Seven years?! I can’t believe it.
“If you were to uproot a tree, it would take you a long time to get to the root.” Feels weird quoting myself, but this is something I recently told a good friend and fellow actress, Kitty Lindsay, on her podcast Feminist Crush.
Listen here. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did!
Long story short, I’ve been uprooting a tree known as my eating disorder for seven years, and the things I’ve dug up were too good not to share. Perfect timing since 7 is the biblical number of perfection and it’s also National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. I see you, Universe…
I hope this inspires you to do the work of uprooting whatever it is that will help you grow into the RADdest version of yourself too, RADicals!
1 – Mental Illness v. Addiction
Many people don’t realize that eating disorders are a mental illness. I certainly didn’t. So for years I suffered in both silence and ignorance. It took years to realize that the reason I couldn’t “just stop” was because I didn’t understand “how” my eating disorder came into my life. This moment of digging in when the work of recovery finally began. This is the case I believe for anyone looking for a healing – identifying the root. And then there is the addiction part. Perfectionism being the addiction. “I learned in years of therapy before I entered recovery, bulimia was only the symptom. Perfectionism was the illness,” I shared in a recent post for Shape.com. Seeing these two things as one but not the same has been a huge realization on this journey. Perfectionism had to go so I could fully embrace the fact that it is perfectly normal to be imperfect.
2- Success Has Nothing To Do With My Body
My eating disorder started the summer between junior high and high school. “I basically went from an ugly duckling to a swan,” I told Kitty on her podcast. My peers praised me, I got more attention and more opportunities overall. This was incredible and terrible all in the same breath. But most importantly, it was confusing and inaccurate. I say it all the time, “it really wasn’t about the food.” It was the idea of control, power and access to success that fueled my eating disorder. It wasn’t something I made up. It was real. Society saw me as a “better” person when I was thin. Sad but true. Also true – society no longer has a vote in regard to my success. And it shouldn’t have a vote in regard to yours either, RADicals.
3- Community Is Everything
Yes, my relationship with my eating disorder was 14 years, but there were 4 years, in college, that my destructive behavior stopped. I went to Spelman College. A place where women looked like me and therefore accepted me. This was not the case in high school and it was not the case in grad school at The University of Texas, Austin (where my disorder was the worst it ever had been). No, my community was not the blame for my eating disorder or responsible for my healing. But in seven years of uprooting, I know that community is everything when it comes to staying on this path of discovery. How others see us affects how we see ourselves. We are the company we keep, so eating disorder or not, I am grateful for the environments and relationships that I have deliberately cultivated today. It is truly everything. And more than anything, it is on my terms. P.S. I’ve never really shared this part of the journey before, so be sure to listen to the podcast. “It feels like rocket science trying to uproot the effects that race has on the eating disorder community,” I told Kitty. Maybe this is what year eight of recovery will reveal?
4- The Vulnerability Is The Healing
The first time I publicly wrote about my eating disorder it took me 10 minutes to write and several days to push “send.” It was terrifying to air my dirty laundry in this way. And the anxiety didn’t go away after it was out there either. In fact, every time I write about it, my heart races. Even right now. I feel anxious and wonder “what’s the point.” Then the healing happens. Sometimes a few days later when I receive messages from so many of you saying “thank you” or “me too.” Sometimes years later when I sit down to re-read these posts – like I’ve done this week during NEDA Week. The vulnerability is the healing. So don’t ever think your story doesn’t matter, RADicals. Someone somewhere will be changed. Even if that someone is initially just you.
*fitness fashion courtesy of Onzie.
Thanks for being a part of the journey! Don’t forget to share your thoughts below.