In his book, Heal Thyself, my teacher, Saki Santorelli, quotes 13th century mystic Rumi: “Don’t turn your head. Keep looking at the bandaged place. That’s where the Light enters you.”
After I read Heal Thyself, I knew I, too, must not turn my head. Saki, ED.D., has authored his book, scientific papers, articles, and monographs. He’s won awards for planetary service, directs of one the world’s finest mind-body centers, and is an assistant professor of medicine. Yet my mentor admitted in his book that he is sometimes repulsed by his students, that sometimes his mind wanders while a patient chokes out heart-wrenching symptoms, that sometimes he questions his life and work. These were his bandaged places, written with such courage. I decided I must write mine too.
I said to Saki, “What a huge risk you’ve taken. That self-disclosure might endanger your career. You have so much to lose.”
First he said, “What would I lose? I had to write the truth.” Then he opened Heal Thyself to the page with Alice Walker’s quote: “We are all substantially flawed, wounded, angry, hurt… But this human condition, so painful to us, and in some ways shameful— because we feel we are weak when the reality of ourselves is exposed– is made much more bearable when it is shared, face to face, in words that have expressive human eyes behind them.”
If I wanted my old encounters with crazed eating to mean anything, if I also spoke honestly about how the Light came in, others might release their shame, too. I could not be the only one who had once hoped not to be busted in the car, hiding out with a frozen-solid pint of Ben and Jerry’s, hacking away to loosen up the Chubby Hubby pieces, sweating, heart-pounding, eyes darting around the horizon, as if to protect myself from being arrested by the food police, or the manners patrol.
So I wrote. Tales of the 16-year-old me pocketing Hershey’s Almond Milk Chocolate bars from the candy aisle at King’s Department Store, because I was 50 pounds overweight and I couldn’t be seen buying one and I absolutely had to main-line my dose. How do you, how do I, how do any of us, hold the shadowy pulls of both can’t-have and must-have, of gotta-have-it and are-not allowed? We steal. We pretend no one sees us. We pretend not to see ourselves. We turn our heads from our flawed, painful places, at least at first.
I peeked under the bandages, wrote incidents I wish my loved ones would never know. At the same time, I fantasized that I’d sit on TV one day and chat about these chapters with Katie Couric. She’s revealed her own cravings, longings and desires. I wrote secrets I could never tell anyone, secrets on the one hand I hoped no one would read. On the other hand, I also dreamed of talking about my best-seller on Ellen’s show. Ellen would understand. Her wife Portia wrote a book about her own disordered eating, her losses and gains. Unbearable Lightness, Portia called it. “Maybe,” I heard myself say, “if I write my story and give it to the world, it’ll no longer be only my story. Exposing what might also be true for readers could make more bearable the unbearable suffering of so many.”
I created a book. It combines my years of dark food frenzy with my years of clinical work helping others, and the path of heart I discovered where the Light enters us. It ends with everything I know now about wise eating and everything I am still learning about caring for those bandaged places and treating the once-hated parts of myself with kindness and compassion. Food Fix, I called it.
Two things: One: I hope the world reads it. Two: I am terrified that the writing is shabby, that the quotes I used are sappy, that the self-disclosure is too much, that the critics will pan it and that my magnum opus is terrible. I could never speak that fear either. But now, with expressive human eyes, I will nod to those who read it and say, “Yes,” to them when they remark, “I can’t believe you were ever fat.”
From the part of me that trusts Saki’s willingness to write his pain and risk it all, from the redeemed part of me that no longer sits on my kitchen floor surrounded by empty Reese’s cup wrappers, from the part of me that responds to Alice Walker’s call to share and from the part of me grateful for Rumi’s reminder to look at the bandaged places, I will smile, feel the Light and say, “I wrote the truth.”