Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Journey Home

Joslyn Smith original art entitled Reclamation, 2011.

As my introductory post for WATRD, I thought I’d share a little about myself and what brings me to this point in life, so that going forward those reading my words might have a better idea of what influences the perspectives I share.

I am a thirty-something year old woman who two years ago left a career doing federal eating disorder policy work in Washington, DC and moved to the quaint countryside just outside of Ithaca, New York. I moved not having a job, much less a plan for the direction my life would take, but the move felt right and I trusted that feeling. My intention in moving to Ithaca was to direct energy toward my healing and my creative pursuits. In focusing on those parts of myself, I am tending to the very essence of who I am.

The topics I write about are informed by my personal experience as someone who has struggled with an eating disorder for over a decade, and by my professional advocacy and public policy work in the eating disorders field.

I, like the majority of people with an eating disorder, have a diagnosis of Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). What does that mean? It can mean different things for each person who struggles. For me, simply put, it means that if one were to look only at a list of the behaviors, symptoms and health consequences of my eating disorder, I fit nicely into the stereotype of what it means to be a person who has struggled with anorexia nervosa. However, my body does not fit that stereotype. My body is larger than what is, by today’s standards, associated with beauty or health. For the majority of my adult life, my body has simultaneously been large and starved. If my body were the only body for which this was the case, I might not feel as compelled to speak out. But over the years, I have learned that my body is not the exception to any rule. What I have learned is that, when it comes to eating disordered bodies, there are no rules. The two truths that I now believe hold true in relation to bodies in general – eating disordered or not – are 1) no assumptions can be made about how much or how little one eats, how well or how poorly one nourishes himself or herself, or how physically active one is based on appearance; and 2) by making such assumptions, we do damage individually and on a societal level.

My journey toward body satisfaction and health, two things that I do believe are very much intertwined, is not linear. I continue to have good body image days and bad body image days. Days when I nourish myself well and days when I struggle to give my body enough nourishment. Days when I enjoy moving my body and days when the fear of putting my body into motion keeps me very still. Days when I breathe deep, healing breaths into my body and days when holding my breath protects me – from what I’m not always sure. I am and will always be a work in progress.

As a member of the WATRD community, I will contribute thoughts and information related to eating disorders, specifically EDNOS, body satisfaction, a Health At Every Size® approach to wellness, and politics and advocacy. I will also be writing about my use of the visual arts as an explorative, healing tool in my recovery work and hope to encourage others to find creative outlets to support their own journey toward body celebration.

I am honored to share parts of my journey with the WATRD readership. I encourage anyone who wishes to to engage in dialogue here through the comments section of the blog. I’m happy to try to answer any questions and/or respond to any topics of interest that may be presented to me.

My recovery work and my work creating a fulfilling life is all about being embodied. About living fully and proudly in the fabulous body I have been given. About coming “home” to myself. In that spirit, I leave you with these words from Mary Chapin-Carpenter’s song Almost Home:

I’m not running/ I’m not hiding/ I’m not reaching/ I’m just resting in the arms of the great wide open/ Gonna pull my soul in/ And I’m almost home.

Comments

7 Responses to “My Journey Home”
  1. Cindy Bulik says:

    I look forward to hearing more Joslyn, you bring so many rich perspectives together!

  2. Julie Johnson says:

    Post was very enlightening. I look forward to future contributions!

  3. Excited to read more of your thoughts and posts.

  4. Dianne Neumark-Sztainer says:

    Joslyn, Best of luck with your beautiful artwork and blogging. And thanks for all you do for our work. Dianne

  5. Jeannette says:

    I can’t wait to read more!

  6. As always, Joslyn, your truth has touched my soul. Thank you for having the courage to write this blog and for sharing so openly and honestly with us…we have much to learn from your journey!

  7. Margo Maine says:

    Thanks Joslyn for your continued devotion to bring the issues related to EDNOS and the fact that eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes out of the closet. Your artwork and your activism inspire and have shed much light on this complicated subject. Keep doing all of this- you are making the world a better place.

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