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