Thursday, October 16, 2014

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Little Warning Please

I love this blog, because I can let loose and not worry so much about the small details. A lot of the time it's written with pure emotion as my biggest inspiration, and it's great therapy!

I feel a rant coming on. It started over a week ago. One good week followed by a few more painful ones, my exercise limited to merely jogging, started things. Irritability combined with watching Ben Afflick's outburst added to my growing unease. The final log on the fire was a facebook incident. I know. Facebook rage is as absurd as road rage, only it's usually less deadly.

Since the tragic incident, in which nobody actually died, I've been thinking about why I got so fired up over something I probably could have ignored. Those thoughts seem to have spilled into the following rant:

Let me set the stage. I spend a lot of time in a mentor role, mostly in facebook groups for eating disorder recovery. There's a language we speak in these groups, and there are strict rules including: no talking about numbers, no posting unhealthy images or potentially triggering images, and warnings on posts that might trigger others.

I have gotten used to these rules and usually obey them in all areas of my life, even on my own blog, though I have mentioned numbers on occasion, usually with a warning. All potentially triggering posts with images come with a big warning at the start.

Having said this, I know all about the first amendment and people's right to free speech and their right to express themselves. On the other hand, I also believe in responsible speech. While I would never try to dictate what someone says or posts on facebook since it is a public forum, I will occasionally state my opinion on certain posts, so when a computer generated image of a very anorexic lady on a treadmill popped up in my news feed, I reacted and said something.

I want to make it clear that I'm not triggered by these kinds of images, but I find them upsetting. I have what's almost like some sort of PTSD reaction. I know the hell of living with an eating disorder. I know how boys, girls, women and men suffer with these kinds of illnesses. I know what it is to be torn between wanting to slit your wrists versus struggling through another nightmarish day, so I make every attempt to be there for those still in the throes of it.

In response to this image that was reposted from another profile by an acquaintance, I made a friendly comment about how these kinds of images can be triggering. The poster and several of this person's friends shot back with comments about life being triggering and how triggering is a great way to wake up and get real. I think there was also a comment about not looking if you don't like a post, which is valid, except I didn't go looking for this image; it popped up in my face without warning.

Had this person not been adamant about wanting to help others love their bodies, I probably would have let it drop. Knowing how an image like this can affect the people in the eating disorder forums I'm in, I got ragey. I shot back, but I kept it very civil and on the kind side, as much as possible, all things considered. I held my tongue while still attempting to get my point across.

Apparently, this person wanted to post the image in an effort to promote wellness. It's hard to see how posting an image of what's supposed to represent an extremely ill person would turn a switch in someone's head enough to make them decide not to starve, exercise less and be as empowered as those commenting claim to be. You don't usually see pictures of raging alcoholics in the gutter inspiring active alcoholics to stop drinking, so it's difficult to see how this strategy would work when it comes to eating disorders. Besides, I find it unkind to point fingers at others and announce, "Don't be like this guy!"

What I found most disturbing about the entire transaction was that only two people made any effort at all to understand what I was saying. People seemed to be so dead set on being right that any thoughts contrary to the mainstream were discounted. Instead, there was talk about stroking egos, tough love and calling others out, like anyone struggling isn't already aware, at least on some level, she is struggling. Possible denial aside, I don't think seeing an image of an anorexic person will make anyone think, "Holy crap! I'm too thin too! I must grab an Oreo!"

When one poster suggested that anyone in the throes of an illness who might be triggered shouldn't be on facebook, I about lost it. I really wanted to throw some nasty words onto the computer screen. I mean, just because I'm the other side of the illness, it doesn't mean I don't remember what it was like to be triggered by nearly everything. That doesn't mean I should have stopped participating in the world at that time. Instead of being bitchy, I simply mentioned that many people who are struggling find great support in online communities, especially on facebook. I also reminded anyone who would listen that what you say and do can have an effect on others, either positive or negative, and when it comes to posting images that are highly disturbing, the effect can not only be negative, it can be downright damaging and long lasting.

All I wanted was a little warning, something like the warnings at the start of graphic movies or potentially upsetting news stories. Is that too much to ask? Yeah, yeah, it's this person's wall, but I find it sad when people are unable to step outside themselves and consider how actions might affect others. It definitely wasn't wrong to post that image, but I found the move thoughtless. I say this considering the insistence that this person is out to help people find self love. Had it been Joe Blow, I would have kept my mouth shut after my first comment.

To be fair, I understand the motivation behind the attempt. I do believe this person meant well. Also, there were some very thoughtful comments by several people, discarding the ones that were downright snotty and meant to be mean, and those were not handed out by the original poster. If nothing more, I hope that before the entire thread was deleted (guess who got the last word? hehe), it got some people thinking.

I fully believe that people should speak their truth, but do it in a way that's not hurtful to others. If you insist on calling others out, at least have some fucking compassion when you do. And be sure you're not hiding your own demons in the basement before you go ordering others to take a good look at themselves.

Thursday, October 2, 2014


I've been struggling to come to a better understanding about forgiveness and how it plays a role in recovery. I don't just mean recovery in terms of addiction or eating disorders but recovery or healing in general.

I started thinking about forgiveness this week when I read an article about a lady who was raped and forgave her attacker in the courtroom where he was being sentenced, even though he wrecked her life so badly she was forced to relocate to a different country. In the comment section of the article, people gave their opinions on why this move was more beneficial for her than for her attacker. One can assume that for her, it meant letting go of resentment that was eating at her, and being willing to accept that she could forgive without letting him off the hook. He's still accountable for his actions, but she no longer has to be involved in his life in any way. She doesn't have to waste energy thinking about how his actions hurt her. This is not an easy task.

If one could imagine two people attached together by a large ribbon, the ribbon would represent the ties of anger that hold the two beings together. If one imagines taking a large pair of scissors and cutting through that ribbon with the two pieces drifting away from each other, that represents how forgiveness should free a person. Everyone knows it's not this simple, though. Why is that? Why is it easy for some to "let go" but not for others?

I'm starting to see that anger and resentment harm the one feeling those emotions. The perpetrator is unaffected. No matter how badly we want the world to operate with the same standards we hold, it simply doesn't. People can be shitty, period. I just blogged about my childhood, remembering how terribly I was treated by so many people. At various times, I have been angry at my former coach, my dad, my peers and anyone who bullied and teased me. I had a terrible time letting go of this anger until I started to heal the part of me that believed, on some level, that maybe I somehow deserved these wrongs inflicted on me.

I think what was most eye opening to me was when I tried to put myself in the other person's shoes. The groups I was in during various hospital stays engaged in a lot of role playing, which helped the healing process to some degree. During one of these sessions, I remembered wondering how anyone could treat a child the way I was treated. Really, how could anyone treat another human being that way?

In trying to understand how anyone could administer such hurt, I discovered I couldn't, unless perhaps I had been operating from some deep hurt myself, but even then I couldn't imagine it. Still, it helped me realize that sometimes people are doing the best they can. This may not help heal, but by knowing that my dad or my peers did the best they could, I was able to soften a little. From there, I worked on forgiveness. Yes, they were terrible to me at times, but they had their own issues. My dad was suffering and battling his own demons, bad ones. Unfortunately, his best, in terms of being a loving father, wasn't very good, but it was the best he could do given his own situation. Plus, apologies or even recognizing being in the wrong doesn't come easily to most people, so they aren't likely to tell you what you want to hear when you ask for an apology.

The big problem is that forgiveness doesn't necessarily take away the hurt. It takes something more to move through the painful emotions. We are not taught how to express anger and hurt, especially in this country, so we learn to shove our feelings down or take things out on ourselves. We aren't allowed to be angry, so we turn the anger inward.

They say time heals all wounds and can lead to forgiveness, but this is only true as long as you don't feed the resentment. Time was a big factor in my ability to let go, and I danced for a long time with the frustration and anger inside me. Coming to terms with this idea that people usually don't change was difficult.

Things got stirred up a bit when I interviewed my coach for the book I wrote, and he confessed that, if given the chance to go back knowing now what he didn't know then, he wouldn't do anything differently. I was shocked. I know I would have done a lot differently, like spoken up for myself a hell of a lot more in his presence. In the end, there's nothing I can do to make him realize the tremendous hurt and damage he caused me, and I can't change the past. There will never be an apology on his end, so I had to accept it. It took years to do that, and I still don't like being anywhere near him. But I don't let the anger eat at me. It's his problem, not mine.

Some key steps in moving toward forgiveness are to move through and express the anger, be kind to yourself through the process and engage in dialog or role play to better understand the situation from all angles. Even if the other party can't or refuses to hear you, find healthy ways to define and address the hard feelings. Write or say out loud the things you need to say, even if the other person can't or refuses to hear or accept your words. In terms of expressing anger, it's OK to go to a safe place and yell or beat a pillow with your fists. You can try channeling that anger in movement or sports too, anything to keep from turning it inward, or you can even try expressing the anger through journal writing or another creative outlet.

The last piece of advice I have is to avoid putting too much energy into talking and reliving the experience. Part of moving forward is to address the issue, several times if needed, and then work on describing and visualizing how you want your current situation and your future to be. I know a lady who is stuck in the past, and she can't help but bring up her regrets, frustrations and hurt pretty much every day. This is not moving through the emotions or moving forward; it's staying stuck.

If anyone else has suggestions on how they moved through anger and resentment after being treated badly, please feel free to leave a comment.