I used to think that the scariest thing about recovery was facing all my emotions. ED had done a wonderful job of taking each and every event in my life that had the potential to fuel his purpose and making sure I stuffed them in a dark corner of my brain; never working through the related emotions. It wasn’t until the last few weeks that I realized it wasn’t facing the emotions I’ve bottled up for decades, but rather having emotions that I don’t understand.

Part of recovery is coming to a place in time where you stop hearing ED constantly, and finally get introduced to yourself. The conversation goes something like:
Actual me: “Hi, I’m Amber. I used to listen to this A-hole named ED, but I recently kicked him to curb. I’d love to know more about you, what do you think?”
Mental me: “Oh, Hi Amber! My name is Amber too!! Yeah, I never thought you’d get rid of that jerk, but I have A LOT to tell you. Let’s talk about everything you’ve ever experienced.”
Actual me: (sarcasticlly) “Uuuuhhh, sure, sounds amazing.” 
Okay, maybe not exactly like that, but it may as well have been that way, because the effect of silencing ED is that I could finally hear ME. This has been wonderful for so many reasons. The part that becomes a lot more difficult, and what I thought was scary, was the idea of unpacking the luggage that I’ve stored in that dark corner. 
ED used to use those events in my life to remind me that I didn’t deserve to eat, or feel pretty, or even to live. He was extremely good at convincing me that he was telling me truth; all he ever spoke were lies. This seems very obvious to the people around someone who is fighting this disease, but to us, it’s might as well be Everest because ED is loud, and VERY persistent, and its nearly impossible to see the ‘peak’ when you’re standing at the base. Other’s will look at the mountain from a distance and say it should be easy to get there, but taking that journey is MUCH harder!
Now that ED had been moved permanently (fingers-crossed) to the dungeon rather than the guest room in my mind, I had decided that the next step in healing needed to be acknowledging the events that have happened in my life and have impacted me in an extreme way. We all have those things, and its important not to compare my path to yours. Think of it like a suitcase since that’s the analogy we’re using. My suitcase is going to have totally different contents from yours, but each of our suitcases serves our individual purpose; not better or worse. So when I unpack my luggage you’ll find things such as societal opinions on beauty, bullying in middle school, rape, sexual assault, an unfaithful ex-spouse, a parent who died too young, even the possibility I was molested when I was really little (that was a recent bomb I found in my brain). Your suitcase may be filled with completely different items, and I can’t stress this enough, each of our items is no less important and had no less impact in who we have become!
Over the last 3 weeks I’ve unpacked a lot. I spent part of last week’s therapy session discussing my rape with my therapist. I had always had this guilt associated with it. Was it because society treats the victim like the perpetrator or just because of ED? I imagine both, but I needed to talk it out in counseling to really be able to understand that “No is No” regardless of when it’s said. I’ll talk about some of these events in future posts, but you get my point. Unpacking my luggage wasn’t about fully grasping and consuming the emotions they would bring, but rather allowing my true voice to finally acknowledge they happened and were real. 
As I mentioned before, I had always feared emotion. It terrified me to think I would have to face these things I had experienced in life and actually work through them…fully. It was in that moment as I sat in my therapist office and tried to explain myself as to why I felt guilt over being raped that I realized something B.I.G. I wasn’t struggling with the rape itself and that someone had done something really terrible to me, but I was struggling because I simply didn’t understand my emotions. Was I still mad? Was I sad? I couldn’t understand what emotion I was feeling about having been raped. The more I thought about this, the more I realized all of these life experiences were that way! It was hard enough acknowledging these things happened to me, but not being able to ‘feel’ something specific made it scary. Did that mean I was broken even more than ED had been telling me?
We do an excellent job of pushing those events that created this person ED thrives on to the very back of our psyche, so why would it be easy to unpack them? It wouldn’t, and it isn’t, and if this is something you’re facing in your recovery, or even if you don’t have ED but have anxiety, or maybe you’re an every day person who has crap in their life…doesn’t matter it still plays the same. Give yourself a little breather and realize that when you packed that mess away, you didn’t fold it nice and neat and gently pack it. 
Oh no! You crumbled it up into a wad of a disaster and smashed it at the very bottom of the suitcase, and you weren’t done there! You sat on top of that luggage, ensuring every last bit of it was hidden and couldn’t bother you, then you locked it up with the heaviest duty lock you could find and pushed it as far back in your brain as you could. 
THAT my friends is how humans work because sometimes life is just too much to handle. For those of us with ED as our back-stabbing bestie, we are professionals at this tactic, with ED encouraging us to include even the smallest things in that luggage! ED convinces us that along with the painful memories, we should include compliments and our best qualities. He WANTS us to forget we have value. What a dick.
So this brings me to my point today, and applies to pretty much everyone, even those without ED. When you get to a place in your journey where you have decided to face these dark, hidden truths. These scary events, sad occurrences, and the things that got shoved to the back of your mental closet; give yourself a little peptalk because it’s really, really tough even acknowledging the things that have impacted you at the level life sometimes does, but it’s even harder and scarier when you start trying to identify the emotions you tie to those moments. It’s going to be a tough self-talk, and ‘mental’ you is going to be a lot like mental me was…you’re going to want to put it back in the closet, but you can’t.

I am not going to sit here and say that unpacking my luggage has’t caused some fear because it has. In the midst of identifying and owning events in my life I realized that there were a lot of signs that I might have endured even more than I realized and very early in life, but I also realized then and do now the importance of owning that all those things no matter how bad were, are why I am the person I am today. ED isn’t the only part of my brain these memories impact. Those horrible things I’ve endured and tried so hard to avoid, they are what have made me able to look at life through other’s eyes. They are the reason that while I might want to spend my weekend at home vegging on the couch and watching TV there is FAR more value in investing that time in a game of Battleship with my son, or teaching my daughter to cook. Those awful things, things too terrible to even see as real for so many years also added value to me as a person. My pep-talk used that little bit of hope to help me face some pretty scary truths, and it’s how I’m going to keep facing them and keep showing-up and keep telling ED to stay in his dungeon.

So guys, here it is. The WHOLE truth. Life can really suck sometimes. And I mean REALLY, REALLY suck. Fight it, all the crap, fight it and unpack that luggage one piece at a time. Take time to unfold that mess you shoved back there so long ago and try to identify emotions that go with it. Smooth out the wrinkles to find the little bits of hope balled up with it.

Once you can face that fear, and you will because we all do at sometime, but once you face that fear, you’ll start to realize that you are a fighter! You are bigger than ED, and you’re more than those things you packed away so long ago. And much like me, you’re going to find yourself asking “What the hell did I pack in that suitcase!?” because sometimes truth will hit you square in the head and hope will be the ice-pack to soothe it!

Happy Friday, and if you get the chance, drop me a comment and let me know what you think. What kind of recipes you’d like to see? I would really also like to hear what topics from my journey with ED you’d like to read about. Face a fear, leave me a message.

-Amber