When the #metoo campaign busted through my newsfeed this week something about it left me feeling unsettled. My feed was flooded with women confessing their stories of sexual assault and harassment all at once. My head was, and is, still spinning from it all. Are these girls fully healed? Are they getting the help that they need? Have they told their loved ones about these moments? Have these crimes even been reported? There’s no question that raising awareness on these issues is vital for humanity and the entire campaign is rooted in goodness but I want to make it clear here: nobody owes anyone, especially the entire cyber world, their story.
As a woman who's personal mantra is "share your story" I felt pressured. Do I join the movement? Could not posting #metoo give off the impression that somehow I skated through life free of assault and harassment? Could not posting take away from the representation of the immensity of a problem I care about? I was torn. Ultimately I chose not to share my #metoo stories, mainly because social media is not the place for me to do that right now. I write a personal recovery blog, so clearly I support sharing experiences to raise awareness *when ready. Heck, it's been almost 6 years since my recovery from anorexia and bulimia and I'm finally posting it on the internet for everyone to read.
With the concept of "sharing stories" on my mind, I want to bring up how sharing my eating disorder story impacted my recovery, and how opening up about yours might help, when you're ready to share it.
When I opened up about my eating disorder a few incredible things happened:
1) I was free from secrecy and shame- One of the trickiest parts of having an eating disorder is the secrecy surrounding it all. Some people with eating disorders avoiding certain interactions and experiences and engage in unhealthy behaviors behind closed doors. If there's one thing I know for sure (Oprah reference) it’s that lurky, shadowy secrecy about anything always indicates it's not good. (If you're throwing a surprise party or waiting to share good news, that's different).
2) I started to distance myself from my eating disorder- Opening up about my disorder was the catalyst to recovery. Previously I was able to live alone with my disorder in the privacy of my thoughts. When I finally opened up, I spoke about it like it was already in the past. I was actively putting time and space between me and it. It was like every time I spoke about my disorder I was speaking out against it. It felt sort of like when you find yourself verbalizing negative thoughts about a job, friend, or relationship for the first time- each time you do it, the wedge becomes more real and you realize, maybe this just isn't right anymore.
3) I formed a community of support- When I finally shared my story to my family, they signed me up for therapy and sent me to a dietician. Therapy was the best outlet. I depended on it for mental peace for a while. There was something relieving about talking everything out to people I trust. My parents also really got me through some awful moments, and sometimes I tear up with gratitude when I think about them.
4) My identity transformed – After speaking up about my disorder I went from a silent sufferer to a brave warrior. Telling my story, actually hearing it out loud, made me realize I am stronger than I expected. I realized that I am resilient and I am a fighter. I can fall from a pretty high cliff and land on both feet.
5) I learned about building relationships- The first person I fully confessed my story to was a hostess I worked with at a steakhouse. We would fold napkins and wipe down plastic covered menus together. I was 19 and she was 26. It was there I realized that disclosure and vulnerability form and/or strengthens special bonds. There, I learned that people are generally respectful, receptive and supportive when you share something truly human with them.
6) Now, I hold myself accountable- My eating disorder story ends with me being victorious. I am fully recovered. My family, my friends, everyone important to me, knows that. I talk openly about my recovery and it has become part of my identity. Whenever a negative though creeps in, or I'm tempted to engage in a behavior (which is rare), I am aware that that's just not me anymore.
At the end of it all, sharing my eating disorder story helped me and it could help you too. Take your time with it and be smart about who you open up to. Let it happen organically and at a pace you feel ready for.