Archives for Shannon Cutts

Good News

The Place Where it Hurts is Also Where it Heals

When I first developed an eating disorder back in 1981 (35 years ago - wow!), there was no internet. I mean, there probably was an internet somewhere, hidden in some super-secret programmers-only closet. But I sure as heck didn't know about it. So I got much sicker, and then I got much better, without ever once realizing there might be such a thing as a "recovery community" I could participate in to find support. In 2009, finally having achieved full recovery myself, I founded MentorCONNECT, or "MC," the first global nonprofit eating disorders recovery community.  MC was my "baby" for sure, but it was also the first recovery community I had ever belonged to. As well, it represented my first exposure to recovery concepts like "triggers" - which were explained to me as "painful or scary experiences that might weaken my desire for recovery and send me running back to the eating disorder behaviors for safe haven". As it was explained to me, triggers were something to avoid at all costs. But I never really did manage to internalize the concept of triggers as dangerous. To me, triggers were GOOD.  
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Emotions

When Fear Always Seems to be the Answer

Less than 2 weeks ago, 50 people were shot inside an Orlando, FL, nightclub. A few days before that, "The Voice" finalist Christina Grimmie was shot to death after her Atlanta concert. About a day before that, a large alligator who decided to try to cross a busy thru-way during rush hour was shot and killed "for public safety." And just a week before that shooting, Harambe the silverback gorilla was shot and killed when a small boy fell into his enclosure. A few weeks prior to that, a young pre-med student was killed by a homeless teen at my alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin. Everywhere I look, everything I read, it is there again. This news. This horror. The terror. The killing. The seemingly senseless, ongoing rampage, one horrific act after another after another. Sometimes when I read the news, I can hear myself asking - out loud - "Why??" Why do this? Why do that? What purpose could there be? What on earth for? I tell myself I should stop reading the news feed on my Facebook page. But whenever I've tried that, I just hear about it from other people's posts or from my friends who tell me or from other sources anyway. Plus, I am here. I am part of this world. I care. I need to know. I need to do my part. But the "why" of it all haunts me. 
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Animal Mentors

When There is No “Right” or “Wrong” Choice

All my life (to date, anyway) I have had a particular preference for flow-charting things. For example, if A happens, then do B. But if B happens, then do C. That sort of thing. Doing this feels the same as opening Google Maps and mapping out my complete itinerary in advance of taking a trip. Reassuring. Smart. But over the years, I have learned (to my great disappointment) that this "no surprises" approach doesn't work well in a surprising number of situations. This appears to be because, for many less clear-cut situations, there exists no black or white "if (this), then (that)" option. In other words, there is no one single best possible choice for each possible scenario. There is only a series of less-best choices, in ever-decreasing amounts of best-ness. Or there is a series of choices that are best for one choice-maker but not for the others. These are the kinds of scenarios therapists like to call "grey areas" and I like to call "frustrating." I will give you an example of one such grey area I have been turning over and over in my mind since the day I learned of it. 
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Emotions

Bathrooms for Everyone

I will admit that, to date, I have mostly ignored the whole "battle of the bathroom," as Time magazine calls it. Even after my own home city of Houston rejected a bill late last year that would have given all of us the right to use the bathroom we felt genetically "zoned" to, along with other protective anti-discrimination measures, I still kind of didn't pay much attention. I guess I just wasn't sure what the big deal was, and so I assumed sooner or later it would get worked out so everyone could pee when and where they wanted to. But when my regular issue of Time magazine showed up with rolls of rainbow-colored toilet paper on its cover, I started to realize this issue isn't minor to a lot of folks. And it isn't going away. So here is my take on it. My mom and I have been sneaking into men's bathrooms for years. This on account of our pea-sized bladders and how often men's bathrooms have no line and women's bathroom lines are circling the block. 
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Animal Mentors

Confronting the Cruelty Within

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently finished reading a book by David Grimm called "Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs." The book gave me a lot to think about on a lot of different levels. And while I expected to feel upset, especially while reading (or skimming, or sometimes skipping over) stories about the cruel things people have done to animals that is now prompting a push to give cats and dogs expanded "human" rights, I didn't expect it to become personal. As in, I don't think of myself as a cruel person. I have pets - my parrot, Pearl, and my tortoise, Malti - plus a puppy named Flash Gordon to whom I am a proud auntie. I have never deliberately harmed any creature...or at least I thought I hadn't until I read "Citizen Canine." The more I encountered stories of cruel animal abusers, the more everything inside of me began to revolt. To rage. I started questioning everything I thought I believed about how we are all connected....somehow....even though I couldn't begin to explain where my beliefs come from or how all that alleged connectedness might actually work. But I mean, how could I - gentle soul that I consider myself to be - have anything in common with those so-called humans who commit such horrific crimes against the non-human beings we share this planet with? How can those people - the cruel animal harmers - even be considered "human?" And if they are in fact human, then what species am I? I mean, I honestly think I have more in common with the garden rocks in our backyard than with those kinds of people. So I continued to ruminate as I continued to read. I continued to ponder, to worry and rage. This went on for days. And then one day, a small band of black sugar ants snuck under the sill of my kitchen window and onto the counter. 
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Animal Mentors

When Pets Become People

I just recently finished reading a book by David Grimm called "Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs." I won't lie. I was expecting something a little....lighter. At nearly 300 pages and with a 2014 publication date, the book took me on a journey from our earliest interactions with companion animals all the way up to today. Along the way we hit a few (many) rough patches. This was especially true in the chapters addressing animal research, animal rescue during disasters, animals and religion and working animals. In the chapters detailing how dogs and cats' legal rights have moved increasingly closer to our own rights (what the author calls "personhood"), I found myself wishing the book included parrots and tortoises (and all other animals, of course). In the chapters reviewing all the horrific stuff we've subjected our canine and feline counterparts to, I found myself wishing to change my own species affiliation. People can be pretty awful sometimes. There is also an ongoing book-wide parallel drawn between how slaves became full citizens and the trajectory dogs and cats appear to be on now. This (at least as I read it) is not to downplay the significance of the end of slavery, but to signify how, when we change our mindset about the worth of any being, positive changes in the quality of life of that being tend to quickly follow. For instance, after quite a lengthy battle, pets can now legally inherit money left to them in people's wills.  But canines working for the military are still classified as "equipment" themselves, and there are groups actively fighting to change that even as I type right now. Perhaps the most gripping part of the book is near the end, however, when one Rutgers university professor named Gary Francione makes an unorthodox suggestion - to do away with "pets," period. When I first read that, everything in me revolted.
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Shannon Cutts

When Trauma Turns Into Euthanasia

Recently my friend and colleague Jenni Schaefer sent me a link to her story of recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder, aka PTSD.

Jenni and I have known each other for yet until I read her post, I didn't know she had been a victim of rape. I also didn't know she had struggled for many years with PTSD as a result of the rape.

To hear Jenni tell it, for a...
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Good News

When Your Body is Weak Your Spirit is STRONG

Trust me. I wouldn't say something like this if I didn't really mean it. And when I say "mean it," I'm not talking about a belief - something I say with my mouth and believe in my head. I mean I have experienced it first-hand with my body, mind, heart and spirit all expressing their willingness to go public to corroborate my story. Allow me to share a recent experience: One very early morning last month, my lower back woke me out of a sound sleep with two sharp, stabbing pains. Suddenly, I could barely move my legs. Not too many hours later, I bit down on my breakfast only to feel more stabbing pain issuing up through my jaw and across the right side of my skull. The only word I can think of to adequately describe that entire next week is "excruciating." My chiropractor did what she could for my back. I found an oral surgeon who introduced me to the dubious pleasures of "laughing gas" while she excised the offending root. In this way, most of my month was consumed by alternating bouts of upper and lower body pain, combined with regularly scheduled doses of antibiotics and pain medications and a startlingly high daily "nap count." As the days wore on and began to wear on me, I remembered something a mentor of mine had once shared - "when the body is weak, the spirit becomes really strong." Since I had nothing but time at this point, I decided to investigate her statement more fully. I started by becoming more deliberate about making daily time for meditation (versus snoring) and also taking more care to remember my dreams. As I did so, one "aha moment" after another began to emerge. Some of these aha moments unlocked repetitive dream-series I have been dreaming for years without any clue about what they mean. As this continued, I found myself wondering if physical weakness could be considered a divine gift of empathy, of sincere kindness, of unconditional love, because when we are living our conscious, physical-plane day-to-day lives, we are simply too present in the sheer "realness" of concrete daily life to even hear our spirit if it tries to reach us. Here is a very simple example of this that happens to me quite often: 
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Inspirational

No, I Don’t Feel Fat (and Yes, I’m Going to Eat That)

I had such a cool day today. It was the kind of day that makes every single day - all 2 decades of them - I spent recovering from an eating disorder worth it. More than worth it. When I left to meet my friend for coffee, I wasn't especially keen on what I was wearing or how I looked. I also felt like I might have a cold coming on. In short, I felt kind of .... iffy. But since I love this particular friend very much, I went to meet her anyway. We ordered. She got a latte. I got a giant cold coffee frappe and a tasty pastry. My friend is quite tiny (naturally so - not on account of any past history of an eating disorder). Where I curve, she hugs the straight line. When I offered to share my pastry with her, she turned me down, but not for the reasons I expected. My tiny friend told me her pants were suddenly way too tight and no way was she going to eat a pastry. And here is the best part. IT DIDN'T PHASE ME ONE BIT. 
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Celebrity Mentors

Retraining Your Eyes to Accept Your Body

These days, I spend increasingly less of my time focused on what I would call "recovery" matters. In other words, I can go whole days, weeks even, without really thinking about the me that used to struggle SO hard with an eating disorder on a daily basis. But there is one area that continues to require significant daily investments of my time and focus. That area is body acceptance. I certainly wasn't an overnight recovery success myself. By that I mean, I've never gotten to a place where, from that point forward, I simply stopped struggling with my eating issues. Rather, recovery happened gradually, not even day by day but minute by minute, until there were fewer moments of significant struggle with increasing stretches of relative peace in between them. Now I am working on body acceptance in the same way, minute by minute and day by day. Some days are harder than others, but the really tough days are fewer and farther between. One particular tactic is really paying off. I call it "retraining my eyes to accept my body." The way I do this is simple. 
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