By Michelle, an Emily Program client
"I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship." Brene Brown
Connections are at the core of my recovery right now. The quote by Brene Brown sums it up perfectly.
My work friends used to call me the person who "didn't need nobody for nothing." We'd all laugh, but like many good jokes it was funny because it was true. I worked full time, went to college full time and raised my daughter with little family support and no close friends. It was the way things were and it was just the way I was wired. I've always said - I just did what I had to do because it needed to be done. For me - it meant doing things alone.
I grew up learning that people could not be trusted or relied on for practical things much less for emotional support or closeness. Connections with people could not be trusted and simply caused pain. It was safer, easier, calmer and much more predictable to stay by myself, take care of myself, entertain myself and not need anything from anyone. So that became the way I lived my life. I learned to not need - and try and ignore emotions related to needing. I convinced myself I didn't need close relationships. I didn't need help. I was independent and tough.
Of course, there are maybe one or two flaws in this otherwise rock-solid logic. First - everyone needs help. Second - humans need closeness and caring - even me. So, I ate to ignore and numb these underlying truths and the emotions I didn't want to acknowledge.
Time passed and I gained weight, became more depressed, stayed busy and was still sure I didn't need anyone for anything. I lived behind a very tall, very thick wall with razor wire looped around the top of it - and I thought it was perfectly normal! Until about 4 years ago when I hit another "bottom" with my eating disorder and depression. The part of myself that had been living behind the wall had finally gotten sick of it and this was her way of telling me "enough is enough" - it is time for a change!
I came back to my counselor here at The Emily Program - but it didn't seem to help. I needed more help so off to Intensive Outpatient Program I went. That helped, but I was still struggling. I eventually ended up sharing things with my counselor from my childhood I'd never talked about before and my relationship with her started to feel different - we started to talk about connections and how I've always held myself apart from others in one way or another.
It turns out that is the key - connections. I look back now and can see how automatic it has been for me to hold people at a distance. In fact, I have been afraid to even connect with parts of myself associated with painful experiences from my past, painful experiences associated with my body image.
Making real connections is about allowing yourself to be open and vulnerable. To share your feelings and thoughts and be authentically yourself. I have to be honest - this scares the poo-poo out of me! I guess that's why disconnection has been so appealing all of these years.
So much of what my eating disorder and depression does is keep me disconnected from other people and myself. It keeps me disconnected from my emotions, from my body, from sensations of hunger and fullness. It disconnects me from my truth, my history, my stories, my ability to recognize, accept and express my needs.
It disconnects me from myself. It disconnects me from you.
The Emily Program provides a place where we come together for the purpose of CONNECTION. So, I think we should get to it! Say hello in the lobby or the parking lot - take a risk and talk about something difficult in group or with your counselor - check in with a friend - take a deep breath and notice how your body feels - tell someone how you feel - come to the craft group on Saturday 7/14 - take a few minutes to be mindful while you are eating - do something for self-care - other ideas?????
Take care of yourself.
Watch our blog for more reflections from Michelle.