Healing through Storytelling

At my job we have this list called the Terms of Faith and Resistance and some of the groups that are facilitated here recite this list before every session. I’m newly imageacquainted with this list, but it already really speaks to me in a deep way and I feel like I can use it in my own life for healing. One of the terms is Tell the World my Story. I struggle with a few embarrassing/shameful things that are incredibly hard to talk about publicly, and I hold that shame silently and suffer for it. Part of the healing process is to share your story– you have no idea how important it is to have someone to listen to you, to hold space for your to share your most vulnerable experiences without judgement or unsolicited advice, just to be there and to say “I hear you.” It’s a validation of your humanity! Many of the clients that come through the building are spending their days feeling unheard, like they don’t exist, and when they come in here they may yell at us or become disruptive. But sometimes when someone stops them and listens to what they have to say, validates their feelings in some way, it really makes a big difference in that moment.

Storytelling is so important to our lives, it’s how we connect with others because it’s about vulnerability and trust and creating safe spaces. I created this blog and the one before it to be a safe space for me to share my own story. Now, this isn’t a place to talk about how awful my life is, because my life is not bad at all. It’s actually pretty great. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t struggled, and I continue to struggle on a daily basis. So I created a space for myself to work through those struggles and share my story with others in the hopes that someone out there might be going through the same things I am going through and can relate. And maybe that person will reach out, and we will connect, and we will both be changed for the better by having done so.

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One struggle, which I’ve already talked about on this blog and has been the main focus of my writing, is my spiritual life. I’m okay with the struggle, because that’s really part of the journey, right? I’m wrestling with how to best express myself and connect with Spirit. Lots of people do that, and even though it’s hard and sometimes feels lonely, I’m excited it. But my story isn’t just one of faith, although that’s a big one, and there are twists and turns that I have yet to share which I will in later posts. Another big part of my story is my eating disorder. This part of my life is pretty awful and I don’t often talk about it because it brings about feelings of shame– it’s such a tough mental illness to deal with because it’s sometimes a lot like an addiction, but you can’t just abstain from food. You literally need it to survive, to stay alive.

But food is about staying physically alive, breathing and moving and not dying. Eating disorders are about the emotional/mental living, and they manifest in a physical way. My eating disorder has been about many things, but it’s mostly about coping emotionally and mentally. It’s a maladaptive coping mechanism to manage stress. And that is shameful because food is so fundamental to all humans, how could I get that so wrong? And then from the perspective of an eating disordered person, how can I have an eating disorder and still be so fat?! One of the biggest reasons that I stopped getting help for my disorder was that I felt no one in my believed I even had one. When I told my father I was in treatment for my eating disorder, he told me that I should try to do yoga and I would lose weight. A friend responded with, “You should definitely eat more vegetables. More leafy greens in my diet always perk me up.” These responses came from places of love and concern, but totally invalidated my experience and struggle. I thought, well if they don’t think I have a problem then maybe I don’t. Maybe I’m just too lazy and undisciplined, this isn’t an eating disorder, it’s just proof that I’m an ugly person. And so I dropped out of treatment.

But the truth is that anyone can have an eating disorder and it doesn’t matter what size they are. Maladaptive coping mechanisms are maladaptive coping mechanisms, no matter what the scale says. I didn’t need to be emaciated to need treatment. My eating disorder is part of my story, it has influenced how I think and how I see myself. It’s something I still struggle with today and everyday. And I can’t keep writing here without sharing that part of my life, and being honest about where I am right now. So this is another introduction! This is me beginning my own healing once again.

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