While going through some of my childhood possessions, I came across something which took on a profound meaning to me: a kitten poster.
This was the first poster I got as a six year old. I immediately was captivated by it because of its cute factor. A small kitten, hiding in a paper bag? What’s not to love?
You know, the phrase, “the cat is out of the bag?” Well, I couldn’t deny that ditty followed me throughout my life, eating disorder shenanigans and, of course, my disclosure of and recovery from them. After all, within my book, “Thin Enough,” I wrote a poem starting the chapter on disclosure, entitled, “The Cat is Out of the Bag.”
Disclosure- it is intimidating.
Yet, sooner or later, in our lives, the cat does, indeed, get out of the bag. We hope, then, it is in a safe, loving and kind atmosphere.
Mercifully, the first significant person I voluntarily disclosed my eating disorder truth to was my wonderful husband, Russell.
He is “Exhibit A” of the ideal safe person to reveal one’s struggle.
“... I had managed to make it through my college years without telling anyone... I was pursuing a theatre degree... It was through theatre that I met Russell...
... The prospect of someone being close enough to truly know me was scary... Moving from dating to engagement was difficult... I had yet to tell him any of what I’d experienced... As we prepared for our wedding, I finally mentioned to him that I had a secret I wasn’t ready to share with him yet... He told me that he loved me and that it didn’t matter what it was. He didn’t pressure me to tell him. He knew there was a secret and left it at that...
...The time for truth came a couple of weeks after we were married. It was our first Thanksgiving together... We both ate our holiday feast, and I had tried not to think about all of the calories... I proceeded to exercise after the meal, trying to burn off ‘the damage.’ Russell thought this was strange and unnecessary... He told me to just relax and enjoy the day. I, of course, repeatedly told him that I couldn’t until I’d exercised. The conversation continued while I was on the stair stepper for two hours... I was so tired of keeping this secret... The only way I could explain it was to tell him the whole story from the beginning... And so I did.
And the worst didn’t happen. He didn’t leave me, throw me out in the street, call me worthless and tell me how much he hated me. No. He looked at me, asked me, ‘This is the big secret?’ He hugged me, told me he loved me, and told me I was beautiful. I didn’t have to lie, hide, and pretend anymore in front of the man I loved...”
(Excerpt taken from Cruse’s book, “Thin Enough: My Spiritual Journey Through the Living Death of an Eating Disorder”)
For those of us struggling with addiction, disorder and compulsion, there is a disclosure moment of truth. We need to share our reality with another. It may be for a variety of reasons: to seek help and start the recovery process, to apologize for the wrongdoing and hurt we’ve caused, to reach a new level of intimacy as a significant relationship changes.
Regardless, disclosure is an important matter.
I know that, in my own situation with Russell, this was the spark which ignited John 8:32: “The truth shall set you free.”
And there is freedom within disclosure. The imprisoning secret is shattered. Its power over our lives is destroyed.
Still, with that being said, we need to, as much as possible, be thoughtful, wise and prepared when it comes to this life-altering decision. It can be damaging to reveal this most personal information to the wrong person. Therefore, we need to use discernment and prayer when we reveal ourselves- ugly truth and all- to someone.
Some helpful question to ask include...
What are the actions this person has displayed which exemplify trustworthiness?
What are the risks of having this person know this situation?
What are the benefits of having this person know this situation?
What are the disadvantages of having this person know this situation?
I do believe, no matter how imperfect the disclosure context may be, it is worth it. “Letting the cat out of the bag” opened up everything in my life: my faith, my marriage, my creativity and my health. It was the first domino to fall when I spoke my truth.
Let’s briefly revisit the kitten poster again. Because, there is something else within the image, something which can encourage and empower us. It is the fearful kitten itself.
That is something which cannot be overlooked, especially as we face our own disclosure situations; we will be afraid. We may be terrified. We may feel, like this kitten, that we are “halfway in, halfway out” of the bag.
Therefore, above all else, in our disclosure moment, we need to remember we are not alone...
“Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
Disclosure is necessary for life, for healing and for our recovery. It is vital to reach our next level. And its rewards can be astounding.
So, is it time to let your cat out of the bag?
Copyright © 2016 by Sheryle Cruse