Written By Andrea Batt, Alsana Alumn
Andrea was recently featured on Project Heal as a guest blogger. She shares below about her process of writing this piece.
When I find myself struggling with eating disordered thoughts, I always refer to my “bag of tricks”–formally known as coping skills. To name a few of my trusted tricks: I typically start out with a “just do it” mentality–and at times that is enough to get me through. Other times, I resort to self talk on a more positive level. If my self-hate is too high to accept what I’m saying, I reach out to friends, inquire about their day, and try to encourage and motivate them through their struggles—which intern empowers me to want to be a good example and support for them. When I find that, still, my eating disorder won’t back down, I resort to a brutally honest mentality. To do this, I remind myself how lucky I am that my body functions the way it does, and force myself to focus on functional appreciation, rather then internal physical mutilation. One of the ways I do this is by thinking of my friends who have lost their lives due to eating disorders, and how, really, that can happen to anyone with an eating disorder at any given moment. I also think of the children with cancer that I follow and support through various Facebook groups and awareness pages. I remind myself how lucky I am that I can make choices that will guarantee my health and wellbeing, while others don’t get a choice. I can choose to eat (easier said then done) and know that the food i’ve ingested is going to benefit my body and fight my disorder at the same time; however, children with cancer don’t have that same choice. Food to an eating disorder is chemo to cancer–In my opinion. I could go on a whole other writing spree highlighting the differences between an eating disordered patient and a cancer patient, but, I digress. It would seem that thinking of these things would presumably make someone feel depressed; however, for me, these thoughts fuel me to want to get better so I can help others find recovery from their illnesses as well. One of my motivations for seeking treatment in the first place was to finally reach a healthy weight where I would, in turn, be able to qualify as a blood and platelet donor (to help individuals battling illnesses that require blood transfusions to sustain life).
Getting back to the intended topic of discussion: On this particular day—the day I wrote the journal entry entitled “Raising Awareness on a Personal Level”, I had reached the bottom of my bag of tricks. Initially, my journal entry was fueled by anger. I had been battling my eating disorder back and forth tirelessly all day, and the mounting anger and frustration towards my eating disorder had forced me to reach my breaking point. Journaling was my last coping skill–but certainly not least, as it did the trick and gave me the confidence to overpower my eating disorder. The thing (I have found) with using coping skills is, they build on each other. By this I mean, if I use one skill and it doesn’t seem to be doing the trick, it doesn’t just disappear as I venture on to the next one, the thoughts and feelings produced by this skill, however effective or ineffective it may have been, stay with me. That said, by my last coping skill, I had so many thoughts and opinions swirling around my head—I had to declutter my mind and “find self”—find my voice.
I had a choice to make. It was 5 AM and I could either go to sleep, let my eating disorder win, and know that my mind may be refreshed in the morning; or, I could try to sort things out and know that my mind would be refreshed before bed, and victory was mine. Being as stubborn as I am, going to sleep loosing to my eating disorder was just NOT going to fly; I knew I needed to find my voice. Sometimes I feel as though I don’t have a voice because my eating disorder is so cunning and persistent, it knows exactly how to tune me out. However, when I write (or type), I can find my voice again. It doesn’t matter how many thoughts I have swirling around in my head, all I can hear at that moment is the words I am reading as I type them. It’s my time to have a voice.
Upon completion of my journal entry, I had a realization I’ve never experienced before. Although I had intended to write the journal entry for myself (as a pep talk of sorts); re-reading it, it became apparent that the words I had written could be used as a tool to generate awareness for two causes I care deeply about and are on my mind daily. And so, for the first time, I decided what I had to say was important. My voice IS important, and I’m ready to share it in hopes of encouraging others to do the same.
See Andrea’s guest blog post on Project Heal’s website.