The weekend that might have been

I just realized that this weekend was my 10-year high school reunion. I knew about the reunion, of course, but I had forgotten the exact date. No doubt because I had long since decided not to go.

Why? I wasn't too fond of high school a decade ago, and the years have not made my heart grow fonder. I've kept in touch with the few people I wanted to, and that was that.

The other reason I didn't want to go is that so much of what has happened in the intervening years (namely the eating disorder), I wouldn't really feel comfortable talking about. I know I'm usually gung-ho about busting the stigma around mental illness, blah blah blah. And I am "out there" in a sense, because of this blog and my writing and other stuff. Though I'm not proud of my lengthy psychiatric history, I'm not especially ashamed of it. But most people I know from high school, however, have nary a clue.

Part of it was that I didn't want to spend the whole night fielding questions about EDs

I didn't think you were that vain! No really, I'm not.
So do you think I look fat? Probably not, but I'm not going to answer.
How thin did you get? Thin enough.
I didn't think you came from a messed-up family. I don't- mostly.
Can you give me weight loss tips? I can, but I won't.

Yet if I went and didn't disclose my years of anorexia, I'd feel ridiculous. Not talking about the thing around which my life has centered. Sticking to the superficialities that I so despise.

I don't feel obligated to be open about my history with everyone. Sometimes, it's none of your business who I am and what I do. But I do like to think of myself as an advocate. I wouldn't have gone to my reunion regardless- plane fare was more than I could afford, and my parents were getting antsy to bring me all of the crap I had left in their basement.

I do feel caught, however. How would you handle this situation? Is there a middle ground?

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mary said...

Out of respect for myself and disrespect for the Ed that claimed too much of your thoughts I'd exclude him from any visits meant for socializing. "IF" someone brought up your book or asked about it you could offer an email or phone number to set aside a place to share more of your life at another time IF, and only IF, you want to. Remember, you are much more than someone who had an ED. You went through the struggles of surviving school and now write for a living.
A good way to avoid discussing myself is to ask, ask, and ask others how they are doing. Be more interested in them than yourself. What have they been up to? Don't bring ED along. He's a self-centered bloke and it's not all about him anymore. It's not his party OR his life. You'll see, there's much more to Carrie than an ED. Carrie's a fighter! She's creative. She's traveled to far off lands. She's been in school. She's still standing! Hugs~

MelissaS said...

i like what mary said. i'm going to keep that in mind and try to leave ED behind as much as possible. also,i think you are where you are, and that's fine. you didn't want to go to this gathering anyway. and i'm sure there are plenty of gatherings where you are comfortable being exactly who you are. i suppose we'd like that privilege ALL the time, but life is complicated.

greythinking said...

I've found that people are more interested in what you're up to right now than what you did five years ago. "Catching up" for me usually involves getting the other person up to speed with what I've been doing recently. There's a lot more going on in your life now than just the ED!

And, at what point will the ED be far enough in the past that you can go to reunions without worrying about that topic dominating the conversation? Your 15-year? 20? Your eating disorder has robbed you of enough of your life already... you know?

Now, with that said, I've never gone to a HS reunion. I hated high school, though...

Carrie Arnold said...

I get that my ED isn't the focus of my life- that's not exactly what I meant. More to the point of: at what point do you let people know about your ED history?

Because the blog and the books that I have, they're a part of now. A BIG part of now. And I almost feel that (to closer friends, anyway) leaving this part of my life out of the "catch up" is almost lying by omission.

If I had cancer, I would probably not feel so skittish about sharing.

It's not just the ED that I would share- if I had been diagnosed and was in recovery, then that would be that. I mean, it's that way with my seizures and such. But more of the work that I'm doing within the ED field. At what point do you share?

ASHY91906 said...

I think that that is the issue with ED. It is seen as something that is shameful and it is extremely misunderstood. I mean, I loved your "can you give me weight loss tips". Seriously? And the part about the messed up family too. I mean, I kept it from my family (although I thought that I was a lot more secretive than I was!) for 11 years. I saw one therapist who flat out asked me: "What did your family do? Is it your mom? Was it your dad?" It isn't about having a messed up family and it isn't about vanity and it isn't about weight loss. And I think that sometimes you get SO tired of trying to explain it to people who don't understand. That in and of itself is enough for me to want to keep my mouth shut. I have no idea about the sharing...I mean, this blog has given me a greater comfort level that I have had almost anywhere. It's easier to be open when you know that people understand.

Bron said...

This is a really tricky situation. Because there are so many misconceptions about EDs it's really difficult to bring it up. Even though the only way we can break down these false ideas is by demonstrating the reality, it's a very difficult thing to do when you're just one person, and especially at an event where the aim is merely to be sociable.

Maybe you could consider mentioning the work you're doing now without necessarily mentioning your personal connection (at least not straight away). I don't know whether this is realistic, but it might be an option. You're such an eloquent spokeswoman for those of us who've suffered that it seems a pity that those who know you personally can't share in what you're doing.

But I really understand - there's such a stigma that it's difficult to mention it in any circumstances. I haven't told anyone about having an ED except my now husband and my sister, so I'm no role model!

Best wishes

MelissaS said...

i think you share when you want to share. when talking about your eating disorder feels comfortable and safe. i know that it's important to be upfront about where we really are and to minimize the stigma of eating disorders, but it's a choice when we want to do it. as everyone said, there are so many misconceptions. it's up to you whether or not your in the mood or in a place to combat all that comes at you, from major misunderstandings to perhaps even, support.

Tiptoe said...

Sharing about EDs is a difficult thing to do. Much of the time, I don't share simply, because it's a) a private matter to me, b) there is still an issue of shame, and c) I am unsure what I want from them.

When I do open up to someone who did not know about my Ed in high school or college or now, my first question to myself is "what do I want/expect from them? What do I hope to gain by sharing that part of me?" My last therapist used to tell me that there are definite times when you don't need to share, and there is nothing wrong with that.

I know reunions and such are different, and I know if I was in that situation, I'd likely only briefly mention it if at all and only with personal friends.

In your case, people may ask, because you are "out there," but it doesn't mean you would have to indulge all the details. A simple "it's a very personal issue to me" I think would suffice. And for those other possible people who might want tips and such, you can always tell them to read any diet book out there.

In the future, you may feel different about all this, but right now, it's okay to feel the way you do and continue to advocate for the cause.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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