An Interview with Author, Speaker, and Mentor Cheryl Kerrigan
For this post I have the honor of introducing to you my dear friend and colleague (at MentorCONNECT) Cheryl Kerrigan.
Cheryl is an author, speaker, teacher, and mentor, but first and foremost she is a survivor of a decades-long battle with an eating disorder. “Telling Ed No” is her first book and is being released by Gurze Books this fall.
I encourage you to pick up a copy of “Telling Ed No” – the easiest way is to just order it directly from Gurze Books.
Hope you enjoy this interview with Cheryl!
An Interview with Cheryl Kerrigan, Author of “Telling Ed No”
“Telling Ed No” is a goldmine with over 100 practical tools that can help those in recovery from eating disorders choose recovery and work towards that goal. Can you tell us about some of your favorite tools from your own recovery journey?
Some of my favorite tools in my recovery were talking back to Ed, converting Ed’s rules and yoga…to name a few.
Talking back to Ed (Telling Ed No!) was the tool I used the most because Ed was talking to me non-stop so I had to talk back…with recovery leading the way. I usually talked back out loud. In doing so I could hear the strength and power in my words back (even if I didn’t fully believe them) which gave me the courage and strength to keep moving forward. Telling Ed “No” is vital and when you disobey Ed after you say No to him, it speaks volumes to your quest and fight for freedom.
Converting Ed’s rules is an exercise Thom (Rutledge) (my therapist at the time) taught me. Writing down Ed’s rules and then converting them to recovery rules/statements was powerful as I could see recovery play out right in front of me. Seeing those conversions gave me healthy rules to live by which gave me even more power to fight Ed. Also practicing the converting on paper gave me the confidence to convert right away when Ed would tell me a rule during the day. I was able to say “sorry Ed, I’m not listening to that rule…that’s a lie. I’m going by my recovery rule which is XXXXX so go away”.
Yoga helped me respect and appreciate my body. My body was changing so much and yoga helped me center myself and helped me see my body as a powerful being, not something to be hated or despised. I still do yoga every week and love the power it instills inside me on a daily basis….in body, mind and spirit.
What prompted you to write “Telling Ed No” and what is the primary message you want to share with readers?
When my recovery began, professionals would tell me to utilize recovery tools and that the tools would help aid in my recovery. I didn’t quite understand what they were talking about and they didn’t have a ton of definitive examples for me and when I looked, I couldn’t find a book that had any listed to help guide me. As I got stronger, I realized how powerful and vital these tools were in my recovery. They kept me on the right path and gave me healthy ways to cope so I could disobey Ed and recover. So, I decided to write down all the tools that I used that helped me in hopes that others might find them helpful in their recovery journey. They are practical and successful and have a real person and story behind them. These tools got me where I am today and my hope is that they can help others find freedom too. With time, patience, commitment and practice, recovery happens!
You share in “Telling Ed No” that you began struggling with eating disordered thoughts as early as age 5. What prompted you to finally seek help, and even more importantly, what gave you the courage to stay the course?”
Throughout my life I was in and out of treatment with no real commitment to work recovery. Recovery seemed too hard. It was easier and more comfortable to be with Ed. It wasn’t until a family intervention and careful thought and decision making on my part that I decided to enter treatment again and begin my true journey to recovery. Support from my treatment team, family and friends helped me stay on course. Also the commitment I made to myself and my hopes and dreams (without Ed) helped me stay focused and gave me hope. I didn’t really know what life would hold without Ed but I went on faith and trust that it would be better than the one I was leading…..and I was right. The love others had for me when I couldn’t even love myself gave me courage. Knowing I wasn’t alone even though I felt alone helped me remain strong. As I moved along in my recovery, I began to feel and see a new world and seeing and feeling that new world (even briefly at times) also gave me the courage to remain on course. I knew the life I led with Ed was not a life I wanted anymore.
You are a tireless, passionate volunteer, always giving back to others in many walks of life. Can you tell us a bit about why volunteering is so important to you?
Volunteering is a wonderful way to give back and to give a piece of yourself to someone else. Volunteering strengthens my heart and soul and makes me a better person from the inside out. I give my heart and passion to someone in need and the gift I receive in return makes me feel whole, complete, balanced and energized. Volunteering is done from the deepest part of myself without any judgment or expectations to the ones I help and what they give me in return (without them even knowing) helps my soul flourish and strengthens me as an individual. It makes me appreciate what I have, who I am, how far I’ve come and what I have to offer.
You also serve as a mentor to recovering persons through your work with MentorCONNECT and as a speaker and educator to share your story of recovery and encourage others. Why do you feel it is important for recovered persons to share their stories, both in a group setting and one-on-one as a mentor?
It is important for a recovered person to share their stories because it makes recovery a reality. When we are suffering with Ed, it is hard to envision that recovery even exists because we are in so much pain in trying to get there but when we “see and hear” a recovered individual, it brings it to life. It’s my tag line when I speak to others…..I’m “bringing recovery to life”….and it’s very true. We as recovered individuals share ourselves and our experience with those suffering to help make their journey less painful and more successful. We provide hope, strength and inspiration. Also for sufferers being able to bounce questions and ideas off of someone who has been there is a huge gift and motivator to keep them moving forward. Not only does it help those suffering, sharing ourselves (for me anyway) strengthens our recovery. It’s a reminder of where we were and how far we’ve come. The gifts that giving back gives goes both ways….everyone wins.
For others who want to share their stories and mentor like you do, what advice would you have for them?
The advice I would give to others is what I live by and pride myself on: Be clear on the message you want to deliver and speak with an open heart and open mind. Give without judgment or expectations. Be humble yet understand someone will look up to you. Choose your words carefully yet speak freely. Be honest and true to yourself and to others. Have fun and love what you do. Know that even though you may not see the outcome, you are making a difference. Be sure to care for yourself so you can care for others.
As the author of “Telling Ed No”, how do you recommend that readers work through the book to gain the greatest benefit?
First, I would read Telling Ed No! all the way through. This way you can get a feel for all the tools and exercises available and get inspired at the same time. After you read it cover to cover, you then can use the book as a daily tool. You can either work on one/two chapters/exercises a day or you can determine where you are that day and flip through the book to see what might work to help you continue to move forward. Remember that it will take more than one recovery tool to help you through a difficult situation, so don’t give up if one tool doesn’t work right away. Try another, then another and don’t give up.
What other encouraging words do you have for readers who are struggling right now, want desperately to be where you are (recovered from “Ed”), and are having trouble believing that recovery is possible for them to?
I would tell the readers that are struggling that I speak the truth when I say you can recover and find freedom. With hard work, patience, commitment and practice, recovery happens. When you fall, learn from the fall and look up to see recovery standing there. Grab onto recovery to help you back up….don’t reach for Ed’s hand to help you up….reach for recovery and then continue to move forward. You are no different than me…you can recover to. Disobey Ed and remember no matter how enticing he sounds or what he promises, he is lying. It may be hard to give it to yourself, but I give you permission to eat, to care for yourself in healthy ways and to do what it takes to leave Ed and recover. Stay strong and commit to your recovery plan and don’t give up. Freedom can be yours. You deserve it and you are worth it. Believe!
To learn more about Cheryl Kerrigan and “Telling Ed No”, visit her at www.cherylkerrigan.com
Cutts, S. (2013). An Interview with Author, Speaker, and Mentor Cheryl Kerrigan. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 3, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mentoring-recovery/2011/11/an-interview-with-author-speaker-and-mentor-cheryl-kerrigan/