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December 14, 2014

Telling Our Truths

This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences on their own path to recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, or symptom use. Please use your own discretion. And speak with your therapist when needed.

By Cami Applequist, a former TEP client and woman in recovery

Telling your own truth out loud is powerful. I have always thought so, but not until I started telling the truth about my own eating disorder did I realize how powerful it actually is.

On the first day of inpatient treatment, I sat with a group of women and said out loud for the first time that I didn’t think I should ever eat and I meant it. I also said out loud that most of the time I hated myself whenever I ate. Then I cried. For the first time, I wasn’t cracking a joke about my weight, making that my humorous excuse for not accepting dessert.

The brand new experience of hearing my own real thoughts about eating voiced aloud with a group of women who had similar lives was the beginning of me being able to recognize that what I was doing to myself was NOT OKAY.

I spent the next three months learning to share and listen to truths: sorrows, struggles, and distresses reflected back and forth between open and willing people. I believed them and I knew they believed me. The healing began because I felt heard and because I was listening.
One thing that became very clear to me in all of my listening and talking was that although much of my eating disorder’s power was rooted deep in my family’s dynamics, I was lucky to have their full support throughout this recovery process.

My family took the journey willingly with me. From the very beginning of my struggles with depression and into my treatment for my eating disorder both of my parents and my sister were willing to openly discuss concerns and became skilled at identifying issues of their own.
They haven’t always followed me as deeply into the process as I have gone, but they never discouraged me or got in the way of my own path. In fact, they were my biggest supporters, even when the messages they got felt condemning – because sometimes they were. I know it wasn’t easy for them. But they stuck with me and we are closer than ever.

I have had the opportunity in recovery to share this part of my story with people outside of treatment settings. Most recently I shared my words at Listen to Your Mother, an event that takes place in several cities throughout the nation in May where people read personal writings on motherhood. I wrote and read an essay about my mother and me and our relationship with each other, our bodies and food.

I am posting my Listen to Your Mother reading here today for a few reasons.

First, to say that it was a very powerful experience to share my truth with an audience of over 500 people. The response of “me too” was overwhelming. I have always known that these societal messages run rampant, but to have so many personal connections to people with similar feelings outside of a treatment setting blew me away.

Second, I would like to remind people, especially mothers, of how powerful our own self-talk is to younger girls (and other women) in their lives. How we treat ourselves sets the stage for how we expect others to treat ourselves.

And third, to say that before writing this piece where I state several times that “I hated my mom” I had many long conversations with her about our history and relationship. She was aware of and comfortable with what was about to be put out into the world. Our struggles and willingness to be truthful gave us the opportunity to grow closer and let us both be the individuals we are. We set new boundaries and became closer because of it. Open communication is a vital key for health.

Lastly, I state in the essay that I don’t believe she knows she is beautiful. She would like people to know that she knows she is cute. We have both come a long way!

(Please note that if you watch the video and notice the name Nan Farnsworth written on the screen – that is a mistake. Although I would love to be Nan, I am still Cami in that video. But do check out her reading! It was fabulous. Actually, they all were amazing!)

This is part of my personal recovery story. If something I have written affects you strongly in any way, be it negatively or positively, I urge you to take that to your therapist or process it however you see fit. Not everything will work the same for all of us! But SOMETHING WILL WORK and it will be wonderful. – Cami

Get help. Find hope.