The following article is an excerpt from Anna Palmer’s book, Coming Home: Healing From an Eating Disorder by Finding Beauty in Imperfection. May the words here grant you deeper permission to come home to the fullness of yourself, humanness, divinity, and all. Welcome home.
Chapter 19. Finding My Voice and Sense of Home Again: Speaking Truth, Feelings, and Poems
“An Eating Disorder is about secrecy and silence. We are all silently screaming for something (love, comfort, help, escape and support). We use our bodies and behaviors to communicate instead of our voices.” ~ “The Healing Nest” blog
Trauma (and otherwise deeply challenging life experienes early on in our childhood) shape how we express—or do not express—ourselves. It shapes how safe we feel to communicate our feelings and our truth.
No matter how well intentioned our parents were, we all grew up with unmet needs (physical, emotional, or otherwise). Our needs may have been silenced, shamed, or belittled. We then come to believe our needs don’t matter enough to speak up for.
We silence our voices and true feelings, ashamed to ask for what we need. We feel paralyzed with fear and wonder if our needs for love, comfort, validation, and belonging can even be met. We strive to be less “needy.” The less needier, the better.
An Eating Disorder (ED) becomes a unique, creative way to deny our basic needs, while simultaneously serving as a way to suppress the underlying needs for love, comfort, safety, and care.
We all carry narratives and scripts based on past experience that tell us we are not worthy of being cared for or loved. These stories remain buried deep inside of us (to varying degrees). We have stories we may have never acknowledged or told anyone. These stories act as subconscious motivation for our behaviors unless we dig underneath the surface and expunge their insidious lies by remembering truth. Many of these stories feel inconceivably painful, burdensome, chaotic, and totally overwhelming.
At some point later into my recovery journey, I could feel intuitively that the ED weapons of food guilt, body shame, self-hatred, obsession, and fear were not personally my own. They were energies I felt around me as a child and ones conditioned into me. We do what feels the safest, so we identify ourselves with the energies around us.
When I questioned these beliefs, I found them to be sinister and dark. Once I remembered and began re-aligning myself to the light and truth of me, I realized they were not aligned with my highest truth.
By dismantling and releasing identification with these beliefs, we can begin to separate from them. I could see now that there was a much broader system in place seeking to control, manipulate, punish, and keep us humans feeling disempowered.
I learned how to speak up again, not just for me, my feelings, and my story this time, but for all of us.
Whether we know it yet or not, we all have a voice. We have a guiding light within us speaking to us every day, if we would just listen. It speaks to us in songs, in poems, in whispers, in nature, in subtle feelings, saying, “Listen. Listen deeper.”
There is a voice within, a voice of a spiritual, loving source and nature guiding us home to truth. First, we must explore what home is not, many times in the literal homes we were raised in. These homes were more often than not, painful, lonely, confusing, punishing, fear-inducing, unsafe, harmful, hurtful, and explosive.
Maybe, if we were lucky, there was some—or a lot—of love and consistency in our childhood homes. But because the residue of trauma runs in families through generations prior to our own and most likely remained unaddressed, most of us grew up with a sense of inconsistency in offering of love and safety.
These external homes became our inner sense of home. By the weakening of the body or mind through trauma, vulnerability, or sensitivity without proper guidance of how to discern, we learn what home feels like. Our inner landscape (self-talk and beliefs), unconsciously, becomes our new home. We build our patterns and architecture on these beliefs.
These include the beliefs of unworthiness, being deserving of pain and suffering, of having little to no value, of our needs not being worthy, of care, of shame, and of guilt. These become the four walls, foundation, and roof of our internal home.
As children, we learn what is safe to say and what is not. We censor our voices and our needs because society and our learned conditioning seek to censor and stifle us. We learn which parts of the Self have value and which parts do not. A “functional” society wants well-behaved children to stay in line and not make a fuss.
Living inside the home of painful thoughts and beliefs, we become deeply fragmented, as if our home (our bodies) is not our own anymore. The body is run by the mind’s subconscious beliefs.
It takes deep courage and a willingness to be called “crazy” or the “black sheep” to begin the work of dismantling these structures within the families and societies we were raised in. I have learned that the ED is just one manifestation of a much larger story of pain, self-preservation, and also (more long term-speaking) of self-abandonment.
Deeper truths (that brush up against our subconscious, albeit faulty beliefs) are rarely comfortable to see. They may directly challenge our conditioned beliefs.
Diet culture is one such “source” that can be questioned and interrogated for the lying, cheating, and sanity-stealing program it is:
Is fat shaming (based on changing diets every ten seconds) really a credible source? Is it?
I think not. I think we all have been told many things. Most of these “truths,” sadly are not true and were only conceived by the limited human mind, and manipulated for the benefit of structures of money, power, and control.
We have been told our bodies are not to be trusted and that we need to rely on diets, pills, drugs, and pharmaceuticals for our health. We have been told that holistic and herbal medicine is not credible, when in fact holistic medicine dates back thousands of years into lineages where healing was innately woven into the fabric of nature.
We have been told countless lies about food and our bodies. I ask of us to just take a look at how these industries make profit by making you believe your body is broken and without the wisdom to find wellness and balance. Our minds, when used unconsciously (conditioned by these money-mongering structures) are really, the not trustworthy source. That is why it is imperative to begin to question what we have learned, to become conscious, and to use our mind as a self-empowering vehicle of growth.
Corporations sure as hell don’t make a profit off of well-being and balance. Quite the opposite; by following diet culture, we nearly walk ourselves into our own graves by swallowing the pill of diet culture propaganda, which oftentimes manifests as an ED. Our health is not the only exchange for this power structure to stay in place, but also our sanity, our freedoms, and our ability to have full faculty of our own minds.
The ED can show us where we are afraid of speaking up and voicing our unique perspective. It can show us where we are afraid to voice certain feelings for fear of disturbing the peace within our own families, communities, and world at large.
Having a voice is a damn powerful thing. So, too, is reclaiming our voice. Whether we use it to write, to speak, or to sing, we can use it to spread messages of healing, truth, and love that the world so desperately needs. We can be the voices of truth.
The voice is a powerful medicine to offer ourselves and to the world. Even if for so long we didn’t know how to communicate, we can still learn now. For many years, my ED was the only safe way I knew how to express anger, sadness, and overwhelm.
What is our unique voice?
It is the voice beneath the conditioned voices replaying themselves in our heads (the inner critic, the inner police, the inner perfectionist, the inner skeptic). It’s the steadier, silent truth from within. Maybe our voice shows up as a feeling or a knowing.
Can we begin to speak and think from that deeper space?
We are not the voices around us. We were not the voices around us as children, or in our schools and traditions. A lot of these voices aren’t even our own. That is where the magic happens, when we peel back the layers of conditioning and get curious about our own unique voice and offering.
The voice is a gift to be shared with others. We all endure various traumas and life experiences so that one day, hopefully, we may become advocates for healing. We return from the trenches of darkness to become the voice that survived, to become the advocate we needed as a young girl or boy. We can speak up for those who have not yet found their voice.
Words are like spells. What we say (or don’t say) matters. We all have spells cast upon us in this human incarnating experience, which are meant to awaken us to the truth. These include spells of self-doubt, insecurity, unworthiness, perfectionism, lack, oppression, and guilt. These spells have been playing out over thousands of years.
But, with awareness, we can, in fact, cast new spells on ourselves and over the world: spells of love, healing, and truth. We only have to start practicing on ourselves and healing our own minds and hearts.
Read part one of this series: Coming Home: On Healing from an Eating Disorder.
Read part two of this series: How Eating Disorders are a way of Coping with Emotions & the Effects of Traumatic Events.
Read part three of this series: Hello Bulimia, My Secret Friend: When Food Becomes Survival & the Body the Enemy.
Read part four of this series: The Real Toxin: The Harm of our Fat-Phobic Culture.
Read part five of this series: How Eating Disorders Feed on the Insecure Self.
Read part six of this series: What Sparked my Healing Journey from an Eating Disorder.
Read part seven of this series: The Dark Side of Religion: On Religious Trauma & Body Shame.
Read part eight of this series: When Lines Blur: Journey into the Heart of an Empath.
Read part nine of this series: Spiritual Bypassing Won’t Heal You—but This Will.
Read part ten of this series: Shadow Work, the Unintegrated Ego & How to Reclaim our Wholeness.
Read part eleven of this series: The Seat of Addiction: Trauma, Emotions & the “I am not Enough” Club.
Read part twelve of this series: The Body Holds the Key: We Heal as we Feel.
Read part thirteen of this series: Reconnecting to the Divine Feminine Essence of Life.
Read part fourteen of this series: Myths of Perfectionism & Why we Need to Back the F*ck Off.
Read part fifteen of this series: Astrology & Plant Medicine: a Healing Journey “Off the Beaten Path.”
Read part sixteen of this series: Reparenting Ourselves with Loving Boundaries.
Read part seventeen of this series: The Beautiful Feeling of Coming Home to our Authentic Selves.
Read part eighteen of this series: Reintroducing Pleasure into our Lives can be so Damn Healing.