My Speech from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Walk
Hosted by the Tri-State Eating Disorder Resource Team
September 10, 2016
Glenwood Gardens, Cincinnati
Transcript of My Speech
Good morning! My name is Britt Melton and I am recovered from Binge Eating Disorder. Thank you so much for coming out this morning to walk. Whether you walk in memory of a loved one or in honor of a friend, your being here is important. Because it means that there is hope and hope is what I really want to talk to you about today.
In reflecting on my recovery, I determined that hope for me is a puzzle made up of five pieces, the first of which is…
A little over four years ago, I had moved back to Ohio with my husband and young son. We bought a beautiful house, I was driving a brand new car, my son was in private school and my husband had an amazing new job. I sat in this beautiful house and I cried. I cried because it was six months until my 40th birthday and I couldn’t bare the thought of one more diet. I cried because my mind and my heart raced and I didn’t think either would ever slow down. But mostly, I cried because I knew I was using food as a drug to get me through my seemingly perfect life and I didn’t know how to stop.
On July 20, 2012, I did the bravest thing I have ever done…I walked into my therapist’s office for the first time.
If you are new to recovery, I won’t stand here and tell you that it will be easy, because it won’t. Recovery is the curviest, bumpiest, detour laden road you will ever travel. There will be days when you are driving along with the top down, radio blasting, smile on your face and a road block will come out of nowhere. There will be days you swear the transmission is stuck in reverse and your foot is duct taped to the gas! But then one day, you will come around a curve and find a scenic overlook of a distant place where hope lives and you will be reminded that the good outweighs the bad and that this is a fight worth fighting, that you are worth fighting for. So you will pull back onto the road, a little more cautiously this time, and you will keep driving.
About 6 months into my recovery I walked into my first yoga class. Two things happened that day: first, I found what my body had been longing for on my mat. I finally understood what my therapist meant by “movement for the joy of movement.” On my mat, I can forget about the world around me and truly connect mind, body and soul. The second thing I found, was my people. Through yoga, I found like-minded, genuine women all on similar searches for a little peace in their lives. This brings me to my second puzzle piece…FIND YOUR TRIBE! Seek out those who lift you up, who light you up, who fill you with love. This life is too short to waste on anything less. My tribe is made up of these women, of my amazing husband and my son, my therapist who I count as one of the greatest blessings in my life and all the people who inspire me - the family, friends, authors, speakers, do-gooders, and recovery workers.
18 months into recovery, I sat in front of my computer scared to death to hit the publish button on a blog telling my story to the world. On January 1, 2014, I started Oh, How She Blooms and announced my eating disorder to the universe…or at least anyone with an internet connection and a desire to read a girl’s blog about her eating disorder. I kept telling myself that if i could just help one person to not feel alone in their struggle, than my eating disorder would have served a higher purpose. By starting my blog, I discovered the third piece of the puzzle…SPEAK YOUR TRUTH!
My truth may sound similar to yours, it may not. But the beauty of your truth is that it is yours and yours alone. So when you strive to look like the girl on the magazine cover or act like a perfect child, you will always fail, because there is no such thing as perfection. And by trying to be perfect, you are denying the world the gift of you.
Part of discovering your true authentic self is remembering, or maybe figuring out for the very first time, what really makes you happy. The fourth puzzle piece is SEEK JOY! Take time to notice what makes your heart sing. For me it is yoga, dance, music, photography, traveling, and the ocean.
This brings me to the final piece of the recovery puzzle which is to simply SHOW UP! The brilliant author Brené Brown is part of my tribe, whether she wants to be or not! Her books are extraordinary. In her book, Daring Greatly, she includes this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
So remember that by showing up today, you are daring greatly. It does not matter how much victory or how much loss is in your life right now. The only thing that matters is that you are in the arena. Hope lives in the arena. And those who have hope, have everything.
My heart and the sea seem to somehow be connected. I think one reason I love to travel is that the wanderlust in my soul craves finding a spot on the map that feels like coming home.
This morning I sat in a beach chair staring at the ocean and said to my husband and son, "I am certain that when I die, Heaven will be me sitting in a beach chair on this beach staring at this ocean." It is, quite simply, my favorite place on earth.
The mountains of Virginia still make my heart skip a beat and will always be my original home. But even as I grew up there, trips to the beaches of North Carolina were frequent. It is where we vacationed as a family and where I learned that the sea heals my soul.
Two years ago, I traveled to Tulum, Mexico for the first time. Although I had never been there before, it was as if I had been homesick for this place my whole life. I remember telling my best friend that it was a feeling that was hard to explain, but it felt like coming home.
To me, nature is God's church. I have never felt as spiritually connected in a sanctuary as I do staring at vast open water. It's as if I settle into myself in a way that quiets me to the bone. In this silence, I feel connected. I feel most like me. I can truly let the sea carry my troubles away.
Last weekend I heard a master yogi speak. He had so much wisdom, but one closing remark he made has been looping in my mind like a song on repeat:
"If you give your burdens to God, God will take them away. If you give your burdens to Guru, Guru will take them away. But the point is, you must give your burdens away!" - Yogi Amrit Desai
So whether it is the sea, the mountains, the altar or the yoga mat, find the place where you come home to yourself. Settle into the stillness and give your burdens away!
It isn’t even December yet and the talk of holiday weight gain and New Year’s resolutions to lose those extra pounds has already begun. It is my least favorite part of the holiday season. Social media, advertisers and brainwashed friends alike spread the message of guilt and fear and self loathing like it is completely normal to belittle ourselves and proclaim out loud that we are not enough. There are some people who simply get an eye roll from me when I hear a passing remark, but there are others who bring me to tears. I spent so many years feeling like the holidays were merely an excuse to be off my diet until January 1st. I frantically ate myself through family get togethers, all the while worried sick about what it would take to undo it all in the New Year. It is a horrible way to live. Even for those without eating disorders, disordered eating or eating with fear is no way to celebrate what you are thankful for and what you wish for the upcoming year.
I have a crazy idea. You will think I have completely lost my mind, but please read on just a little further.
What if we loved ourselves enough to nourish our bodies as well as our minds and our spirits.
What if we had that piece of pie and were fully present while we savored each bite and soaked in the giggles in the background.
What if we listened to what the people around us were saying rather than checking our FitBit.
What if we went for a walk because the sun was shining and there was someone whose hand we were longing to hold and not because we felt like we had to work off that meal.
What if we marked an hour each day on our calendar to practice self care.
What if we began forming habits that we could carry throughout our lives rather than looking for the shortcut to get us through the next six weeks.
What if we looked in the mirror and smiled at the person looking back at us.
What if we were kind to ourselves and said sweet things and cherished every moment with loved ones.
What if we stopped listening to the ads and the messages and started realizing that we are not imperfect beings who need to be fixed, but that we are perfect because of our imperfections!
What if we spoke our truth and applauded others for doing the same.
What if you were you and I was me and that was what was meant to be.
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure."
The words “Dream Big” serve as the dedication to her children in my sister’s book. I don’t know how many times I have told her what an inspiration she is. I have told her what a wonderful message it is for her children and all of the other young people who will read her words, but, until now, I didn't realize that she was also inspiring me.
I have never been a dreamer. I am a planner, an organizer, a realist. I have always had a sensible goal in mind. In Jenni Schaefer’s book Life Without Ed, she asks the following question: “What is your vision of freedom from Ed [eating disorder]?” In July of 2013, I couldn’t answer this question. The page in the book remains blank even today. I realistically knew that freedom from my eating disorder would free up my life and leave me with time to follow my dreams, but there was a problem...I had no idea what my dreams were.
I thought of the wise question “Where does your mind go when it wanders?” As I child, it was always dance. I had dreamt of being a dancer. I had choreographed every song that played on the radio and rehearsed for countless hours in my childhood bedroom. But for a long time, my mind has only wandered to a place of self-doubt and it is hard for any dreams to grow in a dark place like that.
When I couldn’t answer the big question of what my life would be like after recovery, I started with a small step I could focus on. I wanted to help one person. I thought if I could help one person struggling with an eating disorder or body image issues that my recovery would have a sense of greater meaning. This gave me the inspiration to organize an event in our small town. While preparing for the event, I decided to launch my blog and website (www.ohhowsheblooms.com). I quickly realized that I had already helped more than one person. So the next logical question was...what now? Again, I had no answer...no dream.
In February of 2014, I had a conversation about yoga teacher training with my yoga teacher and dear friend, Laura of Abi Yoga. I hesitantly said that maybe it would be a cool thing to accomplish one day...a dream. She told me how she believed in me and knew it was something I could accomplish. My eyes filled with tears and I remember saying, “I don’t think I have ever let myself dream that big.” What was holding me back? I had let my old thought patterns convince me that this wasn’t even a possibility for me. I had allowed the eating disorder to squash yet another dream and I hadn’t even seen it happening.
As I thought all of this over, this quote by Marianne Williamson came to mind: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” It is one of my favorite and least favorite quotes at the same time. Its raw truth terrifies me because it speaks directly to me. Fear of failure has always held me back. I decided it was time for my dreams to cast a shadow over my fears and I began researching yoga teacher training programs.
Yesterday, I graduated from Bhumi's Yoga and today I can officially call myself a 200 hour registered yoga teacher. My head is still spinning from the weekend, but the thought that keeps replaying over and over in my mind is "YOU did this!" Yoga teacher training is the first thing I have ever done solely because I wanted to do it. No one suggested it to me. No one hinted that I should give it a try. It was a calling from my soul. And yesterday, as I sat meditating, gazing into my own eyes in a mirror perched in front of me, I couldn't help but smile.
So my dream now is this: to be powerful beyond measure! Not in a greedy-power-kind-of-way, but in a saving-myself-while-saving-others-kind-of-way. If I ask myself where my mind goes when it wanders now, I see yoga and smiling faces and hugs and healing. And, for the first time in my life, I believe that these dreams will all come true.
Me, after graduation yesterday...you can't fake a smile like that!
"I knew when I met you an adventure was going to happen." - Winnie the Pooh
It is hard to put into words what my best friend Laura has meant to me. The moving van has arrived and tomorrow she will set off on a new adventure. I could write a novel describing the impact her presence has had on my life. So to spare you all that diatribe, I have condensed her gifts into a list of the top ten.
Sweet friend, the words "thank you" will never be enough.
As my teacher, she has taught me the peace you can find through yoga, the connection to your body, the calming of your mind and the opening of your heart. She has opened an entire new world to me that begins on my mat.
As my friend, she has introduced me to the community of yoga and the joy to be found living to your fullest among these people. These spirits lift you up, free of judgment. They become your tribe and, for that, you are grateful.
There are periods of my life where this is little photographic evidence that I existed. I avoided pictures at all costs. So for me to be photographed in yoga clothes with no makeup on and sweaty hair AND to see myself as beautiful...well that is no small feat.
If years ago a fortune teller had told me I would travel to the jungles of Mexico for a yoga retreat on the beach with my Venezuelan best friend when I was 42, I would have laughed in her face and demanded to have my money returned. But last year, that very thing happened and it was an adventure that forever changed my life.
6. Culinary Culture
And by culture, I mean Spanish Wine and Tequila!
5. Arts Appreciation
My dear friend Connie and I had the pleasure of taking Laura to her first concert right before she gained her American citizenship. We felt it was a rite of passage. We suffered through the view.
4. Soul Bliss
Without Laura, Soul Bliss would have never been born. Upon returning from our retreat last year, our wheels started turning and Soul Bliss was the result of many brainstorming sessions. We both feel called to teach others the same joy we feel through yoga.
3. Yoga Teacher Training
Laura gave me the strength to become a yoga teacher myself. She has encouraged me to attend workshops with her and expand my knowledge of yoga. This is a picture of us recently attending the Jason Crandell Workshop in Columbus. I know our days of sweating on our mats side by side have only just begun.
A best friend for my son, a Goddaughter, and a Soul Sister. There is really just nothing else to say.
Of all of these gifts and the many others my best friend has given to me, the greatest is an unconditional love that allows me to be myself fully...flaws and all. She is quiet when I need to vent and ready to give advice when I need guidance. She understands my meaning without me uttering a word. She has my trust, she has my back, she has my heart and I love her very, very much.
"Your heart and my heart are very, very old friends." - Hafiz
Today I taught my first yoga class. For the first few moments, my voice was shaky and my mind unsettled. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that doubting my own ability would get me nowhere. The key was to approach the teaching from a place of love...love for the friends who were trusting me to teach them and, most importantly, love for myself. So I pushed the doubt aside and decided to believe in me.
On more than one occasion, my therapist has referenced this quote from Anne Lamott: "My mind is like a bad neighborhood...I try not to go there alone." People who suffer from anxiety need to get out of their heads. We need to get out of our own way. This is one of many things I have learned about myself in therapy. When looking back at my journals, I see entry upon entry describing my eating disorder and anxiety as fog...murk...grime. Today, as I began to stroll down the dark and scary streets in between my ears, I stopped. I stopped and turned toward the light.
You see, it is bright and sunny where belief lives. Self compassion makes the flowers grow and burst into bloom. Patience drifts by on a breeze bringing a smile to your face and courage puts a skip in your step. My neighborhood, once abandoned buildings and low grey clouds, is mine to refurbish however I decide. And I choose brightly painted cottages, green grass under a shady tree and hummingbirds flying by. I choose sunshine. I choose love.
As we finished the class, with tears in our eyes, my dear friends told me that the thing they loved most was that they could feel that the class came from my heart. For a girl who spent most of her life hiding in that stormy, cold neighborhood in her mind, there was no better compliment. I showed up. The real me shined her light. And I have never been so happy.
Victory to the light.
"There's nothing like deep breaths after laughing that hard. Nothing in the world like a sore stomach for the right reasons." - The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The sun has barely risen and I'm in the air somewhere between North Carolina and Michigan. I am exhausted and my soul is full.
Twenty-four years ago I set off for college, looking for adventure and freedom and fun. I found all of that during my four years (and I learned a little along the way too). I made a lot of friends, but there is a group of women who have stuck by me...and I have stuck by them right back. We have seen marriages and divorces, witnessed births and deaths. We have lived close and thousands of miles apart. We have talked frequently and gone for months without a word. We have cried and smiled and argued and rolled eyes. And we have laughed...laughed so hard that the tears streamed down our cheeks...laughed into snorts and gasps of air...laughed holding onto to the nearest piece of furniture to steady our stance. We have laughed when something was funny and laughed when it was not appropriate at all to laugh. Some of us laugh when we are nervous and some of us laugh for no reason at all. We laugh with few words spoken, because we know each others' looks and exactly what they mean, we know the memories and all the stories and what the other is thinking (sometimes before they do). We laugh because we are just so happy to be with each other that there is nothing else to do but feel the joy and let it pour out of our giggles. We laugh because we love each other and a love like that feeds your soul. No matter what we have stepped away from in our lives, when we come together we always leave with a sense of peace in our hearts and a knowing that, through it all, we will stick by each other over and over again.
So when we came together this weekend to celebrate our 20th college reunion, it was not about the place or the degrees we had received, it was about the laughter. It was about the hugs I got last night that filled my eyes with tears as they whispered in my ear that they loved me and were inspired by me. I hope when I said thank you that they knew that they are at the core of what inspires me. I hope each laugh screamed loud and clear "You are amazing women and you are perfect just as you are!" I hope every hand held signaled the respect and admiration I have for the human beings that they are. I hope as we celebrated the 20 years that have passed since we graduated, they knew I was celebrating the 24 years I have been blessed to have them in my life.
As I checked out of the hotel this morning in the darkness and quiet before dawn, the woman at the front desk smiled at me and said "I have been watching your group all weekend and could just feel how happy you were to be together. It was so contagious it made me reach out to my girlfriends and tell them how much I appreciate our friendship." And my soul filled up a little bit more. Love so abundant that it burst out of our own little bubble and spread into the lives of those around us! So with eyes hardly able to stay open from the lack of sleep, I can't stop smiling...although my cheeks still hurt a little from all the laughter :)
The rising sun is elusive…ever moving…ever out of reach. It occurred to me this morning as I drove, searching for the perfect picture of the brilliant pink-orange skies, that this sunrise was not an image to capture, but a lesson to learn. The beauty of nature is God’s handwriting. His lesson plan surrounds us. All we have to do is open our eyes and read. The dormant plants of winter bursting into bloom illustrate hope and new beginnings. The wind across our faces teaches us to breathe deeply. And the beauty of the rising sun (and my search to capture the perfect image of it) is a gentle reminder that there are no finish lines in life. As I chased the sunrise across the Northern Ohio sky this morning, I stopped, I smiled, and I said to myself, “You will never find a perfect moment, you will find beauty surrounding you and that is perfection as God intended.” So don’t get so wrapped up in chasing the sun that you miss that beauty of the sunshine that surrounds you.
"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have cried twice in less than 24 hours...not sniffles and a few tears, but shoulders-shaking-can’t-catch-my-breath-snot-running-down-my-face crying. Be honest…when you read this, was your first reaction to feel sorry for me? To worry? Truth be told, at first I felt sorry for myself. I planned a full on pity party…invitation: ME! But this morning I was reminded of something that is so easily forgotten…I am not alone.
I received the following message from a dear friend referring to my National Eating Disorders Association Awareness Week campaign:
“All it takes is one person. One person to step out, be brave and share their story. The trickle effect is what happens when good people latch on to the stories. It only takes one person to change lives. That is what you are doing.”
This was my response, without thinking…just responding (through the second wave of tears in 24 hours):
“You don’t know how perfect the timing of this message is. It has been a crap week and I have been struggling and the voices in my head have been full of doubt, telling me I am a fraud for telling my story when I still struggle when times get tough. The first day I publicly talked about my story, my mission was to help just one person. I thought if I could do that, my suffering would have been for a reason. Every time I hear that I have helped someone, my heart is so full. And when my heart is full, there is no room for the hate. So thank you for telling me this. These words have truly shifted my day.”
These words, from this sweet friend and from my own unedited heart, stopped me in my tracks. Pity party cancelled.
I needed this moment of clarity to be reminded of the days when the tears didn't come because they were pushed down with food. I needed to be reminded that what I am doing truly matters, even if I still struggle when times get tough, because we all struggle…that’s what makes us human.
So, while I ask each of you to speak your truth, here is mine: Eating Disorder Recovery is a constant battle. It can be a full time job. The tricky part is that you don’t get a schedule ahead of time. There are days you wake up thinking it’s a Sunday and you have nothing to do but rest and realize with a jolt that you have to work all day…work on self-love and compassion and peace. There are moments when you catch your reflection in the mirror and smile and moments when an onslaught of negative thoughts fill your head. There are times you feel so alone and then there are days you feel your spirit lifted by true friends. There is good and there is bad, but every little bit of the struggle is a step in the right direction. The struggle is real and the struggle is hard, but the struggle will set you free.
So don't be afraid to struggle. Don't be afraid of bad days. And don't ever think that you are alone, because I am right here...speaking my truth, struggling all the while.
"If we didn't struggle, we wouldn't be alive. And I am convinced there is no greater feeling than being alive."
"The true beauty of a woman is reflected in her soul." - Audrey Hepburn
I am a girl who adores anything French - café au lait, the Eiffel Tower, Louis Vuitton. I am a lover of music and cry almost every time I hear it played live. I feel comfort in front of a roaring fire on a cold day and wrapped in my husband's arms as I drift off to sleep. I love to dance - at weddings, at parties, or alone in my kitchen. I appreciate good architecture and have a flair for interior design. My idea of heaven is puppies...piles and piles of puppies! My greatest fear is losing the ones I love. I am infatuated with Jane Austen, Julia Child and Adam Levine. I get tears in my eyes when I hear the National Anthem played. My favorite time of year is Autumn...sunny-blue-sky-crisp-apple-cider-football-Saturday days. I wholeheartedly believe that the sea has healing powers and the love of a child is God's greatest gift. I think judgement is cruel and unacceptable. I believe in love, true love. I believe in the power of choice and freedom. I pray for our soldiers. I believe in speaking my mind and paying compliments. I have faith that everything happens for a reason and I am exactly where I am meant to be.
My soul is made up of all of these things and so much more. Every little bit makes up who I am...every struggle...every victory...every tear...every smile...every bit of darkness and every shard of light. And the most beautiful part of this mixed up soul of mine is that the gift is not wrapped up perfectly and adorned with a bow. It lives in this body...this body that has endured so much...this body that has given so much...this body that can do more than I could have ever imagined...this body that soars, so that the soul housed within can do the same.
The picture above is me this morning, inverting with the aerial hammock for the first time. Trusting my best friend and trusting myself allowed me to overcome my fear...flip...and soar!
"Believe you can and you're halfway there." - Theodore Roosevelt