A few days ago I got this email from one of my mentees –
If I had a dollar for every time over the past few days I have heard [my eating disorder voice say to me], “You’re not sick enough. . . .you don’t need recovery. . . .stop trying, it won’t work, I am the only thing that works. . . .don’t waste time you could use for doing homework on such meaningless tasks as going to see a dietitian. . . .” and so on, and so forth, the list continues. Just really trying to cope with all of this in a healthy way, you know?? It is so tempting to just cave and listen to ED and do what he tells me to do.
Yes it is. Which is why those of us who have suffered with an eating disorder can relate so well to the struggle she describes. The “Ed voice”, as we call it, talks and talks, and we listen. The more we listen, the more it replaces any other voice we might give airtime and consideration to.
At some point, it becomes our mentor.
Where does mentoring fit into our regularly scheduled recovery lives?
This is a common question that I can almost count on being asked at least once per week – and for good reason. Mentoring is still a relatively new entrant to the recovery scene, and it is vital to understand how mentoring fits in, what it is, what it is not, where to use it, and how, and why.
For instance, if you are a treating professional, you may very understandably be wondering how a mentor might complement – or contradict – the intensive and valuable work you and your clients accomplish in session.
And if you are in recovery, you may equally reasonably be wondering if, how, or when to add in time with a mentor when you already have so much going on with school, work, family obligations, treatment appointments, support groups, or other non-negotiable to-do list items.
The good news is, mentoring does not overlap with, cancel out, supersede, or impose upon any other category.
Mentoring is in its own category.
I woke up this morning craving kindness.
Not to mention a far cry from the things I used to wake up craving, like self-annihilation.
Higher bed frames so I could make my permanent home underneath mine.
Or at least a large bag of potato chips.
There were many days I craved depression, when anxiety’s high speed chases left me worn and weary.
Other days, I craved anxiety, because anything was better than the block of depressive concrete weighing down on body, mind, heart, and soul.
But I honestly can’t remember, even in the many days and months and years I have been in strong, sustained recovery from my eating disorder, a day until today when I have woken up consciously and actively craving kindness.
I looked down at my feet and there it was.
A tiny sandshark.
My (obviously equally tiny) brain was suddenly gridlocked in processing.
Sandshark. On concrete. Far away from any water, salt, or sand.
How could this be?
The next thing I knew, a thousand tiny neurons fired up their guns to come to the exact same conclusion at the exact same time.
“Shannon, it’s not a sandshark. It’s a leaf.”
One of our wonderful readers recently posted a question that I wanted to explore together in more detail.
She wrote: I was wondering how you become a mentor? I have had friends and relatives refer some of their friends to me when they have needed help and guidance, and I have received good feedback from the people I have worked with. They have said that I have really helped them a lot and that they don’t feel so alone anymore and like that they have someone who understands them. I enjoy sharing my experiences to help others, so how would I go about becoming a mentor to others?
What a great question!
I woke up much earlier this week to a strange structure in my neighbor’s backyard.
I studied it, trying to figure out what it could be.
A shower? A bathroom? A closet? Or perhaps a tiny garden gazebo?
Like a small wooden UFO, it simply appeared, and has been parked there quietly ever since.
Now, there is a small house under construction just across the way. And I happen to know that my landlady’s husband is the general contractor for that house. And it just so happens that my landlady and her husband live downstairs.
But that small structure is still much too wide and much too tall to fit through the front door of the half-finished mini-house behind us.
For that matter, even I can figure out that it doesn’t make much sense to build a usable, useful structure in the backyard, only to have to take it all apart again to get it indoors.
So what could it be? What will it be used for? How long will it stay there?
I have no idea.
I don’t follow directions well.
Let’s take cooking for example. I don’t need to watch Hell’s Kitchen because I go there every day. After all these years I have not yet cured myself of the irresistible impulse to skim a set of recipe instructions, nod my head sagely, and counsel myself, “well, let’s get started then – how hard could it be?”
Quite hard, and quite often, as it turns out, although I can’t discount the frequent opportunity for valuable key learnings such as:
• Spray non-stick cooking spray into skillet, THEN turn on gas flame
• Timers are there for a reason (also, unburned cookies taste better than burned ones)
• Steaming brussels sprouts is easier when you add water to the pot
• Before cooking, thoroughly consider ordering takeout
Yet I persist.
We are all recovering from something.
Life. Love. Lack. Loss.
Not to mention all those big and small “oops” moments that linger long after we’ve fled the scene.
But through it all – in the midst of it all even – we rarely (and actually never, I suspect) are without help.
Better yet, most often it is not even a matter of locating a guide to help us get from Point Then to Point Now and beyond.
Rather, it is more simply a matter of becoming aware of the help that is already close at hand so we can then make the choice to accept it.
Case in point – right now, stop and think of one situation where, for a time at least, you really, honestly, thoroughly believed, “No way, no how am I going to get through this one.”
Then think of one or more of the folks who deserve at least partial credit for leading, guiding, or dragging you successfully and safely from then to now.
This is what is called “mentoring”.