To Speak AND To Be
January 1, 1970Eating disorders often create an illusion of safety in silence. You become the voiceless victim of the invisible slave driver who berates, condemns, judges, and humiliates you into punishing yourself, and that inner tyrant convinces the true you that it’s too dangerous to speak up or speak out – or nourish yourself.
Maybe the voice of your slave driver sounds a lot like your hypercritical or over-possessive mother or father, your drama or gymnastics coach, your ballet teacher, or the mean girl who ruled your high school. Maybe it sounds like an uncle who abused you when you were small, or like the boyfriend who bullied you in college. In any case, the voice in your head does not belong to you, and you are powerless to control it.
The answer is not even to try to control it. As unbelievable as this may sound, whoever is the original source of that voice is not your responsibility. Not your job. However, you are responsible and accountable for yourself, and you can and must give voice to the true you.
Recovery depends on developing and empowering this true voice. That’s why journals, cameras, paints, pens, free movement, and other tools of creativity play such an enormous role in recovery. Creativity gives us both the license and the means to express ourselves, and in the process of expressing ourselves, we discover who we really are
Self-expression can occur in the smallest moments. We express ourselves when we trail a finger through a pool of water, when we shape a shadow on the sidewalk or make snow angels. Children who have never wasted an instant worrying about the shape of their bodies or doubted their right to speak can find infinite sources for creativity in a walk to the mailbox. By the same token, taking a creative walk to the mailbox can put you on the path to rediscovering the person who has been silenced since your eating disorder began.
I propose a New Year’s resolution:
See! Feel! Touch! Speak! Tell the world who you really are and let your power fly!
I hope to hear from you in 2008!
Have a happy, healthy, peaceful holiday.
GAINING: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders
Out in paperback January, 2008, from Grand Central Pub.