Redefining courage

In a recent post on her Psychology Today blog, The Dance of Connection, Harriet Lerner wrote about how to live a courageous life. Most of her advice was amazingly simple things like speaking your mind and being a friend.

I get frustrated sometimes that my life seems so ho-hum boring, or that I have it too easy. Other times, I get upset that no one can see how hard even the simplest of things can be- deciding what to eat for breakfast, or getting through the day without having a massive meltdown. Although some of this is a matter of learning how to give myself some credit, some of this needs to be redefining courage. My friend from grad school called working on her novel "an amazing act of courage." This isn't the kind of throw-yourself-in-front-of-a-speeding-bus courageous, the acts that take a split second and yes, were very brave, but they also didn't have a lot of contemplation involved. That isn't to say that these acts are less courageous, but that it's a different kind of courage than is required to overcome an eating disorder.

When I started recovery from this last relapse about a year ago, all I could see was an endless line of meals and snacks and Ensure in front of me, stretching for the rest of my life. I was filled with terror and dread. Yet with enough support and encouragement, I was able to start eating and facing down my fears. Almost 2000 eating events later, I'm finding meals take less courage but still require some proverbial girding of the loins. I eat even when every fiber of my being would really rather not, when I feel like a bloated Heffalump, and on days when I can't imagine why I'm bothering to try and get better anyway. However mundane it may be, it's still courage.

I think of my aunt raising her autistic grandson. I think of all my friends rebuilding their lives after an eating disorder. I think of my best friend Libby as she fights various medical issues. Courage. It describes them, and it describes me.

Lerner describes some seemingly basic ways to live more courageously. Be sure to add yours in the comments section!

The courage to love and to create.

The courage to know another person and be known.

The courage to see yourself clearly.

The courage to bring more of your authentic self into a relationship.

The courage to be generous and patient.

The courage to have an open mind.

The courage to have an open heart.

The courage to live your own life (not someone else's) as well as possible.

The courage to honor a commitment.

The courage to endure when something terrible happens to you or a family member.

The courage of heroism in the usual sense, that is the willingness to sacrifice everything because you believe so strongly in something.

The courage to get through the day.

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Amy said...

Preach on! <3

Lou Lou said...

I loved this post! your blog is one that i look up to in so many ways!
-the courage to put your most personal thoughts online for anyone to read
-the courage to take some time out of the rat race to recover and feel okay about that
-the courage to tell a friend "hey I'v got an eating disorder and thats the reason I can't meet up with you today as I had a very big therapy session and I feel like Iv been hit by a bus.. here have a look at my blog"

Your blog inspires me, it educates me, and it gave me courage to start my own blog,
When i first decided i wanted to recover I didnt know what it meant at all... I researched eating disorder recovery and I found your blog and Kims blog Adventures in Wanting,
after reading both of these I skimmed through hundreds of others who were commenting on your pages, your two blogs were my introduction to blogging.. i dont even think i knew what a blog was before them. I decided to start one, so I am so glad you had the courage to have a blog so that i could enter this world of recovery and online support!
your posts are always so welcomed in my e-mail as I get them sent to me, and I just wanted to let you know I think you are a brilliant writer/blogger/person

Cathy (UK) said...

Fab post as usual Carrie... The sentence that stood out most to me in this post was:

".... I get upset that no one can see how hard even the simplest of things can be - deciding what to eat for breakfast, or getting through the day without having a massive meltdown."

That sums up my (whole) life so completely, and it echoes (more-or-less) what I said to my psychiatrist last week. Basically, I 'freak out' at anything that is unfamiliar or unpredictable and represents a change from my normal routine.

When I was anorexic my fear of change was linked to alterations in my anorexic behaviours. I hung onto these behaviours because they were predictable. Post-anorexia this fear is associated with a change of my replacement rituals. Pre-anorexia, as a small child, I would have a meltdown if my mother went into my bedroom and changed the position of my books on the bookshelf or my cat ornaments on the dressing table.

The most helpful means of me tackling 'life' is to accept my quirky characteristics and my idiosyncracies. I can gently push my boundaries and learn to better manage my anxiety and fear, but fundamentally I am as I am. It helped to have a name for my residual characteristics (in the form of an ASD) because I can stop 'beating myself up' for struggling with some aspects of life more than do most people. It helps to be able explain to people that don't know me that I may sometimes seem a little eccentric, but I'm not being deliberately difficult/rude when I cannot 'do' spontaneity/change.

I previously wasted too much energy comparing myself to calm, confident, capable people who seem to take everything in their stride - and then feeling hopeless. I have finally accepted myself as I am - and that sometimes (but not always) it takes a lot of courage on my part to just get through the day.

Most people with EDs don't have an ASD but they still struggle with change - especially in relation to eating. Getting angry or frustrated with oneself doesn't really help. It's just a case of gradually 'chipping away' at boundaries.

Libby said...

YOU are one of the most courageous people i know. The way that you inspire so many people with your writing and insights... that's huge. And the way that you've rebuilt and rebuilt and haven't given up on life... that's amazing. And so is eating a bowl of ice cream or a cinnamon roll... going to a job each day where you're confronted with some of your worst fears... It's funny... I might be courageous in my own ways, but YOU inspire me.

balancingontwofeet said...

The courage to do what is most difficult.

The courage to take the next step.

Awesome post. I've been MIA from the blog world as of late, but I still read all your posts and find you oh so inspirational.

Missing In Sight said...

You mentioned "The courage to love and to create." I think more specifically we should have


M said...

The courage to fail.

The courage to be successful ... and authentically own those successes.

The courage to tell the truth.

The courage to raise to marry; honor and cherish that commitment and relationship; and the courage to bear and raise children.

The courage to try.

The courage to have hope.

The courage to show up every day.

Abby said...

I agree with Cathy in that this sums things up: ".... I get upset that no one can see how hard even the simplest of things can be - deciding what to eat for breakfast, or getting through the day without having a massive meltdown," along with feeling like it's an endless road of a million meals, Ensures and endless bloating.

However, courage is feeling the fear (and the bloat and anxiety) and doing it anyway, because you know you need to.

Courage is admitting that you're smart and knowledgeable and capable of great things while also acknowledging that an extra piece of fruit or missing a workout can freak the shit out of you.

Courage is being authentic, even if the "you" you are is struggling. That courage can provide strength to others, and yourself included.

I agree that you are an inspiration in your own right, in that although you have so many of the answers and a variety of knowledge/experience, you still share the same struggles and fears that many of us wrestle with. That takes courage, in my opinion.

It take courage to be real.

Elizabeth Patch said...

I found your post linked from 20 Inspiring Ways to Boost Your Body Image we never really give ourselves credit for being courageous enough to just getting through the day sometimes! I would add, the courage to write a personal, revealing, and inspiring blog.

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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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