“The minute you can start to laugh about it …” I had always heard people say, but I did not grasp the power of that statement until it finally dawned on me. That is when you start to heal. Humor. Laughter. That is where it all started for me. It was my strength all along, but I just didn’t realize it.
Clearly, I am an eating disorder survivor. It is the entire reason for this platform and blog, and the reason I feel compelled (energized really!) to write all of these mini revelations down and share them with you, because they empowered me. Maybe you are just looking for a better diet, trying to build a better relationship with exercise and food, or whether you (I hope not, but perhaps like me) went that far and messed yourself up when it comes to eating that much. No judgment here. I did it. But I want to give you one tool that helped me mend my approach to food:
So, you may have guessed this (or at least suspected I was going to say it): I’m a pretty funny gal. My dad taught me at a very young age, by example, that the one thing you’ve GOT to have to get through this crazy roller coaster called “life” is a sense of humor. My childhood was spent torn between two states on opposite sides of the nation between two parents in a nasty, decades-long divorce. The hatred and hurt that often seeped out of many of my family members’ mouths took its toll. It was confusing and unnerving. Which parent was right? Did one have to be wrong? Are there sides here? my brother and I would often wonder. And, when the fighting—usually only verbal, but once very, very physical—brought me to tears, my dad always found a way to make me laugh. Even in the face of it. Heck, intentionally in the face of it. Because that’s what “it” required: a sense of humor.
And that lesson stuck with me through so many other challenges life threw at me: busting my ACL right before college cheerleading tryouts, leaving home, starting college broke and alone, getting dumped by my first real love, starting law school, getting married, getting divorced, my first jury trial. Through all of those, I was able to find some humor in it.
But when I finally made the decision to stop all of the stupid things I was doing, tell someone I had feared telling for years that I had a serious problem, and finally get better, this whole void of emotion opened up in me because I felt I could finally laugh at some of the insanely dumb things I did.
Example: I think my eating disorder would have caught fire much sooner and would have been waaaay worse if I had cheered in college. Have you seen those tiny little college flyers? My bones alone would not fit in their bodies. Forget the organs. I don’t think you need those to cheer, just a voice and a fierce fist punch. Kapow! Go team! I probably would have struggled much harder to try to “fit” into that mold. So, I eventually saw my high school tumbling injury as kind of funny. It was like my knee taking one hell of a blow to steer me in a much better direction. Thanks Champ.
As long as I was able to internalize it as a funny irony and chuckle about it—even if “it” hurt like hell and totally sucked—I could endure it without it warping me. But, looking back now, I see for some stupid reason in trying to battle the worst “it” I had ever faced, my eating disorder, I didn’t use my strongest weapon. My sense of humor!
When I was suffering, nothing about my eating or my body, or my stupid over-exercising could be funny. All of “that stuff” was dark and serious and loomed through my mind like a black ghost. And, sadly, by not approaching that monster with my sharpest tool, I allowed him to win and control me for years. But when I finally made the decision to stop all of the stupid things I was doing, tell someone I had feared telling for years that I had a serious problem, and finally get better, this whole void of emotion opened up in me because I felt I could finally laugh at some of the insanely dumb things I did. The futile, pointless rules I made up and forced myself to follow, even when I hated them and knew, deep down, they might be wrong. Despite that, Disorderly Callie would still trudge to the bus stop with her back pack on, get on the bus, and follow that route. Every day. Rain or shine.
Looking back now, some of the things I did are, in all seriousness, really funny. Try a few of these and see if you don’t get a chuckle:
- I ate butter spray (thinking it had no fat in it at all) until my hands turned yellow.
- I fell in love with peanut butter and often woke up in bed with it on the sheets and in my hair.
- My entire dishware in college was Tupperware – tiny ones for what I considered my “actual meals” so they would be small. Huge ones for my binges so they could be … you know, huge! I only had one glass in the whole house: my coffee mug. It’s not surprising I lived alone.
- I got divorced because I didn’t like to eat around my husband (that was one very big reason, at least).
- I used to order at drive-thrus with so much gummed up bread on my teeth I had to hide them while talking. “Yes, extra cheese. Yes, more than two tubs. Four tubs. Yes.” sounded like, “Yem, essra chzz. Yem, mur dan tru tubs. Furr tibs. Yem.”
You see? That can be funny. I was so dumb for so long. When I finally found my humor again—my strength, my well, my inner core person who can handle anything—it was like I found myself again. The “me” without the disorder. I could finally see it as something apart from me, because I could laugh at it. It was wildly empowering. And effective.
Because I can laugh about it, make a joke about it, it disempowers the beast.
I still rely on my sense of humor to this day to keep myself in recovery and in check. I finally opened up about that big dark mess to a few close friends in my early days of recovery and I still talk with them frequently when I occasionally struggle. “Hmmm … think I might have run 500 steps too many today. If I run them backwards does it undo it?” I asked my friend the other day who knows I used to over-exercise like a maniac and that it is still sometimes hard for me to decide what is too little, too much, or enough.
Because I can laugh about it, make a joke about it, it disempowers the beast. He hardly seems scary if the thought of him makes me literally chuckle and bring a hand to my mouth. You? Seriously? You’re the big, bad monster that wants to take me down? Bring it bastard! My sense of humor says. Because she’s a serious badass. She is capable of enduring anything—with a laugh and a smile.
Find her. Dust her off. And unleash her on your beast!