Finding that one person: the key to hope and inspiration

You could call it a case of accidental fate! That’s the best way I can describe how I stumbled across the name ‘June Alexander’ in an online search in 2018. I was having just another average day, my mind filled with an endless influx of eating disorder (ED) thoughts: “What more can I do? How much more of this can I tolerate?” I’d hit rock bottom and I’d had enough of trying to break free from my eating disorder thoughts and behaviours. At the time, I was pre-occupied with thoughts of an upcoming appointment with a highly regarded ED specialist. Great news, yet my feelings were conflicted. On the one hand, relief, “This specialist may be able to make it all stop”. On the other hand, great fear and anxiety: “My god, what will this doctor make me do?”

I embarked on a quest to find as much information as I could about this specialist. Such research behaviour had become a habit, particularly whenever I thought I’d found someone who may happen to have the magic ‘cure’ for my problem. As far as I was concerned, this was my right. If I was to allow this person into my shameful and messed-up world, I had every right to turn to Google and learn as much about them as I could.

During this quest, I happened to notice another name referred to several times, June Alexander. Reading through an old newspaper article about the specialist’s eating disorder treatment program, June’s name popped up again and again. Many questions began running through my head; who was this ‘June’ lady and what was her connection to this particular story and my soon to be doctor? In desperation to know more about ‘June’, the pursuit for information began all over again, only this time, I had no idea why I was searching for this name ‘June’. Something told me this was the right thing to do. Little did I know, June would soon become a significant presence in my life going forward.

I remember my first meeting with June. Having read most of her books at record pace and having spoken with her on the phone, I was familiar with what she looked like and I sensed an understanding and compassionate nature about her. Still, as I walked through the doors of the café we’d scheduled to meet in, my heart was about to explode out of my chest. I sensed a massive sign on my forehead that revealed my tightly held secrets, “Very fragile lady who is deeply troubled by food and her own appearance”. I figured June would spot me straight away, I’d be obvious. My fear was screaming, “What will this lady think when she set eyes me? Will she still want to help me?” I’m actually quite surprised I didn’t turn and run the other way.

Thankfully, I continued straight through the café entrance, nervously scanning the venue for someone resembling the picture in my mind. A healthy part of my mind, a part I didn’t know existed, had to be at play on this day. Had I have followed my ED’s orders and boycotted this meeting, I’d have missed out on the wealth of knowledge and lived experience that came with knowing June. Since recovering from her own eating disorder, June had managed to turn her life around. A truly inspiring woman who has since completed a PhD, written nine ED-based books, become a mentor for others stuck in their own sense of hell; and a highly regarded individual within the ED community. Thank god I didn’t flee, because with June, I think I struck gold.

I’ve been working with June since 2018. During this time, she’s pulled me through countless numbers of distressing situations, helped me battle with a relentless ED monster tearing my mind to shreds and importantly, she’s listened, shared her experience and held me close as our conversations released an endless stream of tears from my eyes.

June got me, I didn’t need to apologise or make excuses anymore (although I’m pretty sure I did). She understood the challenges of my lifelong behaviours. To her I wasn’t odd, nor was I someone who couldn’t or shouldn’t be helped. “There’s nothing wrong with you Sam,” she’d tell me over and over again. She’d walked a long hard journey of her own, she’d been in my shoes and there I was, sitting across the table from her, hanging onto every word as she spoke. She managed to accomplish something that many others struggle to do; she gained my trust; she didn’t even need to enter a battle to earn this trust as many have; I gave it freely. At our very first meeting, I was able to see the smallest glimmer of light. I’d found someone who really did want to help, no conditions, no ifs or buts. Possibly, June was the one person I’d been searching for my whole life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that the journey ahead was a happily ever after story, far from it. Nor did the ‘ah ha’ moments hit me at a rapid pace. Anyone who has lived with a vicious ED for as long as I have, cannot expect this kind of rapid progress. What I did receive was an intense sense of understanding, trustworthy advice, no judgment and ongoing encouragement along with some gentle pushes for me to begin to explore something deep within myself. From early on, June consistently said she could see something more in me. A creative talent, she said. At first, I thought she was a little crazy to have such a thought, and brushed her views aside, but I wouldn’t hold this against her. Still, she never backed down, insisting there was a part of my healthy self that needed to be tuned into. What was she on about? Time would reveal a lot.

About Sam Tench

I’ve been guilty of deceiving people around me since childhood. Nobody could really know me because I didn’t let them get close enough. My eating disorder (ED) had reduced my personality, ambitions, self-confidence and life to nothing, and I believed I had nothing to offer. Like a child being punished, I sat in a dark, secluded corner for years.  Time wasted, never to get back.    

Fast forward to 2019, I surrendered to intervention for my ED.  After my discharge from a six-week inpatient program, the gift of a camera helped my fledgling self-belief to rapidly transform from a mere existence to fully embracing life. Through a camera lens, I began to see the world for the first time. These days, my ED struggles to penetrate my thoughts; I’m too preoccupied with my newfound zest for seeing life and speaking my truths.  My camera is my constant companion; if I’m not shooting, I’m learning or writing for my website. Throughout this time of finding my voice, I’ve contributed to other websites, developed my own website, The Picture Healer, and am currently completing an exciting project, to be revealed soon.  This new artistic endeavour will be just one of many in the future.

I also am a mother of two young girls. I’m determined to show them there is an alternative path; my ED journey doesn’t have to be their journey. Nor does it have to be yours.  You can see my journey of learning to take pictures and read my work at www.thepicturehealer.com  

All articles by Sam Tench

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