Dec 28, 2010
The New Year brings hope for everyone who wants a fresh start. For those of us who want Eating Disorder recovery that fresh start begins with giving up.
The beginning of the year is a popular time for Eating Disorder Rehabs to get an overwhelming amount of new clients. Whether it’s the client or the family that has decided this year is going to be different, the goal is the same: RECOVERY. A new year is a shiny new toy that makes us all excited. It’s like a newborn baby, it gives us hope for the future and the possibility of change.
I looked up the Top 10 most common New Years Resolutions. They are:
1.) Spend more time with family and friends
2.) Fit in fitness
3.) Lose weight
4.) Quite smoking
5.) Enjoy life more
6.) Quit drinking
7.) Get out of debt
8.) Learn something new
9.) Help others
10.) Get organized
But for someone with an Eating Disorder goals and lists are part of the everyday regime. Those of us with Eating Disorders tend to be incredibly driven, intelligent and accomplished individuals. If we make a list of something to do, we’ll probably do it faster and more successfully than most. So what’s the New Years Resolution for those of us in Eating Disorder Recovery? It’s: GIVE UP.
The hardest thing for someone with an Eating Disorder is giving up; which might be why Eating Disorders have the highest mortality rate of any other psychological disorder. Giving up an Eating Disorder takes more bravery, humility and courage than anyone can imagine. The tricky thing about an Eating Disorder is the vice of fear that it keeps ones brain while it operates. Taking that vice off takes a ton of strength. Believing you’ll be okay without it takes an avalanche of blind faith.
As a woman in recovery myself I won’t lie, giving up is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I spent so many years convincing myself that being thin was the answer to all of life’s problems. Admitting to myself that I was wrong and just the thought of attempting another route erupted tears and fear that raced through my blood. But, here’s the thing, giving up not only saved my life, it GAVE me a life. I had no idea how amazing life could actually be until I gave up my Eating Disorder. My prayer for you is that you would GIVE UP this New Year. I promise that if you make that your only goal for the year, 365 days from now you’ll be smiling like me and not dying.
Dec 20, 2010
Why does a girl with an Eating Disorder starve, purge, binge, almost kill herself and repeat? Because feelings suck.
I got a call from a sponsee last night that was heaving in and out of tears and a cracked voice. Like all of my sponsees, she reminded me so much of myself. The disease of an Eating Disorder may manifest into different behaviors of anorexia, bulimia and compulsive overeating, but the fear it spreads like cancer is the same malignant crap every time. The amazing thing about working with sponsees is that they not only allow us to return the gift of recovery, but they also remind us how far in remission we are from the cancer of an Eating Disorder. This particular sponsee of mine has done the basic work of surrendering her food. She doesn’t abuse herself with food any longer. However, since she isn’t numbing herself with food the uncomfortable feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, imperfection, doubt, fear and anger are all raging through her body. She called me asking me what to do about them. I took a deep breath remembering when I asked my own sponsor what to do with my feelings, remembering how much I hated the following answer, “Sit down and feel your feelings.” My sponsee cried more heavily when I gave her this painful prescription.
To someone without an Eating Disordered mind it may sound incredibly juvenile to cry about being forced to “feel your feelings.” I agree, it is. Part of the psychological phenomena of Eating Disorders is its ability to convince intelligent girls and women that they are inadequate of handling their own emotions and relationships. It is paralyzing. The harmful effect is that the unresolved issues behind the emotions of imperfection, fear and anger never get resolved. They fester, they mold, they corrupt our mind, they ruin our relationships and eventually kill us. What I try to tell my sponsees is that “feeling your feelings” is like purging in a healthy way. There have been studies done on bulimia that have stated that the behavior of purging food actually gives some relief. It is a way of subconsciously purging the pain from ones body, except the relief doesn’t last through food. The underlying emotions are still there, until the feelings are processed. Whatever emotions one feels whether they be anger at parents, rejection from a relationship or loss of a friend, those feeling needs to be removed from the body.
I think the scariest thing about feeling emotions is the knowledge that comes with them. I think so many of us with Eating Disorders don’t want to feel our emotions because it means that we might have to admit that we feel our parents have let us down. We may have to admit that we have been selfish. We may have to admit that this may not be the guy we’re supposed to be with. We may have to admit that our lifetime friendship needs to end. We may have to admit that alcohol is a problem and stop drinking. We may have to make an apology to our sister. We may have to drop out of school to get recovery from our Eating Disorder. We may have to do things that are right to do, but sometimes doing the right thing is incredibly painful and difficult.
Having experienced many emotions in recovery I have learned to welcome them. They do bring tears and a lot of pain, but they also bring with them something else, something beautiful; CHANGE. Something I have come to believe and appreciate about my emotions is that they are signals to me that I need to change something in my life. In my Eating Disorder I was completely lost. I had friends, relationships and interests that I didn’t even like. I didn’t realize that things needed to change until I started feeling the emotions that I tried to suffocate. What I do now is let my feelings guide me to think rationally about the choices I am making. It is through the great pain of emotions that I have had the opportunity to sculpt a life that is fun, exciting, joyful, faithful, and Eating Disorder free. It is my goal to help my sponsee see that her emotions can guide her to the same.
I’m blessed to know women who have gone before me and walked through this process. I met them and my sponsees at Overeaters Anonymous and Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous. We take The Victorian clients to these meetings where they too can get Sponsors who have experienced the same disease and relate.
Dec 13, 2010
You say: “You look healthy” She hears: “You look fat” Join us as we try to decode the Eating Disordered brain and attempt to reprogram YOURS.
Christmas is only 12 days away. That means the parental units, spouses and children will be flying into John Wayne Airport shortly to see our beloved Victorian clients. Undoubtedly we will not make it to December 25th without at least 2 women walking into the office in hysterical tears over a family member who said some form of the following:
“You’re looking healthy!”
”You’ve gained weight!”
“Your boobs look bigger!”
“Wow! You must be eating all your meals! You look good!”
or for others it’s:
“Wow! You’ve lost what 15 pounds?”
“Honey I can see your cheek bones now! How wonderful!”
“Oh my gosh what are you a size….”
Now obviously as staff we are happy to see families taking notice of clients physical recovery from their Eating Disorder. One would assume that a client who has participated in 1 to 6 months of in-patient care would like to hear that others are taking notice of their progress. However what families notice as progress is noted to Eating Disorder clients as failure. For one, Eating Disorder clients are attached to their size. Whether small or large they have sculpted their identity in their size and feel threatened when someone notices it has changed. They feel a loss of control, insecurity and fear from the change. They worry what expectations you may have from them due to the change.
However, it’s my belief that the underlying issue for the clients is that your comments on their body triggers the ED Voice that tells them “All you have to offer to people is your body.” As counselors, dieticians, doctors, nurses, support staff and therapist we make a point to never, ever comment on a client’s body. We believe that each and every woman who comes through The Victorian is not simply a woman with an Eating Disorder and a traumatic past. She is a unique soul on a journey trying to discover who she is. When we see her uniqueness shine through in either creativity, personal relationships or strength we try to celebrate that. We make a point to notice the uniqueness of every woman, not her size.
I encourage all of you visiting family members to take note of your loved ones uniqueness during your visit. Compliment her kindness, her wit, her intelligence and her strength. Think before you comment on her physical or emotional appearance (and simply DON’T comment on the physical.) Eating Disorder clients are notorious for being incredibly sensitive. I thank you for being patient and thoughtful with your words, if used wisely they truly can be healing and serve a much greater good.