Written by: Gracie who is a friend, spiritual and recovery warrior, and contributing writer to those at Unpolished Journey.
My story was always sunshine and roses. For the most part I was a poster child for effective parenting—happy, gregarious, outgoing, and respectful. When I was in elementary school, the main themes in parent teacher conferences: “Gosh, Gracie is such an amazing student, friendly, upbeat and participatory…however, she does talk…a LOT.” This quality about me seemed to be one of the main problems or complaints about my behavior. However as I progressed into my teens and developed an eating disorder, this quality would be the key to saving my life and connecting with others.
When my eating disorder developed I noticed certain parts of my personality disappearing. I was choosing my eating disorder over, family, friendships and the hobbies that I enjoyed. I could feel my spirit slipping away the more consumed I became with my eating disorder. I remember the day I found my mom researching “How to tell if a loved one has an eating disorder” online. I was furious because I didn’t think I had a problem…I didn’t want to be seen as someone with problems…someone who has mental illness…someone who is crazy. I wanted to bury these new thoughts and behaviors and hide away until I could figure everything out.
Unfortunately the start of school was fast approaching and there was no way of concealing my struggles. I tried as hard as I could to wear the biggest smile, make jokes and keep my reality a secret. However as things escalated and I knew I would have to take a leave from school, I felt that I would have to share my story.
Sharing my story was one of the most terrifying experiences I have ever faced. However the overwhelming amount of support that came back to me was something I never could have imagined. Of course my mind went through all of the negative outcomes: gossip, rumors, loss of friendships, or loss of respect and esteem from my teachers. I was so afraid to let the image of “sunshine and roses Gracie” go. I was afraid to own the new reality of my changing mental heath. I knew that people loved and supported “sunshine and roses Gracie”, but would people love “dark and twisty Gracie”? Would people love “crazy Gracie”. But the reality was I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t dark and twisty. I was…and still am—just, Gracie. There are so many facets of who I am and they each make me who I am.
I had to transform in order to accept all of the parts of myself. I would love to say that I did this on my own. I would love to say that I had this deep and meaningful spiritual awakening where I looked into the sandwich I was avoiding and God spoke through the sliced deli meat to let me know that I was loved and special just the way I was. Unfortunately I did not experience supernatural salami. I embarked on a spiritual journey for sure, but I almost felt that this journey was thrust upon me. I began learning to accept all of the parts of myself. I learned to share the parts I felt most ashamed of.
The fear of what others might think about me if I wasn’t in school for three months overrode my fear of sharing the truth of my story. In a way I was so afraid of the stories people might create about me that I decided to share the truth instead.
What happened was an outpouring of support, love, compassion and other various people coming forward to share their stories as well. In sharing what I was going through I found that not only did I find comfort when others shared their experience, but I was able to give others the space to share their own experiences that may have been holding them hostage.
Shame and fear can be some of the most isolating feelings, but when a story is shared, connection is made and shame has no room to grow. The power of each person’s story is the true blessing of humanity. When each person is willing to share their experience we can find that although struggles may at times feel lonely, we are never alone.