Tuesday, May 27, 2008

To the Girl

This is to the girl who lost her friends,

Became a loner or made amends.

This is to the girl who learned to cope

With strange devices, minus hope.

This is to the girl who cried all night

And wished someone could hold her tight.

This is to the girl.

This is to the girl who finds her way,

Year by year and day by day.

This is to the girl who’s growing up

And wondering, “Am I enough?”

This is to the girl who falls apart

Because there’s pain inside her heart.

This is to the girl.

This is to the girl who gives away

All her power without a say.

This is to the girl who starves, or cuts,

Or binges hard and then throws up.

This is to the girl who drowns her pain

In alcohol or self-disdain.

This is to the girl.

This is to the girl who cries afresh

Each time she sees her own real flesh.

This is to the girl who loses sleep

Because anxiety is steep.

This is to the girl who longs for eyes

That see her as the perfect size.

This is to the girl.

This is to the girl who wakes up sad

And lives her whole life feeling bad.

This is to the girl who needs a hand

But thinks no one will understand.

This is to the girl who wants escape

From food, or numbers, fear, or rape.

This is to the girl.

This is to the girl in all of us,

Struggling still to be enough.

This is to the girl—this is to you,

From another girl who was there too.

This is to the girl.

This is to the girl who’s in my heart,

Who’s in my head at each day’s start.

This is to the girl—this is to you,

From another girl who was there too.

This is to the girl.

© Arielle Lee Becker 2008

I know you’re out there. And I’m right here. For you, I’m here anytime: arielle.becker@gmail.com

Reach out.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Smaller Size Is Not A Prize

Shopping: you love it and you hate it. It can be enjoyable and maddening, fun and disastrous, happy and sad.

Much of these conflicting emotions stem from the toss-up of finding the perfect dress versus trying on pair of jeans after pair of jeans, none of which fit the way you want them to.

Often, it seems as though stores are telling us that, no matter what, our bodies are not “right.” We’re too skinny, too fat, our hips are too big, our butts are too flat, our stomach is too round, our thighs are too wide, etc. We inevitably try to make our bodies fit the clothes, instead of making our clothes fit our bodies. Needless to say, it can get extremely frustrating. It takes all the joy out of shopping for yourself. It can make you feel negatively about yourself. It reiterates again and again that your body is somehow not the way it should be.

Then there are the numbers. More numbers, like the numbers on a scale, dictating your mood: clothing sizes.

For one, they always seem to be getting smaller in stores, don’t they? You can wear a 5 in one store, but in another, where all the clothes seem so small, a 5 doesn’t come close to fitting. You’re forced to but something a couple sizes up and you feel horrible. Why? If it looks good, then why? Because that number has come to mean something to you. The numbers have come to signify something. If they go up, you’re too fat and if they go down, you’re doing well and looking better.

This is your first mistake. You’re giving these numbers—these clothing sizes, for God’s sake—a lot of power. And they mean nothing. It’s about how you feel in the clothes you buy that should matter. If the pair of pants you want to buy had a tag 3 sizes smaller, and you love the way they look on you—then you’d still love the way they look if that tag has a larger size printed on it. It’s just your mind trying to tell you differently. Trying to make you feel ugly, fat, and inadequate.

My suggestion—if you’re strong enough—is to cut the tags out of the clothes you buy. That way, you’ve used them for what they’re really for—to help determine what fits you in the store—and when you get home, you don’t need those damn tags anymore. I can hear what you’re thinking…you’re thinking that you do.

Well, you don’t.

You don’t need them to reference yourself. You don’t need them to tell you how to feel when you put them on. Look at the clothes for what they are—for what you like about them—not their sizes.

If you’re like me, the clothes in your closet are probably a few different sizes. Sizes vary by store or by material or by article of clothing (like your dress size not being your pants size). So who cares if you have all the tags cut out of your clothes? You’re not going to go out, sit on the bus, and have the person next to you ask, “Oh what size are your pants?”

If they comment on your pants, they’re more likely to say, “I really like your pants,” or “Where did you get those?”

Think about it.

And when you want to or need to go shopping again, you just try on clothes and see what fits without worrying about if you wore an 8 in the same store the last time you were in it. You pick a pair of pants that looks like it might fit and go from there if it doesn’t, trying on ones smaller or larger until you find a par that does. If your clothes at home don’t have the tags, you won’t be going into the store looking for a certain size and feeling terrible if it doesn’t fit the way you think it should. It’s just trial and error now, babe. You find the clothes to fit your body instead of thinking your body should fit into a size you’ve chosen in your head or have seen in your closet.
I know cutting the tags out of your clothes can seem pretty extreme. And maybe it is. But sometimes the extreme is necessary to get us to change our thinking, to get our heads back where they should be. After all, isn’t starving to fit into a particular size pretty extreme? Isn’t crying in a fitting room stall when a size—a number that means nothing—doesn’t fit pretty extreme? You get the next size, you try it on, and if you like the way it looks, you buy it. Don’t give over your power. Then you go home and cut the tags out until your bran can thinking for itself again.

It’s hard to do—to take the scissors to your clothes and cut out the part of them that matters the least. Doesn’t sound like it should be difficult, but it is. But you know, once you do it, there’s no turning back. The numbers will be gone and there’s no putting them back. And maybe you can breathe a little easier…and look at your clothes for what they are—a piece of your style.

Cutting out the tags is similar to getting weighed backwards at the doctor’s office. If you know the number on the scale holds too much weight (no pun intended) in your mind, you’re giving it too much power. Weigh yourself backwards. It’s kind of weird, but nurses and doctors are more used to this request then you might think. Don’t let that number dictate your mood and your well-being.

But it’s hard to do. To be strong enough to turn around, step on a scale, and step off without knowing what number showed up. You think—you’ll be dying to know. You’ll be curious. Well, of course.

Fight it.

It takes a lot of strength. To cut out the tags, to weigh yourself backwards, to let those numbers NOT matter.

But you can do it. You can take that power back. And you’re the only one who can. And when you’re in a better place, those numbers won’t matter so much anymore. And you can look at them again without handing over your power.

Your power is a prize.

Not your size.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Common Bond

A friend recently informed me she had been reading this blog and that it really struck a chord with her. She hadn’t known about it and stumbled upon it randomly. She told me she read it avidly, every single post. She worried it was a violation of privacy, but I assured her it was a public site for a reason and I had no intention of hiding my battle with anorexia or my recovery from it.

I was extremely touched by her letter to me and very glad my blog had meant something to her, though she did not suffer from an eating disorder herself. She told me she had had some issues with food and body as well, and mentioned that she’d like to share her experiences with me. I can’t wait to have lunch with her and really talk.

It’s not that this friend didn’t know I had an eating disorder. She most certainly did. She just didn’t know I was writing about it, and then was unsure if I wanted her to find out that I was. Truth is, I want it out there. I feel it’s important. And a lot of people read it. And that’s okay with me. I have no problem talking to people about my past because it is a part of me and I have come a long way.

The topic of my eating disorder does not upset me. I examine my place in recovery every day in some form or another and I’m not afraid to talk about it, especially with people who want to understand. Really, a woman’s relationship with food is a more common thread between us all than we might realize. There are lots of different ways people use food, lots of different ways they cope, and lots of different ways they get healthy. I think it’s important to notice this.

My friend told me that she had her own journey to discover who she is and who she is with food. I like that she told me that. I feel closer to her just knowing she can relate to this blog. My friend also mentioned that she was worried about eating in front of me or about openly displaying her own habits she uses to keep herself healthy. As I told her, people don’t have to worry about eating in front of me or about the habits they use to keep themselves healthy. I have learned to not be triggered by these things. I will always be aware of eating disordered issues, but I can truthfully say that I consider myself recovered and I’m okay now. I would not have started this blog in the first place if I didn’t think I was strong enough to be someone who could help others. I’m great now! Happy, healthy, and very recovery-oriented. It doesn’t rule my life in the least, so to anyone who ever worried—I would say please don’t feel self-conscious about eating with me.

There was a time when I would have been uncomfortable to even go out to eat with any of my friends. That was a couple years ago now. For the last almost two years I’ve been actively recovering, gaining weight, staying healthy and fit at the same time, and working on learning about myself and my eating disorder. I’ve helped myself mentally. I’ve learned to live in the world at last.

In the letter my friend wrote me, she asked about my experience being mistreated by girls in middle school. And she had questions about the impact of my eating disorder on our own friendship. I tried to answer her as best I could. It’s often hard to come up with definitive answers in respect to eating disorders. At least that’s been my experience.

She was familiar with my middle school "mean girls" scenario. It messed me up for years even though I didn’t outwardly dwell on it much. I know she remembers. I didn’t realize how eating disordered this incident made me until later. It was definitely a weird kind of coping mechanism. The friend I’m speaking of was a great friend to me during that time and thankfully helped me cope in healthy ways along with my unhealthy ones.

I tried to get across to my friend that in the future, I’d be honored to be the listener if she wants to talk to me about her relationship with food. I think we can both understand each other well.

“I want to learn more than I already thought I knew,” she wrote to me. “ It's important as a woman and a future teacher, and as your friend.”

As I said to her, I think that’s wonderful. I feel that way too. It’s definitely a continuing goal of mine. And I so appreciate her saying it to me. It means so much and I’ve thought about that statement a lot since she wrote it to me a few weeks ago.

So, in closing, to my friend, I’d like to say: Thank you.

Here’s to honesty and sisterhood.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Detecting and Reflecting

I think it’s important to take the time to reflect. To reflect on where you’ve been, who you are, and how you became what you are currently. No matter how busy you are, no matter how crazy your life is, no matter what pressing issues are at hand, it is always important to take the time to reflect. It doesn’t have to be an hour. It doesn’t have to be half an hour. It just has to be time. To think. To reflect on YOU. To remember. To understand.

Sometimes it’s painful to remember what you’d rather forget. Other times, it’s angering. Often it is surreal, as though the past represented a different human being than the one you are today. It makes no difference what reflection provokes, because no matter what, what is created is real emotion. You don’t want to deny yourself real emotion, however intense or painful. It presents itself for a reason and you owe it to yourself to listen to it, to experience it, and to acknowledge it.

Sometimes, when the reflection is done, you’ll feel a little lighter, a little better, and even like you’ve gone another step farther.

It gets easier the more you do it. By hiding the past, by covering it up, smiling about where you’re at now, and moving on, you are setting yourself up for problems in the future. By forgetting your struggle you are not erasing the pain, you are smoothing cement over it—and it will always grow through the cracks in cement again, even if it takes years.

Be aware. Don’t wallow in the past, of course! But don’t cover it up as though it never happened. If you had a child who died, you would be in pain, but you wouldn’t pretend your child never existed to make yourself feel better. You would remember, and slowly go through the grieving process, and manage to live again. Even if you did pretend the child never existed, it would be only a temporary solution. Something, at some time, would inevitably remind you of the child who passed away, or of the pain you felt.

You have to work with pain. It’s an ugly lump of clay. Work with it. Make it into something good.

In the spirit of reflection, I’ll openly reflect here.

I just got married. I feel on top of the world and very comforted. I am content. It strikes me as quite a contrast to what I used to be a few years ago. My mind inevitably dips back to college, recalls friends and fun and wonderful nights of laughter and love. Then I remember that despite all the great times, I was miserable. Below the surface, below the unforgettable college days, below the fond memories and sweet times with friends, I was miserable.

Some knew it, some didn’t. Some saw the mask of carefree happiness slip over my face of mental pain. For all the happy college memories I have, I also have as many terrible ones. Furthermore, a wonderful day of friends and fun, though undeniably good, never negated the inner turmoil I was feeling.

I was always looking for something more. Something to help me. Something to get inside of me and make me bloom, make me fly away from the feelings I had. I was desperate, seeking, sad, searching, and above all, unsatisfied.

I reflect on this girl when I realize how happy I am now.

She keeps me going in the right direction every day. She keeps me from faltering. She keeps my head in the right place. She helps me remember the pain and be thankful for the way things are today.

I’m lucky. I broke out of it all somehow to slowly make my way to happiness. It was a long road with lots of potholes and rocks and slippery spots. But I was successful.

One important thing remains: Without reflecting on the past, on where I’ve been, who I am, and how I became what I am currently, I would not be successful. Reflection is somehow as vital to the recovery process as eating when you are hungry.