Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Honesty Box


So one of the may applications of Facebook is the Honesty Box.  People who are on your friend’s list (who also have the application) can leave random, anonymous comments in your Honesty Box.  You can ask people to answer a specific question, which I have done in the past, but usually I forget to update my question and end up with random comments.  Some of which have been hilariously out-of-line/ignorant, and some of which have honestly made me think.  (I prefer the latter, by the way.)

Recently, I had someone ask me about my involvement with the eating disorder community, and how that affected my identity since I make it a point to say that I am fully recovered.  If I am fully recovered, then why am I blogging about it and why am I in certain Facebook groups and do either of these things keep me (too) involved in the eating disorder community.

(I will restate that I am fully recovered.  That does not mean that I’m done with dealing with the underlying issues.  Those took years to build up; a cessation of behaviors is not going to make them magically disappear.)

My previous therapist and I used to go back and forth about my involvement in the eating disorder community, and it took awhile for me to see his points and agree with them.  He was concerned that if I was trying to recover, then being so actively involved in advocacy work, in Facebook groups, and staying in peer groups made up of people with eating disorders who may not be healthy would keep me tied to my identity as Anorexic.  The last time I was in the hospital, I realized he was right, and oh how I hated admitting when he was right.  

So, for a year after I was discharged, I did not attend Lobby Days with the Eating Disorder Coalition (not only had I attended Lobby Days in the past, but I had also organized meetings for three different states on two separate years), I did not participate in National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I did not speak at any university or college, I did no presentations at conferences, and I limited the contact I had with other individuals with eating disorders and, yes, to be honest, the only “ED friends” I hung out with face-to-face that year were ones I would have been friends with regardless of the ED and who were doing well.  I didn’t go to online forums.  I dropped out of all of the Facebook groups for all of the hospitals I had been at, choosing to stay in the EDC group and the A Chance to Heal group (especially seeing how I had been on the advisory board of that group before moving to the midwest).  

Yes, it was difficult.  Now that I sit back and look at that last paragraph, that’s a lot of eating disorder stuff that was in my life.  At a time when I wasn’t healthy.  This is the key point.  I was doing all this advocacy work and trying to help other people while I was still sick myself.  I don’t mean the support we offer to each other when we are struggling.  I was calling treatment centers and finding out policies and calling insurance companies for people and spending a lot of energy making sure they got the help they deserved.  I spent a lot of time speaking at universities and colleges, warning about the dangers of eating disorders, when I looked like hell.  I gave one presentation less than two month before I was admitted to the hospital for the last time, and I was this sickly yellowish-pale color.  My energy should have been spent on my recovery.  Doing so isn’t being selfish; it’s a form of self-preservation.  

Now, after taking that break, after settling in to a new state and a new academic program, I am ready to resume my advocacy work.  And I have.  And it’s not as draining as it was, and I have a stronger voice when I speak.  

No, I do not think my advocacy work or my blogging keeps me tied to the eating disorder community.  To be honest, I already am tied to it, and always will be, until every single person I know who currently has an eating disorder recovers.  My previous therapist and I debated how much I should or should not communicate with people from treatment or Facebook.  And I decided that I couldn’t walk away.  I’ve had friends walk away while I was at my sickest, for both the eating disorder and self-harm, and I refuse to do the same.  I refuse to be the ever-so-annoyingingly-false-positive “You can do it, hun!” voice; I will be the voice that says, “Yes, I believe you can do it, but not if you keep doing what you are.”  

It breaks my heart every time I hear about another friend who has died from these disorders.  That’s why I can’t walk away.  Too many of us are taught that we are either doomed to a live of managing the eating disorder or dying from it.  I believe there is a third option: recovery.  Full recovery.  

And if convincing people that this is possible, if demonstrating that it is possible, keeps me tied to the community, then I don’t mind one bit.

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September 12, 2009 - Posted by | Body Image, Communication, Eating Disorders, identity, recovery, self harm | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. I love this post. I am in a very similar situation. I chose to leave a “support group” about six months after my last hospitalization, because I was not gaining support from the group, as much as I felt like it was my duty to help others get the help they needed. The people I was with, and the people I was spending the majority of my time with, were very sick, and not focused on getting better. I had finally gotten well and was focusing on fully thriving and living in a full recovery. So I gave up the group, and took on a wealth of new opportunities. I got into yoga, which brought me new friends and new experiences. I started to care for myself when I needed it – cutting ties with people who were bringing me down, reaching out for help when I needed some, etc. Now, about nineteen months after my last hospitalization, I am walking in the NEDA walk, reconnecting with some friends who have gotten healthy and trying to support (but not over-involve myself) friends who are struggling with the tough love needed to help them make the right decisions (and then I step back, let them take the reins, and hope for the best).

    Comment by Jess K | September 12, 2009 | Reply

    • I love your response, Jess. And I’m glad to see someone else has had the same experience I have had with cutting ties from the community and then feeling more prepared to “properly” advocate. And I’ve always had horrible luck with support groups that were ED focused. I wanted a support group that was LIFE focused.

      And yoga. I think all people with EDs should do yoga at some point in their recovery. I have never had anything teach more about my body, about listening to what it needs and how to meet those needs.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | September 12, 2009 | Reply


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