A Teachable Moment

I have two power thought cards sitting before me on my writing desk today: one reading “There is no blame,” the other, “I am willing to forgive” – both apt for my impending share.

I don’t have an agenda for this post, but I do have an intention. There is a difference, you see, between agenda and intention:

Agenda: I will write this, and you will feel this. I will write this and I’ll control your reaction.

Intention: I will write this, and you will feel how you feel. I will write this and then I will let go.

I don’t know how you will feel after reading this post. And I certainly don’t want to impose my blame, or anger, or resentment onto anyone else. But I do want to seize a prime opportunity to use my voice.

Last week, I was in a yoga class – a continuing education class – and was studying the Buddhist “Wheel of Life.” I was introduced to 6 realms of being, one of them being “Demi-Gods.”

The Demi-God realm is characterized by jealousy, and social media use provided an example. You know what I mean: the typical scrolling through, staring at, and sighing for the blessings of others, not to mention filtering to change yourself. Cue wise words from a woman in the class:

“Oh my god, I do NOT get that, honestly, like, the other day, I took this photo with my daughter, and I wanted to use it as my Facebook profile picture, but she had a scratch on her face and didn’t want me to use it, so I went to my other friend, one who’s all obsessed with this stuff, and I said, ‘Look, I know you’re always photoshoppin’ your pictures, tryin’ to make yourself look anorexic, so can you get get this scratch off my daughter’s face?'”

I wanted to kick. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream.

“FUCK YOU, BITCH!” I thought to myself. “I CAN SHOW YOU ANOREXIC.”

It reminded me of a comment Meghan Trainor once made:

“I wasn’t strong enough to have an eating disorder…I tried to go anorexic for a good three hours. I ate ice and celery, but that’s not even anorexic. And I quit. I was like, ‘Ma, can you make me a sandwich? Like, immediately(Read more).

I mean, I want to kill these people. Not literally, of course – I assure you I am a kind, loving person and safe to be around – but my feelings of rage and of pain are so deep-seated that I feel called to violence.

Of course, I would never act on that violence; the first principle of my yoga practice is “do no harm.” Thus I am left, simply, to unpack and express this hurt.

The truth is, the comment stung, and I felt immediately unsafe. I tried to deny it. In fact, till this moment, I hadn’t let the comment in. I tried to tell myself, “Bella, that’s the past, that doesn’t apply to you anymore.”

But I can’t! I can’t do it! I can’t ignore this harmful insanity! Do you know how hard it is to recover from years of slowly killing yourself when someone is openly glamorizing your choice form of self-abuse? Hard. Very hard. Think of that. Think of that the next time you want to open your mouth.

Ah, but I’m being harsh and blameful. I must lean into compassion. I must lean in to kindness. I must celebrate this opportunity to heal. So to my above demand, I’ll add the following word: “Please.”

Do you know how hard it is to recover from years of slowly killing yourself when someone is openly glamorizing your choice form of self-abuse?

I thought about saying something to this woman, about using it as a teachable moment, but I didn’t. I felt too reactive. I didn’t want to come at her from a negative place. I didn’t want to accuse or attack her. I didn’t want my subtext to be “shame on you.” In short, I didn’t trust my motives.

I thought of confiding instead in the teacher, but I stalled there as well. Of course, it’s never too late to speak up, and I may very well say something in the future – it’s likely that I’ll meet with this teacher again – but before I do that, I need to process. I need to ask myself, how important is it?

How important is it that I do speak up? Are my feelings valid, or am I simply being a sensitive little flower? Am I just like the speck of dust in Horton Hears a Who, blown from one spot to the next with no stability?

I’ve decided it’s important. I’ve decided that even if I could endure that comment and continue with the class, there was a time when I certainly wouldn’t have been able to, and on behalf of my siblings in recovery and my siblings who still struggle, I cannot passively accept these words. I am fortunate to have found the miracle of sobriety – but does that mean I can look the other way? Turn my back?

No. That that, my friends, is unkind. Regardless of how much or how little it may have upset me, the comment was harmful to the whole E.D. community, and I will not accept it. Sobriety is tenuous. I could lose it at any time. And I’m so afraid of losing it. It is so, so fragile. I need to speak out, and I need to find solace in other people who can understand.

I do have compassion for the woman who said this. In my heart, I neither judge nor blame her for what I interpret as ignorance – for how little she knows. I certainly hope she spoke from ignorance, that is, as opposed to blatant disregard.

But I am also in recovery, and that recovery makes me privileged. It makes me an advocate and an example. It gives me a platform. I neither want to complain nor be a victim, but I do want to make space for my feelings and step into my power. Those actions keep me safe from relapse. And if I can do it, my siblings can, too.

I am in recovery, and that recovery makes me privileged.

There is clearly ignorance. There is clearly stigma. And that ignorance and stigma not only hurt people’s feelings, but also their recoveries. When we hear of people photoshopping themselves to “look like us” – a faulty statement in and of itself, as eating disorders are MENTAL illnesses with a physical component – we interpret that as validation of our illness. We then struggle more to let go.

Come on, people: this disease is hard enough. People die from it. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Don’t believe me? Ask the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Go ahead: click here, and ask them.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

We with eating disorders dance with suicide, and we do not need extra bullshit. In fact, have you looked at your own nutrition lately? You might consider taking a Sensitivity Supplement.

I don’t like to think of myself as a person who leads with anger. And I certainly would not speak like this to this woman’s face. I would kindly ask her, as my therapist suggested, “May I give you some feedback about a comment you made?”

Yes, I’d ask for her consent. It’s the difference between calling in and calling out.

But in my own space, the space that I have created, the space that I have carved out on this blog, I deserve to be honest. It is imperative that I be honest. Otherwise, what am I doing for my recovery?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Being real beats being nice.

This is why I felt safe in rehab. This is why I feel safe in my hole. The outside world is a mess sometimes, and it’s easy to acquire mental bullet holes.

Yes, I was offended by the “anorexic” comment. Yes, I blame and resent the woman who made it. Yes, thinking about it creates heat in my whole body. Yes, I feel anger and rage. But underneath that, my feelings are hurt. What more can I say? I’m hurt. I’m hurt, I’m hurt, I’m hurt. And when I release my rage, I start start to cry.

Because that’s what’s underneath all this stuff: pain. Pain is beneath all this stuff. I use “is” here, instead of an action verb like “lies,” but the word “is” means to “exist.” The pain is chronic; it just is. It stems from a pattern of insensitivity, insensitive I encounter everywhere – even in the New York Times crossword:

Editor Will Shortz, aka the “Puzzle Master,” (pictured below), used “anorexic” as a clue. The answer was a 4-letter-word. Ready for this? “Bony.”

I wanted to tell him, when I discovered this, to fuck himself up the ass. I wanted to tell him to fuck himself up the ass and and make it hurt. But I didn’t. I was nice. I have to be nice. Or do I?

Hurt people hurt people, and I don’t want to create more hurt. I must handle my pain responsibly, using my power thought cards:

I affirm that there is no blame, and that I am willing to forgive.

You might be familiar with the serenity prayer:

G-d, grant me: the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I enjoy an alternative version:

G-d, grant me: the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the person I can, and the wisdom to know it is myself. Amen.

In closing, I would like to remind you that the opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone and mean no harm or offense. If something resonates, write to me and share it. We can use our voice and start a dialogue.

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