"I’m just trying to make my way through, and I’m going to write about it."
read my interview with Mikala Jamison, author of the Body Type newsletter!
I tried to write a clever little blurb introducing the conversation I recently had with Mikala Jamison, author of the Body Type newsletter, but I think she sums it up perfectly in her tweet:
If you like weightless, you’ll love Body Type. We both write about eating disorders, body image, food, exercise, etc., but Mikala’s writing consistently challenges me to think about it all from a new perspective. I was so honored to be interviewed by her. Here’s a preview:
Mikala Jamison: Tell me a little about the act of writing the newsletter. When you’re writing about these things, what’s coming up? Is it a cathartic or therapeutic experience?
Julie Gallagher: It’s a lot harder than I thought. I thought, “It’s going to be so easy, I’ll definitely write every week,” then I found myself actively avoiding it. I still do sometimes, I think because these are uncomfortable emotions for me to sit with, as they are for a lot of people. It is cathartic because every time I write something that feels really vulnerable and scary, the response—even if it’s just like, from my mom—it’s very validating to have someone understand you better.
When I first started writing it, I was like, “Oh, I’m recovered now, I’m going to write about it.” But no, I’m still very much fighting my way through recovery. I would not call myself recovered at all. It’s very much an active journey.
Something I said in my intro post was, “I have to be very in my own face about recovery.” I am talking about recovery, people know I’m in eating disorder recovery, people are here for me and supporting me and I have committed myself to recovery. That makes it harder, I feel, to slip backwards.
I’ve seen the benefits of recovery through writing the newsletter, but also there are moments when I’d write a newsletter [post] when I’m still struggling. And I kind of realized that’s the whole point—it doesn’t have to be figured out. I’m just trying to make my way through, and I’m going to write about it.
MJ: Are there things you feel like you haven’t written about yet that you want to? Or, are there things you don’t want to write about because you don’t have enough distance, or it’s too raw or too hard?
JG: Something I have been a little hesitant to talk about is co-existing mental illnesses. I have depression and anxiety and I think they go hand-in-hand with having an eating disorder. There are times I feel afraid to talk about those things because I’ve kind of claimed the eating disorder identity … I’m afraid of people thinking I’m lying.
MJ: Lying about what?
JG: Like: “How can you have these many things wrong with your brain?” Which is not true, logically, I know that.
Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is how I show up when I’m dating, or trying to date—the way I feel about food and my body, the fear of not being loved because of what my body looks like has been something I think is going to be the hardest for me to shake.
MJ: It’s almost like, how do we decide what vulnerable things we’re going to share? I’ve written about so many super vulnerable things but it’s like…“These other ones…”
JG: Right, why am I comfortable with these things that are vulnerable as opposed to others?
Something else I’ve thought about a lot is the line between my personal eating disorder recovery and broad social activism. In this space of somebody who writes about eating disorders and bodies, right, I understand I’m learning all the ways bodies are political. I want to talk about those things, because there’s so much to talk about, but it’s hard. I’m just trying to feel recovered and make sure I eat three times a day. I’m still learning and trying to understand what an eating disorder means for me in my body.
MJ: Right. I’m certainly not claiming to be any kind of body activist. I’m just a person talking about bodies. I don’t really know what to claim as a “brand,” because as soon as you do, it feels like you always have to be speaking for that cause.
JG: Right. I have been very nervous that this is going to be the thing that defines me in a way I don’t want later. I want to heal my relationship with my body and food so I can think about other things and have a really full life. I don’t want this to be the thing I’m always talking about.
MJ: Back to publishing the newsletter–do you have a publishing schedule, or do you just roll with it?
JG: I started writing every week and it was a lot of self-inflicted pressure. It wasn’t realistic.
My friend Jessica DeFino [who writes The Unpublishable] said: “It’s nice to have a little surprise in your inbox sometimes.” I write when I’m compelled to write something. It’s been a good lesson in deconstructing my perfectionism. A lot of things in my life are like: If I’m not doing it 100% perfectly, what is the point? No, actually, it’s still valid. And people are so wrapped up in their own shit, they aren’t counting how many newsletters they’re getting in their inbox.