Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Why I’m Still Here

National Candlelight Vigil

National Candlelight Vigil

I was looking for a very specific photo this morning and came across a lot of oldies that made me start pondering a bunch of things.  The end of this month is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and there will be awareness walks and candlelight vigils and guest speakers and conferences all over the country.

Yesterday, I was working on my conclusion, writing in my journal, and picking up books my cat pushed off the bookshelf.  (This happens quite frequently.)  I keep Lauren Greenfield‘s book that accompanied her documentary Thin on my shelf.  Honestly, I have mixed feelings about this particular work.  Yes, it created awareness and helped bring eating disorders to the discussion table regarding parity.  Yes, parents and professionals should watch it.  But I never recommend it to someone struggling with an eating disorder.  The only reason I ever watched that video while I was still sick was for motivation to get sicker.  The photos made me jealous, because I wasn’t “thin enough.”  The stories were mainly about sickness and frailty, not recovery and wellness.

And then there’s Polly, a main subject in the documentary, and someone I think about often.  Polly never had the chance to recover, because she committed suicide on February 8, 2008.

Polly was my friend.  I knew her long before Thin was filmed.  I know I have photos of the time we spent together, but I’m not sure where I’ve tucked them away.  This was before smart phones captured everything and we relied on a 35 mm camera.  I look through Greenfield’s photos when I think about Polly, but those photos also bring up a lot of anger and sadness.

In the film, she is the rebellious one.  The defiant one.  The revolving door patient.  The problem maker.  And while she certainly was rebellious and defiant, there was so much more to her, including this part of her that wanted more than anything else to recover.  But what motivation did she have to recover when people kept telling her that she wasn’t trying hard enough?  That she would always battle some form of an eating disorder?  That she could only ever hope to manage symptoms?

I was fortunate. I had already been labeled a “revolving door patient” and was known for defiance when I met Allan and Kathy.  They had recently lost their daughter, Shelby Starner, because of an eating disorder.  They were the first people who told me that I could recover, that I had to recover.  Fully recover.  They believed in me, they encouraged me, and they pushed me when they had to.  I began to think that I could not die and make them suffer again.  They introduced me to Kathleen, an individual who had fully recovered, and I began to think actually recovering–and not just surviving–was a possibility.  She repeatedly told me I couldn’t settle for anything less.  Then I met my nephew, and decided he didn’t need a sick aunt haunting his life.  So I realized my only choice was recovery.

I had mentors in my life showing me recovery was possible.  I had people reminding me that I had the strength to recover.  I had people reminding me why I had to recover.  I had a treatment team who believed that 100% full recovery was possible, and that I should never settle for anything but recovery.

What if Polly had had that?  Someone to show her what full recovery looked like.  Someone who told her full recovery was possible.  Someone to see beyond the rebelliousness and defiance.  Someone to put their faith in her.

“Back then” that was difficult to come by.  I’d been hospitalized five times–and had been told I would always live with anorexia–before I met Allan and Kathy, who offered another possibility.

That’s why I still keep this blog.  I want people to see that full and total recovery is possible.  I don’t want anyone to settle for anything less.  I want someone to find this blog when they’re about to give up on hope and realize that someone else has been there and has made it through.  I know that some people still doubt that recovery from an eating disorder is possible, and just last month, I had a doctor put me through a whole bunch of questions because he didn’t initially believe me.

My job is to prove all of those people wrong.


February 9, 2015 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I’m glad you are well. And that you being well played an enormous role in my choice to get well. You and Kathleen were the only people telling me I had to, and that going inpatient would be worth it. Denial was easier for everyone else. And I don’t know what would have happened if I didn’t.

    I’m so sorry for your loss of your friend Polly.

    Comment by free.y | February 9, 2015 | Reply

    • and now you are the person people can look up to!

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | February 9, 2015 | Reply

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