Today marks four years since I made a decision that would ultimately alter the course of my life. A decision that set me on this beautiful path of recovery. Last year, I told my July 11th story in the blog “Angels Among Us.”
This year, I can’t help but reflect on the magnitude that was this day ONE year ago…
Before my eating disorder coming out party, only close friends and family knew of my time in treatment. My treatment stay was RARELY talked about. In fact, my favorite encounters came when I would see people for the first time post-treatment. They would inevitably give me a sympathetic head tilt and ask, “You doing okay? ” Always quickly followed by, “You look great.” At first part of me wanted to shout in their face that I did not have the plague, but I channeled my inner-Southern Belle and nodded politely and said, “Thank you.” It was often upsetting, but then as I noticed the head tilt/compliment pattern, it became comical. More importantly, these interactions led me to realize the overall lack of eating disorder/mental health awareness and understanding in our community. A desire to change this started to grow inside of me, but at the time I did not have the courage or platform to start the conversation…or so I thought.
For nearly a year, my blog was anonymous. It was my secret, very much like my eating disorder. No one knew it existed, not even my therapist, who knows everything and somehow seems to know things that I don’t even know. But nonetheless, Loving Imperfection was my secret hideaway, my refuge and creative outlet. It was how I connected to fellow ‘recovery warriors’ and how I expressed the ‘not so pretty’ side of eating disorder recovery. To me, the outside world did not feel safe enough to share my journey and struggles. I did not dare share my blog with anyone because of the terrifying ‘What-If Factor’…
What if people think it is dumb?
What if friends think it is cliche?
What if it has typos and grammatical errors?
What if they think I am a horrible writer?
What if people judge me?
…and the list goes on.
Well, as fate would have it, my secret blog was outed on July 11, 2012. After posting “Angels Among Us“, I decided on a whim to send the link to my life-saving friend, Anne. Within ten minutes, my phone lit up with Anne’s number. I answered with a smile on my face knowing the subject of the call. “You have a blog?!” She asked. She was in tears and said I have to let her share the blog on Facebook. I responded with a simple and firm, “Hell to the NO.” I quickly shot down her crazy idea and focused on finalizing the plans for our annual July 11th happy hour celebration.
Perched up at our favorite wine bar, we toasted to our friendship and July 11th. We reminisced, laughed and cried. But Anne, being the
stubborn persistent woman that she is, would not leave the blog/Facebook idea posting alone. And in true Anne fashion she wore me down after a few glasses of vino (she knows my weakness). Before I knew it she was on her phone crafting up a status with the link attached. I sat next to her with the voice in my heading saying, “What the hell are you letting her do? If she posts this EVERYONE will know you went to treatment. EVERYONE will know you have an eating disorder. EVERYONE will know you have this blog. Then they will read the blog and think you are crazy.” But then, it was over. It was posted. I was outed to 1,000 of my closest Facebook friends. I’ve said it before, writing a blog is like streaking naked across the internet, and this blog pretty much makes me a nudist because it is my story…the good, the bad and the wounded.
We wrapped up our night and went home. The next morning I woke up and suddenly remembered what had happened the night before. OMG…the blog. I quickly rolled over and grabbed my phone to see the damage or I guess lack of response. In my mind, people saw the link, maybe read it and disregarded it. Well, I was wrong, like, really wrong. My jaw hit the floor as I saw all of the posts in response to the blog, and I was overcome with tears from the countless messages in my inbox…
“Thanks for sharing your story and struggle…it is so personal, but so good for others to know what you have been going through for such a long time. I am so proud of you for BEATING what has been haunting you for most of your life.”
“Your blog is so inspirational. Thank you for sharing it.”
“It’s crazy how Facebook can string together people. THANK YOU for sharing your blog. It is EXACTLY what I needed to hear.”
“I just read your blog. It’s wonderful and brave and fantastic. For some reason I felt I should tell you that. I never know why, but it always surprises me to learn that someone else is surviving life despite their own battles, even though I KNOW everyone has their own battles.”
I still get choked up reading just a few of the extraordinary messages I received that day. With Anne’s gutsy, single click, I realized power and beauty of vulnerability. It opened my eyes to see the incredible bond we all share in our struggles. No one is perfect, but we often get caught up in the rat race of trying to be perfect and do it all. I am certainly still guilty of it at times, but I am aware of the pattern and that is all I can ask for.
I guess the rest of the story is self explanatory. With the blog, came my first request to speak and share my story and then the birth of Southern Smash. It has been a whirlwind ride, and I am thankful for every second of it and can’t wait to see what is in store next. I guess this all started with that fiery itch that grew with every sympathetic head tilt. I had the courage all along; I just needed a push from a friend to hit that inaugural POST button. (A button that I can’t seem to stop hitting these days.) I’m driven by vulnerability, addicted to authenticity and love soaking in the incredible connection that we all share.
So on this beautiful day that is July 11th, I am filled with gratitude to each and every person who has read this little blog. Thank you for connecting, for sharing your stories and for relating to mine. Your messages keep me going and validate that I am on the right path. There will always be inner-doubt, and I’ve encountered plenty of external critics. However, on those days it never fails that I receive a message that simply says, “Thank you.” And that is all I need.