On Friday I saw the most amazing movie, The Perks of Being A Wallflower. It’s the kind of movie where you want to have long conversations about the themes with everyone you know, and you notice its impact sinking in on deeper and deeper levels over the following days. In the movie, the main character, Charlie, a freshmen in high school who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, befriends a group of seniors who are artsy, quirky and outside of the mainstream. These friends also have their share of challenging life circumstances including abuse history, kleptomania, and sexuality/identity exploration. They bond in their approach to coping with the intense world we live in. In the scene where Charlie first meets the colorful characters that will become his friends, Sam, the woman he will inevitably fall in love with, says to him, “Welcome to the island of misfit toys.”
I am a misfit toy, like many of the clients I work with. People often ask me, “Are you in recovery from an eating disorder?” The true answer is – no. However, I know what is like to try to use food to avoid/cope with the pain of life. Although my attempts never developed into a full-blown eating disorder, I have sought solace in the Chik-fil-A drive thru and many, many, many pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
People often ask me, “Are you a survivor of sexual abuse?” The true answer is – no. However, I know the pain of being viewed as an object, not a subject. I have struggled with defining my worth only in my ability to be sexually attractive because of a misguided understanding of a woman’s power.
People are often surprised to learn that I have struggled with very dark times in my life, even feeling hopeless to the point of passive suicidality in my mid twenties. My brain chemistry borders on the bipolar spectrum, and I can experience high highs and low lows. I have been through the darkness and that is why I am in touch with the beauty of my light. I know what it is like to struggle with depression, hopelessness and wishing to be anything else but who I am.
At my core is an emotional, sensitive, intuitive, passionate, creative spirit that is often overwhelmed by the pain of the world. When I was younger, I learned from society that these aspects of myself were weak and not valuable, and so I learned to see myself as weak and without value. These are similar challenges to people struggling with eating disorders and/or an abuse history. Growing up with abuse causes a person to develop sensitivity and hypervigilance in order to survive the situation they are living in. This sensitivity can be so overwhelming in the wide, open world, that many people turn to addictive processes to numb and cope. It is a very scary process to learn to be in the world with one’s sensitive and open heart. Those of us with these qualities learn to judge ourselves, and our inner critic can become the biggest obstacle for healing.
Through my reclaiming beauty journey, I learned to embrace these traits that felt like my greatest weaknesses as my greatest strengths. I use these parts of myself every day to help liberate the women I work with from the shame, criticism and limiting belief systems that rob them of their power. I want to see their brilliant beauty set free, so the world can benefit from the gorgeous human beings I see beneath their struggles.
The last week of February is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. (February 24th – March 2nd) An eating disorder awareness organization I support, Project HEAL, encouraged people on their North Carolina chapter facebook page to create a photo with either “I choose to heal because…” or “I support healing because…” I wanted to join in this campaign, because although I have never had an eating disorder, I am a misfit toy. I know that through self-compassion, people who struggle with eating disorders can heal and free their beautiful selves to help heal the world. This world needs misfit toys. I believe we misfit toys are the answer. I support healing because beneath every eating disorder is a strong, intelligent, beautiful, compassionate, intuitive, creative, powerful person whose gifts can save the world.
Ways to get involved in National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2013:
+ Events sponsored by THE Center for Disordered Eating in Asheville
+ Through the National Eating Disorder Association: Learn, Find Help, Get Involved
Support the misfit toys.
ps… Thursday, February 21st is the Embrace the Fabulous You conference for the Frenzied Female! It is not too late to sign-up. I would love to see you there!