense today. For you, J. and for all “the girl"s out there looking for answers, guidance, or just a little encouragement. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I know what’s tried and true… and I would never suggest anything I haven’t tried myself. Recovery—freedom—is possible. Believe that first…

Keep the faith,

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