Am I making you uncomfortable?

I forgot.

I forgot how odd and scary and weird I used to find the topic of eating disorders. I stopped realizing how tweaked out people feel when I talk about it. Oh, and I stopped caring.

I'm reminded of all this, recently, as I count up how few people in my non-ED-related life have ever actually engaged in a conversation on this with me. How many of even my family and friends haven't found time (interest) in reading my book. And how many of those who have read it shy away from talking about it with me.

Last night a member of my family called the topic "depressing." My book club (together for over a decade) finally read my book recently and (of the few who showed up that night) only one among them actually discussed any content in it.** One confessed that the group may have felt it was a "no win" situation to read it, and that the topic was so personal that it was like being a "voyeur."

I don't find the topic too personal, depressing, or off-putting. I find it interesting, cathartic, educational, and helpful to talk and listen and learn. I suspect those who are uncomfortable with it are still in the mindset of the illness as a shameful secret, an embarrassing vanity, a sign of troubling past.

I also suspect this is what the topic of breast cancer once did to people. Now people wear their pink ribbons with pride and in mixed company, there are marches and walks and survivor celebrations. There is also now, with breast cancer, a fierce network of fundraising and research funding and information sharing. No coincidence there.

I'm sick of the squeamishness over eating disorders and of mental illnesses in general. I'm sick of people being wary of the topic and very tired of feeling as if I am imposing when I bring it up. It's a brain. It gets bruised and broken. Most families have some people touched by it. There is treatment, and hope for improvement and full recovery. Get over it.

If you have a friend whose child has an eating disorder, I have advice for you. Ask. Read about it. Talk about it. Bring it up. Listen. Keep asking, reading, talking, bringing it up, and listening.

And if you have a friend who wrote a book, a tip: buy it. Read it. Talk about it. It's okay.

**P.S. I quit. (Book club)


  1. Laura,
    No quitting;-)

  2. Laura,


    Even if they don't want to talk about these issues, we do. We need your help and guidance and cheering.

    Thanks for all that you do.

  3. I dare say some of Rosa Parks' friends got frustrated with her taking action over segregation, I dare say many of Martin Luther King's enemies and quite a few of his family were bored or frightened by his speeches - aren't you glad that they didn't shut up?

    Keep up the good work. Keep speaking up.

  4. Haha- no I think Laura meant she quit the book club. ;)

    And yes, talking about it and bringing it out into the open is so important into busting the stigma.

  5. I look forward to wearing the golden fork if only to stimulate conversation.
    Time for the book club to take a trip to India.

  6. I hate the stigma! when I was getting ready to leave treatment, one of my biggest fears was, what will I say/do when people ask questions? But what I should have been worried about was that NO ONE would ask questions. A few people I'm very close with do, but for the most part, people are awkward and don't want to hear about it. But it's been such a big part of my life that it comes up, it's like avoiding a white elephant NOT to talk about it. I think we need to keep talking if we want to break stigmas.

  7. i know exactly what you mean. people ask me what i blog about, and they're so uncomfortable when i say, "my eating disorder". they don't know where to look. fellow bloggers tell me that what i write is "brave". i don't think it's brave -- it just IS. this is what i go through. i agree that it's not a depressing or weird topic. it's real -- like cancer, the econony, root canals, insomnia. it just IS. i wish people could be more open about everything.

  8. Oh, you all are so wonderful!

    It was book club I quit, by the way.

    I'm not feeling dejected or anything - honestly. I'm not quitting anything but worrying about making people uncomfortable. And I am so grateful for the fine community of ED parents and clinicians and activists who are also NOT SHUTTING UP.

    Here's to Active Awkwardness!

  9. Wow, that makes me so sad that few of the members of your club (and family!) wanted to read your book and share on your experience. I actually had an article about my ED recovery published in a magazine this year, and my mom and I have been showing it/sharing it with as many people as possible. We are with you: who cares if it makes people uncomfortable! This is our life, and we want to share our experience, strength, and hope with others.

  10. Let's hope that they never need to learn, the hard way, what ED's are really all about.We live in a culture where many hide behind a glass of wine and medications just to cope with the daily stresses. These are the people who prefer denial. For some reason some of us are wired to be searchers and want to learn more about how the mind works and what breaks it and how best to keep our health. We'd be interested even if it didn't touch us personally.
    I did buy and read your book and will talk about it any day with you. I've learned a lot from you about the stages of recovery and how food heals. I've had the opportunity to share your book with a few people outside the internet, as well as many more on it, and it's always with a feeling of satisfaction that I know of someone who might be able to guide them to support that works and is in the best interest of helping someone with an ED. I'm glad you're doing alright and not taking it too personally. You needn't do that! Hugs~

  11. I have found that yes, it does make people uncomfortable, but I am astonished at how many people are *so glad* to hear people talking about these things.

    So many people do want to talk about it- they just want *us* to go first!

  12. You don't know me, but I've been reading you for a while... And boy, oh boy did this post stir some things up for me. In my life as a singer&songwriter, I'm trying hard to balance saying the things I "need" to say with the possibility of alienating my audience. On top of that... how much do I "out" myself with the different topics I am writing about... Yi, yi, yi... Just had a 2 hour discussion with some friends on this very topic.

    I guess I always find myself trying to come back around to the Maggie Kuhn quote...

    "Leave safety behind. Put your body on the line. Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind -- even if your voice shakes. When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say. Well-aimed slingshots can topple giants."

    Thanks for writing this! It has given me much to think about.

  13. Laura, as soon as my d was diagnosed, my book club read your book on my recommendation. They have been a defacto support group for me. None of them have children with EDs but they are all highly intelligent, caring women who listen to me, take me out to movies and garden shows, and generally support me in any way they can.

    You just need to join US!

  14. W.O.W.

    I had NO idea I would touch such a chord on this. It seems this feeling is pretty common among us all!

    I am so glad I brought this up - I was actually a little uncomfortable about 'talking' about it, ironically - and now I feel very much fired up.

    NOT shutting up. NOT waiting for others to bring things up. NOT tiptoeing around the squeamishness of others.

    We've got a revolution to start!

  15. As has been attributed to Ghandi:

    "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

    The more we speak up about it, the less powerful the stigma and ignorance become.


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