Many times I have been told that the world gains nothing from my eating disorder. But when I am active in my eating disorder, I don’t think for myself as he does all my thinking for me and the crazy thing about eating disorders is that they really don’t care what the world needs. I do but my eating disorder doesn’t. All an eating disorder concerns itself with, is ITS-SELF. It’s selfish and self-centered and self-serving. Insecure and power hungry, an eating disorder searches out that which will keep it alive. And so, its response is “Well, I don’t care what the world needs. I only care about what I need.”
During my first in-patient treatment, I shared with my psychiatrist that I felt I had nothing to offer or contribute to the world. I shared that I felt completely empty and worthless. (Again, the eating disorder took away all my self-identity and self-pride. It’s amazing what the illness can make you feel and believe). I shared that there were lots of people out there more qualified and more talented than me and what about me would make me any different or any more special than anyone else? She, one of the many guides in my life, replied, “Well, Jean, if we all thought that way, nothing would ever get done.”
Huh. My eating disorder stopped listening. But… I had begun to. I found myself asking; “So, if the worlds gains nothing from my eating disorder what does it have to gain from me? What do I have to offer? What do I have to say? I want to participate in life, right? Right! I have something to offer, right? Right!”
My voice…My story…Matters….To ME. And, I Need To Express IT.
I believe we all have a need to express ourselves and give expression to our lives. And, I believe those expressions are what we, each uniquely, have to offer the world. Whatever IT is, is different for each of us but that it is all a part of how life needs to express itself.
Wise Crone (my dietician), once told me, “Jean, the world gains nothing from your eating disorder. The world needs your Jean-ness, your much-ness.
We all have a voice and we all have something to say. We all need to be living our much-ness.
I recently saw the play ‘A Night with Janis Joplin.’ Wildly moving her arms and her legs and her whole body, she tussles and tangles her long messy hair. She seemed to just float across the stage, exploring every corner with her entire being and with all of her muchness. In a raspy, raw voice, Janis shares “Music makes you feel like you can do ANYTHING, Man. And, when you feel like you CAN do anything. Man, you can do ANY THING.”
She continues, “Music is all about the feelings. That’s it. The feelings we all have. The shared experience of being alive. And, that’s All. That’s what it’s all about.”
Huh. If that’s what that IT is all about then I was finally listening…
Another Wise Crone (my therapist) once told me, “Jean, if we don’t have our muchness and if we don’t live out that muchness, then what is IT we have? Nothing. And, what is IT we have to offer the world? Nothing.”
That’s the IT. The IT we all have. The IT that has to be said. The IT that must be expressed.
So, the world needs my muchness? My Jean-ness?
Within my direct line of vision, there was a man sitting in the front row at the play. He appeared stiff and obviously uncomfortable. If Janis would sway in his direction, he would turn away to avert and avoid any eye contact. When she would show–or rather–express–her muchness, her Janis-ness, he would turn away from her. As I noticed this, I felt the all familiar sinking feeling in my core. The feeling of shame I so readily know when I think that my muchness is too much for others and they turn away from me. I know that all too well. It’s what my eating disorder likes to feed on.
I noticed what was happening within me. I consciously and intentionally kept redirecting myself onto Janis and the show. Janis was ALIVE in her space, in her music and in her experience. I was captivated by her. I felt ALIVE with her. But I was distracted by the stoic man. I was annoyingly, obsessively and repeatedly drawn back to him. I felt that he and Janis were seemingly vying for my attention. Both right there together. She is the foreground, he in the back. I notice the synchronicity this has in my life. In that moment, displayed right in front of me I see, I experience, as if observing my life, how my eating disorder vies for my attention. Always in the background, judging me, distracting me, from living and expressing my IT, my life, my Jean-ness.
I keep thinking about “The world gains nothing from your eating disorder.” I think how I want to offer what Janis offers. That is, ALL of herself, ALL of her muchness, ALL of her Janis-ness, no holds barred. No holding back. Telling it like it is. The truth. Her truth. Living IT. Expressing IT. Being there, with her, was like being a page she was writing on in her journal. We shared her world. It felt magical and intimate. And, at times overwhelming.
Throughout the show, Janis alternatively drinks between two bottles of Whiskey. A vise that unfortunately led her to her early demise. Drinking and swaying to the rhythm of her own story and song, she shared about The Wise Crone’s in her own life. Female Blues singers she connected to who served as guides, offering her understanding and direction. Janis often reformatted their songs to fit her own story and express them in her own way. Such a wonderful example of how our lives and experiences and stories do matter. When they are shared to the world, they affect others and make an impact. They make a difference. I thought to myself maybe the world does need our stories…our much-ness.
As Janis sings her version of ‘Little Girl Blue’ I found myself floating into a story about Janis…and the stoic man…and me. I, for so long, have believed, that it is my much-ness that will lead to my demise like the Whiskey was for Janis, or Janis was for the stoic man on the front row. For so long I believed that it was me – my much-ness – that would be too much for ME because it might be too much for someone else.
Huh. I just kept listening… To Janis as she continued to share and express her-self and her much-ness.
As I mentioned, the stoic man represents my holding back, my resistance to life, my eating disorder. During one song in which the audience slowly began to stand, permitting themselves to join in and clap, some singing along, the stoic man did not stand with the rest of us. In fact, he was THE ONLY one left sitting. THE ONLY ONE. This man was on the front row!!!! He could not have been more obvious in his resistance to join in the experience. Seeing myself in him, I recognized how my eating disorder controls me too, by focusing on my fears, rather than on my innate need to experience and express my IT, my life.
Janis was full of Janis. I mean her story was hers and HERS alone. She owned, enveloped and embodied her life’s stage. I wondered about the stoic man’s life. I wondered about my life. And, I asked myself “Which life do I want to live and what am I willing to risk to own and live out and express my life?”
Janis said, ‘Being on her stage, sharing her music with her audience was better than any love she had ever had from a man.” Well, I ask myself, “Is being on my stage sharing my life, my story, my voice and my much-ness better than any ‘love’ I ever had from my eating disorder?”
Such a difference. The two — Janis and the stoic man on the front row. He, watching, observing, and judging much-ness. She, on the other hand, wonderful…full of life – Janis – living hers.
What do you choose?