The Brave and Beautiful Twerking Grandma

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

It is easy to walk around this word being washed over by the media stories reporting horror. To carry around a dark heavy coat of fear and sadness because, “where is the good in this world?”

I find myself being sucked into the drudgery of life and adulting and I sometimes can’t see anything but the pain and sadness. 

And it is hard to feel free and unchained by it all.

And then I see it, the bravery, the courage in another and I know there is so much more here than only pain.

Saturday night we went to the History Theatre to watch a play. Sometimes you see something that blows you away and other times you walk out disappointed. We walked away from the play Glensheen in complete awe at such a flawless and intriguing show. And there was a woman in the play that is seared in my mind.

When I trained in theater a phrase the teachers would often say was, “Go all the way.” “Go big!”

But going all the way with a character is an art form, being able to be unrestrained and free while also not being out of control and throwing the scene into chaos takes skill. 

This older actress, Wendy Lehr, walked on the stage with her wrinkled face and body and I was worried. 

I thought, “Oh this is kind of like community theater were retired people return to the stage.”

I had no idea what was actually brewing in that historic body of hers. Her ability to play multiple characters, to bring us fully into the moments with her was magical. 

And then halfway through the show she REALLY let herself go, fully all the way. Singing and dancing and twerking! 

Yes, twerking. 

This grandmother hit all the notes and in her beautifully sung voice, while shaking her booty and making us laugh so hard I spilled my drink down my lap.

She was fully 100% in the moment and we were there with her.

She was having an ultimate riot of a time.

And we were there with her.

She wasn’t thinking about what we thought of her, if we liked her, or even if we could see her panty line, which we could. 

She was all in.

I can’t stop thinking about her. Not only I was in such admiration of her acting talent, but more the ability of this twerking Grandma to immerse herself in a role that she made us all think we could twerk just like that!

She is brave. She is beautiful. 

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Photo is from this Star & Tribune article.

And now after finishing this book, (which is up on Amazon for pre-order! Whoohooo!) I am starting to see them everywhere. 

These brave and beautiful women.

How did I not see them before? Wasn’t I paying attention to the world around me?

Yes, but since I have been submerged for this last year in writing these stories of bravery and beauty, my eyes are starting to see them everywhere.

And they encourage me these brave women.

Their courage.

Their beauty.

Spurs me on to go all in. To go big.

To step on the stage of life with full abandon and less fear. To step into the person that God created me to be.

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That is how we do this brave and beautiful thing.

We throw off the trying to be something, the posturing, and the game of beauty and trying to be who the world thinks we should be. And instead we, without abandon, move towards being completely who we are meant to be. 

And we twerk if we want to. Panty lines and all.

Yes. Wendy Lehr, you inspire me.

I want to go big just like you, you brave and beautiful woman!

How about you? Do you see them too? These brave and beautiful women? Email me contactleeblum@gmail.com and tell me about them!

xo

Lee

 

 

 

The Cost of Attempting to be a Bronze Beauty

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

I have always wanted to be tan. Not just tan, but a perfect bronze color with a splash of pink on my cheeks.

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Fresh and sun kissed.

Skin tinted just the right color that radiated health and beauty. 

Because that is what being tan does right? Makes you look healthy and beautiful. 

I would drag my lawn chair to the back deck and sprawl my young skinny self on the rubbery and super collapsible blue chair, taking special care not to sit up the wrong way or the chair would fold in on me. Carefully I would place the large foam headphones of my yellow walkman on my wet hair blaring Howard Jones into my ears.

I would reach for my magical lotion, a shiny slippery bottle of baby oil. On my paper white skin I would coat every inch with a slick layer of the oil, lie my head back making sure to have my hair fanned out behind me to allow the Sun-In I sprayed earlier to lighten every strand to the color of a Q-tip. 

I had no idea what I was doing, except I wanted to be tan. I wanted to look beautiful.

I have never thought of myself as vain. Never been one to chase after beauty or trends as I radically accepted very long ago that people refer to me as “cute”. 

Yesterday, the bandage on my face fell off earlier than it was supposed to be removed. I stood in front of the mirror in utter horror as I gazed at the ugly protruding scar forming on my face.

I have never felt uglier. I have never felt more vain as my thoughts turned to plastic surgery and my looks and how would I live with a massive scar down my face? The shock of seeing my face took me to my couch where I sat and cried like a baby.

And I remembered, all the hours spent in that lawn chair covered in baby oil. All the times I checked into the tanning booth. All the sunburns and Solarcaine and the wish for a color that my skin was never capable of producing. 

As I write this, I realize not only how vain it sounds, but how untimely it is in a world where the color of your skin can get you shot. And it makes me even more ashamed that this matters to me. It makes me embarrassed that I care so much. But I do.

And I guess you might too.

You might want to feel beautiful too.

Maybe it isn’t being tan like I have always wanted and by the way… never succeeded at.

Maybe you want to be thin, or have certain hair, or a certain amount of money or even a certain look?

Maybe it is the boobs you want? Maybe you want the scars to be hidden and the stretch marks to disappear? Maybe you aren’t vain, but secretly wish for these things. 

I think deep down we all do a little bit. At least when you live in America. How can you not? 

I took a picture of my mangled face. The place where my skin cancer was removed. The cancer that continuously invades spots all over my body. The result of a body that was never meant to be tan, one that I forced over and over again to be something it isn’t. 

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I sent the picture to my sister and another friend as I continued to cry. My sweet sister told me to write about it. To tell you, dear friends and to share it with others. To not hide behind the scar.

She is so right. 

Whatever beauty mirage you are chasing that is stealing away your time, your thoughts, your passions…let it go!

And let my scar and your scars be a reminder to you, that when we try to be something we are not…it will hurt us. 

And then my other friend texted me this:  “Your scar is a reminder that you can do hard things.” 

Yes. I am not there yet, but she is right.

So instead of worrying about if you are staring at it, or how it looks, or what I will look like now. I am going to see it as a badge. A badge of honor that says I choose to fight. I choose to live in this world where things can hurt me and harm me and they will, but with God’s help, what is more important than my skin or my how I look, is my heart. Is my soul. 

And then I invited two dear friends over and we sat on the deck and talked and laughed into the evening. My relationships mean more to me than any pretty look ever will.

Who I am in this world and who I am to God, is worth more than any magazine or beauty cream can offer me. Scars and all. 

Won’t you join me instead of searching for beauty like the Holy Grail, let’s celebrate our scars and focus instead on loving each other and ourselves for who we are. I am trying, won’t you join me?

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Oh and p.s. for the love of everything that is holy…see my face as a reminder to wear sunscreen! Always!!!

love

Lee

 

Brave Is the New Beautiful

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

In September I received a book contract for my second book. When I answered the call from the calm voice on the other end telling me the publishing house loved and wanted to publish this book, I sat in my car in the parking lot of Marshall’s wondering if they had made a mistake.

Had they called the wrong person?

Don’t you want Jen Hatmaker or Glennon Melton?

Were they really offering me a book contract for a book that had not even been written? Did they not know who they were calling? Didn’t they see in my proposal that my first book was never listed on the New York Times Bestseller list, or that it never hit any sort of top charts.

I wanted to ask them, are you sure you really want to do this? Are you sure you want to invest in my story?

I didn’t say these things, I just played it off as a confident author who got calls from publishers all the time asking for my work.

Inside I was trembling with excitement and an overwhelming fear. 

How on earth would I do this? 

It is now June and the book is done. Completed. WHOOHOOO!!

Finished.

We are still working on final edits but somehow by the Grace of God, a very supportive family and community, I was able to write this book. 

Let me pause to tell you something else. My oldest son has been playing hockey since he was five. Most of our winters are spent in ice rinks, in cold Northern Minnesota towns, and bundled up in our long down winter coats. I love watching hockey! These past two years have been so fun since the boys are old enough to “check” and throw each other against the boards. It is a full on adrenaline sport, for the fans. And yes, I have been known to be that mom in the stands. One time this year, Chris, told me to take a “time out” in the lobby because I was getting a little out of hand. 

So when hockey ended he told us he wanted to play Ultimate Frisbee. We took a step back in confusion. “A frisbee? Is that actually a sport?” We asked him.

And friends not only is it a sport, but one with the sweetest touches of kindness. At first I wasn’t too interested in attending his all-day tournaments as I longed for the high-impact adrenaline-pumping-hockey. Until I finally saw it with my own eyes. 

I sat on the sidelines in my chair and watched what actually is a very physical and demanding sport. There are chants and language and rules I know nothing about, but it is actually intriguing and fun to watch.

It is what happens at the end of the game, when these fifteen-year-old boys are done, is what moves me the most. Instead of the usual line up and shake each other’s hands at the end of the game, these boys wrap their long arms around each other in a circle. 

Both teams.

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They chant and yell and intertwine their arms like brothers. And the winning team? They choose one boy on the losing team as the “player of the game!”

They cheer and yell and hold him up with esteem and love. 

When I saw this I wanted to stand up and yell, “YES! YES!”

This is what I long for more of in this world, this is what this next book of mine, this is what it is about. 

Us as women, stopping the competitive game of throwing insults and judgement at each other, but looking deep into each other’s eyes and looking past the outer appearance into each other’s heart. 

Letting go of the masks and realizing that every one of us is fighting some sort of battle. 

That every one of us struggles in some way. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose, and most of the time that isn’t what matters. What matters is that we really begin to see each other.

I want to see women instead of jealousy and gossip, lifting each other up like these teenage boys do and carrying each other on our shoulders.

Yes. Yes.

Because women…we need each other.

And what I realized as I interviewed woman after woman is that none of us feel brave in the moment. Very rarely do we feel beautiful. And most of the time we feel like I did when I received that call, that I will be found out, that someone will realize I am not all that great. 

When I began to write and interview and look underneath the masks I saw some of the bravest and most beautiful women I have ever met. This book is their stories.

It is your stories. It is my story.  It is what happens when we stop the comparing game and look deeper.

And when we do this, we see each other. We hurt with each other. And most importantly we lift each other up on our shoulders and cheer each other on. We say YES. You ARE BRAVE. Yes. You are Beautiful. 

Brave is the New Beautiful – The Courage to Be the Real You will release in March of 2017.

My gift and offering to all of the women in this world who need encouragement, and hope, and a cheering section.

Because that is all of us.

Yes. All of us. You and Me. 

 You are more powerful than you know; you are beautiful just as you are.” — Melissa Etheridge

xo

Lee

What I Have Learned From Recovery From an Eating Disorder #NEDAwareness

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

What I have learned through recovery from an eating disorder…

I have learned, that it was never about food.

It was never about my body. The (lack of) food was the drug to numb the overwhelming emotions, to punish a little girl that never felt good enough. To keep her in line. To not let her live within the wiggly lines of real life.

Recovery has taught me:

How to be messy. How to live in the grey areas of uncertainty and not knowing.

How to allow myself to be human. To make mistakes. To forgive myself and others.

Recovery has brought me not only a softness around my skin (which I like), but a softness around my heart. A compassion for others, because when I was in the rigid rules of the eating disorder, I could not see anything beyond my own fear.

The more I take care of myself, and nourish my soul, the more I am able to love and care for others.

The more I am attuned to the world around me and the needs of those in my life.

Whereas, when I was in the eating disorder, my life was about protection, about people not getting too close, about keeping secrets and hiding.

It is lonely inside the cage of an eating disorder.

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Recovery is a grand colorful room where friends and people who I let into my life are standing right beside me, walking with me, holding my hand.

But don’t be fooled, recovery is not a free fall into the whimsy of life. I have learned how to set clear boundaries and to have a voice in my world.

To love when it is appropriate and to use my voice and the word “No” when I need protection.

My voice. My life. My choices.

Recovery has brought me an ability to love deep and hard, without fear of being known. Because being known and loved despite myself is exactly how God loves me.

And how He loves you.

The world taught me otherwise and I had to re-learn love. Love, being loved and being able to love is one of the greatest gifts recovery has brought to me, and will bring to you.

And we can’t forget the body. The body that was my whipping tool, the form of my anger, sorrow, and shame.

This body in recovery offers me life and breath.

It birthed three amazing boys and tells me what it needs. As I grow older it needs more rest, and it doesn’t seem to bounce back like it used to, but I listen to it. I take care of it and we are friends. Finally, after so much loathing, we hold hands and walk through life together, me and my body.

I celebrate it.

I hold it.

I thank it.

And finally, what recovery has brought me more than anything is a passion and zest for life.

For living and being in the fullness of every day.

Once I lived in the darkness of my pit. Where I hung curtains, put a couch and some chairs and made a home there.

But life isn’t meant to be lived in the pit.

Life is meant to be lived in the fullness of everyday. Where there is great and horrible pain and ecstatic and soul filling joy. It is risky, to live in recovery because I can guarantee you…it is not a straight line of perfection or control. It is glorious. It is challenging. It is beautiful.

With God holding me and guiding me, life on the other side of an eating disorder is absolutey 100% worth it.

I promise. 

xo

Lee

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Where Have I Been… and Exciting News!

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

It doesn’t look like it, but I have been writing. Lots and lots of writing.

And change.

Lots and lots of change.

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Please forgive me for not writing here, my precious space to share my thoughts, hopes, and encouragement to you…my faithful readers and friends.

In September I left my job after almost nine years at the Melrose Center. Thinking I needed a change and hoping God had something in mind, a few weeks into October, it was clear He did.

I started working at Beauterre Recovery Institute (and write content here) in marketing as I wanted to take a break from patient care to focus on my writing. I thought this job would allow me space to do so.

I just didn’t realize it would actually happen, but it did. I received a book contract in October!!! Wooohooo! 

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To my amazement someone actually wants me to write a book again!

Table in the Darkness (hey if you read it and enjoyed it, would you write a review on Amazon? I would soo appreciate it!) was no blockbuster, so I really thought my writing career was done. I actually thought they had made a mistake when they contacted me with the contract!

But now it is real and the manuscript (which hasn’t yet been completed) is due at the end of February!! Yikes!

What does this mean? It means I could use your prayers. I could use your support. I am more scared than ever! It is one thing to write one book…but two? Book one I spent over nine years writing! I have lots of doubts and fears and I am hoping and praying and TRUSTING that God has a plan here.

While I was changing jobs and working on the proposal for book #2, I have had such a fun time freelance writing for some local magazines. I have met some of the coolest people through this writing adventure. Here are some of the things I have been busy writing:

Young Fencer

Boot Camp

Sports Bags

Smart Homes

Flip Flop Pilgram

(Plus a few more fun ones to come!)

In the mean time, I will not be writing here until I finish that manuscript! I hope you understand…but at the end of February I will be back to write here.

The book will be released in Spring of 2017 an more details to follow once I finish it. Thank you again for your prayers and support.

xo

Lee

 

 

 

Do You Need a Cheering Section?

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

“Who is cheering for me?” she said.

She was up all night asking this question with tears falling down her face. Her husband sleeping next to her while he rested for the marathon he would run the next day. Her family ready to cheer him on.

And she held this question in her hands wondering.

“Who is cheering for me?”

My heart ached when I heard her say this, because I wanted to reassure and fix her. I am cheering for you.

I wanted to tell her, “I think you are amazing. I think you are kind, tender-hearted and such a great mom. I admire the passion you put into your children and the way you live your life!”

I wanted to tell her these things.

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I wanted to explain to her the impact just her being herself makes on this world.

I want to tell her that while she runs another carpool, or runs another load of laundry or dishes, we…the women who know and love her, are cheering for her.

That fighting through this crazy thing called life and motherhood and just being a woman itself, deserves a medal.

I posted a picture on Facebook on Sunday announcing my exciting news that I have another book coming out in 2017. I pondered posting it. Because I don’t want anyone seeing that news of mine and thinking, “What about me?”

Because I do that. You do that. And I know as women WE do that.

But, what you don’t see in this world of social media and highlight reels is that we desperately need each other. We need a cheering section. I need a cheering section. You don’t see the struggle behind the photo, the insane amount of doubt and fear I have. The constant question I toil over, “Who do I think I am that I can write a book!” The crazy way I can make my own good news, not good news.

I only am able to do any of life because of my cheering section.

My friends, family, and God who know the messy me and still say, “GO FOR IT! YOU CAN DO IT!”

Jealousy robs us of community and togetherness. It keeps us isolated. It keeps us alone. I can get caught up in it so often. Why can’t I do what she is doing? Why can’t I have what she has? Why can’t my life be as easy as hers?

Ugggh.

It is a mirage. It isn’t real.

To imagine that any of us are without pain and suffering is to build a wall of denial about what it is like to truly live in this world.

As women, we can be the worst and meanest about it.

We need to drop the act. Drop the image that we all have it together.

Because we don’t. None of us do.

We are ALL merely stumbling along in this life trying to figure it out.

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So can’t we be a cheering section for each other? Can’t we instead of saying, “Oh, I want what you have.” Say, “You go girl!” Let’s hold up signs for each other, let’s encourage each other, and when one of us is beaming with joy and happy news…. let us scream and cheer and bear hug each other.

Women, we are each other’s cheering section! Let’s BE that for each other.

xo - Lee

The Dangers of Referring to Anorexia as a Habit

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

I recently finished reading a powerful and helpful book called The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.

It is a GREAT book. He describes the habit loop like this:

Habits are powerful: They create neurological cravings. Most of the time these cravings emerge so gradually that we’re not really aware they exist, we’re often blind to their influence. But as we associate cues with certain rewards, a subconscious craving emerges in our brains that starts the habit loop spinning.” Says Duhigg

We have all been there with habits right? Why we continue some bad habits and are able to break others has a lot to do with our brain. I am not denying that.

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A recent study came out identifying a part in an anorexic’s brain lighting up in the habit region.

Both the anorexic and the healthy women showed activation in an area known as the ventral striatum, part of the brain’s reward center. But the anorexic women showed more activity in the dorsal striatum, and area involved with habitual behavior, suggesting that rather than weighing the pros and cons of the foods in question, they were acting automatically based on past learning.” – NY Times

(Time magazine also wrote about it here.)

While I agree with this finding and that the brain most likely is activated this region, I find a great deal of difficulty and harm with creating theories from a study such as this.

Here are the five holes I find in this study:

1. Tiny study. Only 42 women were studied. You cannot just pick out 21 people with anorexia and categorize them all the same. That would be like taking 21 blondes and saying they are all the same. So much more goes into making someone an anorexic and I can assure you from experience, you can NOT simply narrow it down to habit.

2. Depression. It is quite unclear sometimes which arises first, depression or an eating disorder. For me, depression came first, which then led me not to eat. This study suggests, “The anorexic women were more likely than the healthy women to choose low-fat, low-calorie foods and they were less apt to rate high-fat, high-calorie foods as “tasty,” the study found.” – NY Times

For me, this was due to two factors: 1. Severe depression causing me to find NOTHING as tasty. 2. The onslaught of media telling me not to eat certain foods so my brain saw those foods as “bad”. Then when I ate those foods I felt “bad”.

3. Trauma. The article states that, “It helps to explain why treatments we expect to work like antidepressants and cognitive therapy, don’t work very well.”- NY Times 

No, these don’t work very well because so many with eating disorders have a history of trauma.

There have been several studies done to demonstrate a correlation between individuals who have had traumatic experiences who later develop eating disorders. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often a co-occurrence with persons who suffer from an eating disorder. Those who have experienced traumatic events may engage in an eating disorder to self- manage the feelings and experiences related to PTSD.” – National Eating Disorders Association

Until the trauma is dealt with patients need to be offered different modalities of therapy such as working with a trauma therapist, EMDR or other therapies, antidepressants and cognitive therapy will not help. This isn’t just do to this one thing as the researchers are saying.

4. Food. Eating disorders are not about food. Alcoholism is not about alcohol. It is about what is going on to need the lack of food, the abundance of food, or the alcohol. To simplify it to trying to change someone’s habit, is misinformed and continues to spread information to people that is not accurate. I am not denying habit might be involved, but simplifying it to one thing is quite dangerous.

5. Boot Straps. Do you know what happens when studies like this come out? People read them and think they found an answer. When I was deep in my eating disorder, many people told me to “just stop”. Or to, “pull myself up by the boot straps.” Do you know what that did to me? Filled me with enormous shame and sent me to wanting to die. Why couldn’t I eat? Why couldn’t I just stop? What was wrong with me while the rest of the world was able to go along their merry way eating and living? I described this in detail in my book, Table in the Darkness: A Healing Journey Through an Eating Disorder.  Eating disorders are mental illnesses and extraordinarily complex.

Researchers are finding that eating disorders are caused by a complex interaction of genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological, and social factors.”  National Institute of Mental Health

I urge anyone who reads this study to take it with a massive grain of salt. There are many missing pieces here and if it were as simple as this researcher was saying, then this many people would be able to break the habit right?

In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life.” – NEDA

Instead, I believe it is a whole person approach. Dealing with the trauma, the cognitive thoughts, the habits, the lifestyle, the shame, and the values of the person. Plus soooo much more. These studies make something complex look so simple and I find dangerous to publish so freely.

Recovery IS possible, but it is not as simple as “breaking a habit.”

If it were this easy, this wouldn’t be so funny!

xo

Lee

 

 

 

 

 

The Sacred Act Of Returning

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

The word returning was impressed into my mind after attending a fascinating workshop this weekend.

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It can mean returning to an addictive behavior or a destructive person. It makes me think about this verse:

As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.” Proverbs 26:11 (NLT)

Well, that is one way to look at it.

This is SO TRUE in my own life, returning to the things that harm and hurt me. As if they somehow comfort me.

That our suffering and our pain feels as if it is our breath and our lot in life.

So we return.

I do it. We all do it.

Return to making poor decisions, and returning again and again to the parts we despise about ourselves. For those in early recovery, this is the most excruciating part of trying to overcome an eating disorder or substance abuse. The body and mind become so used to the abuse, so used to the negative coping skill the lines begin to blur. What is wrong is right and what is right is wrong. We fall into that deep pit of shame, feeling hopeless and unsalvageable, returning again and again.

But what if there is another returning that brings us life?

A returning of hope.

What if instead of returning yet again to the destruction and abusive patterns, we return to something different. Something deep in us that says, Today. Is new. Today I get another chance to try again.

The speaker at this workshop asked me, “Lee, how many chances would you give your children?”

“Five million!” I answered.

“I would never run out of chances for them. I would never NOT return. Because my love for them is deeper than anything I have ever known.”

So then, isn’t there a God above that does that for us?

My first answer, honestly, is no. Not for me. I am too messed up. Made too many mistakes. Said too many things. I need to be better and then He will return.

No.

He is here now.

He doesn’t move. It is ME who needs to do the returning. Me who needs to accept the grace and trust. Me who needs to walk away from the shame and the guilt and return to this:

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Return to GRACE. Return to Truth.

So instead today of returning to the old habits and old ways, instead of returning to the self-hatred and isolation, return to Him.

Come back. It doesn’t matter if you fall a million times or If you fail a trillion times.

What matters is that you return, return to the one that loves you.

I am working on this too.

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Won’t you join me?

xo Lee

The Pathology of Silence and Patrick Kennedy’s Courage to Break It

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

There is a silent code within many families, and it is not in relation to one’s status or wealth.

I am referring to the pathology of silence that encompasses a family when mental illness or addiction is present.

Don’t tell. Don’t share. It makes us (the family) look bad.

Patrick Kennedy bravely broke through the conspiracy of silence by sharing his own struggle with mental illness and addiction in a profound and heartwarming segment on 60 minutes. Watch Here.  And he wrote about in his recently published book, A Common Struggle.

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While my own family did not have the social pressure or peering eyes that the Kennedy’s have, I relate and applauded his story and his courage.

When I was struggling with my eating disorder and depression as I wrote about in my book, Table in the Darkness, I was adamant that no one know. My family adhered to my wishes, as I am pretty sure they didn’t want anyone to know either. Yet, the silence of keeping my struggles hidden was only reflective of a family system that on the outside was so well put together, but on the inside was full of dark tunnels, secret struggles, and happy smiles.

Don’t tell. Don’t share.

As I watched Patrick bravely share his story, 8 points that he highlighted to clearly combat the pathology of silence struck me.

These 8 truths are applicable to mental illness, addiction, and eating disorders. (Patrick’s quotes have been pulled from The CBS 60 Minutes script from “Patrick Kennedy” which aired on October 4, 2015. Lesley Stahl is the correspondent. Rich Bonin, producer.)

  1. Silence.

When people have these illness being silent about them is almost as bad as the disease.” Says Patrick.

Silence only perpetuates this idea that any of this is a moral failure, or something wrong with the person. Many debate this idea of “is it a choice” ? (FANTASTIC article debating this HERE.)

But, please remember…no one wants depression, an addiction, or an eating disorder. It is a tortuous way to live and despite returning to the abuse over and over (relapsing), many are desperate to break free. Creating a cloud of silence regarding the person struggling only perpetuates an already painful shame and stigma so present in our culture.

It’s a conspiracy of silence, not only for the person who is suffering, but for everyone else who’s forced to interact with that person. That’s why they call this a family disease.” Kennedy continues.

  1. My story.

This is my story. These experiences are embedded in me. They’re who I am.” Says Kennedy.

Often people who struggle are afraid to share their stories, as they don’t want to embarrass or shame family members. I struggled tremendously with this tension when I wrote mine. But, I tried to be true to my own story. What I knew to be true. I had to accept the fact that not everyone would be comfortable with me telling my story, but to me…helping someone struggling became more important than keeping the silence.

It is about taking care of all of us. Because these are Americans. They’re dying every day. And they’re our brothers and sisters.” He says.

  1. Unprocessed Trauma.

Many reoccurring relapses can be traced to unprocessed trauma.

Early-childhood trauma is strongly associated with developing mental health problems, including alcohol dependence, later in life. People with early-life trauma may use alcohol to help cope with trauma-related symptoms.” - National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol

“My father when on in silent desperation for much of his life, self-medicating and unwittingly passing his unprocessed trauma onto my sister, brother, and me.” – Patrick Kennedy says. 

  1. Shame.

Addicts will act as if they don’t care. They will often have extreme apparent competence (apparent competence refers to outwardly being able to cope and seeming in control, while inwardly being completely lost, or mentally unwell). But underneath is an ocean of shame. That shame is perpetuated when family members won’t talk about the illness, when people hide it, and when friends don’t want to talk about it.

Shame is a painful emotion responding to a sense of failure to attain some ideal state. Shame encompasses the entire self.”- Psychology Today

The shame just becomes…. you know, I just understood this was not something that you want anyone to see. I know so many of them who can’t talk about their own family’s illnesses. The pathology of silence infects you. And that is sickening to your soul.” – Patrick says tearfully.

  1. Stuff it under the rug.

Put on a smile, look pretty, and just act like ladies act was how we dealt with pain in my family. And it only fed the beast of my eating disorder and propelled me to hide my true self even more.

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Pervasive in families with addiction and mental illness, when the pathology of silence is present, is this constant pushing under the rug.  Not talking about problems. Not discussing the elephant in the room. Which only perpetuates this problem.

We were living in limbo land where all of this chaos, this emotional turmoil, was happening. And we were just expected to live through it.” – Says Patrick

  1. Escape and relief.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this phrase, “Oh I wish I had an eating disorder!” Or “Wow, they (someone on a drinking or drug binge) must have had quite the party.” The truth is, it isn’t glamorous. It is used to numb out, escape, and find relief.

When someone is fully entrenched in the disease there is no more fun involved.

This is about relieving the pain. People have this mistaken notion that you get high. What you are really getting is relief from the low.” – Patrick explains

  1. Co-Occurring.

It was difficult for my treatment providers to asses. Which came first, the depression or the Anorexia? Instead of thinking of this as the chicken or the egg, instead imagine it like wack-a-mole. One rears it’s head and the other goes down. Both need to be treated. Sobriety also meant Patrick could metabolize his bi-polar medication better, he was more likely to take his meds, and treat his whole self better (including his mental health) when he was sober. A person with an eating disorder will potentially have less anxiety and depression when they are nourishing their bodies and/or refraining from using symptoms. (GREAT article HERE.)

  1. In Recovery.

“Are you recovered?” People always ask me. Yes. And I am IN recovery. I am always one step away from a relapse just as an alcoholic is one step away. Does this mean I will tomorrow? No. Yesterday I celebrated 20 years of freedom. I do whatever it takes for me to protect my recovery. I am vigilant about it. I am living IN recovery. (Oh the semantics of this word.) To me recovery encompasses many areas of my life, not just eating. It is physical, mental, psychological, social and spiritual.

 I am an addict. I will always be an addict. But I am an addict in recovery.” - Patrick finishes.

I say it like this; I am Lee. I struggled with an eating disorder and depression. The eating disorder no longer bangs on my door, depression rears its ugly head every so often, but I live IN recovery. I protect my recovery just as an addict does. I take care of my mental health. I do what I can to make sure I stay IN recovery.

So, may you be encouraged by Patrick Kennedy’s courage and begin to break your own pathology of silence.

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Tell someone you are struggling. Tell a friend, tell your therapist. Reach out. You will be so glad you did. Or if a family member is, break the silence!

xo

Lee

When We Box Each Other In

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

Boxes are so tidy. You can see all sides. They are one-dimensional and really there isn’t much more to say about them. It is what it is.

The same is true when we do that with people, this putting people in boxes.

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We tidy them up in our minds and slap a label on them. We all do it. It helps us organize our thoughts. People do it to me all the time and it makes me crazy!

Here are some examples of the boxes I get put in:
You are a Christian so you must vote for…. fill in the blank.
You live in that community so you must be rich.
You are peppy so you must always be happy.
You struggled with an eating disorder so you must still struggle with food.
You say Jesus so you must not be any fun.

None of these are true.

Recently I attended my 25-year high school reunion and felt the boxes. A great deal of this came from the fact that old classmates now see each other on Facebook. (Here is more about the Lie of Facebook.)

We see the highlight reel.

I did it too. We don’t really know the behind the scenes, so we create stories in our heads about each other. It almost felt like we didn’t even need to talk to each other, because everyone had crafted their own stories based off of social media. And then many of us kept saying, “Oh you look the same!”

25 years…none of us are the same! Goodness I hope not!

I found this to be a barrier to the normal process of conversation. It was as if we had to remove the walls of what people perceive us to be to show who we really are. I didn’t want to think I knew what was going on with someone based on their Facebook feed, but in my head it helped organize these ideas of each other.

And then I reminded myself, only through spending time with each other, with talking and looking each other in the eye do we find out what is really going on. How someone is changing and growing and living. You can’t quite do that by scrolling a news feed. What a joy it was to spend time really hearing what was going on with people and learning about their lives now!

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Hey look, we all do it. I do and you do too.

But, what happens when we build these boxes and draw people in these lines is, we make them static.

We make them un-bendable and unchangeable.

I don’t know about y you, but every day I live, I am trying to not be static. I want to grow and change and be challenged. I want to fall on my face and make mistakes and try all over again. I want to try new things and meet new people.

Recently someone said to me, “Oh I didn’t want to say anything because I know you don’t like conflict.” Or another person said, “I didn’t think you liked to hug.”
Yes. Sometimes conflict is hard, and sometimes I don’t like to hug people or touch people I don’t know very well.

AND…sometimes I like to give big huge bear hugs. Sometimes I address conflict head on with no fear. Sometimes I cuss like a sailor (I am not proud of this, but hey…sometimes it happens). Sometimes I like big parties and other times I like to go on silent retreats.

I am not a static person and nor are you.

Every day I am changing and growing. Sometimes I am nice and sometimes I am mean. I am human and I am not a fixed thing. I don’t like it when people do this to me and so I am working hard to not do it to others.

Won’t you try too? When you stop labeling and categorizing people (including yourself), you can then be curious. Curious is really fun.

If you are curious about someone you will see they are growing and changing too. They are being shaped by life and molded by experience. Be curious about each other. Stop seeing people as static news feeds and be inquiring about them.

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If we are all changing every day by rubbing up against life and experience, then don’t we all have a lot to learn from each other?

Crush the box and adopt curiosity and exploration about your friends, co-workers, and family.

I bet you will be surprised by what you learn when you dig a little deeper than the four walls of the box.

Happy Living!

xo

Lee