The letter below was written by a client of the Transformation Center a few years back. It has been condensed slightly for length purposes:
This week was amazing! It created a starting point for me to explore, discover, and, most importantly, enjoy life. I came to Memphis a frustrated, depressed hull of a woman. I believed I was capable of doing and feeling more, but I had no idea how to accomplish that. I was anxious about treatment — what if it doesn’t work, what if I gain weight? But beneath all the “what ifs” there was a soft but compelling voice saying, “What if it does change you? What if it allows you to become the woman you so desperately desire to be?” It was this voice that made me step outside my comfort zone, face my fears, challenge my past, and push for a brighter tomorrow.
When first presented with my schedule, I felt silly and excessive for getting massages. However, being pampered and being forced to pamper myself made me realize how important it is for me to take care of myself. I have focused on caring for others and making others happy my whole life, starting with my parents. In correlation with this habit of caring for others before or even instead of me is the thought of negative self worth. Growing up, I blamed myself for my parents’ divorce and felt like I must have deserved to be treated poorly in relationships and by boys in general. I continue to question my self worth throughout life. Compounding the already negative feeling was the modeling I received from my mother. When getting dressed she would stare at her reflection and say, “Why do I even bother?” or “This is as good as it’s going to get.” These mantras became ingrained in my head and now I catch myself thinking or saying them as I get dressed.
Along with feeling the need to care for others was the need for perfection. I wanted to be perfect in all aspects of life (look perfect, act perfect, be the perfect daughter, wife, etc.). I am so obsessed with perfection that I organize every detail of life, from angles of picture frames in the house to the way money has to face in a wallet. This creates a great problem because humans are inherently imperfect creatures. The standard I held myself to was not only unfair, but it was unattainable. This caused me to experience multiple “failures” on a daily basis. I was never able to look or be perfect, so I began to feel as though I couldn’t do anything right, which is a very sad and depressing state of mind. Acknowledging that my standards are unfair made me conscious of how I treat myself. This is going to be a difficult area for me, but my goal is to accept my accomplishments (even though they are not perfect) as well as be “outrageous” on a daily basis—like leaving the dishes to watch TV! It will be very challenging, but I believe it will also be liberating.
One big “well duh” moment of the week was realizing the correlation between my dance-ending knee surgery and the enhanced severity of my eating disorder. I felt like I lost part of me, and it seemed so painful that I didn’t want any part of it. I stopped watching dance, dancing in the car, club, or street. I was wary of activities with similar aspects such as balance, core strength, and flexibility. This week I acknowledged my loss and began to deal with it. I realized that dance is a part of who I am and although the expression of that part may have changed, it still needs to be expressed and nurtured. I plan to do yoga and Pilates, which reconnect me to my body and movement within it. I also plan to dance for the sheer joy of moving: in my car, my house, the grocery store, etc.
My parents’ divorce brought with it many emotions: anger, pain, and confusion, but it also brought fear—of rejection and of abandonment. These fears have affected my everyday living and been detrimental to my relationships. As a result, I have maintained a level of reserve and distance to protect myself. But of course, this is no way to live; love is, after all, letting go of fear and leaping blindly into the unknown. It is a joyous emotion that, when expressed, can make you feel ready to burst with feelings. I plan to allow myself to fall head over heels for my husband without fear!
I grew up very quickly. Even as a young child I was responsible, dependable, and conscious of others’ feelings and needs. Yet I desperately wanted to be cared for, and to act childlike and silly. I have feared the adult female form since puberty and have fought against developing into it. I associated this curvy womanliness with discomfort, guilt, shame, and pain. I also believed that the adult female figure caused men to abandon women, either physically (by cheating or divorcing) or emotionally (by retreating, rejecting and expressing displeasure/lack of interest). This week has helped me begin to recreate my beliefs about the female form. I have a new found appreciation and acceptance of curves. They are necessary, created by God with the great purpose of procreation in mind. These curves distinguish us from males and children. Men are sexually attracted to curves. Womanly bodies should be celebrated, not hated or hidden. This self-acceptance and new outlook on the female form is going to be extremely difficult for me, but the whole concept is an exquisite one!
A totally unfamiliar concept was” normal eating.” I was surprised and amazed at not only the amount of food I should be consuming but also the number of calories. I am nervous about implementing normal eating habits, but I do believe it will make me feel better.
This brings me to my next surprising discovery. I had no idea how hateful the things I say to myself all day long sounded until I said them aloud. No wonder I am sad and feel inadequate! I would not say these things to my worst enemy. Thought stopping and correcting is going to be a vital part of my recovery, but will also be one of the most difficult. I have already noticed how conscious of it I must be at all times because the negative thoughts are just that automatic. I start without even realizing. I love the idea of actually telling the voice to “go away; you are no longer welcome here.” It makes me feel empowered and eventually maybe that voice will take the hint and go away.
Basically this past week was wonderful. It made me aware of all of the underlying issues and feelings that affect my life. I feel equipped to proceed in my recovery. Most importantly, I think, is the fact I realized that even though it will be a long, difficult process full of challenges and temporary setbacks, I can accept myself and love myself, and I deserve to take care of myself and be happy. I am determined to recover, so I know with time, effort, patience, and understanding I can achieve the life I desire and deserve!