Recovery, Honesty, Shame and True Self
Last night I had the pleasure of talking about recovery at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. There was a good turnout and I was mightily impressed by the students who asked such great questions about eating disorders, recovery and other related topics. They really made me think! Usually, I talk about Purge from a writer’s perspective, but last night I talked about my eating disorder and recovery in a very personal way that I haven’t done before. It was a positive experience and it made me think about a lot of things.
One of the things I’ve been thinking about is the concept of “true self” and honesty in terms of recovery. I’ve been dredging through some old emails, journals and writings. Someone who is very special to me wrote me a lovely card and letter that I’m going to quote a bit of here:
“…When you are honest and direct you can reach a place within self and others that is immensely powerful. My hope for you is that you can live that honesty daily, not just at sporadic times. And through being accepted as your honest self, you can heal.”
This was written in the fall of 2004, when I was struggling post-treatment. I always got the general of gist of what this person was talking about, and I was touched by her taking the time to share this. It means a lot to me. Yesterday, I really got what she meant though.
Yesterday, at Augsburg, I was open and honest about my recovery and I believe that within that honesty, I was able to reach beyond myself and reach others. Honesty is powerful. I wasn’t talking about eating disorders and recovery in the abstract; I was talking about my own personal journey in a way I don’t think I would’ve been able to talk about until recently. It is easy enough to do a reading, answer some questions and sign some books. But, to actually talk candidly and directly about my own experience is something different. It was more emotional, and in some ways, more powerful than just doing a reading. Being that honest took a type of emotional bravery that I wasn’t sure I possessed.
Here I am, all of me.
How incredibly vulnerable is that?
I used to cringe and blush beet-red whenever someone asked me what my book was about, but now I can look them in the eye and tell them in a straightforward manner. I own my story. I have lost my sense of shame surrounding my eating disorder. And shedding that shame has allowed me to reach others in a way I haven’t before. I am also able to reflect on my experience with EDNOS in a different way, unhindered by shame. I am able to own my experience, all of it, even the ugliest parts.
Living honestly, for me, includes being myself, not trying to please others or win the approval of other people. It is a hard way to live, but it is rewarding, being true to oneself. For a long time I tried to shove myself into a box structured by the expectations of other people and it was miserable. I am so much freer now.
Being my true self has helped me heal. I will always have a fear of rejection and vulnerability (If I show my true self to someone, will I be too much (or too little) for them?), but I am learning to overcome it. It’s not easy, and I haven’t perfected the art of living as my true self (it’s a process), but I’m trying.
By being honest last night, I showed others that it is okay to be honest and share their true selves, that they do not have to hide, if even only for a little while. I found that I am steadier and stronger than I previously thought I was, and that I am now in a place where I am living in an honest way most of the time, and now, I am ready to share this with others and help them find this honesty for themselves.
Living in an honest way and being accepted as my true self has gone a long way toward healing. I encourage everyone to think about what it means to live honestly and be your true self.