For the first time in about 11 years, I feel totally unburdened by the specter of control that I used as a means to avoid the uncomfortable truth, that I was living a life out of alignment with my spirit. I can say now, unequivocally, that I am free of the eating disorder and subsequent disordered eating patterns and thoughts that have plagued me since high school.
Any why? How?
I’ve been asking myself this for the past few days—as soon as I realized that it had been over two weeks since I had a truly negative moment in the mirror, or judged what I was eating, or ruminated on the amount of sugar I had ingested. I’ve missed three meals this week because I was busy and active and simply didn’t have time. I’ve eaten snacks at random hours and ordered a pumpkin spice latte (don’t judge me). I’ve got plans to eat a bit healthier in a week or two but honestly, only because I feel better when I’m caring for my meals a bit more.
Again, I wonder, why?
The core eating and family issues that I’ve carried as triggers since puberty are less of a match for me. My body isn’t being impacted by the usual things that would injure me or cause a spiral into depression. Somehow, I’ve moved into the space of not needing my addictions as remedies. And yes, I say addictions because I do believe (and this is controversial, so take it or leave it) that depression, anxiety, disordered eating patterns and anything else you do to numb or otherwise distract yourself from your life’s purpose fall under the category of addictions.
We are a society of addicts and we are taught that in order to heal we must buy into the story that we will never be well, that our genetic or mental makeup is not a match for joy, happiness or release.
I disagree. I do not believe that the only tribes we can form are the ones we form around shared illness or pain. And I do not agree that a diagnosis is destiny.
Last year, I checked myself into treatment for an eating disorder. I have a lot to say about that experience, but I’ll leave that for another day. Suffice to say, it was helpful in many ways and devastating to my core being and nature in many others. One thing that I loved though, was the tribe. All of us in treatment were connected by a shimmering band of shared experience and healing was done in large part through the conversations we shared when we were allowed outside to smoke or sit on the grass, or the moments in the dining hall where we silently supported each other through tremendous struggle.
Being in Tribe reactivated my nature, it healed the social isolation I felt as a woman with an eating disorder, it taught me to be raw and unfiltered and honest—not only with myself but with my friends and family. It was the first step to healing.
Ever since then, my life has been tribal. I’ve sought out tribes of women (and now men) who were uniting for a common purpose—in my case, these tribes mainly were composed of plant medicine people. One thing was important though, I was no longer interested in forming tribes oriented on sickness—even if the stated goal was to overcome it.
I couldn’t put words to it at the time but the reality is, I simply couldn’t believe what I was told in treatment, that my eating disorder was likely to haunt me for the rest of my life or that I’d have to be on the lookout for it to come back. I didn’t like it when people asked if I was bulimic or anorexic, as if it was some important fact of categorizing me, putting me into an even smaller box (for the record, I did it all. Even my eating disorder was a rebel). I didn’t feel like I was part of the tribe of people with mental illness, mainly because I didn’t think I had to be, or was always going to be, “sick.”
I did all the deep work of self-assessment, what brought me here, who am I really, what drives me and it was helpful. I realized the importance of value-driven action and the ways in which I was living in harmony (or not) with what was important to me. But at a certain point, therapy became, at best, an opportunity for me to process what was happening in my life, and, at worst, a persistent, pedantic investigation into my past. Immobility became my game. I was stuck in a story without a resolution.
Ultimately, it was a return to Tribe, particularly Radiant Tribe, that changed things for me. Rather than rehashing all the things contributing to the thoughts that still refused to leave, I started playing with what it might be like to live from a place where those thoughts weren’t even remotely a match for me. I learned to recognize what my turn-ons were and in doing so, I’ve been able to release the mental patterns that were turning me off.
Now days, I feel supported by my Tribe as I create a life that is a match for the person who I want to become. Am I her 100% of the time? Not really. BUT, that’s ok, because 80% of the time I am an incredible, lit-up, joyful, powerful woman. The other 20% of the time that I spend turning myself off, I’m in constant inquiry about what it would take to turn back on.
Tribe has been transformative for me and I’m excited to be sharing it with the men and women in my community. It is time for us to accept responsibility for changing the dominant paradigms surrounding the idea of the patriarchy and the elements of culture that kill individuality and purpose-driven living. The only way to break out of these antiquated ways of thinking and existing is to refuse to participate in them. It is time for a revolution of joy, acceptance and community. It is time for Tribe.