one girl's thoughts on life, mental illness, eating disorder recovery, and hope.

Holidays We Should Observe October 31, 2012

Today is Halloween. And as I sit here dressed as something closely resembling a pioneer or Amish person, I’m thinking about all the weird holidays we celebrate. I mean, come on, how weird of a holiday is Halloween? We pay money to scare each other and gross people out while going door-to-door in costumes getting candy from strangers. Although tonight I am taking Buzz Lightyear and Mario, those are my nephews’ costumes not their names, trick-or-treating. That is only acceptable one day a year. After doing a little unproductive and time wasting Googling, I have found a list of weird holidays and found ways we, in the ED community, can celebrate them.

1/10-National Peculiar People Day= This is an obvious one. Everyone is peculiar. Whether it is your collection of mint condition Wheaties boxes or your habit of doing everything in even numbers (that would be me)…embrace it. Everyone is an individual and can be viewed as peculiar by another person. I propose that we attach a positive connotation to the word peculiar and embrace and parade our peculiarities. God made all of us unique for a reason; don’t try to be everyone else. As John Mason said, “You were born an original; don’t die a copy.”

February- Each year, the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) sets aside one week in the month of February to draw national attention to the education, awareness, treatment and challenges facing eating disordered people, their family and their friends. By participating in NEDAwareness week, you can help lower the stigma attached to EDs and educate people what they are really about (instead of the false and clichéd stereotypes most people cling to). Each year has its own theme and past themes include “Everybody Knows Somebody” and “Be Comfortable in your Genes”.

3/30-I am in Control Day= Although ED will try to convince you that he is in control…this day is a wonderful reminder that YOU are in control. You are stronger than ED, and health is way better than sickness. You always have the choice to pick health over ED behaviors, to eat, to keep it down, to exercise a healthy amount, to throw away the laxatives. YOU. ARE. IN. CONTROL. You, yes you, are stronger than ED and you CAN RECOVER. It takes an immense amount of hard work and commitment to recover from an ED, but if you remember that you are in control you will find yourself much stronger when working towards recovery. “Nobody controls me, I am uncontrollable, the only one who can control me is me” John Lennon

4/14-Look at the Sky Day= Ok, so it may seem a little silly, but I think this day is actually a good idea. How often do we just go day to day fighting ED and not paying a lot of attention to what goes on around us? We get stuck in a rut, not noticing the beauty that surrounds us each and every day. Take time to just look at the sky, take in its splendor, pay attention to your body and what it does for you; take time to just be, to just breathe and just relax in the magnificence of the day. Each day is a gift from God and we should take time to appreciate each new day, as each new day is one more day we’ve conquered ED. “Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books” John Lubbock

5/11-Eat What You Want Day= “One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating” Luciano Pavarotti. Ok, this holiday is pretty self-explanatory. Tell ED to give it a rest, you will be making the food decisions for today. Disregard whatever he tells you to do, not just today, but every day. I know it is hard, but it only takes one day, one choice, one thought to put ED on the train to splitsville.

6/11 or 6/29 depending on what you read-Hug Holiday= So, I’m not one to hug. I actually don’t like people touching me at all, let alone get close enough to actually hug me. BUT today is a great day to get out of your comfort zone and hug someone or be hugged. Show some compassion, help someone who looks like they could use it, show empathy, and be a friend. As Marya Hornbacher says in Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, “Contact with another person reminds you that you are also a person, and implies that someone cares about you as such…Contact with another body reminds you that you have a body.”

7/3-Compliment Your Mirror Day= All too often I find myself critiquing and condemning what I see in the mirror. The only problem? Those are EDs thoughts, not Rhea’s. So, today, compliment what you see in the mirror. Look at your body and think about what each part does for you. Be thankful that it exists despite everything that has happened to it. Take time to appreciate its intricacies and strength. Your body is amazing; take the time to show it gratitude. “The thing that is really hard & really amazing, is giving up on being perfect & beginning the work of becoming yourself” Anna Quindlen

8/15-Relaxation Day= Sometimes it is hard for me to relax and just be. Take time today to just relax. Take a break from your schedule. Unplug your computer. Turn off the phone. Take time for you. You are important, if not more so, than anything else that could happen today. “Next time you’re stressed: take a step back, inhale and laugh. Remember who you are and why you’re here. You’re never given anything in this world that you cannot handle. Be strong. Be flexible. Love yourself and love others. Always remember, just keep moving forward” unknown

9/21-World Peace Day= ““The practice of peace and reconciliation is one of the most vital and artistic of human actions.” Thich Nhat Hanh. This holiday was established by United Nations, so it is actually a real holiday. A wonderful way to celebrate peace day would be to find peace with and within you; although I think the UN meant it as a no more war kinda thing. It would be a great day to create a peace treaty with your body; write down what you are thankful for, terms of agreement on how you will treat it and all the wonderful things I can do for you in return. Hang the peace treaty somewhere you can access it frequently.

10/5-Do Something Nice Day= “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” Plato. It is just a great reminder to be kind to everyone you meet and those you’ve never met but interact with on a daily basis. No act of kindness is ever futile. Don’t forget, though, that do something nice day doesn’t just apply to doing nice things for others. Do something nice day also applies to you. Do something nice for yourself too; anything that makes you happy or feels good.

11/20-Beautiful Day= Although you should feel that you are beautiful EVERY day, take some time to think about how beautiful you are today. Not just in the physical sense, but in others as well. Beauty can come in all different types. There is beauty in being able to do art. There’s beauty in the way you interact and care about people. There is beauty in your heart. There is beauty in your mind. There is beauty in serving others. There is beauty in the unspoken moments. Take time to appreciate that beauty. “Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” Anne Frank

12/15-Bill of Rights Day= “Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside of you that is greater than any obstacle” Christian Larson. The Bill of Rights was written to set a standard for the rights and liberties of the people of the United States. And, while that is all well and good, I suggest creating your own Bill of Rights. What are your rights and liberties as a person free of ED? Examples include: I have the right to love myself and all that I am. I have the right to make my own food choices not based on ED’s rules. I have the right to eat with friends. And so on and so on. You will know what “bills” are right for you. Have fun with it. Display your “Bill of Rights” somewhere you can see it when ED tries to challenge you.


Check Engine Please October 29, 2012

“It’s going to be a process. I’m not fixed, but I’m trying to do the right thing one day at a time” Josh Hamilton

Two weeks ago, I was cruising along in Little Red, belting out some Adele and thinking about how cool it would be to have an English accent (instead of this Cincinnati/Kentucky twang I’ve got going on), when, all of the sudden, a horrible thing happened. There, flashing ominously in an orange light on the dashboard was the most dreaded part of any driver’s day…the check engine light. I’ll admit it, it wasn’t unexpected, but it still frustrated me to know that something was wrong with Little Red. Little Red is a 2000 Pontiac Grand Prix who has been through a lot. She’s survived a 55 MPH collision with a Ford F250, repeated interior flooding and a small collision with the family mailbox…ok two small collisions with the mailbox. But never once have I given up on her. There was always some kind of fix or repair to make everything right again. I immediately called my cousin, a mechanic, to see what he could do to repair her. We scheduled for me to drop her off in two days. The following day brought a new set of horrors for Little Red. It was around 80 degrees that day, and the windows needed to be let down in order to prevent the car from turning into a solar cooker. When the window button was pressed to bring them back up, I heard the motor burn out and the windows refused to budge. Wonderful, but also not the first time this has happened (rather it was the fourth time a motor has burned out in her windows). Oh, but then, even better news, it thunder stormed that night. Luckily for me, I live in an area in which it is perfectly acceptable, if not mandatory, to duct tape a garbage bag over a missing window.

As I was taping a garbage bag over her window, I got to thinking. If I treated my body and cared for my body as much as I cared for Little Red, imagine how healthy I could be? Even when Little Red was completely smashed by that pickup truck, I knew everything was going to be ok. When the check engine light came on, it was a warning that Little Red could break down if I don’t take better care of her…so what did I do? I took her to my cousin’s to get repaired. It seems odd to me, that I can put so much faith and trust into a man-made hunk of steel and plastic (but mostly plastic)…but almost none into to body that was purposely, wonderfully and fearfully made perfectly by the Lord. My body has survived a lot: years of abuse from ED, self-harm and the effects of the decisions I’ve made while under those two influences. But my body never gave up on me; it just kept right on living and carrying me through life waiting for me to figure everything out—with the little orange check engine light flashing in the background. My body never gave up faith and trust in me, no matter how many times I tried to show it that I may not possess that same faith and trust. My body knew that there was always another day, another hour, another minute to repair, recover and renew–more opportunities for healing and living. My check engine light has come on several times warning me that I was/am close to needing repair, but, each time, my body has persevered. I need to stop ignoring this light when it comes on in my life. I need to learn to appreciate my body for what it does for me, and stop punishing it for what I think it doesn’t.

Little Red didn’t throw in the towel when the check engine light came on, she didn’t run to ED looking for comfort when the pickup truck failed to stop in time, she didn’t use any negative coping strategies when the window motor burnt out and the window wouldn’t go back up…no, she just kept on. Much as my body kept on in spite of all its been through. I must remember that my body deserves the same kind of treatment that I give to Little Red. I must pledge to pay attention when my body turns on the check engine light as a way to assess what is currently happening and find a way towards health. I promise myself that from here on out  I will remember just how awesome my body is, and even though I may not always acknowledge its work or like its appearance…it serves a purpose, and that purpose is life. And as long as I’m alive I will continue to fight ED and regain the body and mind given to me by the Lord. Because, really, how awesome is life?

I used to have a picture of my dashboard here, but wordpress ate it or something…but, whatever, here is the text that was underneath it.

Over the RPM dial is the Josh Hamilton quote I have embraced as to how I think I should view life: “I live by a simple philosophy: nobody can insult me as much as I have insulted myself. I’ve learned that I have to keep doing the right things and not worry about what people think.” Over the engine temperature gauge is a note from a friend that reads “You are important”. I just like having little reminders in unexpected places that encourage me to keep fighting.


The day I didn’t meet Britney Spears October 23, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 11:37 am
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I am not proud to admit this, but, when I was in the sixth grade, it was my dream to meet Britney Spears. Yes, I had become one of those pre-teens. For Christmas, my mother bought me tickets for her “Oops I did it again” tour when it came to the Firstar Center (now US Bank Arena).  I had to wait almost a year for the concert to come around, but I prepared for it every day until then. I rehearsed what I was going to say when I undoubtedly would run into her outside of the concert venue casually exiting her tour bus and meeting fans like she did in her videos (did not happen, by the way). I planned my outfit knowing that I had to dress impeccably so she would notice me out of the thousands of other screaming fans in the seats (again, didn’t happen, but I did put together a pretty amazingly awful concert ensemble). I, being the nerd writer that I am, wrote out potential talking points that I could use when we were chatting on her tour bus after the show (in keeping with the unrealistic expectations, this, too, did not happen). I even had a backup plan should our paths not cross that evening. I wrote a letter to her telling her how big a fan I was, enclosed my phone number and address, and left it on my seat for her to find…like she was going to do some sort of sweep of the venue after her concert. Several days after the concert, I got a letter in the mail. It was from a woman, who was part of the cleanup crew from the concert, lambasting me for leaving my personal information out there, especially since there were men there on a work release program that could have gotten my information to use for less than lawful purposes. And so ended my childhood naïveté, or so I thought.

Here I am, twelve years later after just experiencing the same kind of naïve excitement over meeting someone I had anticipated meeting for a rather long time. This time, however, it was not Britney Spears. It was a woman who has come to mean a lot to me. A woman who has served as a mentor and friend to me for the past year; despite the fact that we had never met. A woman who I respect and admire for her strength, wisdom and beauty. A woman who has shown me that it is ok to work towards recovery because life is so much better on the other side. She’s helped me through so much, and I couldn’t wait to meet her when I got the invitation for her bridal shower in the mail. I was finally going to meet her! “Oh shit, I need to prepare!” was my next thought. What if I wasn’t who she imagined I would be? What if, after she finally met me, she realized that I was more messed up than she thought and didn’t want to mentor me anymore? What would happen if I said or did something to offend or upset her? What if, what if, what if? That was all that was running through my head. After getting incredibly lost on the way there and arriving 45 minutes late, I knew I was not making the brilliant first impression that I was hoping to make. Great, now I’ve given her ample cause to hate me.

I walked in quietly, slid her gift onto the gift table and silently found a seat next to the only person in the room (aside from my mentor/friend) that I knew—all the while praying she wouldn’t notice I was 45 minutes late. Then she saw me. I didn’t know what to say or do. What do you say to someone who already knows all about you but has never met you? I was just so nervous that she would think all the horrible things I was thinking about myself in the car, that I can’t really remember what she actually did say as she hugged me and welcomed me to the shower. She reassured me that they were just eating now and that I had not missed anything. What she did next is a testament to her kind nature and amazingly giant heart…she helped me through the food situation. She made me feel totally comfortable about everything. I have never experienced anyone who “got it”, but she did. She treated me like a normal human being–not as damaged goods– and offered additional support when she knew I needed it most. The whole rest of the shower I kept thinking about how wonderful it is to finally have met her and that she was everything I had hoped for. I am so excited to have her in my life and look forward to our continued friendship (and her wedding!). She may not be Britney Spears, but, to me, she is even better…kinder…wiser…more understanding…sweeter and even more beautiful (in her heart and in her appearance). In the end, I if I had to pick only one of these two women to meet in my lifetime, it would choose to meet this friend over Britney Spears any day.


What are we so scared of? October 17, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 8:23 am
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We, as a culture of Americans, do some pretty dumb things. I, personally, had a doctor reposition my teeth with wires and pull ten permanent teeth to give me a more aesthetically pleasing smile (aka: six and a half years of braces). Others pay doctors to inject their faces with trace amounts of botulism poison to erase lines in their face because they fear the natural change in their appearance that comes with aging; essentially paralyzing their face to temporarily halt the progression of facial lines. And others, unsatisfied with, say, their nose, pay doctors to hammer it, remove bone or put in an implant to change its shape. In short, we are a culture insistent upon changing ourselves to fit inside some cultural norm, either real or imagined, that we have been taught that we must strive to achieve—despite the fact that it is often unattainable. We have become a culture where the pressure to be the “ideal” (whatever the hell that is) is louder than the pressure to be yourself; to be the person you were born to be. People go to great lengths to prove that what they don’t like about their bodies is, in fact, true. They complain about their bodies with others—often turning into a sick “I’m more messed up than you” competition. Fault-finding in one’s own self has almost become the national sport. These same people are also willing to pay loads of money to change themselves to be what they feel society is pressuring them to be; ignoring their own thoughts about themselves, while adopting the brainwashed mindset of society. In a culture so encouraging of individualism, why do we constantly strive to all look and think alike…and why do we feel we have to conform to society’s view of “perfect”?

Recently, I found myself sucked into an episode of 20/20 while editing photos. This episode focused on “extremes” in human behavior. One segment featured a man who got paid by various companies to have their logo tattooed on his face, another showed a woman who was unsatisfied with her LLL breasts and wanted larger implants, and another focused on something that I find so appalling I felt the need to make it the subject of this post… the Ketogenic Enteral Nutrition diet aka the “feeding tube diet”. What. The. Hell? I watched in horror as the only doctor in the country described how people, desperate to lose weight, willingly hooked themselves up to naso-gastric feeding tubes which pumped a mere 800 calories per day for ten days, while being forbidden from eating, and limiting themselves to drinking only water, black coffee and unsweet tea. Not only that, but they pay $1,500 to do so. It is being advertised as the “serious new weapon on the war on obesity”…which is pure bollocks.  The segment started with a woman’s daughter talking about how fat she thought her average, if not smaller than average, mother was. After the magic of the feeding tube diet, the girl hugs her mom and tells her how pretty she is now. This just further emphasizes the cultural idea that thinness equates happiness, that everyone has to become society’s ideal and that anyone not representing the ideal should be ashamed. It also taught the little girl the misguided idea that fat equals ugly, and that she will only be loved if she is thin. Is this really the world in which we want our children to live—a world in which their value is only measured by outward appearance and not by the size of their heart or the power of their mind? What is not explained in the segment, however, is the lasting side effects of this nonsense which include: liver stress, kidney stones, bacterial infections, aspiration pneumonia, choking, and bone density loss…all in the name of vanity.

What are we doing? As a society, it has become more culturally accepted to starve yourself by paying for a $1,500 feeding tube diet rather than learning how to eat healthfully. It has become a goal of everyone (whether or not they choose to admit it) to lose weight and look “attractive” by today’s standards of beauty. It has become the norm to bash our bodies, ourselves, our characteristics…everything about ourselves that isn’t deemed culturally acceptable in today’s world. We have become so ashamed to just be ourselves that we adopt the personas created by society simply to fit in. I wish I had some big revelation to offer as to how we can shift the cultural paradigm to embrace individuality in all aspects of life. I wish I had answers as to why we are so uncomfortable in our own genes. And I wish I knew why I’ve let myself fall into the same ruse. Unfortunately, I don’t have answers. What I do have is a voice. A voice that is going to start standing up for itself. A voice that won’t complain at every perceived personal flaw. A voice that will not let society determine my self-worth. A voice that, albeit shaky and still learning to trust, will learn to embrace who I am as an individual and be proud of myself. We need to stop this culture of self-deprecation and shaming of those who do not fit the cultural ideals. The first step to achieving this is with you. Set a model for those around you—start a revolution, love yourself.

Reflections in mirror may be distorted by socially constructed ideas of beauty

Reflections in mirror may be distorted by socially constructed ideas of beauty

“Our eating disorders have taught us to see our beauty through the deliberately distorted lenses of the media-marketing-driven culture we dwell in, and the equally compelling propensity for the disease that dwells within us. However, that does not mean we have to stay in that uncomfortable, unhappy place, trying to wedge our brilliant unique beauty into the sharp-edged little cookie-cutter mold that fits none of us well.Some of my best days have been the days when I could begin to see something beautiful in not only myself but in absolutely every other person I met as well. Believe it or not, this is a learned art.” Shannon Cutts 


Why Jennifer Livingston Rocks October 9, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 12:20 pm
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October. The name alone conjures thoughts of children running around, frantically trying to gather as much candy as they can in two short twilight hours while wearing costumes over winter coats (if you live in Ohio)…or perhaps apple cider…or the movie “Hocus Pocus”. Whatever your initial thought, when asked about October holidays, your first thought will most likely be Halloween. I, however, am proposing you recognize another October observance—National Anti-bullying Month. Bullying can be defined as any “behavior [which] hurts or harms another person physically or emotionally. Bullying can be very overt, such as fighting, hitting or name calling, or it can be covert, such as gossiping or leaving someone out on purpose. It is intentional, meaning the act is done willfully, knowingly and with deliberation. The targets have difficulty stopping the behavior directed at them and struggle to defend themselves.” (http://www.pacer.org/bullying/resources/info-facts.asp). I’m not going to write about how I was bullied my entire life or give you the numerous sob stories that I endured during my years in public school. No, what I am going to do is show you a recent example of how one woman countered a bully and started a conversation on bullying in America—one that includes everyone no matter their race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, appearance, socio-economic status, etc. By simply standing up for herself, Jennifer Livingston spread the message that bullying will not be tolerated or excused.(Jennifer’s stance on bullying can be seen here)

A Wisconsin news anchor named Jennifer Livingston  received letters from the public all the time, but this letter was unlike any letter she ever received before. This letter personally attacked her appearance; informing her that she is obese and that that obesity was a “habit” that is harmful to continue. It went on to criticize her for being overweight in such a public profession; stating that her weight does not provide a beneficial role model for today’s youth—especially young girls. Jennifer took to the air to inform people that this man’s behavior is, indeed, bullying and that that behavior is unacceptable in today’s (or any other day’s) society. According to the definition above, this ignorant man’s behavior was done with deliberation; with the malicious intent to harm. One would be inclined to believe that with adulthood comes the absence of bullies. However, in today’s culture bullying doesn’t end when you cross the stage at graduation and are handed your high school diploma. It persists well into adulthood, and, unfortunately, follows some people their entire life. I want to change this. I realize I am only one, but having suffered mercilessly at the hands of bullies, that, at age 24 have not left me, I realize that this issue needs to be addressed. When people like Jennifer use their public position to show bullies that their behavior is not acceptable nor will it be tolerated, the bullies lose some of their power. By refusing to be a victim and allowing this man to tear her down emotionally, Jennifer took a stand against bullying. I implore you to do the same. There are many ways to stand up to bullying. You could call out bullies on their behavior, come to the aid of a target, speak out against the bullying behaviors, refuse to allow yourself to become a “victim”, teach your children how to be kind people and any variety of other ways you can think of to eliminate bullying behaviors.  The culture of bullying needs to end, and you can be a part of that movement. All it takes is one thought, one action, one change in behavior to start a movement that sends a clear message to bullies that their behavior is unwanted, unappreciated and inhumane. Please help me, and Jennifer, and countless others create world in which bullies do not have to power to victimize others.


Doing the Impossible October 2, 2012

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt

To say I am a courageous person would be a lie. I’m terrified of snakes. Walking alone in the dark scares the shit out of me. I’m petrified of meeting new people. The list goes on and on…but that isn’t the point of this entry. The point is this, I have recently done two things that, mere months ago, I would have thought impossible for one reason or another. I would have talked myself out of them to cater towards the incorrect self-perception to which I so desperately cling. I would have stated that, for some reason, my body and mind were incapable of doing these things because of some erroneous conclusion I’ve come to about myself. Recently, however, I stared down the barrel of fear and came out the other side relatively unscathed.

On Saturday, a rare day off work that started by me teaching children at work, I went with a co-worker to John Bryan State Park in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I went to take photos of the changing leaves; he came because he wasn’t doing anything else. As we set out on our way down the South Gorge Trail, I knew I was in for an adventure. The trail itself snaked between the Little Miami River and the wall of a giant gorge. As I followed my friend over the rocky terrain and rickety looking bridges (that I was certain were going to crumble as I placed my foot upon them), I felt a weird sense of calm. The rhythmic pad of my feed on the mud and leaves, along with the thump-thump-thump of my camera hitting my hip with each step, reminded me that my body has a purpose. Without this body, I couldn’t enjoy this wonderful fall afternoon with my friend. No matter how much I hate this body at times, I was reminded that it does do good things for me.

When we got to a piece of the gorge that had broken off and skidded down the hill to the trail, my friend immediately asked if I would dare him to climb it. I knew he was going to do it no matter what I said, so I said yes and that I would take his picture when he got to the top. He disappeared behind the rock and all I could hear was his voice as he encouraged me to climb up after him. Now, being five foot two, I have pretty short legs and climbing is not my forte. As he stood on the top of the thirty or so foot high rock, he kept telling me I had to come up too. I stood, firmly planted at the bottom, giving reason after reason why I couldn’t possibly climb up after him. I finally gave up arguing and just yelled up “I can’t!” This, of course, was not a good enough answer for him and he yelled down “You never know until you try, and you’ve never tried”. He was right. So, I strapped my camera to my back, and slowly walked through the mud to the rock. I squeezed through the tiny gap at the bottom, ducked under a big rock which was balanced precariously between the gap, and shimmied up the flat side to get to the top. I made it. I actually made it to the top. My body was strong enough to get me to the top and my mind was strong enough to tell the negative part of my mind to get over my fears. I did what I thought to be impossible…and I enjoyed it. It felt good to see my fingers slide into the openings in the rock, my feet sliding into crevices to keep my footing, my breathing concentrated as I tried to calm myself down…I did it. I climbed back down too and hiked the rest of the 1.3 mile trail and the adjoining 1.2 mile trail.

The other “impossible” thing I did involved college students, college faculty, and my co-workers…and a banned book read-in in the campus library. My co-workers, who signed up to read for their allotted fifteen minutes from the banned book of their choice, and I went over to the library during our lunch break to both read and hear others read. I had emailed the professor who organized the event prior to the read-in, and asked her if she would be willing to read a passage from my book for me; as I hate reading to adults in public. She agreed, so I brought one of  my favorite books over with me. I chose “Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia” by Marya Hornbacher (*note, this can be a very triggering book and I do not suggest it to everyone*). My co-workers read, a professor read, and then our lunch break was over. As my co-workers left the library, I decided I was strong enough to read my book after all. I talked to the organizing professor, and she agreed to find a spot for me to read. Two more professors read from their books as another professor walked in with her class of about 20-something freshmen…just in time to hear me read, great. As the professor before me was reading, the freshmen were shuffling papers, whispering to each other and squirming in their chairs. Then I was told it was my turn. I explained why the book is banned and gave a brief introduction to the book—then I began reading. My voice was shaky but loud. I could hear my heart beat. I started to sweat, and my hands started to shake. But I kept reading. My stomach was churning. My mind kept telling me to stop reading the book, that the students didn’t care and that I was stupid for choosing this book. But I kept reading. The students were silent; no one even breathed loudly. It was so quiet that I looked up from the book once or twice to make sure no one had left—they were all still there each time I looked. I got to the end of my passage and looked up at the professor who organized the event. She looked at me, told me how powerful the author’s words were, asked again for the title, and said that she understands why to book is banned but that eating disorders are a topic that needs to be discussed more in schools. I looked around at the freshmen who all seemed to have a bewildered expression on their faces, not quite knowing how to react to what they just heard. But, continuing on with the schedule, another professor began reading.

As he read, I kept thinking about how big of a mistake it was to read the book. How, by reading that book in particular, I had “outed” myself as a screw up with an eating disorder, and that I had pretty much just sewed a scarlet “ED” to my chest for everyone to see. That everyone was going to know I wasn’t this perfect person I pretend to be, that I make mistakes, that I have flaws, that I was inviting judgment into my life and that I have a mental illness. But, do you know what? I don’t care. I don’t honestly care one bit. I helped raise awareness on eating disorders. I may have read to someone who has an eating disorder that was scared to reach out to get help, or someone who has a friend that suffers, or whatever the situation…I may have been able to help at least one person. I may not be “fixed” myself, but I can use my imperfect/still recovering self to help someone else along their journey. The only way to help people get through eating disorders is to talk about them, acknowledge their existence in our lives, and thereby reduce the stigma attached to them as a way to get people started on getting the treatment they need. You, too, can do the impossible. To you it may not be climbing a rock with a friend or reading books to college students and professors. To you, the impossible may be eating breakfast, not purging, eating foods you wouldn’t normally allow yourself to eat, exercising a moderate amount, or whatever it may be. The only way to move forward in recovery is to do what you think to be impossible, for when you attempt the impossible you gain the strength, the courage and the confidence to succeed.

The climb down The view from the top