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Originally published at VibrantMe.org on January 27, 2018; republished here with permission. Get your blogs featured!
I vividly remember being in the throes of my Eating Disorder, trapped in a restrict-binge cycle that kept me ‘safe’ but also only half-alive. By this point, I had been struggling for about 3 years. First, diet-minded, then Anorexic, followed by forced adherence to a weight gain meal plan (which I did my very best to follow but never could), and ultimately bouts of binging once I gained my appetite back.
Reflecting on this all seems like such a nightmare, and it was.
I’m not going to sugar coat it, literally (unless I was having a ‘bad’ day). Of course, the timeline I just gave is very condensed. These behaviours spanned about 7 years of my life.
Almost a decade filled with self-hatred, guilt, shame, disconnection, hiding, pleading, crying, and controlling. What I was unable to realize until I was far enough removed from my situation, was that my need for constant control was actually keeping my life spiralling, keeping my life out of control.
In the moment, I believed food was the real enemy. I hated it. I blamed food for all my problems. I couldn’t escape it.
Food Controlled Me.
I still feel the remnants of this mechanism sometimes today. What was so backward, though, was the fact it wasn’t actually food that was causing my problems. Food was involved yes, but more as a symptom of what was really going on.
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The thought patterns that I adopted throughout by growing years developed into a myriad of unhealthy coping mechanisms and beliefs about myself and the world that ultimately destroyed my sense of who I was.
I lost the ability to function as a human and I felt a lot.
I felt sadness around feeling out of place and ‘different’ than those around me.
I felt shame that I couldn’t seem to handle my issues in a constructive way and that I put a burden on my family and friends.
I felt confused and hopeless and tired, both from a lack of nutrition and from fighting a battle that seemed endless.
I didn’t know how to create a healthy outlet in which to place these feelings. So I took my pain out on my body.
My vessel became my place to store all my confusion, my hatred, my unworthiness, and my fears about being alive. But I couldn’t have known this then.
I was too caught up in the middle of the web, just waiting for the Big Dark Unknown to come eat me up and put me out of my misery.
One of my therapists (I went through a few poor souls during this time) mentioned to me that Eating Disorders are not actually about the food or about eating when you really begin to dip deep.
I was very angered by this statement; it struck a major nerve.
“What did she mean my ED was not about food? Of course, it is. Why would I be suffering like this if it wasn’t for having to eat and worry about getting ‘fat’ and people hating me for being so huge and ugly? Food (the devil) is making me this way!”
That dialogue still flows out of me so easily. It’s scary.
I have come to learn the things that trigger us most are also the things we need to look at most within.
These things are also the way out. From this perspective, the common Eating Disorder recovery and treatment ideals of “eat until your better” actually do have some merit.
Of course, this ideology must be partnered with in-depth emotional support and an understanding that the ritual of eating in recovery will often feel like ripping your throat straight out of your torso with a scalding prong.
You won’t want to do it because eating — intimately interacting with the very thing that you blame for all your problems — will force you to confront these very issues in a real way. Food and eating must become just another part of your day.
Body shaming dialogue must be slowly and compassionately removed from your vocabulary, especially internally.
You may never again be able to participate in a socially acceptable relationship to diet trends, exercise regimes, and/or any form of deprecating chatter, even though these topics may be attractive to you (of course they are!).
But honestly, questioning these themes is good. Necessary even.
Our culture has a madly messed up approach when it comes to acceptable ways to treat our bodies. We treat our bodies as if they are separate entities from our spirits. But it is all connected. Our bodies, our souls, they are all infinite manifestations of our ‘selves’, connecting us to the universe and to one another.
This belief has helped immensely in my own recovery because it allows me to grasp the bigger picture.
It allows me to see that Eating Disorders suck, but they can be looked at as symptoms of something larger going on and can, therefore, be healed through deep self-exploration, understanding and compassion.
We all want to feel safe and accepted at the end of the day. This is true for all of us, not just those struggling. That is our human condition. To be connected.
It is when attachments, obsessions and addictions to destructive thought patterns and coping mechanisms come in to play that we begin to suffer.
We don’t have to place the blame anywhere, especially on food which is meant to be our medicine. Instead, we can decide to truly, openly and unfailingly connect with and open up to others, the world, and especially ourselves and begin to unwind the web we’ve been caught in.
This is not an easy or quick process, but it is possible. If you are struggling, please reach out for help. You are not alone.
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