In the early stages of our daughter’s illness, while I was desperately scouring the medical landscape in search of guidance and insight into the complex and multifaceted world of eating disorders, I was fortunate to be referred to a compassionate and knowledgeable physician on the West Coast, who had dedicated much of his professional life to the diagnosis, treatment and study of these diseases. After patiently and attentively listening to Ashley’s and our family’s story, he asked me one simple question: “Don, who is the person Ashley trusts more than anyone in the world?” “I’m not sure,” I responded, “I’ve never really thought about it. Why do you ask?” “Because,” he replied, “my experience has taught me that, when Ashley is ready, that’s the person she will allow to take her hand and help lead her out of her eating disorder.”
It was much too early in the process for me to grasp the full import of his words, but, over time, I began to appreciate the critical role that trust plays at both ends of the eating disorder spectrum. When breached, trust can serve as a “trigger” for the disease to manifest itself. More importantly, however, when restored or re-discovered, trust can be a lantern that helps illuminate the path leading out of the disease’s dark and deadly maze. In fact, those who have read my book know that trust is a recurrent theme. Several months ago, I was reminded of the criticality of trust in a humbling e-mail I received from Carolyn Costin (http://www.carolyncostin.com), a woman whose own courage, writings and selfless dedication to others I have long admired (http://tinyurl.com/bwrt5j2).
I was fortunate to first meet Carolyn briefly at the NEDA Conference last October and took the opportunity to give her a copy of my book. Shortly thereafter, she wrote to share her thoughts, which were quite reaffirming. In commenting on one of the chapters in particular (Chapter 9: Junnuh), Carolyn expressed her long-standing conviction that “everyone needs someone they can trust to show them to themselves.” It’s a phrase I’ve been replaying in my mind ever since, in part, because it beautifully and concisely captures a profoundly important truth that I suspect is too often overlooked in treating those who suffer from eating disorders and, in part, because I believe it is equally true in all of our lives, irrespective of whether we have suffered or had a loved one suffer from an eating disorder. In fact, I was reminded of its importance again just yesterday, when a friend texted: “I’m having trouble seeing the worth in me today.”
The fact is that, while those suffering from eating disorders have a particularly difficult time “interpreting” the images of self that they see reflected back in many “mirrors” of their lives – most of us, left to our own devices, also are very poor “perceivers” of ourselves, of the gifts that make us unique, of our “love-ability” and of our value as human beings. Ideally, that would not be the case – and for a very select (and fortunate) few, it’s not. They are able to perceive the truth about themselves clearly and accurately – and they like what they see! For the rest of us, however, the images are not as clear – indeed, some are hidden from our view entirely, while others are grossly distorted. Often, the insensitivity or callousness of others, even those who profess to care about us, reinforces those distortions or further obscures the “truth” about us from view.
But, I believe, eventually, if we’re patient, that “someone” Carolyn speaks of will come along – a special someone who we can trust implicitly. They will “show us to ourselves,” perhaps for the first time, and through their loving eyes, rather than own, we too will finally (rightfully!) like what we see! Who knows, that “special someone” may already be somewhere in our life. It’s certainly worth a second look.