What’s in a name?
One of the most beneficial processes I have done in pursuit of recovery has been to assign my E.D. a name. The idea was presented to me in a therapy session during my 3rd year of pharmacy school, and I believe the practice was taken from the book Life Without Ed by Jenni Schaefer.
In giving the E.D. a name separate from my own, I establish that its unhealthy thoughts are not my own. I am able to argue back with the lies it attempts to feed me. Sharing the E.D.’s name with family and friends has been helpful for them, also:
Have you ever experienced those moments where you’re out with family or friends for a meal or dessert and your E.D. joins the table and all of the sudden you find atrocious words coming out of your mouth and the next thing you know you’re incredibly embarrassed? Well, it’s happened to me far too often. Silly example: my sister was visiting last week, and we spontaneously went out for lunch at a pizza place. My E.D. decided to take an unwelcome seat at our table while we were pursuing the menu and refused every meal idea presented by my mom and sister. Eating out is supposed to be fun! There’s no place for E.D.! So ~2 minutes later, I became extremely ashamed of E.D.’s guest appearance, ordered a personal pizza and caesar salad, and went on with the lunch. I was able to explain that the mean retorts I’d given were the E.D.’s voice, and not mine, which allowed us to move on from the negative conversation. ***I’m not saying that by naming the E.D., you give it an excuse to come out all the time. My point is that the practice can help you and your family identify when the disorder is coming out so that its voice can be silenced quicker and eventually come out less frequently***
So what name did I give my E.D.? Regina.
Oh, how I love me some Mean Girls. Anyone who has seen the movie knows that no one actually likes Regina George, and that ultimately she is taken down and changes her ways. Whenever I hear Regina’s voice in my head, I channel Janice’s voice and fight back. As I climb up the recovery mountain, Regina’s voice will become softer until she loses it altogether.
The naming practice can also be applied to the positive. Today, I was reading Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder by Johanna Kandel. She describes naming your “healthy voice” so you can have her speak up for you in moments of anxiety, stress, or lack of confidence. She states some of the attributes this voice might have are strong, compassionate, and determined. She suggests naming this voice after someone you emulate, such as a grandmother, superhero, or movie protagonist.
I instantly knew the appropriate name for my healthy voice: Samantha.
This reference will be less obvious: my grandfather Sam. My parents actually considered naming me Samantha, but my grandpa Sam was concerned I would be called “Sambo” and told them not to haha. There are so many reasons naming my healthy voice after my grandfather is appropriate.
On a surface level, the man loves food. Through my childhood, my family annually made an August trek to visit grandpa Sam in Washington state, and the first morning we were there, he always made a large breakfast spread of Belgian waffles, bacon, fruit, eggs, and freshly squeezed orange juice. (This practice continued through the man’s late 90’s—seriously, he’s a rock star!). He always has a box of See’s chocolate (nuts and chews variety) that he shares after dinner. And additional desserts were always aplenty, too—his favorite being homemade blackberry pie made with locally grown blackberries.
Below the surface, my grandfather’s story and attributes are inspirational. He was one of eight children and grew up with little in Queens, New York. He was able to attend forestry school at Syracuse University. He enlisted in the Air Force as a bombardier and fought in World War II prior to using the degree. His experiences in the war display strength, optimism, and courageousness. When the war ended, he finished in Seattle and became enamored with the physical beauty and outdoor lifestyle of the Pacific Northwest. Rather than returning to New York, he started his own forestry firm in Washington, was able to purchase his own lot and build his own house, and has stayed there ever since. He has always endorsed an active lifestyle with plenty of time spent in the “great outdoors” as well as a dedicated work ethic. He did not retire until he was 96 years old, and even then, he worked some as my uncle had taken over the business. Today, he is 102 and still lives in the same house he built for his growing family, drives, and displays his same sense of optimism and luster for life.
His personality and story display the epitome of what I desire in recovery: tenacity. Just as Regina’s voice becomes softer, Samantha’s voice will become louder. And as Samantha’s voice becomes louder, my life will be filled with the same things that make my grandpa Sam’s life so rich: hikes, reading books outside, eating Sunday breakfast out, entertaining family and friends, and watching plenty of sports.