The other day, I was at a doctor’s appointment for an upcoming shoulder surgery. He did the routine “deep breath-in, deep breath-out” six times and handed me a slip of paper to sign to consent for my body to accumulate some fancy new hardware. As I was signing, he asked me quickly, “Oh, and by the way, you seem really healthy. But is there any serious medical diagnosis you haven’t shared with me?” I casually put my pen down and said, “Oh yeah, that one thing! I had an eating disorder for a decade.” The look on my medical doctor’s face was priceless. He looked at me as if I had just transfigured into a ghost.
Eating disorder. Yes. An eating disorder.
His knee-jerk response was, “But you’re all good with that now…it’s not a problem or anything, right? You can eat and stuff?” Mildly amused, I decided to take a minute to educate my doctor on the topic of eating disorders and share a little bit of my story with him where I believe we both walked away with a greater understanding for each other.
I’m not sharing this story, in any way, to highlight the faults of my doctor, or to make light of the situation. I hand-picked this doctor to do my shoulder surgery because he is one of the best in the region and is a wonderful man with a kind heart. The reason why I have decided to bring this story up is because I have been wrestling with the idea between hiding my personal life behind a professional lens and moving forward in my career as a professional rather than a survivor with a story. However, in the midst of everything, I have realized the importance for me, personally, to be honest and real about my struggle with an eating disorder because that’s why I care so much about the field and it’s the reason why I’m here. My story motivates me and gives me passion for what I do.
I absolutely adore Marsha Linehan (for many reasons) and her Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, because it highlights the idea of a middle path. Moving into the professional world, I have been stuck in a black and white situation, with great arguments to stay on either side. One side tells me I can teach others and offer hope in sharing my recovery story. The opponent argues the fear of entanglement and enmeshment between professionalism and self-serving work.
With the middle path in mind, how freeing is it that I do not have to choose and can simply be myself? The middle path can look different for everyone, but the middle path here means I can be both: a passionate survivor and a professional. I chose to work at Rooted Recovery because it offered freedom to do what I want and create what I want. With freedom also comes responsibility, and that is another beauty of the concept.
I value transparency and understand that recovery is challenging.
I see the need for connection and realize it’s hard to connect with a computer.
I respect professionalism and see it can be protective.
I understand an eating disorder and I understand recovery.
So let me be an ally, in whatever form that may be. Let me share my story and earnestly listen to yours. Let me be transparent and hold boundaries.
How many times in life do we find ourselves in a “but” situation that can truly be an “and” situation. We can struggle with an eating disorder and still feel happiness. We can have a stressful job and still love it. These absolutes placed by society and ourselves are concepts that do not have to be absolute. When we judge the percentage missing from our perceived goal, we are setting ourselves up for failure.
How often do we give up on something because we aren’t where we want to be? How often are we in the black or the white when we can walk the middle path? How many people do we shut out because of fear of vulnerability and opening up?
The beauty of entrepreneurship, in my opinion, is that it can be whatever I make it to be. I want this business to align with my values and to be a reflection of who I am. What ultimately led me to Rooted Recovery is the idea that it is different and holds opportunity for growth and diversity. I am non conventional and crave freedom- the opposite of what my eating disorder gave me for so many years. So, I am going to keep walking this middle path and see where it takes me.
Because the unknown is scary and beautiful. And I welcome it.