What on earth have I just signed myself up for?
This was the question which blared through my mind, after hanging up a Skype call with my dad who was in Perth, Australia.
Have I really agreed to do this? To fly from London to Melbourne, twenty-two hours in total, to attend some seminar called Relationships & You? Have I?
Well, yes. Yes I had. And truthfully, I had no real clue as to why I had agreed to do it – at first. I’d heard a bit about what MJB Seminars are, as a business, and I’d watched a few of Mitch’s videos. He seemed an affable kind of guy; expressive with his hands, energetic tone of voice, enthusiastic about his discussion topic in each video, engaging eye contact through the camera lens.
But beyond these observations, I knew only what my dad had told me about his own experiences of going through MJB’s Relationships & You, Letting It Go, and Student Teacher Prophet seminars. Even then, all I’d got was a rough sketch of his experiences.
Yet when Dad offered me the opportunity to attend an MJB seminar, the word yes was out of my mouth before I’d really thought it through.
If anything, I’m the complete opposite. I overthink things so much sometimes that I freeze with indecision, caught in my mental whirring and err-ing. And if I do manage to eventually break that cannot-compute-cycle, the opportunity has normally passed, which lets me off the hook. So why had I suddenly agreed to do this, of all things?
I needed to take this opportunity to confront those insidious thoughts which whispered that I wasn’t worth it, that I wasn’t loveable, and which made me feel restless and anxious. I needed to shoo the monkey off my back, to start smoothing those chips on my shoulder.
I needed to give it a go. Nothing else had helped me to accomplish this so far, and I was becoming frustrated with being stuck in that boring rut.
I’d been in treatment for anorexia nervosa since September 2015, as both an inpatient in a mental hospital for about six months and as an outpatient for another six, and I believed I had the whole “let’s talk about feelings” shindig sorted.
Don’t get me wrong, psychotherapy and group therapy and family therapy had helped me through some of my toughest times; medical intervention had ensured that I didn’t travel any further down the self-destructive path I’d started to follow.
Yet none of my long-term issues ever felt completely challenged or resolved during those twelve months. It seemed like a delaying tactic, a period of procrastination, a plaster over an old emotional scar – a plaster which claimed itself to be waterproof, but had started to peel at the edges. It was buying me time to pretend, to reclaim my physical health but not my emotional.
By going through Relationships & You, I was finally able to say aloud the words that I had needed to say for so many years. I was able to ask “Why wasn’t I enough?” I was empowered to feel brave enough to question the abandonment and hurt of the past, to square up to emotions which had minutes before seemed gargantuan, intimidating figures too big for me to conquer alone.
But most importantly, I no longer attacked myself with the blame and shame I had heaped upon myself for suffering from anorexia in the first place.
I had told myself this like a mantra, over and over. It was my deepest, darkest truth. Until… suddenly it wasn’t. What I had previously told myself I felt and thought suddenly seemed unsubstantial, rooted in incorrect assumptions and preconceptions. I was liberated by this realisation, that I could shed these soul corroding self-beliefs.
Call it what you will – a light bulb moment, a eureka moment, an epiphany – but this new knowledge that I could feel different about myself made me physically lighter. It was the same as resurfacing from underwater, after having held a breath for too long.
Although counselling had cracked open the proverbial door for me to start speaking about my perceived problems with food and body image concerns, whilst urging me to open up and communicate better with family members, I didn’t feel any innate changes within myself. I had nodded along and superficially agreed that of course, yeah, sure I’ll do all that terrifying stuff you’re recommending.
And I did try, cautiously testing some of their methods – which if successful led to short-term changes, or if unsuccessful changed nothing at all. However throughout my efforts, I had subconsciously continued to resist acknowledging my need to address the gritty stuff, the issues which still weighed heavily in the pit of my stomach.
Like I said, it was the easy way of tricking myself into believing I was shedding the ‘big baggage’, when all I was doing was adjusting its weight higher up my back.
It was a palpable sensation, this change in both my mind and heart, unlike anything I have experienced before.
Now I can look back at events within my life, and I don’t consider them horrendous injustices inflicted upon me, harmful and hurtful moments that will poison all my current and future relationships, forever threatening to drag me back under. Nor would I say that they were absolutely fantastic experiences, during which I had bundles of fun with lots of laughter. Because neither perspective is the truth.
Any heartache I lived through before having anorexia helped me to fight to live, when there were moments I thought my eating disorder might eventually kill me. Before I had stepped a single foot into that mental hospital, I was armoured with what I needed to survive and recover.
I can now wholeheartedly say that I would never in a million years change any of my relationships with my family members, take away any sadness or tears, and I would never choose to have led a life without anorexia. I am thankful for each moment, each lesson and each encounter.
I am the strong, kind, adventurous, resilient, loving and loved person I am today because of all I have ever experienced. And I would never change that.
By Erin Miren
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