Eating Disorders

The Myth of the “Perfect Recovery”

Want to know a secret?

I run a recovery blog. I bring conversations about sexism and gender equity to places they aren’t wanted, from my fiction writing workshops (“Are you really sure ‘attractive’ is the only adjective you need?”) to the movie theater (“Seriously, why is Kiera Knightley’s role always to stand around in a corset and look confused?”). The constant fat-shaming in Game of Thrones is about to give me a tiny heart attack.

Basically, what I’m driving at is that body positivity isn’t a throwaway for me. It’s a big deal.

And this evening, I’m sitting on my couch, looking at the wall of my apartment and wondering Why the hell can’t I just lose XXX pounds? I’d be happy then. And tonight isn’t the only night recently this has happened.

Some days I’m desperate to change my body. My wonderful, badass body. The one I put through so much in college when recovery was a project for after finals, or after I passed physics, or after I got just thismuch skinnier. The body that got me through a half marathon in September, and a full marathon of all four seasons of Blackadder two weeks ago.

That body. Sometimes I still hate that body.

Part of me thinks this makes me a fraud. A failure. The voice in the back of my mind, the one that sounds eerily like Lord Tywin Lannister (in the film version of my life, my eating disorder will be played by Charles Dance), that voice always has something to say.

Aren’t you the one supporting others?

Aren’t you supposed to know better?

Fraud.

Stop pretending you know what you’re talking about.

If you read that to yourself in Charles Dance’s voice and aren’t at least a bit intimidated, you’re braver than I am.

Am I allowed to call myself within spitting distance of recovered and still occasionally wonder if I shouldn’t go on a three-day cleanse to make my old pants fit like new pants?

Of course. Of course. It’s okay.

The whole point of body positivity is taking outside standards about how you should present yourself for a nice long walk off a short pier. That includes any bullshit notions of perfectionism or infallibility. That means being okay with yourself, just as you are, right this minute. Triggers and doubts and days almost-seriously-considering diets and emotional experiences with your jeans and all.

Recovery and life after would fail any “walk this straight line” DUI test. It’s a nonlinear cycle that doubles back on yourself when you least expect it. There’s no such thing as a “perfect recovery,” and mine is no exception. Progress isn’t when bad days stop happening  — as far as I’m concerned, they might not ever stop completely. But when the good days start outweighing the bad, and when life begins to revolve around something other than what / when / how to eat …

That’s still something to celebrate.

But coming to terms with a perfectly imperfect body-positive life — without the guilt of “failure” — is easier said than done. Here are three things I’m trying to make it through the rough patches, and back into the light.

1. Check Out Those Dark Shadowy Places

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 8.13.35 PM

(You knew this was coming. If a day ever comes for an obvious opportunity to quote The Lion King and I don’t take it, send help. I’ve probably fallen and I can’t get up.)

There are certain situations I know will still spark my inner negative monologue. Pants shopping, for instance. Or eating a meal at a different time than usual. Although I know, logically, that there’s nothing at all wrong with eating a bigger lunch one day, that doesn’t always make the residual discomfort go away. But leaning on logic gives a reliable handhold to turn back to.

Figuring out the root cause of an ED-related reaction — and eight times out of ten, that cause has nothing to do with food — is a crucial step for regaining a sense of understanding and power.

There’s a world of difference between “I hate my body because it’s ugly / gross / terrible” and “I’m feeling uncomfortable about how I look because the people in the cubicle next to me are talking about their 30-day cleanse / I have a big presentation tomorrow I’m nervous about / final exams are coming up and I don’t feel adequate / I didn’t sleep enough last night.” One places the blame on your body; the other shifts focus back to where it belongs. One feels dispiriting and impossible; the other makes sense. And recovery is making sense out of the chaos, and putting anxiety and discomfort in their place.

That place, by the way, is way the hell off on the sidelines.

So get up there on Pride Rock the next time the voices start. Everything the light touches is your recovery journey. Once you figure out what’s really going on in those dark shadowy places, it might not be as overwhelming and confusing as it seemed.

2. Catastrophize for a Reason

You’ve probably heard the phrase “Fat is not a feeling” as a rallying cry before. And while it can be tough to take that statement at face value when you’re absolutely sure you’re feeling fat right then and there, grammatically it’s just fact. “Fat” is a noun, describing the necessary collection of cells and tissue that protect our organs and let our bodies move through the world.

Would you argue that on a bad day you feel “muscle” or “cartilage”? Because that’s what I’m hearing when you say you feel fat.

But “fat” is also an adjective describing a certain body type. The fat acceptance movement is rightfully returning this word to its original meaning, removing the moral and value judgments society put on it and calling it for what it is. For the record, even though fat is a body type, that still doesn’t make it a viable feeling. You can’t feel “blonde” or “high cheekbones” emotionally. That’s not how emotions work.

I keep this as a kind of mantra for when weight panic sets in. It cuts the anxiety out of ruminating on weight, little by little, step by step.

I feel fat I’m so fat I’m gaining so much weight I’m so fat —

Okay. So. Maybe. What’s the worst that could happen if I was fat?

Am I going to hate or love my job any more? Are my friends going to care about me any less, and will I care about them differently? Is the sunrise on my commute down 55 going to look any less beautiful? Are nachos going to be any less delicious? Is the sexism on Netflix’s Marco Polo going to make me want to punch a hole through my wall any less?

Nope. Literally the only thing that changes is that I would be fat.

Any other negative consequences that might arise are a direct result of society’s fatphobic underpinnings, which my panic about weight gain is (albeit unwillingly and painfully) perpetuating.

Will this knock off the thoughts once and for all? Almost certainly not. But it helps stop you in your tracks for at least a moment to see the larger picture.

And the big picture is almost never as scary as the close-up, particularly when the close-up is that distorted.

3. Lower Your Expectations

tumblr_mrzy4qIdoi1qftbz5o1_500

Ah, Amy Poehler. Speaking the truth my soul needs.

I’m not saying “don’t expect recovery.” I’m not saying “don’t expect you’ll ever feel completely happy and in control of your life ever again.” Of course I’m not saying that. I believe it’s possible. I’ve seen people do it. It’s what’s keeping me going. Recovery is possible, and we can do it.

But no one expects you to have it all together all at once. And telling yourself any differently reveals a whole different problem that has nothing at all to do with your weight.

If you haven’t read this article by the amazing s.e. smith about impostor syndrome yet, go read it. It’s cool. I’ll wait.

For the click-averse, impostor syndrome is the feeling that, despite all evidence to the contrary, you are inherently less-than. You’re not living up to others’ expectations of you. You don’t deserve to be where you are. You aren’t qualified. You’re just faking it, and everyone around you already knows it. Even when you know, objectively. 0% of this is true, that doesn’t help.

This summed up so much about my life, both personally and professionally, when I read it that I needed to take a step back and reframe. No one expects me to have it all together. No one is scandalized and horrified when I make a mistake at work, or when I have a lousy body image day and call my support system to vent and yell a little. No one, that is, but me. I’m holding myself to standards that I’d never impose on anyone else.

It’s not fair. It’s doing me way more harm than good. And it’s not easy to stop.

But I’m working on it. I’m cutting myself some slack. Lowering my expectations, so to speak. I’m trying not to feel totally deflated when something goes badly, because things go badly for everyone all the time, every day. Even the most active body image activists need support, help, self-care, and a little slack now and then.

That Amy. So wise. One more piece of wisdom for the road:

tumblr_n6rgr82Vbt1toqbz4o1_250

 

And so we keep on. I’ll keep trying. And on the bad days, I’ll take a shower at a weird time, curl up in bed with a book, and wake up in the morning to try again.

And again.

And again.

Until, maybe next week, maybe in fifteen years, one day I wake up and never need to think about trying again.

But today is not that day.

Today, I’ll keep working.

Advertisements

Recovering Like a Vulcan – Fighting Feeling with Logic

1388460983212

Last week(end), for those interested, marked the 2014 iteration of the San Diego International Comic-Con. Given, this has a very minimal impact on my day-to-day life as a blogger living in Michigan who personally would welcome a decrease in superhero movies playing at the local multiplex. (Except for those with Loki in them. Because I don’t know if I’ve talked about my Loki feelings lately, but they are powerful, visceral, and 120% positive.) Anyway, what I’m getting at is that Comic-Con is an unapologetically cheap and easy segue into what I want to talk about today: rationalism and emotions.

Weight gain and recovery, in some manifestations of eating disorders, go troublingly hand-in-hand. It’s important to note that this isn’t always the case: EDs don’t always result in being dangerously underweight. There are many kinds of eating disorders, and you can’t tell who has one or who doesn’t just by looking at them. (Super-intentional link barrage is super-intentional.)

But for me, and for many readers I’ve chatted with, fear of weight gain is one of the reasons that resistance to recovery is so strong. Recovery is something like full-frontal exposure therapy in these cases. Throwing yourself straight into your worst fear on the word of friends, family, and support either IRL or online that everything will turn out for the best. Imagine a man terrified of sharks being told to watch Jaws in an underwater cage in the Pacific in the middle of Shark Week. It’s something like that. Only without the smell of chum.

Now, you ask, why the deuce did you bring up Comic-Con in that first paragraph, then segue into Jaws, and then somehow end up at recovery? Well, two reasons. One, because I mix metaphors like bartenders mix the ingredients for a Manhattan: into a delicious concoction that goes down smooth every time. And two, because my best strategy of coping with the difficulties of facing recovery’s weight-related fears is to think like a Vulcan.

I’m a little young for the Shatner series, but I’ve seen the more recent Star Trek films (because of Benedict Cumberbatch, and because my former roommate took to yelling “KHAAAAAAAAAN” every time our toilet failed to flush or our stove caught on fire again), so I think that basically makes me an expert in the Vulcan’s inability to process or express emotions. Life to the inestimable Mr. Spock is a math problem, a physics equation, a series of numbers and probabilities that can be followed to its natural and logical end. “Feeling fat” or “fearing weight gain” has no place in the Vulcan universe. You are what you are, logically, rationally, ipso facto. That’s it.

I’m the kind of person who bursts into tears at the smallest provocation, so clearly this isn’t a kind of lifestyle I’m apt to fall into particularly easily. But thinking about issues surrounding weight gain, I find it helpful during tough times – like now. A year and a half after I started blogging about the recovery process, I’m now at my highest weight to date. If you’d told me at the time I would be where I am, I imagine my swirling maelstrom of emotions would have had a thing or two to say about it.

But now, looking at it objectively from a much healthier, much more stable place, I can start to take it apart. The last few days have been a little rough, and I’m still not exactly comfortable moving around in my body the way it feels right now. If we’re being honest (a practice I favor, generally),  I wouldn’t mind losing xx pounds in a healthy, slow, and reasonable way. But when the going gets particularly bad, I’ve started to pull back and ask myself the important questions.

  • “What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen if I wasn’t able to lose weight from here?”
  • “What, really, is bad about the way I am right at this very moment?”
  • “If something happened and I was stuck at this weight forever, what would I lose that I could have had otherwise?”

Answer key, for those playing along at hime:

  • Well, I wouldn’t be able to wear those super-comfortable jeans from two years ago I bought on sale for $20. Which would be sad, but reasonably, I could always buy more jeans. Even if I do hate shopping, it would be about thirty unpleasant minutes. I sat through PompeiiI can handle more than thirty unpleasant minutes.
  • What’s bad about the way I am? Well, I’m not happy. It’s easier to work on being happy with the present than changing it into something it’s not meant to be.
  • What would I lose? Well, those pants. And the privilege of saying that I “got back to my high school weight,” which is apparently an important thing for some reason. Other than that? I’m having a tough time.

I’m not claiming that this exercise is always easy, or that it works every time. But it’s helped me through many a tough morning. For example, a few days ago was my monthly allotted trip to The Scale, when I learned that my newly instated exercise habit had failed to make an ounce (#RecoveryPuns) of difference. The emotional part of my brain was wildly disappointed with this, but after a few minutes, I tried to put my response into the same logical question format.

What exactly were you hoping to accomplish here? Have you accomplished it?

I exercise to feel powerful in my body. I exercise to take care of my heart and my legs and my muscles and my various other et caeteras. I exercise because it’s nice to start a morning with a jog and the chance to listen to the ever kick-ass John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman on The Bugle.

Why does weight logically need to come into that? I can be healthy and happy at any weight. Sure, there’s still that initial moment of “crap, I worked so hard and what do I have to show for it?” I don’t know if there’ll always be that moment, but for right now it’s pretty tough to deny it completely. But what’s important is to cut the thought process off as soon as is logistically possible and really, critically, think about it.

If you’re having a tough recovery day (and we all do), try sitting down for a few minutes, alone and away from distractions, and really asking yourself the question.

What’s the worst thing that could happen if I gain XX pounds? What’s the worst thing that could happen if I embrace recovery and the physical changes that come with it and after it?

Try as hard as you can not to let anything subjective or exaggerated enter this mental discussion. Be honest with yourself. Accept that “physical perfection” is a social construct that means objectively nothing. Be gentle on hard days and do something that makes you happy, because in recovery self-care is a radical and revolutionary choice.

And if you can figure out a way to beam me up somewhere, please drop me a line and let me know. I’m still operating without a car and it would be really lovely not to have to bum rides all the time. Thanks.

#MarginalizED – Bringing Diverse Representation to Eating Disorder Awareness

Fun fact (okay, it’s not a fun fact at all, it’s just a fact): eating disorders are not a “rich young white girl’s problem.” They are not a “first world problem.” They are a human problem. Not that you’d ever know that by looking at the media’s representation of EDs.

Imagine in your mind the typical story the media puts out there about eating disorder diagnoses, struggles, and recoveries. Close your eyes and think about it for a second. Did it look a little like this?

  • Young (certainly not over thirty, because my God), upper-middle-class straight cis white woman develops an eating disorder to cope with some traumatic event in her past. The ED is anorexia.
  • After an intervention from loving family members, the woman enters residential treatment.
  • Several months later, she emerges 98% recovered and ready to make a difference in the world.

Probably.

Now, I’m not saying that these stories don’t have value. They do. They are serious struggles that need to be addressed. I’m a young middle-class straight cis white woman recovering from anorexia, for crying out loud. Those stories happen.

But are they the only stories?

When’s the last time you remember hearing an ED memoir with the protagonist suffering from bulimia? How about binge eating disorder or OSFED (Other Specified Eating or Feeding Disorder, what the DSM used to call EDNOS)?

How many stories out there are told by women of color? Not enough, if the #EatingDisordersAreForWhiteWomen hashtag is anything to go by.

What about middle-aged or older women?

What about the 10% of men (at the absolute bare minimum) with some form of disordered eating?

What about LGBTQ folks?

What about people who choose not to pursue residential treatment? Are their stories “not bad enough” or “not serious enough” for mainstream acceptance? (Hint: the answer is NO.)

We’ve talked here before about the importance of representation. If eating disorders are pigeonholed as a problem affecting only one tiny segment of the population, how is that going to affect how willing people are to seek treatment? How does that further myths that a huge segment of the population’s experiences don’t matter? How does that make people feel who, already struggling with serious physical and mental health issues, are told by the media that they’re not sick enough” or “thin enough” or “white enough” to have an eating disorder?

It needs to stop.

The ever-fabulous Melissa Fabello (who I’ve worked with and sung the praises of before, if you remember) is teaming up with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) to bring you Untold Truths: The Marginalized Voices Project. In its own words:

The Marginalized Voices Project is a collaboration between the National Eating Disorders Association and feminist activist and editor of Everyday Feminism, Melissa A. Fabello. Together, we’re calling for stories that focus on underrepresented experiences and communities in order to create a platform for people to share what it means to suffer (and recover) from an eating disorder.

Our goal is to create a collection of stories that tells the whole truth – by spanning the entire spectrum, highlighting stories from people of marginalized identities and that challenge misconceptions – so that we can present the world with what the reality of most eating disorders look like.

Marginalized Voices Social Image 1 (1) Marginalized Voices_Facebook2 (1) Marginalized Voices_Facebook3 (1) Marginalized Voices_Facebook4 (1)

Interested in sharing your story? Know someone else who might be? Visit this link for more information. Basic guidelines include:

  • Personal narrative, creative nonfiction, or memoir-style
  • Between 1,500 and 2,500 words
  • Deadline is August 15th, 2014

Share this movement far and wide, and let’s break down ED myths and misrepresentations together.

Mental Relapse… That’s A Thing, Right?

Sometimes we've got to be our own calming manatees.

Sometimes we’ve got to be our own calming manatees.

Happy eating disorders awareness week, folks! Although really, for anyone who has, has had, or knows someone with an eating disorder, the idea of there being a week at any time in which we just weren’t aware of eating disorders is kind of nonsense. But it’s great to see resources, support, statistics, and awareness pouring out onto the interwebs this week. For those of you who were able to join me in the #AdiosED Twitter party on Monday evening, thanks for your support. It was a huge success, and we couldn’t have done it without you.

NEDAwareness week came at an oddly ironic time for me this year. Yes, I know it’s the same week every year, but it landed straight in the middle of a… well, I’m not really sure what to call it.

What exactly do you term a sudden preoccupation with your weight and the amount of food you eat, if you’re determinedly not weighing yourself and you’re eating maybe even a little bit more than you ordinarily do? Can it still be considered a relapse if to the outside observer, you’re doing totally fine, but inside you feel like everything’s falling apart?

Disclaimer: I am fully aware that outside stressors in my life are taking their toll on my mental health, and they are doing that in the way they have decided to do since my mid-teens. At the moment, I am working two jobs, taking a full load of university courses, trying to raise almost $1500 to publish a literary magazine, navigating at least three university bureaucracies, trying to figure out how to spell bureaucracy, learning how to do basic html code, and finish a 335-page senior thesis in the next three weeks. Oh, and find out what to do with the rest of my life post-graduation. I recognize that my inherent inability to say “no” to anything is beginning to wear on me, and I’m coping with it as I usually do. But knowing that this is the case doesn’t make it any easier.

Instead of going back down the eating disorder path physically, I feel as if I’ve been taking the opposite road. I cannot actually motivate myself to do anything besides my (not-insignificant) walk to class and to work every day. The gym? Forget about it. Healthy eating? Okay, but once I’m through with dinner I’m going to barrel through that ice cream, because I’m stressed, okay, and sugar makes me feel better.

Briefly. Until I realize that I’ve felt this way before, during the early stages of recovery, when I was rapidly gaining weight like nobody’s business. It’s the same feeling of fear. Of being out of control. Of disgust and shame and wanting to talk to anybody about it but not being able to because I’m supposed to be better.

I had to stop and look at this image for at least five minutes when I first saw it. This is actually scary accurate. That's why it gets included in this post, and you get a bonus image. Puts things in a really visual perspective.

I had to stop and look at this image for at least five minutes when I first saw it. This is actually scary accurate. That’s why it gets included in this post, and you get a bonus image. Puts things in a really visual perspective.

Is this a rant-post? Partially. But I also think that there should be more attention paid to relapses that don’t involve resorting to behaviors. I haven’t stepped on the scale in over two weeks, admittedly partly because I’m afraid to but also because I can’t see what good that would do. I haven’t skipped a meal in months – in fact, I just came from a snack. To all intents and purposes, these are the fluctuations in the eating patterns and exercise habits of a recovered person. Vegetables and time logged on the treadmill take a back seat during the final semester of university, when there’s more things to be done than there are hours in a day. Maybe that’s normal. But I don’t feel recovered. I feel just as out-of-control and afraid as I did months and months ago.

And yet, because physically I’m healthy and functional and not losing weight, you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who would treat this as a relapse. I don’t need to go speak to a medical professional. I don’t need intervention. What I need, most people would tell me, is a nice long nap and a dose of perspective. But that’s not helpful in the midst of this.

Those are some of the complications of recovery that I never thought about until I experienced them. People expect you to be “better” once and for all. Particularly in my position, when I spend so much time writing about eating disorders, talking about recovery, organizing recovery-based events, and what all. People assume that once you’re “recovered,” you no longer need support and your mental state will take care of itself. This is not always the case.

During #AdiosED, one tweet particularly stood out to me, and I bring it back for you here because it’s the most honest thing I’ve read in a long time.

True facts. But the need for a hug doesn’t stop after you’ve been labeled (or have labeled yourself) recovered. Hard times still show up. There are still days when it’s hard to think about inhabiting your body, or look at it, or move around in it in certain ways. I had hoped that there wouldn’t be, but sometimes there are.

If you have a friend in recovery, and you’re comfortable talking with them, ask them how they’re doing from time to time. Be prepared for celebrations if they’re invited, but also be prepared for an honest, open discussion about how sometimes things are still hard.

And if you’re in recovery, and you’re feeling like you’re having a rough time, either mentally or physically, don’t lose hope. This will pass. It won’t go on forever. Because you are stronger than your eating disorder. It puts up a hell of a fight, but you don’t have to take it. Even though it’s hard at the moment, I don’t plan on taking it.

Join Us on Monday for #AdiosED!

AdiosED2

February is National Eating Disorders Awareness Month! If you’re looking for a way to celebrate your recovery journey or that of a loved one, if you need support and inspiration during your process and are on the lookout for resources,  if you want to educate yourself on what eating disorders really mean in our society and in our lives, or if you just want to spend some time on Twitter with me and my colleagues, have I got an event for you.

This Monday, February 24th, Adios Barbie and the National Eating Disorders Association will be hosting our second annual #AdiosED Twitter party, from 8-9pm EST. We will be using the hashtag #AdiosED to organize our conversations around eating disorder recovery, support, and education. Are you doing anything Monday night? Cancel it – this will be an amazing conversation!

Our theme for #AdiosED 2014 is mythbusting, particularly in terms of diverse communities. When eating disorders are represented in the media (and I’m not talking about “does she or doesn’t she need rehab” tabloids, which is a topic for another day), they are primarily represented as a rich, upper-middle-to-upper-class, cis-gendered, late-teens white female problem. Now, if the number of hyphens and commas I needed to use to make that sweeping generalization is any indication, this cross-section of the population clearly does not represent the reality of those who suffer from eating disorders. Possibly you’ve seen the hashtag #eatingdisordersareforwhitewomen, which evolved out of this post on Black Girl Dangerous about the whitewashing and limited representation of eating disorders. If not, check it out.

Clearly, this representation problem needs to end. Eating disorders are shrouded in enough myth and misunderstandings to lose yourself in. They’re lifestyle choices. They’re extreme diets. They’re not real mental illnesses. They’re something you want to have, because then you could finally lose weight. Nobody but celebrities and spoiled rich girls get eating disorders. None of this is true. And the more accurate information we can get out there, the better.

And that’s where #AdiosED comes in. Our discussion will be moderated by our five amazing panelists:

Other eating disorder specialists and activists will be in attendance to help answer your questions and shatter destructive eating disorder myths once and for all.

So what do you say? Will you join us Monday night at 8pm EST and help us say Adios to EDs? I’ll be there – will you?

For more information and to RSVP, visit our Facebook event here. You can also read a more in-depth version of our panelists’ biographies here, and view the transcript of last year’s #AdiosED event here.1002646_620178184697787_646126749_n

Recovery and Performance Art – Speaking/Writing Our Truth

imgres

 

So I write a lot. I keep a recovery blog, I write and content edit for a body-positivity website, I’m one semester away from an honors degree in creative writing, which requires me to more or less finish a novel by April. I’ve learned from personal experience that the Microsoft Word word count widget ceases to function after you pass 100,000.

You know what I do way less? Speak.

I didn’t think it was going to be that different. I mean, everybody who reads this blog, whether I’ve ever met you or not in real life, knows that I’m in recovery from an eating disorder. I make absolutely no attempt to hide that. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: there shouldn’t be any stigma around mental illness and eating disorders, because it only makes it that much more difficult to seek treatment and pursue recovery. If we’re struggling with deeply personal problems, the last thing we should be doing is shaming those problems and driving them farther underground. Which is why I write about my journey, and why I’m open about answering questions and having conversations with others about anorexia, depression, and recovery.

But you know what? It actually is different.

It’s really freaking different.

This February, I’ll be participating in a spoken-word performance on my campus called The Body Monologues. Modeled after Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, there will be about twenty of us standing on stage in about six weeks, telling our stories and our truth through prose, poetry, rants, and music. I’m a creative writing major, like I said, so I’m doing a bit of slam poetry that makes ample use of some of my favorite swear words. We had our first meeting yesterday evening.

It was my turn to do a reading of my piece in front of the group, to get feedback and work through consecutive drafts. And you know what was the most surprising part of the whole ordeal?

From the moment I walked into that room, I was scared shitless.

Why? I thought I had broken down the stigma in my head around talking about my ED. For God’s sake, the amount of time I spend writing and reading and editing other people’s writing about it is staggering. I’m currently organizing a Twitter event to break down that stigma even farther by encouraging open and honest discussion. I sound right now like a tape-recorded message for eating disorder awareness and support. Why was I so nervous about telling my story, when I’m so comfortable writing this post?

There’s a huge difference, I’m learning, between writing to a nameless, faceless audience and speaking to a room full of people who will respond to you immediately, and who will see you again in real life. It’s why I post some of the pieces from this blog onto Facebook, but not all of them. It’s why I still hesitate sometimes when talking face-to-face with someone who’s said something problematic about someone else’s weight, size, or mental illness. It’s because, deep down, though I’ve made tons of progress and am working through my own recovery through words on a regular basis, I’m still scared shitless that someone will look at me differently, once they know.

I shouldn’t be. I don’t want to be. If I’m around someone who judges me negatively or looks at me askance because I’ve been fighting a gladiator-style battle with anorexia since I was sixteen, I don’t want to be around this person anymore. But there’s still that fear of rejection, of judgment, of people looking at me and saying, “You? You don’t look like someone who’s had an eating disorder. Your thighs don’t touch. You do well in school. You eat stuff. You’re too smart for that. Only stupid self-absorbed rich white girls have eating disorders, and it’s because they’re too dumb to diet.” It’s scary as hell.

Put aside that I get a little nervous reading poetry in front of anybody anyway. Make it about my body and my mind, and it’s amazing that I didn’t get up and run out that door.

But I didn’t. And I didn’t just read my piece, I slammed it. I don’t know how it’ll work when I can’t do it staring at the page, when I’m supposed to have it memorized and I don’t have that white piece of computer paper to hold onto like a life preserver anymore. But I’m glad I’m doing this, and I’m glad I’m challenging myself.

And the stunning part was, of the twenty people in that room who shared their stories… You’d be stunned how many had stories similar to mine.

I was touched by their words, by their experiences, and by how much their words reminded me of how far we all, individually, had come, and how far we all, individually and as a society, have to go. But that might be the force that helps me to get on that stage on February 4 and  not die of nerves beneath the spotlight.

The knowledge that no matter how scary it is, no matter how absolutely goddamn fucking terrifying it is, I’m not alone.

None of us are ever alone.

And that’s what sharing our stories is all about.