Tune into the recorded call by clicking play above. You’ll here a beep and once you get to about 12 seconds the call begins. First, Katie introduces herself and the work she does with nutrition, yoga, bodywork and eating disorders. Next, I talk about how anxiety, tension, moving across the country, and giving up basketball made me confused about identity and therefore more susceptible to developing anorexia nervosa.
Below, I paraphrase/summarize our telephone call, which lasted just over 40 minutes. What Katie asks and explains is in bold. My answers follow.
In the beginning, Katie asked me about my writing style. I said I majored in health promotion and mostly did research style writing in college. However, I wrote more personally in a class on stress reduction and from there came to writing as a way to express myself. Seeing the words outside of me helped integrate my feelings; reading the words back gave validity to what I was going through. As I kept writing and the story took shape, I began to feel more whole inside. Finally, the last semester at college I took a writing course and learned more about dialogue and writing techniques. Overall, though, I went with what was inside of me. I was not writing to impress or fit into a particular genre.
Katie said she appreciated that I wrote the book the way I did because she could really hear my voice and get my true experience. I said I appreciate the people who can connect with my writing style; it wasn’t easy being vulnerable. It is hard, though, to live with what feels like an “un-perfect” product.
Next Katie asked about how my book has been received in general. I explained that some people have found I’ve put words to what they’re going through—young women, twenties, thirties who have struggled with anorexia or bulimia benefit. I guess some people who are not as into holistic health and alternative medicine do not understand my approach and are not interested in veering from the conventional. But my family was like that, so I’d really like to help open up the mindset of people in this demographic.
Katie then talks about conventional treatment. And we discuss the writing process further. The writing process was rewarding, but it was very intense. I think sometimes as I started re-experiencing the memories I felt sort of overflowing. There was a lot of stuff going on in my life at the time. The writing process was not easy because it’s not just about getting the words on paper for me; it’s about really assimilating what you’ve brought up. And re-finding your grounding! Because it’s difficult when you bring up all these memories and you want to separate the present from the memory but you also want to fully experience the memory in order to bring it to life for your readers. So, I had to strike a balance.
You talk a lot about the family dynamic and relationship in your book, Katie said. Then, she asked: How did your family react to and receive your writing? It wasn’t easy. I had my mom read some of my late drafts, and um…that was sort of the extent of involving my family in the writing process. I talked to my dad about his family and coming to this country. So, it was nice that my parents were willing to share the family history with me and that I was able to ask questions. But overall I think it was very difficult for my family to receive the book. They’re proud of me but wish that things could have turned out differently. I think they feel bad that we couldn’t find a way to cope with the problem and that I struggled for as many years as I did. However, part of the reason I wrote the book is so that other families can gain insight into what their children who have eating disorders are going through.
Katie concurred on the importance of having a firsthand account. Afterwards she asked if it was part of my own healing process to write Sick. Where was I in that process when I was writing the book? Definitely, it was part of my own healing process to write this book and that’s what was hard about letting it go because my healing process is a process; it’s not like the book came out and this process ended. I think that some of the people who reviewed my book have picked that up; that I’m still in process. However, writing this book was a huge leap and a huge step of progress for me and I am working on another book too.
Katie’s next question was: Can you tell us a little about your next book? Towards the end of Sick, right before the handbook, I talk about a work experience and a relationship with a character named Vine. It took courage to leave this position, but for me the relationship with Vine made a big impact. When I met Vine I reached a point where I had finally begun menstruating, and to me that was a symbol that I was over the “eating disorder.” I felt on top of the world. But then, all of a sudden, I got in this situation where I felt used and hurt and had a difficult time expressing myself. I ended Sick this way because I wanted to show that “getting over” your “eating disorder” is a big achievement, but you still face the same difficulties and challenges that someone without an eating disorder would, such as when it comes to relationships. So, in my next book I designed a new character. I get inside of her as a recovered person and explore the dynamics of a relationship.
Katie said she is looking forward to the next book and that she likes the way I ended Sick. She talked about coping with the stresses of everyday life and what it means that “anorexia” is no longer one of those coping mechanisms. This idea of recovery can be a little romanticized, and I do a good job of being honest, Katie said. It’s hard, I replied, because some people want me to be this kind of iron strong person. But part of being strong is being vulnerable; being able to step out of the relationship with Vine but also being able to say I still had a variety of feelings and reactions. Leaving was symbolic, but it did not solve what was going on inside of me. This is why, after leaving, I continued to examine and understand the situation so that it would not repeat.
Next, Katie and I discussed the idea of epiphanies and how nurturing and taking care of yourself on a day-to-day basis is what matters most. I mentioned a particular epiphany I had when I was sitting on the front of the metro after a doctor’s appointment. In this epiphany I saw myself being well, and my vision pushed me to want to get better. Still, I was the one who had to take action, start to make changes, and remember to remember the vision!
Katie: Epiphanies are important but it’s the hard work and the decisions that we make everyday that really start to move us forward. Now, let’s talk about how things are shifting in the treatment of eating disorders. What are the positive and negative aspects about bringing more awareness to eating disorders? I think people have become more aware of eating disorders and that’s important. However, it’s not a reason for the individual to undermine what (s)he’s going through; it doesn’t mean the individual is going through what society and medicine is teaching us that “eating disorders” stereotypically are. People I talk to who have struggled with anorexia don’t like to call it necessarily an “eating disorder” because it’s so dynamic and the term “eating disorder” shortchanges what I went through and I think what a lot of other people have gone through. The problem is not all about food. Food needs to be eaten and you need to improve the health of your physicality, but I felt like it was shallow and that I was stupid for being labeled with an “eating disorder.” Because people are like, “It’s just food. Get over it Laura.” If it were really that simple I wouldn’t have had the problem. Duh!
Katie: That’s right. People say why can’t you just eat like “normal” people? Making it about food and about eating seems shallow and superficial. In reality it’s not about food or body image; it’s about so much more. It goes so much deeper than that. I concurred and explain that body image matters but more so recovery is about recognizing yourself. When you really recognize yourself–that’s enlightenment. When I look at myself as a baby, as a three year old, as a six year old, as an eleven year old, today…and I see “that’s Laura” and those consistent traits that anorexia didn’t take away…that’s very powerful! I think that body image is a distraction. Yes, size matters, and to a certain degree I need to be a certain size to recognize and connect deep within. However, it’s really about recognizing who you are over the lifespan in my opinion.
I think this focus on size and body image is a symptom really of what’s going on in our inner world, said Katie. Yes. I still think body image is real and it does matter. I think we all go through–or at least I went through–a phase in recovery where I thought I could be whatever size I wanted and be happy. But, I reached a size where I realized “this is the wrong size.” So, size does matter in my personal experience. It is important to explore with what weight feels right.
Katie: Absolutely. I know that you and I have talked about disordered eating and body image issues as about the way we feel. Anxiety, emotions and poor nutrition are all components. For me, it was about how I was feeding myself not with food but with the thoughts I was telling myself everyday and the people I was allowing in my life. Thoughts make a big impression! It’s important to address thoughts and also to make changes in diet. In my book I talk about the diets I grew up on. The emotions and thoughts become very correlated with food, which creates a really big drama.
Next, Katie talks about a major component of anorexia, which is giving food too much power. Yes, I agree. Food has this power that’s bigger than you. I think that food is very important and very powerful; however, you have to find your inner guide and to trust in the power of your decisions as well.
Being able to feel your body is so important. A lot of us get so numb about the signals and the signs and how our bodies respond to certain foods. For me and a lot of my clients it’s about turning that switch back on and being able to feel. When we allow for subtle shifts, the signals become clearer and we learn to trust our bodies again. Yes, in my book I talk about being very sensitive from a young age; sensitive to lights and noise and very sensitive the signals of my body. But I am taught by doctors or coaches to overpower the signals; to keep pushing and running; to eat because you need to gain weight, etc. So, I think that I was taught to deaden the signals and anorexia puts you out of touch with them in a sense because you don’t eat when you’re hungry and you intellectualize and think about food so much. For me, it was about letting go of all that I had been taught and coming into my body through bodywork and spending time in nature or talking with a counselor who can help provide guidance.
I think that connection with our own wisdom and our own inner guide is really what starts to heal us. The way we allow others to treat us really begins with the way we listen to ourselves. Laura, what are some of the daily practices that keep you healthy and keep you checking in with yourself now? I talk about my experience with a new method of movement that I am learning and teaching, and suggest that people go to http://www.gyrotonic.com to learn more. Practicing this method is a whole body experience that makes me feel integrated and fluid.
Finally, Katie and I conclude on the importance of taking care of yourself (and giving to others). I talk about the drive it took for me to find the resources I did and open up to alternatives when there was some level of support, but “not as much as I needed.”