What does it mean to protect your peace and to feel at ease emotionally and mentally?
As an eating disorder survivor, I often get asked by others who are struggling, “How did you do it? How did you recover?” That is such a loaded question that I had to write a book to answer this question fully, but there are two things that immediately come to mind. I only started my recovery when I truly wanted to be free from the chains of my disorder. I continued to do what I needed to get there for myself minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day, and year-by-year until I was where I deserved to be in my mental and physical well-being. I found a way to protect my peace.
From feeling suffocated to protecting your peace
When I give someone in the thick of their battle this vague advice, it’s never enough, and that’s understandable. It wasn’t enough for me when I needed the motivation to even attempt recovery from my eating disorder, too. We as humans crave directions and examples, and when there is not one that we can see ourselves in, it’s hard to accept someone else’s success as our own reality. When I started to consume other people’s true accounts in documentaries, memoirs, and podcasts, I still couldn’t place myself as someone who “could recover”. In my mind, I was too far gone to be saved.
What changed for me
I have always been a consumer of fiction. It’s an escape and a privilege to get lost in another world with situations and characters that equally have nothing and everything to do with me. When I was making the decision to go to treatment, I craved that fictional character that could help mold and create the possibility of recovery in my own life. It’s like getting the courage to cut your luscious locks after you see a badass babe defy all the societal standards of beauty because she went against the grain and came out victorious by taking the risk.
For me, that story didn’t exist. Sure, I pulled wisdom and advice from famous authors but I needed to experience a hero that did not yet exist. So I created what I needed when I wrote Ruby Blue’s story of perseverance in my bestselling novel “Protecting Her Peace”. Ruby Blue’s not just a character in a book; she’s the embodiment of anyone who’s ever been brave enough to go toe-to-toe with their childhood traumas, defy the toxic body image ideals of society, and fight for freedom from addiction. The book is titled “Protecting Her Peace” because I truly believe that it’s our own responsibility to fight like hell for our own peace in this imperfect world, and you have to fight until you find it. Below are five actionable agreements that Ruby Blue discovers in her own journey that can help inspire and guide readers in the proverbial call to action of finding peace within themselves.
1. Forgive yourself and let go of shame
Although people who suffer from eating disorders can come from any walk of life, they will all have one thing in common: shame. If there’s one emotion that can eat away at your soul, it’s shame. You see, shame says ‘I’m an awful person.’ Shame says ‘everyone would be better off without me’. Shame is the quicksand that we can mistake for solid ground. Shame tells us to pack our bags and move on because the transgressions that we’ve faced are too humiliating to face. Also, shame lies. It takes one decision, one moment, one aspect of you and places a magnifying glass on your life. Like a ketchup stain on your shirt during a presentation. You think it’s all anyone else can see. You’re the only one that sees and feels it that deeply. Change shame to regret, pick yourself up, and make sure you move forward in your life in a way that keeps your integrity and that you can lay your head down and sleep at night knowing you did your best.
It’s still hard to forgive myself for the things I’ve done or neglected in the past, but I know dwelling in that guilt isn’t productive… I only get this lifetime once, and I truly can’t imagine wasting one more minute on the past when I can shape a new future.Brooke Heberling, Protecting Her Peace
2. Find your people
The world is not made for people in recovery from an eating disorder. Social gatherings are filled with people who will comment on your weight, your appearance, and your plate. Even if it’s with good intentions, those comments, stares, and triggers can lead a person in recovery to retreat to isolation. However, if you surround yourself with people willing to support you in recovery, it can help soften the blows that are bound to blunder now and then. Having a wise-minded, well-informed ally can be there to fact-check, support, and lift you up and help guide you back to the path that you’ve committed to walking. And if you can’t find that in-person, connect with people through any form of literacy that makes you feel loved and hopeful.
3. Feed your soul
We all know that feeding our body is important for survival, but feeding your soul actually gives you reasons to live. If you are filling your life, time, and brain with content that is building you up and fulfilling your heart, you are going to want to be a part of the universe. Finding out the things that set your soul on fire may seem daunting if you have very little idea of what you actually enjoy, but a simple mind shift of “I get to begin to find out” works wonders on changing those frontal lobe thoughts from negative to positive. You can retrain the brain.
“I want to let go of the crutches that no longer help me along my path in life. I have no need for them anymore.” I lean forward. “I want to meet the real me, the real Ruby Blue, you know?” “Congratulations, Ruby Blue. I believe you’re well on your way.” I take a breath and let it out slowly. “I’m ready to let go of the shame and guilt and live in my truth.” “What truth is that?” “The truth that I’m enough. That feels too simple, but I can’t seem to form the words to do it justice. Treatment has taught me that I have permission to be a human, medication is a tool that’s a gift not a sin, and I’m pretty fucking badass for stepping in the ring to fight my demons head-on.”
4. Fix your fences
So often, recovery is directly correlated to one’s ability to set boundaries of protection. Now, these boundaries will be different from one person to the other, and they can shift over time; but without them, the battles of recovery will be lost, and eventually the war. Take stock. What do you need to help keep you afloat? What do you NOT need to help you stay on the right path? All these questions take intentional self-reflection, and if it’s hard for you to do on your own, you can ask a trusted friend or therapist for help drawing those lines in the sand.
“You see, when I was in my disorder, I had no room to think. My brain was on a constant replay of self-deprecating thoughts and catastrophizing the narrative, so I went through life on autopilot. You know the old saying, ‘Lights are on, but no one’s home’? That was me. I didn’t believe that was me until I watched the beautiful women here at Manna House get the same blank stare that Michael described in me. I don’t ever want to miss out on the beauty of life by holding on to the armor I created as a defenseless child that I no longer need as a knowing adult.”
5. Follow your dreams
Like Ruby Blue states in “Protecting Her Peace”, I am made of stardust, river run-off, and Prometheus’ fire. What does this have to do with your dreams? It means that you are more than capable of achieving them if you believe in the statement above. Stardust: made of love and light- born to shine from within and let light spill out of us to shine on others. Humans are made up of 70% of water, therefore we can flow fluidly through this life as important and malleable as water. Not meant to be stagnant, but not meant to be forced.
“There’s a part of me that truly thought that if I’m not currently doing something, it never happened. I know it sounds crazy, and it is, but I’m so thankful that I can finally look back on the things I’ve done, accomplished, and worked for and not only give myself credit but also allow myself to move on without feeling like I gave up or failed. It’s okay for my plans, life, and goals to shift over time. That’s why we have seasons in life. Everything is temporary, and moving on from a season is not a failure. It’s growth.
A closing passage from the book, Protecting Her Peace
“I look up and see the shadows that hide the imperfections of the moon’s surface. When it’s full, the dips and the valleys that make it unique are displayed, while also highlighting its amazing size and stature. It seems to be a reminder to the world that even if you can’t shine your full potential at all times, you’re a masterpiece of the universe’s design to shine when all the cosmos align, and even when the world can’t see us, we still exist. I’ve always felt safer in the shadows, but now, I want to learn to live in the light. The sun will always expose the moon’s true form, and the universe will always divulge the depths of our souls. I don’t want to be afraid of soul exposure anymore. There’s such beauty in the breakdown, and I don’t want to fear it. It’s such a waste of energy to run from the truth because it’s ultimately the one thing that sets us free from the demons we spend so much time trying to keep hidden in the shadows.”