Archives for Good News
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.
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:
I have spent years searching for the "real me." Every so often I would catch this fleeting glimpse of someone - a free, funny, warm, spontaneous, creative, loving, laughter-filled being - as she moved through me. I would try to follow her, but she was very quick....so quick she often seemed to be formed out of sheer wishful thinking or my (always) overactive imagination. But I kept searching for her anyway. I kept searching because she was irresistible. She was marvelous. On the days she would spontaneously flit through me, the effect was not unlike finding out the FBI had just caught the real suspect and the handcuffs could finally come off. The jail cell door was opened and I could go home now. I was free.
The first three decades of my life were a pretty rough ride. I just didn't think I had what it takes to do a good job living life as "me." So I kept trying to delegate the responsibility to someone else. For example, when I had a decision to make, I would waffle and wait, stall and stumble, ask others (ad nauseum) for their input, and frequently choose poorly even after all that. I just didn't trust myself. Even worse, I didn't respect myself....or like myself. It is hard to do your best job when you don't like, trust or respect the person you are working for. Today all that has changed. Today I firmly hold the steering wheel of my own life, and I steer with confidence (if not always with impeccable directional sense). What changed? Well, for starters, I began to really grasp - on a much deeper level than just my mind - the unique opportunity that being "me" really is. No one else can do it - and that is because there are no other openings. There is only one "me." Only ONE. But maybe for some of you, that reads like a tired cliche, especially if you feel like you've been in a headlock with yourself for the last day or decade. If so, I get it - truly I do. So here is something else that changed. I realized I am the one with the most to lose - and the most to gain - by learning how to live well as "me." Yes, my parents would care, my mentors and friends would care, my pets would care if I ended up doing such a bad job at living my life I was no longer here at all. They would care. But not as much as I would care.
A few months ago, I finally published my second book. I was super excited.....at first. But once the book began selling well in earnest, I began to feel anxious. At this point I asked myself quite kindly, "What is the matter? Why are you so anxious when you could be enjoying your new book's success?" Very quickly from within I heard these shocking words, "Just wait until the book stops selling and the bottom falls out of all this - then see how cheery you will feel!" In other words, I was clearly having trouble adjusting to my own success. I had somehow become so accustomed to feeling like a failure that even when success came knocking and then let itself in, I refused to recognize or welcome it. I was too afraid of what would happen if it decided not to stay. I was SO afraid, in fact, that I was actively visualizing future failure in the midst of current success! It was at this point I realized that I lacked the strength to hold success.
Over the years, I have detected a pattern to how I tend to do "personal growth." First, I whine and moan about how I really want something - let's say body acceptance - and I complain about how hard I've been working and why haven't I achieved it yet...? Then I work really hard some more, and I keep working and working and working. Then one day, or week, or year, I wake up and there it is - that thing I've been working so hard to achieve. It is sitting calmly on the end of my bed, just waiting for me to open my eyes so it can enjoy the shocked look on my face. Over the past year, I have had just such a surprise visitor - body acceptance.
I am always in awe right around this time of year. This is because I realize: a) a whole year has just gone by, and b) a whole new year is just about to arrive. Wow. When did all this happen?! But in recent years my awe has increased as I've realized I am no longer looking to a fresh new year to solve all the issues and problems the tired old year didn't get around to dealing with. I no longer wake up on January 1st, New Year's Day, hoping and expecting a miracle to have unfolded overnight. This is because the miracle has already occurred - and it happened a long time ago.
Right before I graduated from college, I got offered a job that paid quite a lot. So of course I took it. Right away I paid off all my student loans and saved up a bundle of cash. But even though I was raking in the green (in fact, I had more money at that time than I have ever had before or since!) I couldn't buy a cup of coffee without feeling guilty for spending what I felt sure I should be saving for later. In short, I didn't feel I deserved the coffee now if it came at the expense of the later needs of my future self. Unfortunately, I was also still really sick with my eating disorder in those first post-college years, so lots of other things besides my relationship with my own cash were still upside-down. Even worse, the job itself also made me sick - there were more than a few days when offing myself literally seemed preferable to another day spent all trussed up in hose and heels and, well, hell. During those three extra-long years, pricey cups of coffee temporarily eased my angst. Thoughts of all the rest of my cash that my future self would have to spend during her retirement did not. This was because I could barely myself imaging surviving the day I was in, let alone a day 30 or 50 years forward when I would finally have "enough" and wouldn't have to work anymore. So I bought my little cups of coffee and worried, and saved the rest for my retirement and worried.
Oh. The stomach. That bastion of photoshopping. That naysayer of bikini season. That frenemy of (tasty) dessert. With so much seemingly riding on its relative degree of concavity or convexity at any given moment, it is no wonder I have suffered with digestive issues for nearly as long as I've been alive. But today I am happy to share I am mostly free from these life-long embarrassments and discomforts. Thanks in large part to a combination of affirmations, probiotics, breathing techniques, meditation and other gentle helps, my stomach is too. Today, my stomach and I have an agreement. It takes care of "digestion" and I take care of the rest.
When I first became sick with an eating disorder, I didn't really know what was happening to me. But I knew it didn't feel good. And I knew I didn't feel good - about my disease, or about me. So when I first starting trying to recover, I accepted others' help only because I had exhausted all other options. I didn't feel worthy of their time. I didn't think I deserved the gifts of their compassion and mentoring guidance. Yet, it still felt very good to receive what they had to offer. As I received more and more and began to really fill up on love and grace and self-worth for the first time ever, something amazing occurred. I began to long to give to others.