At Day Hospital on Friday, we were asked to write a letter to the body part we dislike the most. Then, our body part had to respond to the message it received from us.
At first, I was a little bit skeptical of this activity. Working through exercises like this one rarely give me any kind of push forwards in my recovery - I most often see them as a “waste of time”.
But I decided to try it anyways. And, I was a little bit surprised at what I came up with. I didn’t make an outline or a rough draft of either the letter or the response. I just let the words flow from my brain to the piece of paper in front of me. This was a highly personal exercise, but I decided to share my letters with you. I hope that in doing so, you will learn more about me - but I also hope that it may bring about the curiosity inside of YOU to try this exercise (or at least something similar).
I don’t really know why I hate you so much. I hate my legs, my arms, my stomach, and my cheeks. I hate when they “grow” and get bigger. But I’m not really sure why.
I feel disgusted when I look at you.
I feel like reducing you to skin and bones so that I barely exist at all in the world. I guess I just wish I could disappear at times. And starving myself seems like the best way to achieve that.
What I noticed most after writing this letter was that at first, I didn’t understand why I hate my healthy body so much. I just knew that I don’t like it. I didn’t have any reasons why or justifications for the hatred towards my legs, arms, stomach, and cheeks. However, I certainly felt very strongly.
But upon exploring a little further, and letting the words continue to flow, I realized why. I have a huge fear of taking up too much space in this world - not only physically, but emotionally as well. I never want to be perceived as “too much”: too demanding, too enthusiastic, too argumentative, too opinionated, too extraverted, too silly. So, it seems like my eating disorder has served a key purpose: lose weight and shrink my body down so that I barely exist at all. That way, no one can accuse me of being “too much" of anything.
In response, my body wrote:
I am sorry to hear that I am causing you so much pain. I hope you can use me to get strong and help tell your story. To help change the world so that no one ever has to struggle with mental health issues, and eating disorders in particular. Let your healthy body be the vehicle you need to motivate change.
I was really surprised at what came out of this exercise. I was stumped, initially, about how to respond to the “Meghan” who hates her body. I sat there, pencil in hand, staring blankly across the room. I couldn’t possibly write anything good about my body. I despise it.
But then, I became almost… inspired. Inspired by the opportunity to create change and give a voice to those who are suffering - especially those who are suffering in silence. Eating disorders, as I never fail to mention on my blog, are complex and nasty illnesses that affect far too many men and women in our world. If I can get healthy, and do anything - anything at all - to help those like me, I want to do it.
I want to change the world.
I think this exercise came at the perfect time in my recovery process. I am not saying that after completing it, I love my body, or even accept it any more than I did before writing the letters. But, the activity allowed me to refocus and recenter on my goal - to help change the mental health landscape. And I know I need to be healthy (body and mind) to do so.
Before we are able to love our bodies, we must accept them - and before acceptance comes the mere act of tolerating. I can say that I am actively working towards tolerating my body. To tolerate the weight changes and shape changes. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary.
I would be curious to hear about your experiences with this exercise, or one that is similar. Feel free to share your feedback in the comments - I will be checking them regularly!
Wishing you a great week xx