Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Rashomon Effect

I started this post a long time ago with good intentions to finish it quickly, but I ended up getting too lost in thought over the weeks to write anything succinct. There were several incidents that kept bombarding my brain as if a tape were on some kind of random but consistent replay cycle. I kept trying to sort out what was worth addressing and what should be let go. Sometimes you really want to open up about certain things, but it doesn't seem appropriate. It might offend someone, or, after starting to address it, it suddenly doesn't seem so pressing. Maybe it falls into the too little, too late category, or maybe you worry about how the person receiving the information might react.

Quite often in life, your experiences or observations in a situation will be different than -- and occasionally the opposite of -- those witnessing the same event. Lately, I have been ear-deep in these kinds of episodes. I'm left scratching my head, thinking, WTF? How can what I think, feel, see, determine or believe clash so violently with someone else's perspective? Often, I'm waiting for a kumbaya moment, and, instead, I'm about to stumble into a war of words, or I'm left out in the cold, alone, looking in and wondering how I landed here.

It does seem that people are exhibiting extreme behavior more now than ever before. I'm either observing smiling, shiny, happy people, or I'm looking at red-in-the-face, road-raging individuals who yell, scream and try to intimidate others. Sometimes, the hostility is nothing more than someone online taking a condescending tone, but, in certain situations, that's enough to put a bad taste in your mouth and a nagging bug in your brain for the rest of the day or longer. There's an undercurrent of anger or unrest, even if the incident comes off as minor on the surface. It's hard for me to understand why people get so nasty, but I'm guessing it's a deeply rooted unhappiness within themselves, not entirely related to what has transpired in the moment.

It has been a while since I have gone into a full-blown rant. There are a few recent incidents I keep tossing around in my mind, though. One has to do with an encounter I had with a woman in an eating disorder forum. Sometimes people just rub you the wrong way. Other times, a person annoys a bunch of people for obvious reasons. Such was the case recently in one of the forums in which I participate. I already posted about it on Facebook, so I won't go into detail here. What came out of it for me is that I'm very happy to have some incredibly supportive friends who are intelligent, kind and funny. This was one of those situations that really bothered me initially, but now that some time has passed, it no longer seems like that big a deal. Some people are unkind and will say mean things, and, unfortunately, everyone has to occasionally deal with these kinds of individuals.

Of course, there are plenty of people who are lovely and sweet, full of kindness and sympathy. They are there when you need and listen to your worries without judging you, and they support you without running to gossip behind your back. The world is full of both good and not so good.

After watching a documentary, actually several, on different types of relationships, I'm starting to understand why I have been drawn to certain individuals and shy away from others. I know I'm vague posting here, but there are some things I haven't figured out how to comfortably share in this kind of medium. What's more important than spilling my guts, is realizing that I have started to see what I have given up by recreating patterns in my life that might be familiar but aren't healthy. Regrettably, I have the sense that I have missed a lot of opportunities, mostly due to fear. I can't really blame anyone else, but none of us live in a vacuum. Interactions with partners, coworkers, family, friends and even strangers can affect our behavior and how we view ourselves.  

This year, I have most definitely lived through a lot of loss and change. Going through big changes always provides an opportunity to reflect on life in general and on the self. The good news is that I now know I don't have to stay on the path I was on.  I want to start living more in the what is or what might be instead of the what was or what might have been, though some of those scenarios are hard to give up completely. Initially, I was feeling pretty shaky about testing out new directions, but I'm OK with being in the unsure stage right now, as long as I know I'm not going backward. In time, I hope some of the walls I have put up will begin to come down. In the meantime, I'm fine working on a new book with several other people, volunteering, working, jogging and continuing to raise awareness about eating disorder recovery and mental heath. 

In October, I will be participating in the Denver NEDA walk. If you would like to help me raise some money and awareness for the cause, please check out this link:  WALK

Also, I was recently a guest on a radio/podcast show "Voices for Change"  Rebecca and Joe were nice enough to interview me about my book and my journey. 

Life is like a radiohead video. It's interesting, bizarre, confusing and disturbing at times, but if you listen to the music, not just the words, it's beautiful in its own twisted way.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Training on Empty: Epilogue

When I first started writing my book, I wasn't a writer. I'm not sure I am now, but I can usually string some coherent and complete sentences together. Sometimes they even come out well, though I'm far from any David Foster Wallace types when it comes to talent and the ability to use it. Still, I had a story to tell, one that I hope will help and inspire others.

During the worst times when I was struggling, there weren't many resources available. The ideas around recovery were very different from what they are now. Good or bad, social media has allowed people to share every aspect of their lives, from illness to recovery, and now you can find a tremendous amount of information online. The problem is that anyone can declare herself an expert or advocate. I noticed someone who previously denied the prevalence of eating disorders and claimed she was immune is suddenly declaring she has the answers. If this approach truly helps others, I suppose there's nothing really wrong with it, but it comes off more as attention seeking than actually wanting to help. On some level, I believe radical change combined with a sudden appreciation and understanding of others or a situation is possible, but I suspect there's more to these kinds of cases.

What's more important to me is that people in the field or those who have actually dealt with an eating disorder share THEIR stories. I don't care so much about the people who have looked with reproach at those struggling or discounted the lows others have hit; I care about the ones who have made it to the other side after facing their worst demons and are willing to reach back and pull someone else to safer ground. These are the true heroes in my mind, not the ones who jump on a topic for the sake of self-promotion.

Recovery is something that evolves. Whether your issue is occasionally binging on pizza and beer or a severe form of restricting, where you are now doesn't mean you will be forever stuck there. As I get older, I realize that I'm no longer aiming to punish myself the way I used to. When I look back at my own life and look at others, some of the things I see have helped the most in recovering from an eating disorder are:

1. Be honest with yourself and with others.

2. Commit to both your recovery and to being as aware as possible.

3. Build lasting friendships and relationships.

4. Focus on the moment and remind yourself that at this given time, you are OK. If you don't feel it, reach out to someone for support.

5. Watch how you talk about yourself and what you say about others. The way we speak about ourselves and others can shed light on some deeper issues.

6. Avoid both blaming others and taking all the blame onto your own shoulders.

7. This post provides a lot of what I feel is helpful information.

In the end, I posted my book in a series of blog posts, because I think doing so can help others. Though it has been many years since I last engaged in any harmful behaviors, I still remember how difficult it was to be in the throes of the illness. I appreciate so much the support from those who have purchased my book and helped spread the word about it, but I want the information to be available to those who maybe can't afford it or are afraid to ask. Posting the book is a way for me to play it forward. I was lucky enough to receive a lot of help when I needed it, and I hope the words I have written will help others.