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Embodied Rituals for Skin + Soul

Piece by Piece: Deconstructing an Eating Disorder

Katie Gordon

skeleton in the closetAfter announcing the creation of Wild Grace, my health coaching and bodywork practice specifically for women working with disordered eating, addiction, and trauma, the response was overwhelming. It made me realize something I already knew, but find difficult to put into practice: People love when you get real. Like, nitty-gritty real. Sure, nice stories about recovery from disordered eating and living happily ever sound good. Sometimes we even need them to give us hope and inspiration, but the truth is that the rest of us may have stories that don’t sound as nice. I’m making it my mission to give people the space, support, and deep love to be able to speak their truth, to tell their story without the fear that they’ll scare someone away. I kept waiting for that a-ha moment.  The moment when I’d feel the vice grip release and I could breathe again.  When that internal monologue would finally shut off, and I’d be able to look at a plate of lovingly prepared food without thinking about whether or not I’d exercised enough, or restricted enough, or what I’d be doing the next day to deserve eating it now.  That moment never came. There were a few times when I thought I had it, when I felt the hard edges soften, my rules start to bend, and my heart begin to show her true self.  Inevitably, within a few days that light bulb would dim and I’d be back to where I was before, only now with the disappointment in myself because I couldn’t keep up the illusion.

It took a long time for me to realize that this approach is actually extremely passive.  I was waiting for the right time, the right conditions, the right situation with the right people to all come together in one moment and flip that switch for me. It was like I was sitting at the beginning of a path, waiting for the Universe to pick me up and set me on my feet at the end. Over time I realized that if I wanted something to change I couldn’t wait for it to happen to me.  It took me until halfway through my health coach certification program for me to begin to understand how to take those first excruciating steps.  After years of treatment, therapists, and dietitians I had only JUST started on this path of recovery.

At first this realization made me even angrier.  How could I have been working for so many years and gotten nowhere? What the f*ck had I been doing with myself? I had become jaded, pissed off, and untrusting. In a way it felt like a waste, and at times I wish I could go back to make my college years a little less painful.

But in my anger I learned.  I learned to honor the power of my anger, to know that it’s not ‘bad’, but rather something to listen to and feel.  Anger is a powerful teacher.  I was afraid to listen, afraid to feel, and afraid to go to that deep place within myself where anger lived. It was ugly, dark, and gnarly.  Mostly, though, I was afraid of letting anger out, because who knew what would come out along with her.  Would I ever be able to get her back under control?  To tighten the lid back on, apologize to whoever was in her path of destruction, and get on with my life?

The thing is, I wasn’t fooling anyone.  Maybe they weren’t seeing the full extent and depth of it, but anyone could see something was there, seething just beneath the surface.  So I decided to give up being ‘nice’:  It wasn’t really working for me.  I have a huge and beautiful heart.  I don’t need nice.  Being nice only served to make me small, from which place I wouldn’t be of any use to myself or anyone else.  Instead, I’d set boundaries while loving my family and friends unconditionally.  Because love isn’t nice.  Love is speaking your truth, listening, and creating space where it’s safe to open our hearts to each other.  Love is getting real, getting into the nitty-gritty, and trusting that whoever’s there with you is meant to be there.  Love is having faith that everything destined to happen will happen.

My full story will eventually make it out. I’m sure it gets easier to write, easier to take that next step and gain momentum.  Right now, each word, each tiny step is still a bit like giving birth to a piece of my soul.  But it’s real.  And with each word, the vice grip of anger, of control, of restriction loosens and I fall in love with myself that much more.

My point is this: no matter what your story is, stop waiting for the a-ha moment.  Recovery from addiction, an eating disorder, or trauma, is a series of conscious decisions to take that next step, a process of unraveling that thread a millimeter at a time.  The more gut-wrenching it is to unwind it all and take that step the more truth your story holds. Within that pain, that work, and that struggle is where your power lies.