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Body Image & Recovery

Finding the Weathervane in Mentoring

I have learned lately that life itself rarely gets easier.

But our ease with life's hard times can.

When I was younger I had a fascination with comparative religion. I was just sure that the cure for it all (whatever "it" happened to be that day) would be found in a power higher and wiser than myself.

Later I had a crisis of faith and opted to go for a time without any and see how it felt. I was intrigued to notice that neither extreme felt particularly better nor worse than the other.

In fact, further analysis revealed that I felt equally dependent, powerless, and incompetent from either side.


Body Image & Recovery

Moderation in Mentoring

Today I was pondering yet again the intense gratitude I feel towards my own mentor, Lynn.

Without Lynn......well, I've never really relished thinking about that.

When I first met Lynn, she was not my mentor but my boss. That was not the easiest job in the world....I've always been a free spirit, and have never exhibited a strong fondness for square-shaped spaces called "offices." I was out of mine a lot.

Some few months after Lynn arrived to take the helm at the marketing company I worked for, she and I had a conversation, and from that point on she became my mentor.  We discovered that we shared a love of service, that we were both in recovery, and that we enjoyed talking about life and growth and the deep questions of the universe.

That is not to imply that there was a single area where we particularly stood on equal footing - except in the fact that we both knew what it felt like to struggle, and we both had a strong desire towards self-directed self-improvement.

However, in every other way, Lynn was several steps (yards? miles?) ahead of me, and even as we took on service projects together outside of work hours, and often spent lunches and other spare moments chatting about my questions and her insights, she was firmly in the role of confident mentor as well as boss.


Body Image & Recovery

The Mentor in Our Own Presence

Earlier this week I blogged about Dr. Marsha Linehan's stunning (yet somehow not surprising) admission that she has had personal experience with the disease her professional reputation has been built around treating.

Today, as I continue to contemplate her remarkable disclosure, I am pondering the pivotal moment when she had the what some might term spiritual or religious experience that connected her for the first time ever to a personal sense of self.

To hear Dr. Linehan tell it, the moment in which she was first able to address herself in the first person as "I" and "myself" was also the moment in which her first real progress towards recovering from the symptoms of her borderline personality disorder and resulting suicidality was made.

All of which is to say that self-acknowledgment is powerful. It is hard to ignore what we have admitted exists.


Body Image & Recovery

Dr. Marsha Linehan – A Mentor To Us All

Just last month a historic event occurred - at least for those of us who work in the mental health field. This event was on the level of Dr. Kay Redfield Jameson's epic confession that her years of leadership in promoting knowledge and treatment for bipolar illness had all along been fueled by her own near-lifelong battle with the disease.

In Dr. Jameson's case, it happened through her memoir, An Unquiet Mind, a book that has since become required reading for families and clinicians working to better the lives of patients who have been diagnosed with bipolar illness.

But last month, it happened in a talk, to a small select group of physicians and loved ones at a Hartford, CT, clinic called the Institute of Living. The speaker was Dr. Marsha Linehan, the world's leading researcher and clinician in the arena of treating patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD), and the founder of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), the to-date most useful clinical protocol for treating BPD.

In this talk, Dr. Linehan admitted to the world what her own patients had long inquired about - "do you share our diagnosis?"

Dr. Linehan's firm answer was "YES."


Body Image & Recovery

Jillian Michaels As….A Mentor?

I have never been a "Biggest Loser" fan. Given my line of work, I suppose that's not much of a shocker.

Nor am I going to spend our precious time together debating the relative merits of the potentially positive

versus negative benefits of either participating in or watching one of the many so-called "reality" television programs that are so readily available to us today.

But recently I found myself reading with great curiosity in the aforementioned gifted magazine about Jillian Michaels' own self-assessment in her post-Biggest Loser days.

While I was over at my friend's house (she is a personal trainer) the magazine picture of Jillian Michaels caught my eye, and I headed into it, full of prejudices and judgments about what it must be like inside the mind of someone who spends their on-air time screaming at people to drop the pounds.

I must say, I was surprised by her words.


Body Image & Recovery

When We Talk, We Listen: The Power of Speech in Mentoring

Recently a friend gave me a copy of one of her old magazines. It is not a magazine I usually read.

Well, if I'm being honest, I usually don't read magazines, so that is nothing new.

But there was one article in the magazine that I liked, and so she offered me the option of taking it with me.

Once I got home, the novelty of having an actual magazine in the house got the better of me, and I sat down to thumb through it and stumbled upon some insightful advice about how we talk to ourselves.

In particular, the writer mentioned how, when we reject a compliment, make a self-deprecating comment, or refuse to own up to our own expertise or insight in a certain area, we both lead ourselves to water and we make ourselves drink.

Whether we want to or not.


Shannon Cutts

Mentoring and the Big Kayak Lesson


First of all, I was not born to kayak.

If we are being accurate, I was not born to do any sport I have yet discovered. Except perhaps yoga, and then only if we disregard the pulled muscle in my back, my aching left knee, and that mysterious shooting pain in my right hip joint.

My parents used to call me "their little flower." And it wasn't for my beauty. I sat. All. day. long.

What was I doing? Reading. Napping. Drawing. Anything that didn't involve movement of any kind.

But even taking that into account, recently I did find myself getting a bit peeved at the reaction I would get each time I'd tell a friend about my upcoming kayaking adventure.


Shannon Cutts

Mentoring Lessons in Incremental Happiness

A close friend of mine and I drove to Mississippi a few weeks ago to attend her brother's wedding and so - to check out Yarra Valley wedding venue that was picked among quite a few nice locations.

I was delighted to go, chomping at the bit for an exciting road trip across southeast Texas.

I've been entranced with the concept of road trips in general ever since my first solo excursion from Texas to South Carolina just about two years ago. I'm not even sure what excited me more - that I could actually drive 10 hours without falling asleep at the wheel, or that I didn't end up somewhere out in Arizona instead.

Whoever installed my sense of direction put it in backwards.

And I have to say, I have often felt that way about lots of other areas of my life as well. For instance, for years I have marveled at the sheer oddity of witnessing myself, time and again, look forward to or anticipate an event, only to watch it come and go and realize the idea of it was more fun than the actual happening itself.

Kind of like when the previews make the movie look so much better than it is. Only this time the previews were all in my mind. Literally.


Body Image & Recovery

Mentoring Basics: Making Peace with Not Knowing

It is always such a joy and a privilege to welcome new mentors to our volunteer ranks inside of MentorCONNECT, the global eating disorders mentoring community I co-lead alongside a team of wonderful colleagues and friends.
If we knew going in that we would never receive confirmation that our support of another was helpful, would we still choose to serve?
When a new mentor starts to volunteer, often one of the biggest concerns they have is, "How will I know I am making a difference in my mentee's life?"

They have such a strong, beautiful desire to give.

And for this reason, answering this question is also one of the toughest tasks our leadership team faces, because the truthful answer is, "You may never know if you have made a difference."

We may never know if we make any difference at all. And even if we do make a difference, our mentees may not yet be in a place where they are comfortable enough in connecting with their own feelings to be able to find the words to tell us that we matter.


Body Image & Recovery

Moods as a Mentor

I have discovered many things in my post-recovered years (that is, in the years since my dependence on my eating disordered thoughts and behaviors subsided for a sustained period of time).

For instance, I have discovered that sometimes we just hurt.

Sometimes we just feel sad.

Sometimes we just wake up on the wrong side of not just our own bed, but of the world as well. As author Pema Chodron writes in her book, "When Things Fall Apart," "We're always in some kind of mood. It might be sadness, it might be anger, it might not be much of anything, just a kind of blur. It might be humor or contentment. In any case, whatever it is, that's the path."

It took me a long, long time to start seeing those shifting-sands moods as anything other than the dangerous possibility of relapse, the result of something I must still be doing wrong, or an indication that I am never going to get "there" - to that place of no more shifting sands.

In other words, I was confusing recovery with life.