Friday, July 24, 2009

Tell Your Story

I was in a restaurant today. I didn't think I'd been experiencing much restriction but I ate bread for the first time (other than a bite or two in the past.) Pita bread with goat cheese, tomato, olive and hummus. Also had a little spanakopita. I bp'd (productive burped, not British Petroleum)into a raised flower bed facing the street (we were seated outdoors) very discreetly. Yuck, yuck, yuck. The nutritionist was right when she said bread can expand in your stomach. I was eating slowly and chewing well and still bp'd. On a good note, my husband and I chewed up the sidewalk in downtown Chicago. I was able to walk and walk and walk. (Think about the initial letters in pita bread. Now reverse them and what do they spell?)

It was good to know that I still have some restriction, but not the nicest way to find out. I sat on the edge of the flower bed with my back to the restaurant and I think the only person who noticed was a motorist whose car was stopped right in front of me. I made sure not to look at her, till she was driving off. She had a very stange smile on her face.

Humor is such an important part of recovery. I told two Christian counselors the name of my blog and they both burst into laughter. Humor lends perspective and keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously. If you've ever been cornered by someone with serious issues who has no sense of humor and who takes every opportunity or topic in a conversation to relate a boring, deadly serious anecdote about themselves, you know exactly what I mean.

Telling our stories is also an important tool in recovery. And you have to tell the bad stuff, too, or the story's not complete and is not believable. If you can do it with a light touch, all the better. But there are some things that happen to us that are totally not funny. That's when we need to convey the emotion and the pain.

I think about people I know and love who were sexually abused. There is absolutely no way to make the telling of that funny. Yet I've seen women smile as they relate the story and minimize its impact on them. Their smiles are closer to grimaces, but they don't know that. I know women who are so damaged by what was done to them (especially with severe, long-term abuse) that they'll never be able to be in a normal healthy relationship or function optimally in the workplace--even after years of counseling and drug therapy.

Many women with eating disorders were sexually abused as children. That doesn't mean that all women with eating disorders were abused, nor do all women who were abused develop eating disorders. I was not abused. But a number of women who were, chose to tell me their stories. Sometimes I've been the first person they've ever told. For them, telling their stories is crucial. Each time they tell another person and are not shamed or rejected for telling, they get closer to healing. Keeping the secret has torn them apart internally. I think women have told me their stories because they sense I am a safe person to tell. All I can do is listen, and that's what I do. I don't tell others. Most of these stories cannot be for public consumption. Sometimes, after a person has told me, they'll find ways to avoid me. The fact that I know their secret is just too uncomfortable for them. But it broke the ice. It will be easier for them to tell the next person.

Everybody has a story to tell. Telling it helps the teller and the listener. When we who are Christians tell our stories, we tell of God's love for us and his grace in walking through the worst experiences with us. Whatever was done to us, was done to him. Whenever we suffer, he suffers. When we laugh, he laughs with us. His is the greatest story ever told, yet he'll listen to our story and hang on every word.

Tell your story.