Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

I am “that girl”


When we look in the mirror, we all see what we think we look like.  For quite a lot of us, what we see when we look in a mirror is not what other people see when they look at us.  We hurl insults at ourselves, see flaws that aren’t there, somehow add inches to our waistlines, and rarely see the beauty other people claim to see.

What we think about ourselves may or may not match up with what others think about us.  Unlike looking in a mirror, however, we may be able to trust how we characterize ourselves with the knowledge that what so-and-so said is completely off base.

Or, what someone says about you can be a wakeup call, as I had  happen last night.  In the never-ending drama of Facebook, I was told I could not be this girl’s friend because she is now recovered and wants to distance herself from anyone still “caught up in that whole culture.”  When I think about myself, I think of the word, “recovered.”  And “caught up in that whole culture” initially felt like an insult.  But then I stepped back and thought about it.

I keep this blog.  I maintain friendships with people who are still very stuck in their eating disorders and with girls who are recovered and with girls at every stage in the middle.  I leave encouraging notes and ask how people are doing.  I am a member of more than one group about eating disorders and body image.

So yes.  I am recovered.  But I guess I am “caught up in that whole culture.”  But I don’t see anything wrong with that. I may be recovered, but I respect the journeys of other people and I know that recovery is a something you come to when you are ready and that no one can tell you or make you recover.  I recognize that it takes longer for some people, and not very long for others.  And there are a couple of reasons why I will continue along this path.

1) Although I wrote in my previous post that I’ve had friends walk away from me because they were afraid they were watching me die, I’ve had a hell of a lot more friends stick by me through the worst of it.  My friends in grad school did not see me as “the sick one.”  Or, if they did, they never made me feel that way.  I was, and am, Lexie, the creative nonfiction writer who is maybe obsessed with her cats and coffee and knitting and Beth Orton.  When I went into the hospital in 2005, they were there for me.  And they were there when I got back.  And I was still Lexie, the creative nonfiction writer who is probably obsessed with her cats and coffee and knitting and Beth Orton.

2) I am not ashamed of my past.  I’m not proud of some of the things I did while I was sick.  But I’m not ashamed of the fact that I had an eating disorder.  I tried lying about it for years and it only hurt me, so why would I start lying about it or hiding my past now?  It happened.  But you know what?  I made the decision to reach out and get help and recover, and I am proud of that.

3) Even though I voiced a lot of frustration in my previous post, I’m not going to change what I do.  I’m not unfriending the individuals I am most frustrated with.  I will continue to encourage them and support them.  Why?  Because do you know what it feels like to have someone leave you because you have an eating disorder?  Talk about a shaming experience.  And what about the day that comes when these individuals do decide they want to recover and then they look around their friend list and see only other people still caught up in the eating disorder and no faces of recovery?  You may say I’m being egotistical, but I’m being honest because I do have people contact me, people who I never thought would choose recovery, and they ask questions about where to find help and how to go about negotiating with insurance companies and what type of treatment center may work better for them.  Every time I can answer these questions, every time someone reaches out in an effort to kick the eating disorder to the curb, it’s worth it.  It’s worth every other heartbreak–big and small–along the way.

4) I think that it’s important for individuals who have recovered from an eating disorder to talk about that recovery.  Not gossip about their sickest days, but discuss the steps they took to get better and what life is like without an eating disorder holding them back.  I was lucky enough to know multiple people who had fully recovered when I made the choice to recover.  I had hope that it was possible.  And in this day of Facebook and online networking, if I can be a face of hope for someone, then I will continue to do exactly what I am doing.  Because what if that person doesn’t know anyone in real time who has recovered?  How is s/he going to believe that s/he can do it too?  And I’ve watched certain individuals on Facebook, individuals who when they friended me were so “caught up in that culture” that I honestly didn’t think they’d ever change–I’ve seen them change.  I’ve seen some make these gigantic leaps toward recovery and others make small but steady progress toward health.  And every single time I see it happen, it’s beautiful.

I don’t introduce myself as “Lexie, the girl who was anorexic” but I don’t hide it.  I don’t censor wall posts because I’m afraid of what other people will think of me.  I hope they think that I’m Lexie, the creative nonfiction writer who is most definitely obsessed with her cats and coffee and knitting and Beth Orton, who just happened to recover from an eating disorder and is willing to help other people get there, too.  So if I’m “that girl,” you know, the one “caught up in the eating disorder culture,” so be it.  Because so many people stood by me when I was at my worst and were not ashamed of me and because there are too too too many women and men out there who need someone to stand by them.

It may mean I’m labeled and it may mean I get my heart broken or stepped on more than others, but it’s worth it.  Their lives, their souls, their spirits are worth it.

______________________________

I wrote this entry as an explanation of why I chose to stay “caught up in that culture” not as a critique of the individual whose comment was a jumpstart for this post. I do understand that each person is different and that each person’s recovery is different.  If you find that maintaining contact with people who are still sick is triggering and jeopardizing your recovery, then by all means, take the steps to ensure your recovery.

I do still wish that more people who are recovered would talk about their recovery and what life is like without the eating disorder, because I think that sends a message of hope to those still struggling.

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June 5, 2010 - Posted by | Eating Disorders, recovery | , , , , , , , , , ,

6 Comments »

  1. I am PROUD of you for what you do, and I think the only thing that is sad about this post is that someone would make you feel like you have to justify what you do and who you are. 🙂

    Comment by Nikita | June 5, 2010 | Reply

  2. I think that is such a wonderful attitude to have. It IS a shaming experience to have people leave you when you are entrenched in your eating disorder. I needed to have friends who had recovered because it gave me hope that someday I too could recover. I’m so glad when I can give support and encouragement to someone who is less recovered than I am. Everyone has to do what they have to do on their road to recovery, and some people do need to totally cut off from anything having to do with eating disorder’s, but you can do that in a kind way, without condemning others.
    Awesome blog post!

    Comment by Angela | June 6, 2010 | Reply

  3. I respect your blog post on this issue but I also think it is important for others to respect the decision that the other individual made for her own recovery. As we know, recovery looks different for everyone and that includes making unique decisions.

    Comment by Jessica | June 6, 2010 | Reply

    • I didn’t mean this to be a critique on anyone else’s choices. I added a comment at the end of the entry explaining my position. thank you for pointing this out, Jessica.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | June 6, 2010 | Reply

  4. I really agree with your stance on this. Sharing and becoming actively involved in *quote-unquote* “The culture” *whateverthatmeans* is beneficial for us all…I believe you need to constantly guard against relapse, and also inspire others along the way. That is support. When I think of “culture” I think of **shudder,gag** PRO-ANA and not the type of things I involve myself in.

    It is important to have balance and like you said — you are you: writer, cat lover, coffee dinker. The eating disorder recovery is just part of the collage.

    Loved this post. Thank You.
    Melissa

    Comment by missymiller | June 6, 2010 | Reply

  5. I used to wonder why/how you talked to so many people with eating disorders, mainly because I was like “I couldn’t do that”.
    I appreciate this post because you addressed both perspectives/reasons for either staying involved in “eating disorder community” or choosing to distance yourself from it.
    for me, especially when I got out of treatment, I had to “de-friend” most people I knew because of our eating disorders (with the exception of girls FROM treatment and those I knew were active in RECOVERY). It was hard not to feel guilty for doing that, for “backing out” on someone who may “need me”. And I’ve also come to recognize that yes, I do feel bad for “backing out”, because I know firsthand how awful it feels to have people give up on you because of your eating disorder-but I also know that in order for me to maintain recovery, I meed to put that distance there. Why? Maybe it means their photos of their hipbones and collarbones sticking out trigger me and make me miss the eating disorder, or even simply that I know myself and know I’ll become TOO emotionally invested in their struggles and forget to take care of myself.

    I’m glad that staying connected has been helpful for you, Lex, and for others. Good for you.

    Comment by Mindy | June 8, 2010 | Reply


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