Friday, December 4, 2009


A typical scene at the Barber household:
Me, puttering around the kitchen, pacing between the kitchen, my bedroom, up and down the stairs, huffing and puffing, agitated, removed, lost in thought, and what I would call, "stuck in my head."

Then Ashley, my wonderful sister who says, "All right. Let the gremlins out."

She's good like that. She's good at recognizing when I'm not saying something and when I really need to talk, but don't ask for it. One time she told me that she could tell by the sound of my voice whether I had just thrown up or not. I would call to tell her because I needed to be held accountable and she'd just know before I said anything at all.

I imagine the gremlins in my head look something like this:

They don't look so intimidating when I let them out. Really, those gremlins look pretty pathetic. But when they're caged inside my head, they wreak havoc, plunder open spaces, and create problems the longer they stay inside. These critters need room to run around and hopefully, run away. Containing them hurts too much.

Anne Lamott uses the metaphor of dirty laundry that just stinks the longer it's kept inside. Our stained and pungent clothing needs fresh spring air and room to breathe before we'd dare let it back inside.

At one point I imagined all of my burdens as a humongous rock I could barely carry on my back.

Yeah, something like that. Something like the weight of the world seeming to hold me down. I realized though that each time I shared a bit of the burden it felt lighter. Once my mom gave her final warning saying that if I didn't gain back my lost weight due to anorexia, I would need to see an eating disorder counselor. I had to talk about this. I had to put out my dirty laundry. I had to share my dirt. I had to talk about it. I had to give away pieces of the burden one conversation at a time.

I told my first counselor, Jane, and cried.
I told my friend Sandy and cried.
I told my sister and cried.
I told my friend Tiffany and cried.
I told my friend Rachael and cried.
I told my friend Katelyn and teared up.
I told a new counselor, Teresa, and learned.
I told my friend Tyler and was ashamed.
I told my friend Chris and looked the other way.
I wrote a blog about it and was supported, even half-way around the world.
I wrote emails about it and learned how to support others.
I told Polly and Fay.
I told Jeremy.
I spoke to 1,500 people at Union college and triumphed.
I wrote a book about it and have yet to experience its publication, but if it's anything like the 10,000 other steps that have brought me here, I feel pretty good about it.

I've made a fantastic discovery, something I've never believed as much at any other point in my life: I need people.

Revolutionary, I know. Maybe not your typical life-changing discovery, but incredibly important to me nonetheless.

If I keep this all inside it looks something like this:
I am worthless.
I am useless.
I am ugly.
I am fat.
I am stupid.
I am not trying hard enough.
I am hopeless.
I am beyond help.
I am going crazy.
I am unloveable.
I am not enough.

On a day like today, I can tell you most assuredly that those things are not true. Those are lies. That is unfair. I would never talk to anyone the way I justify talking to myself. I can tell you that today. I couldn't tell you that 3 years ago. I couldn't tell you that 3 weeks ago. I might not be able to tell you that tomorrow. But I'm learning, slowly, that I do not have to be what I've been. I can change. I can create change. That's what I'm trying to do today.

Giant stride.
Three tumbles backwards.
One saunter in the right direction.
Confident strides.
Spiral downward.

It's a journey that never ceases to surprise me and humble me. I can talk to people about my fears, my doubts, my worries, my inadequacies, as well as, my joys, my triumphs, my successes, and my proudest moments, because those need to be shared as well.

The gremlins are coming out.


Ashley said...

Yay, for letting the gremlins run free!

Hannah said...

I loved this :-) Gremlins, indeed. They are pesky creatures :-(

Sadie said...

Heather, I look up to you a lot. Thanks for all of your help. Whether I was writing to you about my broken heart or seeking advice you were always there to listen. Happy Sabbath, friend. I miss you.

Chheangly said...

You really think much. I am lost in your thoughts.

Chheangly said...

You really think deep. I am totally lost in your thoughts