3 Surprising Lessons I Learned from a Photo Shoot

Mulling over my friend’s story of overcoming her ED, a dream was catalyzed: I would do a photo shoot that conveyed the struggle and lies. I began to mentally create images that would best share this story. My creative edge grew with passion.

That was several years ago. Since then my own ED developed, leading me to question this dream. Would this photo shoot bring help or harm? Tentatively, I gathered my props, photographer, and subjects. And one Friday afternoon we spent four hours in a freezing studio. The result? 100% worth it. I had a voice I didn’t know existed screaming out of this project. The following encapsulates several learning snippets.

First Lesson from the Photo Shoot

I came against the cold reality of this ED. I’ve often denied the problem. Do I actually have an ED? I’m just imagining this, right? Suddenly, the doubts quieted when I edited the pictures and saw myself in them. Both physically and emotionally.

Second Lesson from the Photo Shoot

The visceral ferociousness of the lies became apparent. When I’m merely listening to the voices in my head, instinct says to obey. Don’t eat the whole packet. Do more crunches. Only eat half the bar. Chew gum and forget the hunger. Fat. Stupid. Loser…. Until, that is, I see these pictures. Those lies are devastating. 

The lies of an eating disorder are devastating.

Third Lesson from the Photo Shoot

Freedom exists. In designing, shooting, and editing the harsh slavery of EDs, the light became increasingly obvious. If the dark is this intense, then a brightness must be available to counteract. And… I want that freedom. I’m increasingly loathing this place of stuckness. 

When the healthy voice speaks out

This photoshoot, I’ve come to realize, was my necessary way to engage recovery, to be a voice that speaks over the ED. What about you? What are some nontraditional ways you can engage recovery? Everyone has a different process, and I want to honor that. However, maybe recovery needs a new edge, something different you can throw into it.

Here’s a couple ideas….

  • Do a photoshoot! You don’t need professionals – just a workable phone camera, a willing subject, and some ideas. This could be for your eyes only, so don’t let the pesky perfectionist have too much say.
  • Create some abstract art. Anything goes here! Pull out the cereal box cardboard, crayola paint, string, hot glue, spray paint, etc. What colors represent the ED voice versus recovery? What texture communicates the lies you hear?
  • Throw together a word collage. Collect old magazines or books and pull out some scissors (or just go with ole’ fashioned ripping) and find words the ED calls you, then cover up the words with truth. Or, contrast these words side-by-side. Glue it on your choice of background – leftover tile, aged canvases, garage sale photo frames, etc. 
  • Write a blog post for an ED blog. No one’s asking you to author the next New York Times bestseller, but the benefit waiting to be reaped from your story becoming known is astronomical. Be brave. Share your story. 

This isn’t a confined list though. Other suggestions? What have you done to engage recovery in a unique manner?

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