"Secrets" Chapter 6 Excerpt
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“How much truth can a spirit bear, how much truth can a spirit dare?... that became for me more and more, the real measure of value.”
…Laura, ashamed of her 280 pounds, keeps her size a secret. She avoids being seen by working from home. She lives in front of her computer, compulsively eating and building a virtual double life: she has a professional life that brings her income and a fantasy work where she pretends to be someone else. She has online relationships with men, sometimes using different personas to carry on several pseudo-relationships at once. Laura sounds friendly and vibrant on the phone and in her e-mails, but she avoids face to face meetings. She is worried that she will lose her virtual erotic relationships and long-distance love affairs as Skype video chatting grows in popularity.
Laura craves but doesn’t believe she is worth admiration and acceptance. She hides what she considers to be her unworthy self and pretends to be the woman she wishes to be. Through secrets and lies, she attracts and gratifies people in her work world and her telephone and online fantasy world. She gets praise and acceptance for her professional competence. She gets intimate conversation and virtual sexual gratification from her fantasy role playing. She pleases all these people while hiding her body and genuine emotions. Because she keeps her real self a secret, she can’t live openly and spontaneously or have genuine relationships. She doesn’t really know what she would be like if she were free.
Stephanie, suffering from bulimia, throws herself into her life fearlessly. She seeks out risky activities like skydiving, bungee jumping, or deliberately walking alone in dark and isolated areas. She takes illegal risks by stealing and befriending people who are engaged in illegal activities. She crosses personal and legal boundaries with little or no compunction because she keeps her own vulnerability a secret from herself. She’s more concerned with impressing others to shore up her insecurities about her well-being. She keeps her bingeing and purging a secret from others. Why she binges and purges is a secret she keeps from herself.
Stephanie dulls her sense of fear through her eating disorder and overwhelms her awareness with intense sensations. Danger attracts her, not because she wants to cheat death, but because she welcomes the flooding sensations as pure exhilaration and then has no room to feel other emotions. She hides her genuine experience from herself and latches on to thrills, and she feels a secret superiority about some of her antisocial or illegal activities. Yet, at the same time, keeping those activities a secret creates stress.
Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder, by Joanna Poppink, MFT, Conari Press, 2011. Copyright protected August, 2011. Joanna is a Los Angeles psychotherapist specializing in eating disorder recovery for adults and counseling for their loved ones. For an appointment call: (310) 474-4165.