Who the F*#% is ED
Let's talk about the elephant in the room. Some people call him ED. He's the character that never fully leaves your story. No matter how hard you try to get him out of your life, there's a part of him that lingers, like the aftertaste of garlic. It takes an incredible amount of mindfulness to discern his voice from your own and even more strength to decide to choose something beyond the habit of sinking into the comfort that he brings.
Still don't know who I'm talking about? This sounds like most abusive relationships, except that this one is a part of the relationship you have with yourself.
Many moons ago, a wonderful woman gave me two books to read. One was called Life Without Ed and it changed my life. The author describes ED, aka Eating Disorder, as a character that makes in appearance in many people's story. As an actor, the idea of the narrative is one that resonates with me. At my lowest point, Ed and I were wrapped up in an abusive and isolating relationship. In every decision I made, he was the most important factor. I was making myself smaller, energetically and physically, because I didn't feel like I had the right to take up space. I will never forget the breakdown I had in the parking lot of Target because I felt trapped, both physically and emotionally, under the weight of Ed's oppression.
That moment was a turning point. In it, I realized that what I engaging in was not only effecting my life, but the life of the people that I cared about most.
It was a long road to recovery because it meant dealing with many addictions and habits that made me feel like I was in control. The truth is, the behavior patterns were actually taking away my control. I succumbed to habit and destruction because in a way it was easier than dealing with all of the situations, feelings, and thoughts that led me to this path.
I was lucky enough to be showered with support from my community. I am forever indebted to the people who helped me reclaim my life.
Why am I telling you this story?
Because, whether we acknowledge it or not, these self destructive behavior and thought patterns exist in more people than we'd like to think. Keeping this conversation in the dark only adds to the shame and guilt surrounding the eating disorder dialogue.
A large part of finding my own flow was acknowledging that I was no longer actively participating in my day-to-day life, but letting ED color and control every situation. My yoga practice was instrumental in my ability to reclaim my agency. Yoga, along with running and all of the incredible work I did on myself during my time in acting school, taught me how to feel safe inside of my body and mind again. Does it always feel like those are places that are safe? Not always. But I have so many tools now that let me realize the fullness of my life without ED in it. These mantras have helped me in my time of crisis.
"I have the right to take up space."
"I have the right to be here, now."
"Not every thought I have is true. Not every thought I have is me."
The relationship we have with ourselves informs the relationships we have with others. My relationship with myself was abusive at best during this part of my life. However, I no longer look back at this time in my life with sorrow or guilt. I no longer get upset with myself or call myself weak for experiencing this emotional and mental battle. I am extremely grateful for the experience because this, more than any other sort of training or life experience, has taught me compassion. Thich Naht Hahn explains that unless with we reach down into our own darkness, get interested in it, and compassionately offer healing and love to ourselves, we will never be ble to truly do the same for others.
Empathy happens because we know what it is like to suffer. We can help others heal because we understand how challenging and complicated the process is. My healing was uncomfortable, like how a scab itches and tingles as the wound underneath starts to heal. My healing forced me to stop running away from the big feelings and thoughts and beliefs that created ED. Softness brought me closer to myself. Forgiveness gave me a safe place to grow and change. Sometimes, I can hear the whispers of Ed's voice. Those are the moments that I have a choice: listen and respond with all of the reasons why I will never be enough or breathe and recognize that inside of me is endless potential and possibilities.
If you or someone you know is need of help, there are amazing resources out there. Visit https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/ for more information and support.