Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.


I’m in this facebook group, “I don’t like to speak my mind . . . so I use my body.”  Normally, a title like this would raise red flags in my mind, warning me of it’s non-recovery focus.  But when I received an invite to the group, I checked it out.  And it raises a lot of very good, relevant questions about eating disorders and self-harm.  And then today I was listening to my iPod on music and a song came on by Laura Tsaggaris called “Proof.”  

“What do I have to do / call you crying from the moon / find myself forsaking food / just to tell you I’m starving?”

I don’t want to say that self-injury is more popular now, because I don’t think it is.  But when I was twelve, the first time I cut, I hadn’t heard of it.  I honestly thought I was the only one in the world who would contemplate doing such awful things to her own body–and I continued to think that until I started therapy eight years later.  And even after I learned about the behavior, and even after I was in treatment for it, I refused to wear anything but long sleeves unless I was around close friends.  And I’ve noticed that people are more willing to talk about SI now, and people are more willing to let people see scars.  (I now wear short sleeves, including while I’m teaching.  No one has ever mentioned anything.)  (I do realize there are “pro-SI sites, just like pro-ana sites, where people post pictures of their cuts while they are still bleeding.  And I honestly don’t get the psychology behind that.)  My point is that SI is not a “closed door topic” anymore, like eating disorder used to be in the 70s and 80s.  I think this is a good thing, because it means more people will get treatment.  

We all use our bodies to speak for us, whether it be through our clothing or our makeup or the way we stand and hold ourselves.  But I think it takes on a new level for people with eating disorders or for people who engage in self-harm.

I was so reluctant to admit to that I used my body to speak for me.  (I think I was reluctant to admit to anything that was a commonality among people with eating disorders.  I didn’t want to be seen as a cliche.)  But I did use my body as a way to speak for me.  I shrunk my body to an adolescent size in an effort to tell men I had no interest in them and did not want to be seen in a sexual manner.  It was pretty darn effective, too.  In the short term.  

I think I’m still learned to speak up for myself, but I’ve stopped using my body to speak for me.  This is one of those areas of recovery that is gradual.  I didn’t wake up one morning with this newfound assertive voice.  I tested it out with safe people first.  Then began using my voice in situations where I might have previously stayed silent: asking for help from a peer or advisor, saying no, speaking up in a conversation about current events.  This is not one of those static areas of personal growth.  It’s part of growing up (think about how a child asks for things and an adolescent and an adult in a professional setting), it’s part of learning who you are and what you want out of life and what you need from other people.  

This is also an area that requires trust and faith.  You can’t rely on your body to communicate for you while trying to use your voice.  The two don’t mesh very well.  It takes that leap of faith in letting go of behaviors and trusting that that still, small healthy voice inside of you is going to grow and strengthen with time.


September 5, 2009 - Posted by | Communication, Eating Disorders, recovery, self harm | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. So interesting because this has been on my mind for a while. Glad you shared, Alexis.

    Comment by Jess K | September 5, 2009 | Reply

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