Body Image & Recovery

The Mentoring Elephant in the Room: How Are Mentor Applicants Selected?

With this "elephant in the room" series, we are taking a look at some of the biggest, most obvious, yet often least-asked questions that most folks have about mentoring as it is applied to eating disorders recovery.

These are the types of questions I might hear whispered to me privately after a presentation, or sent to me in an email, but rarely will someone speak out to a group or raise their hand to admit they have an "elephant" question.

I happen to like elephant questions. I think they give us our best opportunity to learn, discuss, and grow up into this new and unfolding field.

I also happen to know that an unspoken elephant question can kill a mentoring program faster than anything else I know of, instilling hesitation and even fear where excitement and willingness to take in each other's wisdom and life experience should be.

But the spoken, discussed, and explored elephant question has infinite potential to make the mentoring experience that much stronger and more beneficial.

Our second "elephant in the room" question is, "How are mentor applicants selected?"

Body Image & Recovery

The Mentoring Elephant in the Room: The Relapsing Mentor

Yep. That's an elephant alright. Or at least it will be, the moment we are ready to admit we see it too.
This week we start a new series based on a phrase coined by my lovely friend and colleague, Dr. Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, during a recent presentation we offered at an eating disorders conference.

She likes to call the mentoring (and other!) questions everybody has but nobody wants to ask "elephants in the room."

In other words, the elephants are snuffling noisily through their long trunks, dragging their giant padded feet, flopping their big wavy ears back and forth, and we are still hesitant to mention the presence of what we fear no one but us sees.

But everyone sees them. You can't miss an elephant.

Our inaugural elephant question is, "what happens when a mentor relapses?"

Celebrity Mentors

A Mentor From…the Fashion Industry?

Recently, I saw the film "Bill Cunningham New York."


If you are a fan of fashio like me, you will understand that never in my dreams (or my nightmares for that matter) did I ever expect to meet a mentor from deep inside the maw of the fashion industry.

Yet from his first days as a humble young milliner to his current post as the New York Times' celebrated street fashion photographer, 82 year-old Bill Cunningham has never lost his childish enthusiasm for fashion-as-art, fashion-as-self-expression, fashion-as- (in his own paraphrased words) a panacea against the pain of life itself.

Death & Grief

The Role of Death in Mentoring

Oh boy.

Here we go, right?

"The role of death in mentoring"? Will anyone even read this? Will they have nightmares?

I hope not.

In a previous post I shared that, for the last couple of months, I have been training to become a hospice volunteer. One of our assignments was to read a book called "Final Gifts."

This book, written by hospice nurses Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley, chronicles story after story of the final months, weeks, days, and breaths of some of the many patients they have cared for over their careers. You will need kleenex, and that may be off-putting to some.

But you also need this book. We all do.

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.