Once you’ve decided to make a change, opening up about the problem is an important step on the road to recovery. It can feel scary or embarrassing to seek help for an eating disorder, so it’s important to choose someone who will be supportive and truly listen without judging you or rejecting you. This could be a close friend or family member or anyone you trust!
Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is real!!! You can have your clinical team, but where is your squad? Don’t let ED isolate you from those you care about; and those who care about you too! As one recovery hun put it…
“If you have friends who want to do things with you, it helps to keep you out of your head and also forces you to go to meals. Eventually the fun of having friends will outweigh the fear of eating. They also provide a good model for more normalised eating patterns. But mainly I think friends give you something to live for because you make great memories and truly feel a sense of support”
The importance of continuing to tackle the stigma associated with eating disorders; the assumption that is made so frequently when an individual says they have had anorexia, and that when people look at them and decide themselves the individual must be recovered. Anorexia is a state of mind, not a state of being. People who hold the assumption that eating disorders are about weight and food, look at individuals and think they must be recovered but eating disorders consumed you from the inside, physically symptoms are not always there; again emphasising the importance of looking into the psychological factors within the patient; finding the route cause to eating distress.
Smooth and positive transition from services and the importance of this into the recovery process is vital. Poor transition leads to disruption in continuity of care, disengagement from services and therefore likely to lead to worse clinical outcomes. Many teams have left me; many teams failed me; many teams stated “ill never be better”; this showing the importance of the significance of positive social support, of friends and family, if your lucky enough to have that support; find someone to love you regardless of your size or the thoughts, and who aim to one day learn you to love ourselves as much as that individual loves us.
One person can’t give you the keys to recovery. Rather, you likely require a team – one that holds you accountable and provides the knowledge and skill set you need for recovery. A dietitian specialising in eating disorders can help you navigate your food rules and ultimately normalise your eating. A nurse/doctor that can monitor you for medical complications and provide a much needed reality check regarding the seriousness of your illness. And its vital to find a therapist that you really connect with will give you an ally to help better understand yourself and your eating disorder. While it isn’t unheard of for people to recover on their own, it is immeasurably easier with a strong team of professionals by your side!!!
People can live with an eating disorder at any weight, but it is about us accepting the fact that we have an eating disorder, to be patient with ourselves, and often understand that we may have lapses; but as long as we have the tools, support, and treatment that has focused on all that is needed; to being able to process through the relapse, without delving further into the eating disorder, it will be possible to live a life worthy without this illness; it’s not just about eating and your “fixed”, again highlighting the significance to not ever solely focus on weight gain within treatment.
To be here today writing this lengthy post reminds me that I am stronger than I seem and believe. Honesty costs nothing but stigma around mental health and especially eating disorders is ridiculous and costly of lives…
People always avoid talking about mental health and especially eating disorders; but why??? because its often complex?, because its often many layers? and accumulation of different factors? Its not about food and weight though; something we all are so happy to talk and stigmatise about. It’s about feeling like we can’t trust anyone, not even ourselves. I know it gets complicated but the lack of knowledge is what causes the stigma, discrimination…. so just talk, ask.. listen.
Mental health is nothing to be ashamed of, my mental health does not define me as a person.
Eating disorders, like many mental health issues, consume you from the inside, physically symptoms are not always and often there…eating disorders are never about wanting to be thin; please if all you get from reading this, please get this!!!…. its not about eating and your “fixed”…It’s about feeling unsafe in the world. It’s about feeling like we can’t trust anyone, not even ourselves.
The Eating Disorder becomes “the reliable one”. “It’s about feeling overwhelmed by life. Like nothing makes sense. Nothing is simple. The Eating Disorder gives us a sense of calm…to an outsider our life may look like it is in absolute chaos but it gives us the false sense of security we so desperately need. It’s about the feelings we can’t verbalise, that can’t be expressed through words so we try to “say” it with our bodies. It’s about an extreme, intense feeling of being inadequate. Like nothing we do or say or feel is “right”. “Not thin enough” often means That we are not enough. full stop.
Problems that seem too big and complicated to deal with, feelings that are uncomfortable to sit with; it provides us with simple, concrete answers to our distress. It’s about being paralysed by perfectionism. expectations that are so high we constantly feel like we are failing. We put ridiculous amounts of pressure on ourselves to be “the best”. We compare ourselves to everyone around us and constantly feel like we are falling behind. It’s about needing to feel loved and comforted but feeling unworthy of real love and comfort.. It’s about having low self esteem and about self hatred. A self hatred that could be there for another huge list of reasons. We may have done things we deeply regret. We may blame ourselves for painful experiences that have happened in our lives. We may not even know why that self hatred is there but we feel it in our core. We believe we are “bad” people and deserve to be punished We deserve this miserable life. It’s about debilitating anxiety and/or depression that we struggle to deal with so we use the Eating Disorder to cope. It’s about secrecy and silence. We are all silently screaming for something. We just use our bodies and behaviours to communicate instead of our voices.
It’s about fear. We are afraid of growing up, afraid of staying young. Afraid of our future, afraid of our past. Some of us are afraid of failure, some of us are afraid of success. Afraid of being too much or not enough. It’s about holding onto something that gives us an identity. We are afraid that without the Eating Disorder, we are nothing. In some weird way, we think it makes us strong. We believe our Eating Disorder masks our fear, our shame, our vulnerability. The things, we believe, make us weak. We use it to numb the sadness, anger, hurt, shame, guilt, hopelessness, fear etc. It’s about being an extremely sensitive soul. We feel things deeply and intensely. We are affected by others emotions easily and often take on their pain. Others feelings and problems become ours. We take things personally and over think E V E R Y T H I N G. We feel the weight of the world on our shoulders, like it is our responsibility to save it. It’s about loneliness. Like we don’t fit in or belong anywhere. Like no one understands us. Like we are somehow completely different to the rest of the human population. It doesn’t matter how many friends or family we have around us, this is a loneliness, an emptiness that we believe cannot be filled.
It’s about survival. It helped us to survive and cope with some horrific and painful life experiences. We say yes when we mean no and no when we mean yes. We struggle with being assertive and as a result often get taken advantage of. This only feeds into our unworthiness. It’s about privacy, having something that is ours and only ours. Something no one else can touch. It’s not about weight, but for some of us, it is. However, not in the way you’d think. Some of us want to shrink so that we become invisible. We want to become as small as we feel. We want to hide away.. We use the Eating Disorder to avoid and distract ourselves from all the things that are really going on, inside. More often than not, it’s an accumulation of any number of these thoughts, feelings, beliefs and experiences and there is bound to be plenty of other influencing factors that I haven’t listed.
Everyone is different; but I know of from experience living with my own Eating Disorder and being close to many others who have Eating disorders, you need to talk… So if someone you care about is struggling with an Eating Disorder, instead of telling them to “just eat”, ask them what they believe is behind their Eating Disorder and don’t take “I’m just fat” as a valid answer…because that is NEVER the answer. No matter how strongly they feel that in the moment, it almost always goes much deeper than that. Help us stop the silence. Let’s start talking about this…
To truly bring yourself back from any kind of mental health disorder means getting completely lost, destroying everything you believe in and recreating yourself. And it’s terrifying. It hurts like hell. And support from others is so very much needed. But it gives you the ability to live again and It’s worth it….
Practicing Self-Compassion and deciding that you are worthy of recovery and living a joyous life full of ups and downs is vital and research does show this!. Forgive yourself when you have a bad day!!! Acknowledge when you are tired and need rest!!!. And keep reminding yourself that you are doing the best that you can!!!
You cannot take away a coping mechanism (whether it is maladaptive or not) without replacing it with something else. So the best is to think about adding healthy coping strategies to your toolkit! This is where all those hours of DBT are going to come in handy. How about mindfulness, art or yoga? Music is my savour right now!
The key to internalising skills is to practice them often, at all times of day. Repetition and time will help the brain form new neural pathways, and slowly but surely these habits will replace the old, unhealthful ones!
We need to find ourselves, away from the eating disorder rituals and routines and rules. That is believing it is not our “sense of self”. When you make the decision to break free of ED, it can feel like giving up a part of your identity, maybe one that you have held on to for a long time. In the same way you must add new ways to self-regulate when you begin to abstain from your eating disorder behaviours, rediscovering your sense of self is key to maintaining your recovery. A journal can be a great way to do this! Make lists of the things that define you outside of your eating disorder. Explore your relationship to others in your life, as a child, parent, spouse or friend. What are you passionate about? Do you prefer horror movies or comedies? What subjects do you like best in school, or what is your favourite thing about your job? What makes you feel connected? What are your pet peeves? As the eating disorder identity fades away, making sure that YOU are there to take its place is the best way to ensure it never comes back.
REMEMBER You do not have to be thin to be in the depths of eating disorder, and similarly you do not have to have a eating disorder if you are thin. It is the mind-set that needs to change; body weight is just a sign, a symptom that something is not right; it is uncovering the key as to why that is, Is the real secret towards making a full and healthy recovery. Ongoing change is achieved by building a life that has meaning to YOU, as an individual. Be open and willing to try anything, stick with what works, be kind to yourself and never forget: recovery is possible.
Coping with Eating Disorders: Emotional Do’s and Don’ts
- allow yourself to be vulnerable with people you trust
- fully experience every emotion
- be open and accepting of all your emotions
- use people to comfort you when you feel bad, instead of focusing on food
- let your emotions come and go as they please, without fear
- pretend you don’t feel anything when you do
- let people shame or humiliate you for having or expressing feelings
- avoid feelings because they make you uncomfortable
- worry about your feelings making you fall apart
- focus on food when you’re experiencing a painful emotion
Adapted from: The Food and Feelings Workbook, by Karin R. Koeing, Gurze Book