This month’s edition of “Good News for Eating Disorders Recovery” is now available and I wanted to share the inspiring message with you here in honor of NEDAwareness Week 2013 (February 24-March 2). I hope you enjoy it!
You Are Aware
If there is one thing I have actually managed to learn well over the past 42 years, it is that my struggles, more than anything else, are what have given me the cherished ability to empathize with others when they are struggling.
While it is always great to enjoy happy moments, and to do whatever we can to make those moments last and grow, in truth it is our struggles that allow us to enjoy happiness when it comes, and to celebrate with others when they emerge from painful places into happiness again.
If you are anything like me, you probably don’t particularly enjoy feeling sad, anxious, depressed, lonely, angry or fearful, but you can also see how your very awareness of these states has created a more compassionate, loving, giving, gentle, kind, caring person living right inside your own skin.
Because you have first felt pain, you are aware of the pain in the people around you.
Because you have struggled, you can extend compassion – and respect – to others when they struggle.
Because you have experienced personal weakness, you can encourage loved ones to use weakness as a tool to strengthen and grow.
Because you have endured loss, you can extend a hand of comfort to grieving people just with your presence and listening ears.
Because you have been afraid, you can encourage others who are anxious or fearful that they are not alone.
Because you are still here, learning and growing and stretching yourself through all of the ups and downs and in-betweens of life, you can offer your hope to those caught in a dark valley that the sun is absolutely waiting for them just over that next mountain peak.
You ARE aware. You are awake. You are alive.
Just by waking up again each morning and choosing to get out of bed, …
It is that time again. Thank goodness.
Each year, the National Eating Disorders Association spearheads a nationwide, growing movement to put eating disorders on everyone’s radar. For some of us, we already know all about eating disorders. Perhaps we (me) have recovered from one. Or we know someone who is struggling to recover. Or we know someone who struggled but didn’t make it. Or we know someone who struggled and did make it.
Or all of the above.
There are many ways to help and support people with eating disorders during NEDAwareness Week. In fact, there are many ways to help and support people with eating disorders all year long. But a particularly good time to offer your support is during NEDAwareness Week, which is happening from February 24 – March 2 this year.
One great way to help is to support a NEDA Walk. Or a Virtual Walk for that matter. MentorCONNECT, the nonprofit eating disorders mentoring community I founded, just happens to be sponsoring a Virtual (online) Walk at this very moment!
Here is how to participate: http://neda.nationaleatingdisorders.org/site/TR?fr_id=2300&pg=entry
And you can spread the word by sharing the Facebook page too: https://www.facebook.com/events/523674577653447/
Thank you for supporting eating disorders awareness in any way that feels right to you. And I mean that from my personal eating disorder survivor’s heart and soul!
<< HUGS >>
Today’s Takeaway: My particular passion and focus happens to be eating disorders awareness. But yours might be something different. What are some causes that really resonate with you? Perhaps it is because you have had personal firsthand or secondhand experience, or because you just really feel connected for some reason. What might you do to recognize and support those causes in ways that feel good and connecting to you?
For years I have been subscribing to a correspondence course that focuses on different aspects of self-care and self-improvement.
I like to save the lessons. Sometimes I also like to go back and read them years later. When I do this I often discover they are just as fresh and insightful as they were when I first received them (which either means I haven’t learned anything or they are timeless. Personally, I prefer the latter interpretation).
Recently I read an old lesson about how to deal with cravings. The advice was simple – ignore them. They are like waves in the ocean – they arise and then they subside. For a moment I thought I had picked up the wrong lesson and was reading the one about how to deal with emotions instead.
It seems that great advice has many applications. Even better, I tried it on my cravings and it works just as well as it works on my emotions. Yahoo!!
As it turns out, emotions and cravings apparently share a common DNA. They both arise and subside. They both happen rather routinely. They both can encourage us to do or say things we later really wish we hadn’t.
And they both are quite manageable if we know what to do.
Recently my mom loaned me a book called “Peony in Love”. The title sounded vaguely familiar, but included as it was in a stack of other book club books she had recently finished with, I didn’t pay it too much mind initially.
Later, I was hunting around for something good to read and I rediscovered it. The first thing that fascinated me was that the author, Lisa See, was a Caucasian woman but all her books (excepting her own award-winning memoir) seemed to be about Chinese women. This intrigued me. Being a writer myself, I was also interested to learn that the book would share more about the life of wealthy Chinese women writers in the prior century.
So I started to read. I didn’t get too far into the book, however, before I realized that a central theme also revolved around using physical hunger to manage emotional hunger. The term used in the book, and in that era of Chinese society, was not “anorexic” but “lovesick”. Specifically, the “lovesick maidens” were a class of predominantly young, wealthy Chinese girls who, being denied of the love or control of destiny (or both) that their spirits craved, ceased from consuming food and liquids and seemingly wasted away in protest.
Knowing what medical science knows today about anorexia as a disease with complex origins and even more complex symptoms and side effects, I found this simplistic definition oddly heart-wrenching. In looking back over the landscape of my own developing eating disorder, which began around the age of 10, I discovered an element of deep shared truth – a link that spanned the centuries to connect modern day me to these ancient Chinese maidens.
Yes, we do have eating disorders in my family tree, especially on my Dad’s side. And yes, there are traits that I possess that undoubtedly would have predisposed me to developing an eating disorder at some point in my life anyway, whether it happened when and how it did or at another time for a different reason.
But the specific set of experiences I had seemingly just days or weeks prior …
Today is Valentine’s Day. Again.
In years past this hasn’t exactly been my favorite holiday, but this year I am endeavoring to change my association with its inevitable annual arrival to one which emits more, um, positive vibes.
On that subject, I recently read a very interesting piece about love. It challenged everything I thought I knew about the subject (which, judging from past romantic relationships, isn’t much). Anyway, in the past, some articles I have read seemed to focus on making a distinction between whether love is an adjective or a verb. Other articles I have read have chosen to state that love is an action, not a word.
But this particular article put all of that aside, claimed semantics and then took a step beyond it all into brand new territory.
Love, said the writer, is not a thing at all. It is who we are – each of us – it is the essence of our being.
I don’t know about you, but when I read this, something in my particular being breathed a sigh of relief. No more do I have to worry about “doing” it wrong. No longer do I have to struggle with the concept that I possess some kind of inner love “bank account” that I make deposits and withdrawals from.
Speaking of which, the author also asserted that love is not something that is exchanged between two people.
I will admit I do know the difference between listening to my head and listening to my heart.
But that doesn’t mean I remember this distinction when crisis moments strike. I was telling a friend the other day that, while I don’t believe my mind has independent intelligence and is out to get me, I do find it distressing how frequently it takes the “glass half empty” approach.
My mentor is continually reminding me that I will know I am on the right path when I feel peace within myself. Of course, she keeps reminding me of this (for going on 11 years now) because I keep forgetting….and because sometimes I can get so worked up about an issue that even when I am feeling peace I occasionally fail to notice it!
The truth is, my head chatters. Oddly, it doesn’t need input or responses – it seems perfectly happy to go on about its day, muttering and commenting about anything and everything. In this, it tends to automatically assume I am listening (unfortunately, I often am). It also assumes its commentary is both welcome and wise.
Most of the time it is neither.
When I can calm down enough to tune in, it becomes immediately obvious that heart knowledge is vastly superior in quality to head knowledge. Head knowledge is wordy. Head knowledge tends to be complicated. Head knowledge often brings emotional chaos and indecision.
Heart knowledge is simple. Heart knowledge resonates. Heart knowledge often prompts that wise head-nod reaction (imagine Obi-Wan Kenobi here, “Right, Luke, FEEL the Force within you.”
Heart knowledge can extricate me from a sticky situation without a trace while head knowledge leaves a damage path a mile long…and wide.
Must. Remember. This.
Today’s Takeaway: Do you ever struggle to tell the difference (or simply to remember there is a difference) between head knowledge and heart knowledge? What can you do now that might help you remember in the future to tune in to your heart even in the most challenging crisis moments?
Woman with heart photo available from Shutterstock
A week or so ago I wrote a post called “You Deserve Better”. In this post, I shared that I struggle when people who love me say to me, “You deserve better”. The post was an attempt to comprehend why I struggle, and of course to get your thoughts as I always love to do.
Recently I had an aha moment – an additional revelation if you will – about this phrase. I realized that “I deserve more” and “I want more” are not one and the same. At least in my world, one denotes comparison with outside others or forces, while the other emphasizes an inner very personal longing or a vision I have for my life.
For instance, for many years I have dated men who didn’t give nearly as much as they would take from me. I allowed it for – well, several reasons. During these years, my close, loyal friends would periodically treat me to a well-intended mentoring session of “you deserve better”, which I would listen to out of respect for the fact that they clearly loved me and were perceiving a happier state for me in their mind than what their eyes were showing them.
But I never broke up with the men on account of someone telling me I deserved better.
Each and every day is an unknown. Sometimes I am in awe that we wake up and jump (or in my case crawl) out of bed so casually, when absolutely anything could happen. We have no guarantee that all will be well, that anything we expect to happen will happen, or that everything we hope to avoid won’t happen. We risk a lot, putting on our clothes and shoes, getting into our cars, driving out to be in the world for one more day.
Some days start out iffy, but then turn out so wonderfully by day’s end. Other days – well, let’s just say they seem to wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and we go along for the ride whether we particularly want to or not. In my 42 years to date, I have had some of each and many with a bit of both, and I have learned only one thing:
I will get through it.
The good days pass, and so do the bad days. I can look back at days where I was on top of the world emotionally, and just feeling really grateful to be alive on that particular day to have that particular experience. Then I can look back at other days where it was literally a matter of gritting my teeth, breathing through my fear, exhaling out my anger, and opening again and again to the waves of grief pouring up and through me.
On these days too, I survived.