Dancing at the Shame Prom edited by Amy Ferris & Hollye Dexter
Published by Seal Press
Publication Date: September 11, 2012
Review Copy from: WOW!
My Rating: 4
Shame is a powerful thing. It can weigh on your heart and mind, diminish your sense of self-worth, and impact the way you live in the world. But what happens when you share that secret burden?
Amy Ferris, Hollye Dexter, and the writers they brought together are all ready to let go of shame. In Dancing at the Shame Prom, twenty-six extraordinary women—Lyena Strelkoff, Teresa Stack, Monica Holloway, Nina Burleigh, Amy Friedman, Meredith Resnick, Victoria Zackheim, and more—take the plunge and say “yes” to sharing their stories. These brave writers, journalists, musicians, artists, directors, and activists have offered up their most funny, sad, poignant, miraculous, life-changing, and jaw-dropping secrets for you to gawk at, empathize with, and learn from—in the hopes that they will inspire others to do the same. Letting go feels good!
Freeing, provocative, and audacious, Dancing at the Shame Prom is about flaunting the secrets that have made you feel small so that you can stand up straight, let the shame go, and finally—decisively—move on with your life.
A very poignant, touching, thought provoking and empathetic read. Highly recommend!!
KATE VAN RADEN
By Kate Van Raden
When I thought I was at my lowest point with my eating disorder, I was struggling to finish a Bachelor of Arts, and staying off campus in a bed and breakfast for weeks at a time. The next time I thought I was at my lowest point, I wasn’t speaking to my family as they began to have concerns about my modeling and weight. They saw me fading away before them and becoming someone else; suddenly making choices that were not in accordance with my character. I pulled away from anyone who might notice I was changing. I stepped away from old friendships, surrounded myself with new people. Finally, I decided to move to NY. As I was already modeling, that was an easy guise, but that didn’t last long. Several months after relocating, I retired, as I couldn’t imagine going in front of anyone feeling such despair about my body. No matter how I worked and worked, I couldn’t break a certain weight. No matter how little I ate, I couldn’t get any smaller. The obsession became a madness. I chose to work around the clock to keep my mind occupied. I thought I could out run hunger, out run food, out run eating…I had several dear friends to whom I credit my life during that time. But the last low, the one that stuck, was standing in an E.R. with my parents, hearing that my heart wasn’t strong enough to go home. I had no choice but to return to Oregon for treatment.
Those first weeks in a hospital bed I cried every time they brought the food and every time they checked to see if I finished it. I cried when they woke me up at 4 a.m. every morning to draw blood. I cried when they stuck heart pads on my skin in case my heart stopped while I was sleeping. I cried every time they changed them. I cried when the nurse washed me in the shower and when we talked about plans. I wrote in a journal and kept lists of everything I had worked for in my life and everything I had given up. I couldn’t have a conversation with anyone except my parents, and the humiliation of explaining myself to any friend or family member, seemed worse than death. So I made them promise no one would know I was home. I knew if people found out, they would want to see me, they would want to talk and try to say helpful things, and I would want to die. They promised.
As I lay in the hospital worrying about my heart and aching for my ‘normal life’ (ahem, back in h*ll) I came to the conclusion that I had given myself every chance to try that life. I had given myself more than a generous amount of time to ‘make better choices’ or change my behavior. I realized that there was no possible outcome of success on the path I had been on. Well, that forced me to admit to myself and to everyone else that I had given life my best try and ultimately failed. I have said this before, I know, but I felt that I had failed at being thin AND I had failed at being well. I had to accept that I would need love and support, change and growth and education and mountains of will, and more than anything…time. Each phase of my journey has had its own colors, but the first one was all about humility. I asked myself “Are you more afraid of the pain of trying to be healthy, than you are the torture you have been living with?”, and honestly, even in the depths of anorexia, I knew the answer was a “NO”. There are times when that “no” is louder or quieter, but I know that I want my life. I want to love my family and friends; to celebrate joy with them. Even when I couldn’t feel the benefits, I knew that the only way I ever would was to keep giving any effort I had to fighting for my life back. My family and a small handful of others have been essential to my progress. If I hadn’t been able to trust in them and be vulnerable with them, I wouldn’t have been able to make as much progress as I have. Having a few people around you that you can trust and lean on can be lifesaving; even just one. I continue to push myself to grow in areas I am uncomfortable. I seek education anywhere I can get it. If there are new books or treatments or medications or therapies, I’ll try them. I want to give myself a 100% chance at a great life, and for me, that means a self-awareness of how or when I am sabotaging my own chances. For so many of us, it is a question of pride; or perhaps more appropriately named: shame. That is the main reason I decided to participate in The Shame Prom project. I wanted to be a part of something that helped free other people from the tethers of pride, and loosened their shame burden a bit.
Starting over is very hard for some, and a welcome blessing for others. Whether you tremble at the door, or rush forth in excitement, surrounding yourself with people who you can share emotional intimacy along your journey can make all the difference. I would say to anyone who is facing the prospects of starting over: Don’t keep waking up every day to a life that’s wearing you thin. Keep your hands out grasping at whatever’s there. Keep your hands out grasping for hope, and eventually, you will grasp something worth holding on to. Don’t stop grasping, don’t stop trying, and don’t give up.
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