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.

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