OCD, Eating Disorders, and The Ways We Search for Control with Laura Morsman

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ABOUT THE EPISODE

Laura was 14 when she found out she had 28 days left to live. Her body was deteriorating rapidly due to anorexia, and she needed help. The way Laura tells her story is incredibly powerful and sets the tone for a conversation that wanders through questions often left unspoken. We discuss eating disorders, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the role control can end up playing in both, and most importantly, hope.

As we navigate this topic, we also cover:

  • What happens when we feel like our body is the only thing we can control?
  •  What happens when healing doesn’t have an end stamp that says, “I’m cured!” and instead is an ongoing process of maintenance and management?
  • Where does perfectionism hide in our lives beyond school and work?

  • How do you love and appreciate your parents while acknowledging their role in the coping mechanisms you’ve chosen?

This is one of the most intimate episodes of the show thus far. I hope you feel like you’re around the table with us as you tune in.

ABOUT LAURA

Laura is a people-loving, deep feeling, loud laughing, Gemini. 😉 Her passion is to help illustrate others’ incredible life stories and welcome the most vulnerable, raw parts of us as humans in any photo she takes. 

Laura is the photographer responsible for many of the pictures we use for alyssapatmos.com and the cover art for Make it Mentionable. Since the first time I stepped behind her camera, she’s been a dear friend.

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Alyssa Patmos 0:04
This is Make It Mentionable. I’m Alyssa Patmos and this is the show about being human in a world that encourages us to be robots. I invite you to join me as we journey through the mess, the magic and the mania in between. Because what we can talk about, we can manage. This honest conversation extravaganza includes free flowing conversations and high doses of vulnerability to remind you that you aren’t alone. No topic is off limits, and episodes are designed to leave you smarter, aka more self aware than when you came. I am so glad you’re here.

Hello, Hello. And welcome back to another episode of Make It mentionable. I’m your host, Alyssa Patmos and today I am here with Laura Morsman. And not only is she a friend, she has also taken many of the photos that you see around my website or on the podcast covers. So Laura, thank you so much for being here.

Laura Morsman 1:12
Absolutely. Thank you for having me. This is wonderful.

Alyssa Patmos 1:17
So first, for those of you tuning in, you know, I hate reading bios. So I always have our lovely cohosts introduce themselves. So Laura, can you just tell people tuning in a little bit about who you are?

Laura Morsman 1:31
Absolutely, yeah, totally. My name is Laurie Morsman. I am an editorial photographer and creative director from Kansas City. But I live in Austin, and I’ve been here for 10 years.

Alyssa Patmos 1:45
Awesome. I love your work, you know, I’m obsessed with it. So today, we have a big topic. And I’m so glad you’re the one to have this conversation with me and this show. One of the reasons why I started it is because I think we’re so often encouraged to be a robot to suppress pieces of ourselves, and whether people are doing that consciously or not, it ends up happening. And you know, our friends can play a role in that our families can play a role in us feeling the pressure to do that, you know, governmental systems can play a role in that. And so one of the areas where I feel like we’re often encouraged to be a robot, mostly unconsciously, but you know, sometimes with the forces of the advertising world that is consciously is in our relationship to our bodies, and in our relationship to food, where there’s pressure for it to be one way or to look a certain way, and navigating the lines of like, what is healthy? And what isn’t? Where do we feel our best and where do we don’t and then exerting so much control over our body, because in so many ways our body is is something that we feel like we can control when we get out of control. So I’m just gonna let you know ahead of time eating disorders are going to come up during this conversation. And I hope you’ll stick around if it suits you to listen in for what we’re about to dive into. So, Laura, I think the best way to start this conversation is just sort of like jumping into the middle of it. And you’re very open about having had an eating disorder. And that being something that you have managed throughout the course of your life. So can you give us a little bit of background on that?

Laura Morsman 3:42
Absolutely. Yes. So I first started seeking treatment for anorexia when I was 14. And I, I come from a large family. I have five siblings. And at the time, I was homeschooled and living in the Midwest and really isolated from socializing and being being at home most of the time. The only times that I really got out of my house was to nanny for different families. That was my job. And I’ll never forget it. I was being driven home from one of my nanny jobs and the mother of the kids that I nannied was talking to me in the car, and she handed me a pamphlet to an eating disorder clinic. And it was the most gentle, open invitation to take help. And she had been working or I’ve been working for them for probably over eight months. And I’m sure in that time she saw me deteriorate and so that was the first step that I took in getting help. And by that time, it was in a very spit severe I have anorexia. And so I had about 28 days left to be functioning as a living person. And so yeah, I started getting getting help at 14 and relapsed a few times, like throughout college and really stressful times in life and manage it still every, every day to this day, and I’m 32 now.

Alyssa Patmos 5:27
So first like, thank goodness for those people in our lives who see something and are willing to share. And I love that you use the phrase, it was such a gentle, open invitation. And so at that point, did you did you consciously know that you had anorexia? Like, were you aware? Yes. Okay.

Laura Morsman 5:53
I was totally aware. I was raised by two parents that were not raised with a lot of tenderness and mental health awareness in their families growing up. And so in the family that I was raised in as well, there wasn’t a whole lot of that. And so I remember, all throughout elementary and middle school, every day, I watched Oprah. And I was so so engaged in the stories that she would share and the people that would come on, and I know that there were multiple ones talking about eating disorders. And when I started realizing what I was going through, and just like what you said, it’s such a way to convince yourself that you have control and a life that feels very out of control. When I realized that, I was restricting that I was extremely polarizing, and what I felt were safer, non safe foods. And then the pressure that I put on myself to work out, I was like, okay, like, yeah, I have an eating disorder. And I remember sharing that clearly with people, especially people that would comment on my appearance. And I think there was like this part of me as a 14 year old that was trying to say, I’m telling you what’s wrong, can you please tell me that you’re here to help me? And it didn’t happen until, until that employer reached out to me and, and, and shared that recovery center with me.

Alyssa Patmos 7:39
So what was that process like afterwards? Then, like, I can imagine, you know, one I think it’s so human to want to be seen, and have that be met by someone else. And sometimes it can be really hard to ask for help or to know what we need. I think, ultimately, you know, as we grow, that’s part of our journey is like, okay, helping restore the safety, to be able to ask for help again, and to know what we need, and then proactively seek it. But when we’re 14, we don’t know how to do that. Even, you know, I know many adults that don’t know how to do that. So totally. So in that sense, then what happens, you get this pamphlet, and then is it easy to go home and tell your parents like, hey, this happened? Did you try and go by yourself? Like, what did that look like?

Laura Morsman 8:27
Yeah, so I went home and I was terrified to show it this to my parents, because they knew you what was going on. They saw me at home every single day. And by that time, I did not look like myself this had been like over the course of probably four to six months that I had been severely deteriorating and, and starving and showing that pamphlet to them. I remember. I remember just trying to lead up with all of these excuses why I didn’t tell anyone anything. I didn’t say that I was in danger. I didn’t. I didn’t expose anything that would make them uncomfortable. That was kind of what my mindset was in was like. I, my father just a few years before this instance, had an emergency brain surgery that left us having to leave our home and he lost his job and we lost almost everything. And so I think in that young person brain of mine, I was like, I will not cause my family any more pain, I will not cause them any more discomfort. And so, but my my mom was like, Yeah, let’s do it. And you had to do a doctor’s appointment. You have to have them take off Have your vitals. And that was when I found out that I had less than a month to live. And then I started going to both individualized and group therapy twice a week with an eating disorder therapist. And it’s so surreal because like, I look at myself now and I’m like, Whoa, the thread of the the, like 28 days, like when I think of 28 days now I’m like, that’s gonna be here before we know it. And the fact that the person gave me the information I needed, the doctor was like, Yep, it’s this is your timeline. And then getting, getting paired with an incredible therapist that ended up saving my life. I mean, I, to this day. I am incredibly grateful. I mean, it just felt extremely serendipitous that all of that happens. And it’s, it’s just wild. I mean, that’s such as that seems like not the right word for it. But for me every day that I have, since that season of my life, I feel is really just I’m incredibly grateful for it.

Alyssa Patmos 11:25
So when when you were dealing with this at the at at the beginning, and when when you found out about the 28 days, did you know like why, anorexia? Did you know why you were doing this? And I know you said around things around your family, and not wanting to cause any more pain, but that’s like in in telling them about it. So at that point, like pre therapy, did you understand? Or did you have a glimpse as to why this was the route that you were taking?

Laura Morsman 12:05
That’s a really good question. Like, as you’re asking that I’m like, whoa, I don’t think I’ve ever I’ve ever really sat and thought about why. Like, I shared like, the really traumatic experience of almost losing my dad, and then him living and then as losing all of the pillars of stability that are in our, our that were in our lives. I think that in that experience, that was when I was 11. This is when I’m 14, I think in all of those years in between. It felt like my childhood was gone. And I went from being an 11 year old to being a mom to my mom’s kids or young kids, helping my mom emotionally survive the trauma she just went through. And being homeschooled. You don’t have a break between seeing your parents reality of adulthood. And then you having your childhood at school or having parent like, people, they’re like teachers. So I think just having such an enmeshed experience with adults, as a child, I carried a lot of their emotional trauma. And I think that it felt out of control. It felt like I can’t help and I also can’t help myself, and I also can’t get out of this. So it was almost like a protective mechanism, I think, not knowing what to do and not having resources to get help. Yeah. It was a protective mechanism for sure.

Alyssa Patmos 14:01
Which, you know, so many of us so many of the things that we started to unpack as we get older are these protective mechanisms. And so, you know, in this instance, this is like one of the most extreme things you’ve had to deal with in your life. And but but I think there’s also you know, it’s a spectrum. And not everyone who is who is choosing you know, things with food as a coping mechanism reached that point, but it but there, there is a spectrum and and it’s almost like food in some areas is one of the easiest things for us to control because it’s, I mean, you have to physically put the food in your mouth in most cases. And so And food is also like our first comfort like we come out of the womb and like our mom is feeding us, like whether you’re breastfed or or someone is feeding us. But whether you’re breastfed or bottle like food, food is comfort. So there’s there is a natural signal in food in general, and it makes for a very complicated relationship. So why is it a way for you to sort of like control your environment when everything fell out of control? Is that kind of what you mean by a coping mechanism?

Laura Morsman 15:26
Yeah, I feel like that’s exactly it, it felt like the only thing that I could control. And I felt like, it took me a long time to really clarify this feeling for me. But in such a chaotic season of life, I thought, I either want to comfort myself by eating everything, or comfort myself by numbing out and eating nothing, not the eating. Not that binging is not numbing out for some people. For me, I felt like something that felt like I was depriving myself of something that felt more numbing for me. So with that, you know, you develop, like, it’s extremely hard to get warm, because your body weight doesn’t, it doesn’t help you retain heat, and it’s just, um, yeah, I mean, definitely a form of control, it was trying to calm the chaos. And even like working with dieticians, a couple of times, they would come over to the house to try to help me. And the thing that helped the most, both in those experiences and in group therapy was when we all had to eat together. So there was something that felt safe. When I had a friend next to me that was going to walk through with me, and not necessarily someone that’s just saying, You need to eat more, or you need to eat this and you need to do this. It’s like let’s the camaraderie felt so much safer than just trying to do it on my own.

Alyssa Patmos 17:16
Yeah, I consistently talk about willpower in this self like, help space, which, you know, there’s delineations, between personal growth and mental health. But a lot of times, like we’re unwinding and unlearning things from our past and I, I talked about willpower a lot, because they feel like there’s one vein where it’s like, you can just do it, like, if only you can do it on your own, if only you can see the next thing and just get to it, and keep pushing and pushing and pushing. And like at some point that that works. And at other points it, it doesn’t. And it’s not what we need in it, it isn’t always this individual process. Like some we as humans were wired to need other people. So I love that you brought up that this group experience, like, I think a lot of times we tend to think of like, like the coping mechanism is all almost to like retreat in a lot of times where it’s like, okay, it’s gonna become more repressive, and we’re gonna, it’s more isolated. And so to hear that, like you were able to see the safety in the group in that moment, I think that’s, that’s really special and powerful.

Laura Morsman 18:27
I agree. I mean, it’s, it was so different, to be able to also just be sharing in the mutual fear of the experience with somebody. I did not know anybody at the time, and also just being at home and the only people around me or my family, you know, that’s the only input that you’re really getting. And, and so yeah, sitting in a room full of other people being terrified of eating an egg, or a being terrified of eating a salad with salad dressing. It was like, Okay, I feel so much less alone. And you even like, I found myself encouraging them and like, I’m getting emotional thinking about it. Like, I remember hearing the words of comforting other people being scared and being like, Okay, so let’s take that and ask yourself, why does that not apply to you? And yeah, very, very eye opening, very eye opening.

Alyssa Patmos 19:31
I think that’s a really powerful thing that you just brought up. Because, you know, there’s so many times I’ve noticed this in my own journey with different things. Like there’s so many times when it’s easier to put our energy out and to go help other people, when we’re dealing with something on our own. And it’s totally, that can be a form of like, numbing us to our own pain. It’s like okay, I’m just gonna go help you like you have a problem. Cool. Let’s do it. I don’t want to touch me right now. But it sounds like in this setting, like you had the wisdom at 14, which is shocking and amazing to think you turn it back to yourself as well, where it’s like you are putting the energy out. And it’s like helping, you know, preserve safety in the in this in this setting, but then also having the wisdom to be like, Okay, wait, like if I’m doing this outwardly, why am I also not focusing it inward?

Laura Morsman 20:36
Mm hmm [affirmative]. Yeah. I think that I mean, what I am still learning like, even to this week with my therapist, she really, she really, I don’t even know how to describe it. It was something that I’ll never forget. And I’ve been working with her for six years. She was like, how differently would you live your life if you could fully accept that you are lovable? And I just sat there and started crying, because in my entire being, and in my mind, I was like, that feels like a mantra that’s lived within me, since the time that we’re talking about right now is like, why is it so much easier in some stages, and mindsets in our lives? Where it’s like, I don’t want to think about my stuff. But I feel equipped, and really able to support and love and nurture someone else going through something. I think that’s a wonderful, like, that’s such a huge question. And so important, and I’ve done that like i i One thing that’s like been my favorite thing to do in Austin is volunteer with children that are in a rehabilitation home. And these are children that are that have been through such trauma that they can’t go into the foster care system yet, because they need some rehabilitative services.

Alyssa Patmos 22:10
What is the familiar with this? Is it the Helping Hand Home? Is that what it –

Laura Morsman 22:14
Mmhmm, mmhmm [affirmative]

Alyssa Patmos 22:15
Oh, my heart, oh, Rotary, the Austin Rotary Club supports, supported them and actually built the building that they’re in. And so when I was in Rotary in Austin, we worked with them. And it is like the most special place on the planet.

Laura Morsman 22:30
Yes –

Alyssa Patmos 22:30
So please keep –

Laura Morsman 22:31
Literally!

Alyssa Patmos 22:31

  • describing it.

But it is –

Laura Morsman 22:33
Yes!

Alyssa Patmos 22:34
It’s the most special place.

Laura Morsman 22:37
It is. It’s it’s gosh, like, you know, the wonders that that place does for children. So I have been working with them for a three years. I mean, one of those years was through COVID. So I didn’t get to see the kids. But I would go in during the evenings and work with the young girls that are ages four to 10. And we would just do like after school, Hangouts homework art work, and just hang out in their home. And then I would read them books to go to sleep. And yeah, that is something that was extremely close to my heart. And I also realized, like meeting a lot of them brought up a lot of things for me about my childhood, and sitting with these girls that are from elementary school through middle school, it’s like, okay, this is the type of like nurturing and support and care that young Laura needed and didn’t get. And so it’s been I know that I brought this up in regards to what we’re talking about helping others and that kind of like, sometimes being a distraction to reflecting on ourselves. And I think in this scenario, even though that was an aspect of it for me, once I got in there and connected with the kids, I was like okay, this is actually really helping me connect with the parts that felt really isolated and alone as a kid.

Alyssa Patmos 24:18
I think I think it’s actually easier to not just put all the energy out around kids because so many times it’s that younger part of us that needed it and we didn’t get it so then when we’re around kids and it’s like oh my goodness like this innocent being and and just like the nurturing it like reminds us how to do it if we’re being cognizant of it. So I I’ve had the same experience like if I do it with adult friends is way easier for me to like, make it conscious, not to now, when I’m around kids, it’s one it’s insanely healing, which is why they say You know, being a parent can, can help with that, but at the same time, like, you have to be so aware, because otherwise we’re passing that on to our kids.

Laura Morsman 25:08
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Alyssa Patmos 25:10
So, so and I at times, you know, have a almost have like a longing since I don’t have kids and I don’t have a ton of friends, you know, with, with toddlers or younger kids, I’m not around them as much. And I’ve actually looked to see if there’s a similar home in Denver, and I haven’t found one, that’s, that’s quite the same. I mean, that place is so special.

Laura Morsman 25:30
Yeah.

Alyssa Patmos 25:31
But but I do find that sometimes I like am longing to be around kids so that I can reconnect with some of those pieces and remind myself, okay, know that there is a different way, there is a different way to talk, there is a different way that that you can be nurtured. And you know, both of us in some degree, I think had, I don’t actually I shouldn’t speak for you, I would say that I had, you know, good parents, I love my parents, I have close relationships with them now. And I know that you are around your family a lot, too. So it’s not any situation where they’re like, shunned or anything. And in that case, but but that doesn’t mean it’s it’s sort of like what you said at the beginning, your parents were raised without a lot of tenderness. And so having this conversation around, I needed more than what I was given, does not is not synonymous with my parents are bad people. Mm hmm. Me, and there’s new onset, because of course, at some point, you know, like, the kids are at the helping hand home, I sort of cut you off when you were describing it, but the kids there live in this space, because the horrors that have happened to them, you know, they’re, they’re not able to go into the foster care system yet. And so in that sense, you know, it’s different than what we’re talking about with our parents here. But in general, I think, you know, when we get into these nuanced conversations around, wanting more, realizing that we didn’t get everything that we needed as a kid, often times it, you know, it makes us question is like, Oh, what are our parents gonna think if we say something like that, like, if we talk about this, like, I talked to my parents about this sometimes, or they know in episodes coming out where we’re getting into stuff like this, and they’re like, you had a good childhood, and like, I know that I know that it doesn’t exclude that, like me, as a kid might not have understood something in our world and need it more.

Laura Morsman 27:38
Yeah.

Alyssa Patmos 27:39
Do you have thoughts on this?

Laura Morsman 27:39
Absolutely! Absolutely. I’m like, wow, okay. So I will say, and actually, I love that this morphed into this part of the conversation, because I feel like, gosh, I, after connecting with my first therapist, I felt extremely emboldened and empowered as as a 14 year old to really express the anger that I felt at that age to my parents, and it did not go well. And I laughed, but I mean, it ended up being something that really put my existence in danger and my family for a period of time and ended up I was the one that got shunned and, and so throughout that experience, I never doubted the validity of my feelings or my experience. But I did understand that my parents were working with the tools that they were provided as children, and that the older that I got, and the closer that I got to my parents age, when they had me, and we’re raising all of their kids. It wasn’t a blame. It was an accountability thing. So I think like with what you’re sharing around, you know, talking about experiences where your parents are saying, you had a great childhood. I think that in my parents scenario, they have the same response. You had a great childhood, you were loved. The first thing that I hear is like, their perception, like they want, they want their kids to have a good childhood, they hope that their kids had a good childhood and I sincerely think that’s what the effort was put forth to, to give them um, and with them saying like you were loved. It’s like, yeah, like I don’t have a doubt that I was loved. I think that there was also a lot of stuff that were dangerous. scenarios and as a kid responding to that with the tools that I had created a lot of like fight or flight response from an early age. And yeah, I, at this point, I think my parents are pretty. I’m used to me being very honest about my story. But it’s very recently that they have been able to accept that I am not blaming them. I, I, I think being honest. And not sugarcoating the details of my experience took a very long time for them not to say, I didn’t do that. I didn’t do that to you. I didn’t want you to go through that. And the years of thing I know, I know, you didn’t want me to go through that. I know that you don’t want your kids to be in pain. But can we make space for just saying, Whoa, that was a lot to go through. And I’m really glad you got on the other side. Like, that’s kind of all that needs to be said, it’s not me waiting for someone to apologize or say, you know, you’re right. You know, this is our fault. It’s more like just saying, let’s acknowledge that. It was a really hard time, I was always the kid, you were always the adult. And we were both meeting on a place in life where we were just there with the tools that we had. And I, after so many years have a really, really great relationship with my parents. And it took a long time. But it’s, I’m really grateful for it. And never thought that I would get to that point. But it took a lot of work and a lot of just understanding on both ends, you know?

Alyssa Patmos 31:49
Yeah, I think, for me that, like when my parents got divorced, I was in high school, and it sort of rocked my world, just the way that it happened. And that damaged my relationship with my dad for a very long time. And originally working with him is sort of what brought us back together. We were never separated, but like, I shut off my heart. And I think that is something that can happen. And and it we can become so harsh. I don’t know, if you had a similar experience where it was just like, okay, it sounds like for you, it actually became you were able to express anger and you got into touch with something for me, I like kind of became harsh, and like, shut off a piece of my emotion. Like I wouldn’t let him in, in the same way. And, and so as a result of that, it’s it’s again, like a disconnection from ourselves. Like, I don’t want to be shut off. Totally, I don’t want to totally. And so reopening that was a freaking journey. And it’s an ever evolving and ever evolving journey. But I think that that’s some of what, what isn’t always realized, I think one of the biggest things for me, it was like, okay, having to acknowledge that our parents are people too. And what age do we learn that? And I think some of us earn, like, learn it younger. Probably should. But then I think also that that, um, you know, there comes a time when parents have to realize that like that their kids are people too. And they always have been, and we’re always soaking up information and digesting things and, and trying to interpret our inner world to the outer world. And like, that’s the whole point of what communication is. But the adults are supposed to have more communication skills. Right? Sometimes they just don’t. Right, exactly. Yeah, they just don’t so. So when it comes to, like, so many of us are uncomfortable with uncertainty. And I talk about this all the time, because it’s kind of the nature of being human things are uncertain. And yet, we live in a society that tries to put us in all these structures and systems that like, give us this false sense of security. Totally doesn’t exist, which I know isn’t very big. But I’m like, she’s got it. Yep, that’s right. That’s right. So so with this, like, for me, I’ve had to unpack a lot of that with with OCD. And and I remember you know, the first time I told my mom that I had OCD we laugh about this now but she told me it was devil. Like, okay, what? Yeah, wow. Yes, yes. And so we live in these like rich inner worlds and like, we feel unsafe, much of the time or even in you brought up like the fight or flight and and in conversations, we can go through these periods. Like, do I feel safe right now? Do I not feel safe right now? And it’s like this constant management, but we’re not always aware of it. And so, for me, like, at one point, I was probably like biologically dispose a dis –

Laura Morsman 35:16
Disposition?

Alyssa Patmos 35:17
Yes, that’s the word. Okay. For OCD, and something triggered it, and now it’s like, okay, when those moments rise, it’s the continual managing of like, okay, am I gonna, am I gonna tap something? Am I How am I trying to control this thought instead of just like, letting it float through? Yes. So, so with this, I had a period where I was doing so well with OCD. And at that point, it was like, Oh, my God, I’m cured. Like, I don’t have to deal with this anymore. And that felt so great. And then, and then it came back came back a different way. And it took me lower, in a sense, because I was like, shit, how did this happened? And now everything I’ve said about being better, like, is it still true, now that I’m having to deal with it again. And so I think we can get hooked in some of these situations on like, wanting to say that we’re like, completely free from something, rather than realizing that we chose a coping mechanism in the past for a reason. Yeah, sometimes unconsciously, like, we but we were doing something that was a protective mechanism for a reason. And sometimes it comes back up, where we, we, some part of us, doesn’t mean all of us, it doesn’t mean it’s even like the logical part of us wants to use that as a coping mechanism, again, because it feels comfortable in the chaos. And that’s almost like a piece of it that I’ve had to learn to accept that like, yeah, okay, there might be periods where it’s really great. Do I need to be able to say it’s gone? No, but do I want to yes. But being able to accept that, like, it’s not black and white, as if it’s cured, or I’m battling with it. It’s very nuanced, and very, like, there’s a lot of gray areas there. So yeah, what was your experience? Like, in terms of eating disorder, and, and the continuation of it? And I know, you mentioned that it relapsed a few times. So what what’s kind of been your thought process around the ongoing journey with it?

Laura Morsman 37:53
I’m like, going back to everything that you just said, because it’s I don’t hear a lot of people say it so clearly about that internal desire to have a finish line for the struggle, it or it made me think like how many times I’ve done that, where I and I also have been asked a lot about if I’m healed, or if I, if I’m over my eating disorder, and I really like to share my experience and my thought process with what I’ve gone through and felt is that I will always have an eating, I will always have disordered eating. It’s like a coping mechanism that is so ingrained in how my nervous system responds that it’s like, I have to catch it, and I have to walk myself through. What about disorder? Like, what about restrictive eating is going to make X, Y, or Z? Made me feel like how, what will feel calmer about those situations by restricting or what other aspects in my life am I feeling or out of control that are leading me to a point of thinking, Okay, I’ll feel better if I just restrict and I also have OCD, which I did not have emerge until my early 20s. And that actually shocked me and I, I hadn’t really heard about it a whole lot. And so I too, like going to college and going through how emotionally tumultuous that can be. It was not my favorite time of life. And I remember just being in a college setting and kids having fun and a lot of drinking a lot of partying that was so new to me, and I never had the chance of just letting loose and not having to worry about like What will happen if XYZ happens? So I always felt like I had to protect people. And I always felt like I had to be the big sister just like I had done since I was 11. And it was really challenging for me. So yeah, it’s a it’s interesting, because I’m curious if like the finish line feeling of okay, maybe I’m better, maybe this won’t come back as something that I have to address every time. It’s like, is that more for me? Or is that more for other people to feel comforted that I don’t have this thing that I struggle with anymore. I’ve tried to challenge myself to be really open about it. This is new for me as in this year is my OCD has been a lot stronger of an influence on me than my restrictive eating recently. And when I have friends come over my repetitive and compulsive thought is that I am going to forget to blow out a candle or lock a door. And I’ll just kind of force myself to say out loud to a friend, if we’re leaving my place. I’ll say, I’m having a really hard time with my OCD right now. Before we leave, I need to do a couple things. And I’ll even just be like, Hey, I’m trying to work on this. I actually don’t want to look at anything, but can you help me with some exposure therapy? And not that I say go and do all the things I do. But I look at them. And I’m like, I did everything? Right. And they’re like, Yeah, we’re good to go. And I don’t look at anything I just leave. And that’s extremely hard.

Alyssa Patmos 41:50
Yeah.

Laura Morsman 41:51
It’s really hard.

Alyssa Patmos 41:52
Yeah, I think the thank you for sharing. And I think, for me, like so. So what Laura is talking about is exposure therapy is psychiatrists and psychologists agree, which does not normally happen, that exposure and response prevention is like one of the best treatments for OCD. And so you have to expose yourself to the fear, rather than you know, so many things that we end up saying to ourself is around like fighting it, or like, oh, just resist it, or you go and you check the thing a bunch of times and give into it. And so it’s about like, facing the fear and like, okay, what can I live in a world? Where, if I didn’t blow this out, and something happens, where my house burns down? Can I live in that world? Exactly. And that’s a terrifying thought. And it’s, it’s especially high stakes, like in the moment, and so I’ve done similar things where it’s like, okay, I’m having a really hard time right now. But I’m gonna make a conscious choice to choose the exposure route. And, and like, I might still need a little bit of help in that. So like, I like what you said about like the asking for like, one bit of reassurance, but then, like, stepping out the door, not needing to go and check it again. And so for me, it’s like, I’ve talked about OCD for years. And I feel like I have learned so much, that has put me in a better place to be able to help other people with it. And then, like, I think it was a week and a half ago, I got hit in the face metaphorically, with realizing a piece of it went so much deeper than I thought it did. I realized it was influencing me in work stuff in it from a perfectionism standpoint in a way that I was like, Oh, crap, like, Oh, crap, and just like, was crying in the morning? And I was like, why not? I had gotten over this. And so the way that you articulated you know, like wanting this, this finish line. I love how you asked like, is it? Is it for me? Or is it for other people? And I think sometimes it’s so hard for other people to sit in someone else’s discomfort. And I think that’s like one of the greatest gifts we can give someone is to not be off put by their discomfort because at this point, I’m okay with the fact that I have OCD. Like, I’ve accepted it as much as I want as much as it hits me sometimes. And I have days where I’m like, Why the hell do I have to have this? In general? I’m okay with it. I know it’s facet of my life. Like everybody has struggles. It’s a piece of it. Yeah, it’s harder when I feel like I can’t have that without making someone else uncomfortable.

Laura Morsman 44:57
Yeah, totally.

Alyssa Patmos 44:58
Do you experience that?

Laura Morsman 45:00
Absolutely, yeah, you’re saying that it? You’re Are you saying that it is? It’s more challenging when you feel like it’s going to bring discomfort for somebody else? Yes. Yeah. Like, it’s not an open space for you to say even if you are having a moment where you’re expressing, like a very vulnerable, like, I’m going through this right now. And it’s really challenging. If you know, someone’s going to respond with something that is defeating or just not compassionate or empathetic to it, it makes, there’s some type of like manic feeling that I get, if I feel like I’m going to be putting someone out. And it almost feels like it’s mirroring back how I view myself in that moment, where I’m like, Ah, I, I totally hear you with that. That’s something that I started trying. And this is something that sometimes helps me and sometimes doesn’t. But when I see myself repeatedly going to a candle, to see if I blew it out, I if if I get into such a repetitive cycle, that it feels like I’m getting upset with myself, I will take a moment. And I will just breathe. And I will say, Laura, I trust you. And I know that you are keeping us safe, you’re keeping your neighbors safe, you blew this out, it’s time to go to bed, and just using words that are comforting like that a wonderful friend would use but also like being my own friend and saying, I trust you that you already got this, you’re not going to put us in danger. And you’re not going to put other people in danger. Because that’s my route fear is making a human error that I am going to hurt people on accident. And that would like is that a world I could live in? That’s terrifying sometimes to think about.

Alyssa Patmos 47:05
And the thing is, whenever I talk about OCD, I always try to remind people like and even with the eating disorder, like there, there are so many it’s it’s, it’s a spectrum, like across the board. And the average person, we’re not taught how to deal with uncertainty. And so there are different ways of coping with it, or you have a fear about something. And it’s the moments where you get rigid, and you like tighten up, instead of like stepping into it. And that can happen when you’re scared of having a tough conversation. It can happen when you’re scared of turning something in at work. And you’re not sure if it’s like good yet you’re it can happen if you’re interviewing for a new job, and you’re scared to send the resume out. And so, so what becomes your coping mechanism for that? It’s it’s not that far off, there’s just a specific thing that ends up happening. You know, yeah, for someone with OCD. But yeah. And so I think everything we’re talking about here, is is relatable in that sense of like, why do we choose to tighten up and constrict and make our world smaller? Or do we push ourselves a little bit and allow our world to get bigger? And in those beautiful way to think about it? That is so difficult at like, in some of those moments, it can be very difficult. And other times it can, it gets a little easier, like the the more that we do that, but I think it’s it’s relatable across the board. As long as you can see those moments where when you’re scared of something, you decide to tighten up and shrink, rather than like, Okay, wait, breathing through it and letting it expand because like, Oh, my eyes, he doesn’t influence every single area of my life. And in some ways, it becomes like a gift for how I can then better handle those other areas where it doesn’t come up as much. I don’t know if you experienced that too.

Laura Morsman 49:16
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, once I leave my house, I don’t I don’t experience it in any other spaces is purely in a space that I’m responsible for. And but no, I feel like as far as like as far as like perfectionistic tendencies, I definitely have those when it comes to work for short, the the apprehension that I feel before sending a single email or even a text message to somebody really, really comes through some more More times than others. But yeah, I feel like when I leave my space and go into like maybe like a photo shoot or something that I’m creating from the ground up and creating something really cool, having a very high attention to detail really comes in handy. And that’s like where my brain went when you’re talking about expanding your world instead of shrinking it down in when we’re experiencing fear. Yeah, I mean, my assistant, she knows, like, when I say I’m going into go mode, she is going to get an itemized list. For me that’s like, Here is a list of things that I know, like I want to reach for this year. Here’s a list of scary emails I want to send out that are two opportunities that are new are going to grow and expand, you know, our business. And that’s where I see some of those tendencies coming to positive place in my life.

Alyssa Patmos 51:03
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Like, the more we get okay, with like, the uncertainty piece, which like in your house, and for me, it spans more than just my house. But like, hotels are terrible for me, like, it mentions My house is better, and hotels are awful. But when we see like the benefits in one area of our life, it can translate it other places. So I’m saving a little bit here, because one thing I wanted to talk about is, you know, everyone has a story ever. Even if it’s like a slice of life, or something that happened to you yesterday, it doesn’t always have to be the extreme story. Everyone has a story that can make someone else feel less alone. And yet, I feel like there’s this tendency, like, you know, the, the most common myth is like the hero or heroine story where it’s like, you faced your inner struggles, and you came out triumphant on the end. And then like, tada, here I am. And like, that’s where the story ends, like, slays the dragon, here we go. Got the gun. Done. Yeah. And like, maybe that’s why we want the inner like, Mark, because in the hero, the hero or heroine arc, that’s where it ends, like, that’s what it is no more struggle in their life as easy. And there’s so many more mythical, you know, trajectories, but that’s the one we hear the most. And so, I think, you know, a lot of times, it’s easy to want the story where it’s like, Yes, I went into debt because of XY and Z reasons. And then I finally realized that this was why and then I paid it off and came out on the other side, and like, now life is perfect. Um, which is completely unrealistic, but I think many of us end up desiring that type of story, and we get scared to share the story. Unless it is that and I think, you know, like, we’re sitting here unpacking pieces of, of our stories, and it’s, it’s not that stamp, it’s not the stamp on the end. It’s something that we continually have to manage. But it doesn’t mean that it’s not beneficial, or that like where we’re at now isn’t isn’t helpful in some way. So what have you learned, as you started opening up more about the eating disorder and, and OCD and sharing that piece of yourself? What are some things that you’ve learned in relation to the value of sharing your story and feeling okay, being in the middle of it as you’re sharing it?

Laura Morsman 53:45
Wow. Like even thinking like hearing you ask that question. It’s like bringing up an emotional response for me, because I feel like, I’m, oh, so much of me, and I, I’ve been digging into this a lot in therapy is like, I really think so much of me thought my life was going to end when I had my eating disorder. And so I’m really feeling like, I’ve always been very open about my eating disorder, even before, like Instagram, you know. And so, for many years, it was not, it wasn’t something that you could just find a hashtag for, or mental health was not on the very accessible trajectory that it’s on right now. And I saw a lot of how do I round back like, to the actual question when I was in college, and I wanted to be a therapist, and I went through a trauma in college, I dropped out and then started my business a few years. Years later, I realized like, showing up for people as a person that is admittedly in the process of their life and not on this like, like saviors journey of perfectionism. And that’s like the ultimate goal, I think, really is an important piece to helping people feel safe with you. And I work with people for a living, not as a therapist, but having people in front of my camera, sharing their stories and capturing like people in a very vulnerable, authentic form and way. I feel like it is such an incredible gift to share space with people. And to hear their story, the more that I share, or the more that I see that, like, Oh, they’re sharing their story, I’m going to like, I’m going to empathize and connect with them. I feel like I have gotten a chance to meet and connect with so many people, and learn all of these incredible experiences, survival stories, success stories, like failure stories. It’s like, it’s like a mutual exchange of just not feeling alone in this world. I think people, you you, you meet a lot of people, and they’re not really out there for that, that heroine or hero stories. They want someone that they can relate with. And they want someone that like, understands humanity is incredibly beautiful. And like yeah, I, I think dropping like this thought, I guess I, I will say this is what I did is, after starting my recovery from anorexia, I was like, Whoa, that is how quickly like life can go in a different direction than he thought it was going to. And so I do the most I try to do the most with like the time and the ability that I have to do what I want to do right now. So and being open and sharing, you know, eating disorder, other life stuff that happens. It’s like, the more that I care to share publicly, the more people feel less alone out there. And that’s important to me.

Alyssa Patmos 57:41
Yeah, I think the power of I mean, like, this is why the show’s Make It Mentionable in so many ways is like it’s it’s, it’s about making things conscious, so that we can have more agency and more choice around what we what we do. But you know, the original quote is, is Mr. Rogers said that anything human can be mentioned. And anything that can be mentioned can be managed. And yet we go around feeling like we have to be these put together robots of production. And then we end up when we can’t meet that, even though we feel pressure to we end up taking on coping mechanisms that aren’t always the healthiest for us. And so in the world where we can drop some of that, and, and embrace more of our humanity. Like I literally wrote a post recently that was like, in the past year, I became more of a human. Because it’s true, like, the more we can embrace that side of us, then our life open, opens up more.

Laura Morsman 58:51
Absolutely. I mean, I have so like, it overwhelms my brain to think of what all the people had to go through before we had social media that really empowered us to like, fight against the antiquated ideologies of our entire system. And like thinking of how we can we can empower others and say, Hey, you’re not alone. Like, let’s fight against this, let’s, let’s express ourselves and say that perfectionism, like, what are we? What’s the goal here? I think like the it one of the aspects of perfectionism that I felt with my parents growing up in the 50s Was that perfectionism equated to stability and it equated to a plantable future you could equate to control and so I feel like breaking down all of those those very, like indoctrinated feelings of if you do this right, then this part of your life will come next then it will be fine. And if you look like this and act like this, you’re going to attract this person that’s going to add the stability of your life. And it’s going to be fine. And now, like we we’ve chipped away at that so much. And just, I mean, I will say for myself still having to connect with those fighter flight responses and saying, Why do I not feel safe right now? Am I thinking that I have to live up to something that’s been drilled into my brain? As the answer or the way to stability? It’s like, no, I don’t have to do that.

Alyssa Patmos 1:00:37
The last thing I want to touch on is is something that I contemplate and find myself saying often, but I think like, you know, there’s often this, okay, if we’re going to share our story, there’s like a difference between like now being the poster child for anorexia and OCD. Yeah, and just like sharing your story. And I think, you know, I like to think about the fact that, you know, our struggles are not actually the most unique things about us, they’re often the pieces that actually show us our true talents and our true gifts, like, when we have the courage to go into them, we see something in there that is, is different, and unique. And like the perception that we come out of it is unique, you know, many people getting get diagnosed with OCD, but like the way that we handle it, how we go into it, what we come out with and what we find in ourselves, like on the other side of that, similar to any fear, or any challenge that someone has in their life, I think that’s the more unique part is like the gift that you find in that or the talent that you find in that rather than the struggle itself. And so I guess, like my faithful in bringing that up, is just that the story doesn’t have to end at overcoming the struggle. It’s like, true, what did you discover in there? Because that’s the piece that’s like, worth sharing with the world. Like, who are you now? And what do we get to experience as a result of you having the courage to go into this this obstacle, whatever it is, in your life, like the struggle does not have to be the most unique thing? About you? Yeah, anything to add to that?

Laura Morsman 1:02:34
That is so beautiful. You are like bringing up all of this emotion from you, you’re and you’re so eloquent and so thoughtful with your clear, like your clarity around this, and it’s like emotional to hear someone, just like, just speak to those things so clearly and so confidently. I completely agree with you. I feel like when you said those words, I thought man, how long did it take me to realize I was more than an eating disorder? Or I’ve been divorced and how, how that actually I did not. Honestly, I just never carry that as something that was a negative. I was like, I’m actually super stoked that that happened. But more with like the eating disorder. I think I had to constantly remind my nervous system that I survived. Because for so long, that part of making myself smaller and numbing out and thinking that that would be my life forever. It was almost even scarier to be like, well, who’s Laura? Who like you not holding on to that as my badge of many things badge of honor badge of like feeling like, Okay, I overcame this, I survived it, but then being like, okay, so, yes, validate that feeling. You did that. Amazing, keep going. But also like, you were a whole person before you experienced that challenge. And let’s keep moving forward. And that’s so cool. Like to think of, what did you learn from that experience? What are you moving on to the next part of your life, like knowing what you learned from really reflecting back and getting through all of that challenge? That’s a beautiful, that’s a good that’s such a beautiful way to think about it. And you know, that thing, like it’s not probably on so many memes and so many times it’s been shared, but it’s like, you never know a person struggle or internal battle that they’re facing every day. I try to keep that on the forefront of my mind. And, and with every person that I interact with, you know, from the most confident like person that you’re emailing that’s like a head of a company or photographing someone for business headshots. I’m like, You know what, this person has a story, I do not have a clue what they’ve overcome, and what they’re going through right now. And they’re showing up, and they’re doing this and they’re here.

Alyssa Patmos 1:05:30
I got way better at doing that when I allowed myself to be more human. Like when I dropped some of the robot shield and allowed myself to be more human, I was way better at allowing other people to have humanity to, because I wasn’t like, Who are you to get to express emotion? Like, I need press emotion. You know, when I allow myself to do it, it was like, now I can meet someone in a way where they can do that, too, because I’ve been there. So yes. I love what you said about that, like keeping that compassion at at the forefront. Yeah, thank you. So, Laura, thank you so much for joining me for this for this conversation.

Laura Morsman 1:06:13
Thank you for having me. I have never cried on a podcast. And I think that I’ve cried three times with you. So that’s a huge like, that’s a celebration for me. Thank you for having me. This has been wonderful.

Alyssa Patmos 1:06:27
You’re so welcome. And I love that communication can have the power to do that. Like when we can actually like tap into someone’s inner world in in that way that I think there’s so much there’s so much beauty in that. So thank you and thank you for being vulnerable.

Laura Morsman 1:06:45
Thank you.

Alyssa Patmos 1:06:46
And to everyone who tuned in, thank you and if it sparked anything for you, or if you have something you want to share, if you want to give yourself you know, a challenge to share a piece of your story, like it’s available in the comments for discussion. So thank you for tuning in. And I will catch you next week with another episode of the show.

You’ve just finished listening to another episode of Make It Mentionable with me, your host, Alyssa Patmos. If you’re looking for more in between episodes, then sign up for The Peel. It’s my free newsletter that gives tips for how to navigate whatever life dishes and it’s also the place where I share the juiciest of stories. To check it out, head on over to Alyssapatmos.com/thepeel. Thank you so much for tuning in, and I’ll see you next time.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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