Search
  • Paige Smathers

47: Letter from a Listener—There are Times when Hope Seems Fleeting


Emily Fonnesbeck, RD and Marci Evans, MS, CEDRD, cPT are back on the podcast to have a discussion about a listener letter all about eating disorder recovery. Themes of home, black and white thinking, perfectionism, community and how to take steps forward are all discussed and more. You’ll love the words of this letter and the wisdom of the panel members!

Links mentioned:

Text of the Letter:

There are times when hope seems fleeting. Anxiety, depression, guilt and shame can be so prevalent. There are also times where you just don’t feel worthy of an answer to anything especially an answer to prayer. I want to let you know that these are the times when we need to continue to pray, continue to have hope and lean on the knowledge that there is a purpose to everything.

I have experienced this and continue to experience this now. No one ever asks for adversity or challenges that can either break a person or through the experience will make them stronger, and in some situations you may have the opportunity to even be able to help someone whom is going through the same trials. This doesn’t make it any easier. Yet can make it bearable.

I have struggled for many years now with something called “an eating disorder” I call it the “Cloud” because this is how I felt, surrounded by a thick, dark and daunting, cloud. I have a difficult time calling it anorexia. Yet this is what it is. This can affect anyone, it doesn’t matter the size you are, sex, or age. Eating disorders do not discriminate. I was diagnosed a little over 2 years ago now. Yet now I understand it started many years before that. It starts small, and continues to develop into something that becomes out of control, the interesting part is control is what you think you are achieving. But you are actually in a downward spiral. I was in denial that anything was wrong and at times I still have doubts that I even had or have a problem.

I felt so alone, but this is the time when I was surrounded by those who loved me. I was blinded by shame and guilt. I wanted to be the perfect mom, wife, daughter and friend. As I strive for this, thinking that if I lost more weight people would accept me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I received all the praise and accolades that go along with weight loss. Yet as the praise continued the guilt grew, I didn’t know when I would be able to stop. Or why I felt so ashamed. It has been said that if you had the ability to listen to others with the same disorder, our words, feelings of shame are the same, almost like a recording. Yet we have never met. How can this be? What is really the common thread through all of this?

As I continue to struggle, I have hope that things will someday get easier. There will be times when I have to rely on others; this is something that I’m not comfortable with. In fact, the disorder will actually try to deceive you into believing that only you can do this on your own. It will take courage; it will take all your strength to endure the times that seem impossible to overcome. Yet we need to understand we are never alone. Look around you, there is beauty in your surroundings, a sunrise, and the sound of a bird chirping or hearing a child singing. More than anything though we need to see the beauty that is within ourselves. We are all marvelous works of art. We can radiate glory, we can radiate love and we definitely radiate beauty. This has nothing to do with what society thinks as beauty. We are so much more. We have beauty that is immeasurable. We all have the light, some days the light may be dim, or just a flicker, yet will all have light.

I know I have so much more to learn. I know that there will be a time that my burdens which are upon my shoulders will someday lighten. With patience, love, and kindness for myself I will endure my trials. As I continue to have hope and the courage to continue to lean on the fact I have a purpose. There is so much more to me than what the eating disorder wants me to believe. I will conquer, I will hold fast to the knowledge that I am enough.

Links mentioned:

  • Nutrition Matters Podcast FB study group

  • Educate, Embrace, Empower online course: heal your relationship with food!

  • Leave a review for the podcast on iTunes​

Listen here:

Full transcript:

Alright. Welcome to Nutrition Matters Podcast my name is Paige Smathers, your host. I am so excited. I have been anticipating this particular episode for a few months now. I’m excited to have Emily Fonnesbeck back as well as Marci Evans back on the podcast. Both of you have been here before and Emily participated in one of the very first episodes where she shared her story and some of her experiences with food. I think it was maybe episode 3-ish. So, if you haven’t listened to that one, do it. And then she also helped me out with the episode about resolutions and goals. And taking a different look at how we see the New Year. And we recorded that back in January of 2016. So, that was a really fun two episodes and I'm so glad to have her back. And then Marci helped me out with the food addiction episode we did. So, I called that one Food Addiction: Fact or Fiction. I have both of these wonderful registered dietitians back to talk with me today because I actually received a letter from a podcast listener who has written a letter about her eating disorder, or to her eating disorder. Or kind of helping her process her struggles with food. I just thought wow I want to assemble some awesome people who I trust and who I think could help her work through some of this. I thought of Emily and Marci and I actually have another letter I'm going to be breaking down with two other wonderful people who have also been on the podcast before. So, look forward to that coming up in a little bit as well. So, Emily and Marci do you want to both say hello really quick?

EMILY: Hello.

PAIGE: And that’s Emily.

EMILY: This is Emily.

PAIGE: Hi Emily. And then Marci do you want to say hello really quick?

MARCI: Absolutely! Hello everyone. Thank you for listening and I'm looking forward to it.

PAIGE: Ok! Me too. So, because all of you listen to my voice more than you probably want to I am having Emily read this letter for us and then we’re just going to have a discussion about it. I'm excited to see where this goes. So, go ahead Emily. When you’re ready.

EMILY: ‘There are times when hope seems fleeting. Anxiety, depression, guilt, and shame can be so prevalent. There are also times where you just don’t feel worthy of an answer to anything. Especially an answer to prayer. I want to bear witness that these are the times when we need to continue to pray. Continue to have hope and lean on the knowledge that there is a purpose to everything. I have experienced this, and continue to experience this now. No one ever asks for adversity or challenges that can either break a person or, through the experience, will make them stronger. And in some situations, you have the opportunity to even be able to help someone whom is going through the same trials. This knowledge doesn’t make it any easier, yet can make it bearable. I have struggled for many years now with something called an eating disorder. I call it the cloud because this is how I felt. Surrounded by a thick, dark, and daunting cloud. I have a difficult time calling it anorexia yet this is what it is. This can affect anyone. It doesn’t matter the size you are, sex, or age of the person. Eating disorders do not discriminate. I was diagnosed a little over two years ago now. Yet, now I understand it started many years before that. It starts small and continues to develop into something that becomes out of control. The interesting part is, control is what you think you are achieving but you are actually in a downward spiral. I was in denial that anything was wrong and at times I even have doubts that I even have or had a problem. I felt so alone but this is the time when I was surrounded by those who loved me. I was blinded by shame and guilt. I wanted to be the perfect mom, wife, daughter, and friend. As I strived for this, thinking that if I lost more weight people would accept me I couldn’t have been more wrong. I received all the praise and accolades that go along with weight loss yet as the praise continued, the guilt grew. I didn’t know when I would be able to stop or why I felt so ashamed. It has been said that if you have the ability to listen to others with the same disorder, our words, feelings of shame, are almost the same almost like a recording. Yet, we have never met. How can this be? What is really the common thread through all of this? As I continue to struggle I have hope that things will someday get easier. There will be times when I have to rely on others. This is something that I am not comfortable with. In fact, the disorder will actually try to deceive you in believing that only you can do this on your own. It will take courage. It will take all your strength to endure the times that seem impossible to overcome. Yet, we need to understand we are never alone. Look around you. There is beauty in your surroundings. The sunrise and the sound of a bird or chirping or hearing a child singing. More than anything, though, we need to see the beauty that is within ourselves. We are all marvelous works of art. We can radiate glory. We can radiate love. And we definitely radiate beauty. This has nothing to do with what society thinks is beauty. We are so much more. We have beauty that is immeasurable. We all have the light. Some days the light may dim or just flicker. Yet, we will all have light. I know I have so much more to learn. I know that there will be times that my burdens which are upon my shoulders will someday lighten. With patience, love, and kindness for myself I will endure my earthly trials. As I continue to have hope and the courage to continue to lean on the fact I have a purpose. There is so much more to me than what the eating disorder wants me to believe. I will conquer. I will hold fast to the knowledge that I am enough.

PAIGE: Thank you so much, Emily, for reading that for us.

EMILY: You bet.

PAIGE: Just to clarify, if anyone kind of missed the beginning, that’s not Emily’s letter. She was reading an anonymous letter for us. Just want to clarify that just in case anybody is confused. So, Emily, since you read that, just tell me what jumps out at you in a general way with that letter?

EMILY: In general, what I'm getting from it is it’s obvious she's starting to see that her disordered eating, eating disorder has been functional in a way. To help her feel more in control, to help her to reduce anxiety, or life stressors that seemed unmanageable and it seems to me that she's starting to realize there might be more effective ways to cope with life experiences. Which I would encourage her to continue to explore. Because I believe that to be true. Yeah, that’s, I think the general thing I get out of it.

PAIGE: How about you, Marci? Tell us a little bit about your overall impressions from reading the letter.

MARCI: Oh gosh. I have a lot of thoughts but my first broad brush stroke response is that she seems to be writing this letter almost to reinforce what she hopes to believe. She believes it but it hasn’t really sunk in deep inside of her and so it’s almost like this declaration of what she believes for herself, wants to believe for herself. Maybe believes for other people. It’s almost like she switches back and forth between writing an encouraging note to herself but also sort of declaring these certain beliefs that they apply to other people. I think that’s actually really beautiful. I think that as people are really trying to climb out of the whole of their eating disorder they have to do some re-programming. They have to be working on changing the internal dialogue of how they speak to themselves and if that happens through letter writing or journaling or talking that it’s ok to give yourself time to try to begin to internalize these messages until they feel deeply true inside. It’s ok to be in process with that.

PAIGE: Yeah, Marci that’s a really good observation. I think that’s really true. I got that impression as well. That there is this sense of “I’ve been told that this is what goes on. I've been told that this is the problem. I want to believe this but I'm just not quite there yet.” And maybe some of the shame she was talking about in her letter has to do with that very fact of like, why am I not there yet? I mean, what do you think? Is that a normal process of recovery?

MARCI: Oh, I think it’s a completely normal process of recovery. I think for her to be able to acknowledge where she’s been, where she's at right now, and where she wants to go and continue to have hope that if she puts one foot in front of the other she can continue to make forward progress. One of the things that I was thinking about, and perhaps we can explore a little bit more as we continue our conversation, is this idea of how you take forward steps and actions when your feelings inside of you don’t totally align. Those moments where maybe she’s feeling imperfect, or feeling shameful, or feeling undeserving. That those feelings will certainly arise inside of her and how do you continue to act in the direction of recovery even when you’re not fully 100% there in your internal feeling state.

PAIGE: I want to definitely go there. Let’s hear what Emily. Emily, what do you think? Is that a normal process of recovery?

EMILY: Yeah. You bet. I would totally echo what Marci just said and just add we know from the letter she talks about how she struggles with calling it anorexia. She really, it seems to still be in a little bit of a denial of what really the issue is. I find that to be very very common and normal. Especially because in the process typically, and I should say, generally maybe not typically, but what I find is individuals who have spent a lot of time focusing on the foods that their eating and possibly this perfectionistic mindset, almost feel like any sort of physical symptoms or issues that they have could be solved with changing how they’re eating or what they look like. And she mentioned that a little bit in the letter. So, for her to change, as Marci said, that internal dialogue or the way that she thinks about her story, to switch that mindset from my issue isn’t necessarily because I'm not perfect enough, the issue is trying to be perfect enough. Trying to manipulate food and my body this way. Or, trying to control some of the verbiage that she used, control or to feel in control. It’s definitely a mindset shift. And she's not alone in that. I think it’s very common.

PAIGE: So, I love this point about, this observation of it sounds like she wants to believe these things and maybe has moments where it’s resonating and just is like, yeah today is a good day. This all really sinks in and feels good and then, you know, you hit a roadblock. Whether it’s a comment someone makes or a thought that just turns into more and more negative thoughts throughout your day, or week. That sometimes you lose sight of it. But, that’s ok and that’s normal. Eventually as you do this work things start to sink in truly in your heart and it’s more a part of you rather than something you’re hoping to believe. Is that a good summary of what we’ve said so far?

MARCI: Absolutely, I think so.

PAIGE: I want to sort of go down some of my observations and I’ll prompt a few questions here or there but I want this to feel really informal. I want you both to feel very comfortable bringing stuff up along the way. So, Marci, I wrote down your thing about the how do we take steps forward even when our feelings maybe don’t align or aren’t quite there yet. I want to start with one of the first things she says in the letter. For anybody who’s interested I’ll post the actual words of the letter in the show notes so that if you want to reread it you’re welcome to. But, one of the things that she says that I think we all, before this conversation, we all kind of mentioned how it’s interesting how she refers to her eating disorder as the cloud. I wanted to hear what you both think about that. Marci, do you want to go first?

MARCI: Sure. I’m happy to chime in. I think it’s interesting. She describes a cloud which when I think about a cloud, what comes to my mind is sort of this light, fluffy, sort of white thing in the sky that feels more sort of ethereal and lovely and yet she describes it as thick and dark and daunting and almost heavy. My first thought about that was a little bit of what Emily spoke to actually. This idea of being able to appreciate both the lightness and the darkness. That is a huge theme of what I was going to bring to the conversation. About being able to appreciate that we have both parts. The dark parts of the anorexia that really made her life difficult and clearly was connected to feelings of, perhaps, I mean she doesn’t state it so explicitly here but, really negative feelings. Sort of spiraling. Perhaps depression. Perhaps disconnection from people in her life. That she describes it as a cloud in this negative sense. I would be interested also for her to maybe flip it and call to mind some of the up sides of the eating disorder and give herself some space to be able to appreciate ways in which her eating disorder has been useful to her so that she can be appreciative of how it served her but then also use that information of guidance of what she needs to be able to replace that function. To find some healthier, more life affirming coping mechanisms. But to know that eating disorders come in and one of the reasons why they can be pretty tough to recover from is that they can be quite effective. To say, yes, it’s this dark cloud. This cloud of anorexia which caused her turmoil and sadness and heartbreak and it’s also something that has probably been helpful to her in ways. And so, to be able to acknowledge, express gratitude, go through grieving process of letting that go and then developing the skillsets of what’s going to come in in its place.

PAIGE: I think that’s a really good point Marci, about the imagery of the light and the darkness and I'm excited to explore that as an overall theme throughout the letter. I don’t even know if it was intentional to talk about that dark cloud. And then at the end she sort of ended with this idea of we all have light within us and sometimes it’s dimmer and sometimes it’s stronger. I think that’s a really cool literary tool she used. So, that’s a good point. Emily, what do you think? What were your impressions about the cloud she talks about?

EMILY: Well, first of all, I love this idea of kind of continue with this light and dark theme. It would be really good to talk a little bit more about that. The way that she described the cloud. She talked about it being, as was mentioned, thick, dark, daunting, and I got the idea that she felt kind of stuck in it, right? This actually kind of reminded me of, there’s an author whose name is Dan Seigel, and actually my own therapist, a few years ago and Marci, actually, both recommended his work to me. And I read three of his books, and the way that he, he’s a neuroscientist for those that. He works in psychiatry. He’s developed this idea of mindsight, which takes mindfulness techniques and applies it to mental illness. And the way that he describes, his definition I should say, of mental health is balance between rigidity and chaos. And that’s what came to mind as I thought about this cloud. She probably feels very stuck. Her mindset probably feels very inflexible and stuck and it’s hard for her to wrap her mind around something like recovery or the steps to get there. What I think recovery’s aim to do is to make her mindset more integrated and more flexible and more willing to see multiple sides of the issue. So, I feel like the way she described it, it felt like, to me, she was saying she felt kind of stuck in this dark cloud and didn’t really know how to get out of it.

PAIGE: So, I love this dark, light idea and it also relates a lot to these themes that we talk about all the time in eating disorder or even just disordered eating or helping people with their relationship with food. A big thing that comes up over and over again is all or nothing thinking, or another way of saying that is black and white thinking. When you mentioned, she really needs to work on becoming more flexible. How does someone do that when they’re probably, I hate to generalize here but, a lot of people are very not flexible and very rigid just sort of in most areas of their life, just kind of naturally. A lot of people who struggle with food have that as part of their personality. So, how do you both, I'm curious, how do you both work through that with people who have that just sort of part of their make up?

EMILY: I’ll jump in here first. First of all, there’s probably a lot of steps in order to get to a more flexible mindset. Something that comes, an overarching theme, that comes to my mind in my experience is being less judgmental and more curious. So, it’s not necessarily to say that we’re not still observing and drawing conclusions, but we are developing more of a curious mindset rather than a judgmental mindset. And, you know, obviously the work that we do, specifically with eating disorders, is around food and being less judgmental about food and increasing variety of foods and flexibility with foods. But, it’s natural that practicing that with food naturally will carry over to many other areas of a person’s life. Where they just learn how to be in practice in general, less judgmental and more curious. And I think that really helps get out of that really black and white mentality. Whether it’s right or it’s wrong. It’s good or it’s bad. There’s a little bit more grey area.

PAIGE: Great point. How about you Marci? Tell us what you think about that.

MARCI: First I want to say I love everything that Emily just said about the curiosity and I think that’s incredibly important to practice. One of the ways I do this with my clients is I have them think about how they would be speaking to their child self. So, if they would imagine somebody saying this, you know, about imagine themselves as a five-year-old. It’s like, how would you speak to that five-year-old? The really interesting this is that we all have that capacity to tap into our own inner wisdom. Sometimes shifting focus as if you were speaking to your younger self or you were speaking to, if you have a son or a daughter. If you were speaking to your best friend, is that you have a greater capacity, typically, to shift out of that very black and white, often very cruel, thinking to something that’s much more nuanced. Much softer. Much more, typically, grounded in reality and less black and white. One of the things that I want to say is that as human beings our minds have evolved to put things into categories because it helps us sort through the world to know what’s safe and what’s not safe. So, it’s a very human tendency and some of us are more prone to black and white thinking than other people. So, to not sort of add another burden on top of yourself for judging yourself for the black and white thinking, but just being able to be like, “oh, there I go again making a really sort of black and white statement I wonder how I can soften this?” or “I wonder how I could frame it to my son?” or “how would I talk about this with my friend?” To lighten it up and careful not to add, sort of, another layer of judgement because you find yourself really struggling with that black and white thinking.

EMILY: Can I jump in?

PAIGE: Marci that’s a great tip. Yeah, go ahead Emily.

EMILY: I love that and I just want to mention something in addition. Often times, as someone’s moving forward out of this all or nothing mentality and into this more flexible thinking it’s easy for them to feel an increased level of anxiety because it is their mind protecting them. As Marci described we’re evolved to that place where we are making judgements to keep up safe and our mind is often keeping us safe. So, for example, if someone chooses to eat something or to do something that they have made prior rules around it’s likely that their anxiety will increase. Now, typically an individual would retreat. Naturally we don’t want to go to that place where we feel more anxious. We’re really aiming to feel more peace and calm. And that’s where this can be really hard work because you’re moving forward even though you’re actually feeling more fear and more anxiety because your brain is trying to keep you safe. As Marci has just talked about, it’s really wise to say things like, “oh, thank you mind for trying to protect me but I'm wondering if this is maybe a wise decision.” Or in some way really acknowledging that you are trying to keep yourself safe. It’s not like you are, again, adding more layers of judgment to yourself for being in this mindset or getting yourself in this mindset or any number of conclusions you could draw.

PAIGE: Yeah. That’s so true. I see a lot of people that I work with sort of on top of everything else they’re struggling with, now we talk about all or nothing thinking and now they’re like, “oh man. That’s another thing I need to work on. Or another thing I'm terrible at.” Another source of shame or guilt in this whole process. I loved both of your suggestions. I definitely use that tip from Marci with people I work with too. Just how would you talk to someone you really truly love, like your younger self, or your child, or your niece or nephew or something like that? How would you talk them through this if they were expressing that? And so often it’s easy to get out of that black and white thinking and more into that compassion and nuance and gentleness that we all need. We all need that especially from ourselves to get through this really difficult life. So, great points.

MARCI: Absolutely. Hey, Paige, do you mind if I jump in?

PAIGE: Please do.

MARCI: I think this really connects to another piece of the letter that I really noticed. And it connects to this idea of allowing for greater messiness in life. So, when we think about developing less black and white thinking, we’re moving out of the black and white into these different shades of color. And that can feel a little bit unnerving for people who like order, and precision, and exactness and sort of guarantees. One of the things that I was really thinking about is her second to last paragraph where she’s talking about radiating love and beauty and all of these positive things. I think that that’s wonderful however, one of the things that I’d like her to think about, and I’ll ask listeners to think about, is that as human beings we aren’t all just love, and beauty, and glory, and all of those positive things. We are a mix of wonderful things and not so wonderful things. We’re a mix of strength and deficits. Things that we’re really great at and things that we really struggle with and that’s ok. So, to make room for being a whole, messy, beautiful person. There’s a book that I love and it’s actually one of my favorite books that I've ever read on eating disorders and recovery. It’s called Sensing the Self and it’s written by Sheila Reindl and there’s a chapter in her book called Beauty and the Beast and it talks about how that beastly part of ourselves often we want to put underground and we want to hide and we don’t want people to know. Often that’s, kind of, we go underground or people who develop an eating disorder take those parts of themselves underground and they’re expressed through the eating disorder. Whether it’s starving or bingeing or purging or over-exercising and when we can learn to embody all of our selves. All of the good stuff. All of the not so good stuff and say yep this is what makes me human and I'm working to be the best version of myself that I can. But I'm never going to be perfect. I'm going to have flaws. I'm going to have things that I'm great at and things that I'm not so great at and that’s ok. That it doesn’t have to be all positive and all pretty and all lovely. That we’re just a big mix of all of it and to kind of get more comfortable with that.

PAIGE: Yeah. I mean, that touches on something she talked about towards the middle. When she says, “I was trying to be the perfect mother. The perfect daughter. The perfect wife” and she’s talking about this idea of perfection which is sort of the trap that gets you really REALLY wrapped up in this all or nothing thinking. And if you fall short of perfection, which we all know we all do every single day. That can give you license to further damage your relationship with food or further participate in behaviors that aren’t conducive to overall health and happiness and can get you down this rabbit hole even further. So, you touched on the idea of perfection in context of the end when she’s saying, “I want to radiate love and beauty and glory” and all that. I loved your point that, like wait a minute, that’s not our only thing we do. That’s not the only part of us that’s worth showing because the whole messy parts of being human is actually what’s really beautiful about us. I love that. It’s so important.

MARCI: Right. And that we have true comfort and safety and security in relationships when we show all of ourselves and we’re accepted for being our whole self rather than being parts of our self. We remain really vulnerable in relationships when a person, whether it’s a partner or a friend, knows only the part of ourselves that we want to show them or that feels like the good parts to show because then that can sometimes cause us to put false fronts forward. This false notion of being perfect and that creates a lot of distress and a lot of tension and makes it hard for us to really embrace our whole selves. Which is really what we have to do in order to fully recover.

PAIGE: Marci, these are such great thoughts. Emily, I'm sure you have stuff to say so go ahead and chime in if you’d like.

EMILY: Yeah. I agree with everything Marci said. Something that came up for me as Marci was talking is this idea of what is perfect? I think that’s super subjective and most of us have an idea in our mind of what is perfect. Something I maybe encourage her to think about is all of us have different personality types and sometimes we end up in a low functioning version of our personality type. Usually, we’re in a moderate to high functioning area of our personality type. I think what’s super important is, as Marci has mentioned, that we all have our strengths and we have our weaknesses but it’s what makes us human. What’s kind of, as I read through this letter, I really thought about the fact that I think what she’s kind of wanting, and I know that I'm probably drawing conclusions here, but what I'm kind of getting from this is, it’s almost like she wants this weakness, this darkness to be turned into a strength. I think that’s a great goal. What I consider is that it can, a weakness or something she really struggles with can turn into a really great strength, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any better or any worse. It makes it her story. It makes it who she is. But I think it’s super important to recognize that she is a whole person right now. It’s not something she has to become eventually. That drive for perfectionism can be super super tricky that way. It’s almost like, I won’t be ok, I can’t accept myself as I am right now until I am that perfect person and this is the mentality that can easily to continue to feed an eating disorder. That might be something to think about. This idea of acceptance right now for where she is at right now. Knowing that she still wants things to change and improve and to feel more at peace with herself.

PAIGE: So, one thing that stood out to me about her letter. This is probably the biggest thing that stood out to me personally. Was when she says, and I'm paraphrasing, but when she says that somehow it seems like when you really get inside someone else’s head or you hear what other people are saying in their own head it’s the exact same thing that you’re saying in your head as well. That stood out to me because as someone who sits across from people at a table and talks to them about food, and weight, and body image, and struggles, and all these different things, I relate to that. I hear, I mean just the other day I heard two women say the exact same thing that just blew my mind. I experience this all the time. There’s these thoughts of isolation and “oh my gosh. I'm the only one that’s ever thought this. How can I be such a terrible monster for having these thoughts? How could I be such a horrible human being for doing these behaviors?” Shame and shame and shame, right? And no one could possibly understand where I'm coming from. And so, we hide it and like you were saying earlier, Marci, we put only the beautiful, perfect part of ourselves out there for people to see and for people to interact with. What I loved about this part, for me, was I was cheering when she says it’s been said that if we all had the ability to listen to others, our words and our feelings of shame are the same almost like a recording yet we’ve never met. I see that because I have this advantage of talking to all kinds of people all the time about their thoughts and feelings and struggles. Where I was going with this and where I was thinking is I wish we could have these conversations more. I guess that’s definitely why I do the podcast but how healing and beautiful is it to know that you aren’t alone when you feel so isolated. How wonderful is it to know that there are people out there who understand you and who have been through the same things? That just really resonated with me because so often I find myself saying I wish you, this one client of mine, knew this other client of mine because your stories are so similar. I wish you guys were best friends and could talk and could help each other heal because you’re not alone. I wanted people to hear that message.

EMILY: I completely love that. I think what we all recognize on this call, and for those who are listening who aren’t really, isn’t familiar with Brene Brown’s work on shame. We know that shame thrives in secrecy. So, the feelings that she’s having of shame or isolation are going to continue unless she’s opening up which she’s doing here by writing this letter. Obviously, she’s taking steps to do so. I think as she continues to find ways to share and to open up and to not feel so isolated those feelings will change for her as a result of what Marci’s already described as being more vulnerable. Being willing to show up. Being willing to show all parts of her in a way that she feels good about. To people that she feels like have earned her vulnerability are willing to support her in a way that she needs to not feel so isolated. I think that it’s also super important to recognize that the eating disorder is going to want to keep her isolated. That’s how it’s going to stay. It definitely is going to tell her that it’s not ok. It’s not ok to tell people this. We’ve got to keep it a secret. If we tell anyone then we aren’t going to be able to stay in this nice little place where we feel safe from everything else. Journaling, if that’s something that’s effective for her. Writing letters, seeing a therapist and a dietitian. Having a treatment team that she feels is in her corner.

PAIGE: Yeah. Thanks Emily. Good point. Marci, what are your thoughts about this?

MARCI: Oh gosh. I have a lot of thoughts so I'm going to try to organize them as best I can and I really like what Emily was saying about reaching outside of herself to people she feels has earned her trust. So, safe people. She says in her letter, there will be times when I have to rely on others, this is something that I'm not comfortable with. I'm going to give her a little news flash. There are going to be a lot of times that she’s going to have to rely on others in her recovery and in order to really, fully recover, she’s going to have to continue to do that because that’s what we as human beings have to do in order to get through this thing called life. Being able to develop a healthy dependency on other people to say, I need help can you do this for me, or I'm struggling with this thing could you lend a hand. That’s not just a recovery, that’s a life skill. That’s never going to go away. Her recovery gives her an opportunity to begin to practice that and it’s something that she's going to have to sustain and hopefully over time get a little bit more comfortable with. But, going back to this piece of, “do other people really feel what I'm feeling?” And I, Paige, have had the exact same experience of sitting with clients and literally in a day saying, “well you wouldn’t believe I had basically the same conversation, verbatim with my last client” or my client who I saw earlier. I hope I can explain this, or articulate this in a way that makes sense to the listeners, but this happens not only. It’s not only specific to eating disorders. Yes, there are similarities and threads that are, across the board for people who have an eating disorder. But if we dig a little bit deeper, these are human condition struggles. They’re struggles of not feeling good enough. Struggles of not fitting in. struggles of fear of rejection. There isn’t a human being that doesn’t struggle with those things because it is wired inside of us as human beings to worry about those things. Being able to connect to this human condition of really wanting to be in, to be accepted, to be loved and not to be rejected is something that all of us, as humans, struggle with. And it just so happened that her way of managing those feelings showed up in the context of an eating disorder. But it shows up in different ways for all of us. She just happened to have the genetic risk factors, and the temperamental and psychological risk factors that her way of managing that anxiety showed up through her eating disorder. But, underneath hopefully we can have a lot of compassion and empathy for one another because we’re all struggling with those things.

PAIGE: Marci, that’s so true. That is so so true. Thank you for that comment. I loved everything you guys have said. Thank you for this wonderful discussion. I'm hoping this will be so helpful for the letter writer. I wanted to go to your point, Marci, that you made in the beginning. Let’s talk a little bit about how you take steps forward when the way you’re feeling inside doesn’t really align with what you hope to feel. Kind of how we started off our conversation today. Marci, do you want to talk about that first?

MARCI: Sure. I'm happy to. I’ll just share some of the thoughts as they come into my mind. I think one of the things that makes recovery from an eating disorder so difficult is that you have to continually choose actions that run counter to your feeling state. So, the things that you have to do, often in the moment, feel wrong or feel bad. And that’s a really hard…

PAIGE: Can I give an example?

MARCI: Yeah. Yeah sure. Absolutely

PAIGE: Just to make this really concrete. So, I have one in mind unless you do.

MARCI: Oh great. Go for it.

PAIGE: So, let’s just take a for instance. Let’s say someone who is struggling with anorexia has, and I hope this isn’t too triggering for anybody listening. But, let’s say that inside they want to experience hunger and fullness, they want to regulate their eating and they want to rely on those ques. Those natural bodily cues. But, for some people who struggle in that way, eating can feel so anxiety provoking that you’re just so out of touch with