Are You Afraid to Speak Up? Why Using Your Voice is a Powerful Step in Recovery

speak up - profile image of a female with long brown curly  hair speaking into a large megaphone

It’s around midnight. And I’m pacing outside my mother’s bedroom, with words attempting to spill from my throat. Speak Up.  

Yet, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t tell my mom I had an eating disorder.

The racing thoughts of, “keep it hidden, you can’t speak, don’t say a word” were gripping my throat into a choke hold. I could barely breathe.

For the five years my eating disorder took over my life, I was a puppet. Controlled by the will of what my eating disorder wanted me to do, say, and believe. Upon finally beginning therapy, I learned that my deepest core belief was that what I said didn’t matter. Since the eating disorder had controlled me for so long, I was out of touch with what I actually believed and thought.

Slowly, I began to speak.

First, to therapists, then in my art, and then in my poetry. I learned that I couldn’t communicate my pain through or on my body anymore. That never really worked, to begin with.

After four years of high school succumbing to the voice of ED, I decided that enough was enough. I didn’t want to be just a puppet anymore. I wanted to say what I was passionate about and show the pain outside of my body.

Freshman year of college I began to perform spoken word poetry. I spilled my pain, my loss, and my sadness onto paper and performed those words to groups of people. At first, it was slow. I wasn’t used to sharing my feelings or my past and I was terrified of how people would react.

Then, all at once, the urge to speak my truth ran vividly throughout my body and out into the big wide world.

I remember going to a NEDA walk in 2016, listening to the speaker and saying to myself: “I’m going to be speaking up there next year”. It was after that walk that I began writing articles for Recovery Warriors, The Odyssey, The NEDA Blog, and others.

I was even able to speak at a Renfrew Center Alumni Event sharing how art therapy has helped me use my voice. And a year after beginning to use my voice I shared my recovery story at the West Chester NEDA Walk – the same one I said I would speak at just a year prior!

Easy? No. Worth it? Yes!

I’m going to be honest with you – sharing your past and mental health struggles isn’t easy…but it IS worth it. I no longer feel like a puppet, I no longer feel as though what I say doesn’t matter because it does.

What I say and believe DOES matter, just as what you have to say matters.

Speaking out into that full crowd of people, looking at them in the eyes, and breathing my words into existence really made all the difference for me.

Remember that eating disorders are all about communicating. They’re about communicating immense pain, discomfort and loss.

Learning to show your pain in ways other than your body can truly help you heal.

Creating art, writing poetry, and speaking the words of hope and healing all got me to where I am today. I finally have my voice, and what I realized was that I never lost it to begin with.

It was always there, right inside me, praying to speak, praying to be heard.

(Last Updated: June 28, 2022)

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