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This summer, I have had the privilege of hanging out with an amazing young woman named Meg Burton. Meg moved to Texas from California for nine weeks to work as an intern with me.  She says that she is learning a lot. But I think I am learning just as much, if not more. One thing I learned from Meg recently relates to her words below: speak up and be honest even when it is difficult to do so. Several months ago, Meg actually taught me how to surf. (No, not in Texas! But in California where she arranged for me to speak at her school.) I wonder what I will learn next. Thanks, Meg.

 

Meg’s Words of Wisdom

When I was a senior in high school, I finally made the decision to commit to my eating disorder recovery and began volunteering as a peer educator at a local nonprofit, Beyond Hunger. As peer educators, we traveled around the Bay Area to schools, raising awareness about eating disorders. Within our presentation, we shared a quote that, finally, I have incorporated into my life:

Speak the truth even if your voice shakes.

I am now half way through college and consider myself  significantly recovered and practically broken up with Ed   (acronym for “eating disorder”). Even still, when I come home over school breaks, I love dropping by the old support group where I used to spend two hours every Saturday morning. It was one of the most instrumental places in my recovery where I learned to speak my truth. When I last attended, the group therapist walked up to the whiteboard and began drawing the rollercoaster of recovery. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, I am sure you can recite the common sentiment, “Recovery is not a straight, uphill road, but it’s filled with lots of twists and bumps along the way.” Don’t get me wrong: that is a completely accurate portrayal of recovery, but you don’t particularly want to hear that in the middle of a relapse. As the therapist explained this continuum, she took a nose dive with her marker down to the bottom of the board and said, “…you’re going along feeling okay when all of the sudden… &%$#!!!!”

That’s an extremely honest view of recovery. In my experience, that is exactly what it felt like. When I would plunge downward, I often asked myself how I got sucked in again. I would grumble about how painful it was to start that climb once more. A lot of people ask, “How do I stop relapsing and get to a place of fully recovered?” I know I asked that question a ridiculous amount of times, but, now, I am beginning to understand the answer. I’ve started to understand the importance of being open and honest.

Adventure awaits!
Adventure awaits!

Using my voice has been the biggest tool to help me continue to grow. My eating disorder was a way to use my body as my voice. I could control my symptoms in a way to match what I was feeling inside. If I was angry towards someone, I could restrict more. (Limiting my food made me somehow feel more in control of the situation.) If I was overwhelmed by homework and extracurricular activities, I could spend my entire night bingeing and purging—avoiding all of the stressful work. When I finally decided to just give up, I let my eating disorder symptoms worsen to the point where I had to be hospitalized. I didn’t care anymore, and I was done trying.

Keeping everything inside was one of the biggest triggers that continuously led me back to Ed. I began to realize that I needed to start using my voice. My voice mattered; I mattered. I slowly started noticing small things I never spoke up about. I never said what I wanted to watch on TV with friends. I never said where I wanted to go out to eat, had a different opinion regarding a recent event, or said what movie I wanted to go see. To change, slowly, I began saying what I wanted and reminding myself that my voice is just as important as others. I took baby steps with things like TV shows and movies choices until I gained the strength to apply open and honesty to my relationships. I started dating someone and decided to take a leap of faith. I spoke my truth. I explained to him how I felt and that I wanted to be official. In the past, I would have bottled my feelings up inside and pretended like everything was fine— and just not eaten. This time was different though. Throughout the entire situation, I used my voice and told myself that I mattered. I mattered even though, in the end, we decided not to be together. I am a human who has wants and needs, and that’s okay.

I have found that almost everything is tied to speaking my truth. Speaking my truth validates that I matter. I deserve to take up space. I’m allowed to use my voice. I no longer have huge downward nosedives along the rollercoaster of recovery, because I am able to intercept them by opening up and connecting with people who support me. I matter, and I am loved. For all the Harry Potter nerds out there, you know that love and friendship can be used as a shield. Love protected Harry from Voldemort, and it protected me from Ed.

– Meg Burton

Photo of Meg

 

 

We’d love to hear from you! If you feel comfortable, share a moment when you spoke your truth. 

  • Catherine Hodgson

    I’ve always been ‘strong’, but a little defensive. I struggle from really bad paranoia and feel I never am able match up to other people. I have just moved into new accommodation again, and with that comes meeting new people. my paranoia has been bad today and the thoughts are getting worse. being back living without anyone I know is really hard. I have never felt accepted or included in a group and have been hurt by other people’s actions many times. I have always told myself and other people I don’t care what people think of me. I now have 2 months living without anyone I know before university starts again and I am scared and I am lonely and it’s only the first day.
    I have always been scared of being on my own. I feel vulnerable. That is extremely hard to write. It’s extremely hard to accept. Today I have come to realise, and am trying hard to come to terms with, despite the defensive front, it’s not that I don’t care what people think of me – the truth is that I care too much of what people think of me.
    I don’t care what people think of what I wear or whether I wear make up or not, but, honestly, I’m terrified of being abandoned and forgotten. I’m scared of not being able to cope on my own. Terrified I won’t survive.
    I think the paranoia and feelings of non-acceptance and thoughts that people don’t value me come a lot from my own low self-esteem. I don’t value myself, so I can’t accept that other people might. I don’t give them a chance to. I reject them before they can reject me. They’ve made up their mind and are already against me before they’ve got to know me. I think a lot of it is all in my head because I don’t want to be hurt – I don’t want to be seen as or feel vulnerable. I don’t want to be ‘weak’.
    I’m scared of being on my own, but too scared of abandonment to let anyone not only get close, but even to accept me as a person the same as themselves.
    People aren’t all bad. I know that logically. It’s just very hard for me to accept that it’s me with the ‘issues’ and not them. I have to learn to value myself and allow myself to give people a chance – and let them get to know me, not my ed or to hide away altogether.
    Thoughts are thoughts, but my life is real. I am real. I am a person – not that i can accept it most of the time. All I know is I’m not happy and want things to change. Accepting the truth, no matter how hard that is, is the first step. A small step, but a vital one.

    • Meg Burton

      Thanks so much for sharing, Catherine! I actually felt a lot of those same feelings too throughout recovery. One of Jenni’s favorite quotes that I like to repeat a lot as well is a Chinese proverb, “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” Every time you fall down you just get more practice to learn to stand up again. Don’t give up! Full recovery is possible!
      – Meg

      • Jenni Schaefer

        So true! I love that quote. I also love: “Never, never, never give up.” I have this quote hung up in a few places in my home.

  • Jessica Raymond

    Thanks for sharing Meg! I totally agree that expressing yourself is a huge part of recovery. Sure you may ruffle more feathers, but who wants a bobble head friend or family member anyway. 🙂

    • Meg Burton

      Thanks for commenting Jessica! So true! I’ve definitely learned it’s way more fun to be outgoing and “different” than to agree with what everybody says.

      – Meg

  • Jenni Schaefer

    Thanks again, Meg, for sharing your awesome story! And thanks for the heartfelt comments as well.

  • Alex

    Great post!