Thursday, January 6, 2011

Going for it

My head is a bit of a mess today-too much chocolate and not enough sleep, I guess, so it's probably not the best time to blog. However, I have been thinking quite a lot about this recovery thing and want to get some things on the screen.

First, I want to thank the people who have reached out, commented and emailed about this blog. I'm hoping it's striking a chord with people. The National Eating Disorders Association recently stated that 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder. Those are some scary statistics, so it's more important than ever to promote the idea that recovery is possible.

Having gotten through an exceptionally severe case of anorexia, it seems natural that I would want to help others. While I'm not a therapist, there's something to be said for having the experience of going through it. On the other hand, it's a little bit like jumping off a diving board. You can tell people about it, offer advice on the best landing, describe how it feels, and give step by step instructions on how you did it, but to actually do it is something entirely different. I've had this thought that rather than seeing recovery as having to follow certain rules or looking a certain way, it could be that it's more individual. Everyone's path is going to look different.

On that note, I have to address some problems with the way most hospitals were run when I was struggling. Hopefully some of that has changed over the years. If anyone has seen the movie Thin, you know how difficult a hospital stay can be for someone with an eating disorder. By the way, Thin, is pretty much like the book Wasted in terms of offering little hope. I've know a few people who couldn't watch the entire thing, because it was so depressing. I forced myself to watch, but it was difficult and about as comfortable as sitting in a cactus. Really, it was almost painful to watch as one girl got kicked out of the hospital, while her mother begged staff to let her stay. Ironically, she was one of the girls who ended up doing better in the end.

What I see as one of the bigger issues in eating disorder programs is the whole control aspect. Pretty much any anorexic will tell you there are control issues involved with an eating disorder. Generally, one or more areas of your life feels out of control, so taking control in another eases some of the anxiety and offers a false feeling of power. When entering an eating disorder facility, the power and control is immediately taken away. I thought it was entirely fucked up when a friend of mine who has struggled for years told me that in the hospital where she was, they wouldn't let her combine her foods. For example, if she had cereal, she couldn't mix it with her yogurt. Way to throw in some more weird rules around food there people! I don't believe this could solve anything. Now, don't get me wrong, because I understand that an eating disorder is about food. Part of the solution is to eat more, of course. However, what really needs to be addressed are the core issues that are underneath all that.

Some time ago, I read the book, Regaining your Self-Breaking Free From the Eating Disorder Identity By Ira m Sacker. I can't say that I agree 100 percent with everything in the book, but it offers great insight into a better approach to recovery, a much better approach. One idea is that, rather than focus on food issues and eating, try to rediscover the things that make you you. That sounds funny. More accurately, what is your passion? What fires you up and gets you going? What do you like and dislike? WHO ARE YOU?? So often, we get lost in our illness, and identify with a certain label. But the truth is that you are not your illness. You might have to share your body with it at times or for a time, but it's not WHO you are. It doesn't have to define you.

One great exercise is to write a list of things you love. Even if it's movies or books, just get back in touch with the things that get you excited. Take 10 minutes and just write. Speaking of exercises, here's a hard one-well, it was hard for me: Stand in front of the mirror, and looking into your eyes, say out loud, "I am beautiful." This is a tough one that so many people struggle with. In fact, Dove did a survey once and found that women are extremely reluctant to describe themselves as beautiful. They will pick sexy, cute, healthy etc.. over beautiful. So it's a good one to address. Funny, that for years I could see beauty in everyone but myself. Funny too that self acceptance actually takes work for some.

Well, I'm rambling a bit and in desperate need of a shower here. I'm dashing off in mid thought in a way, but there are still a few good tips here that I hope people can use.


  1. ""By the way, Thin, is pretty much like the book Wasted in terms of offering little hope. I've know a few people who couldn't watch the entire thing, because it was so depressing.""

    I couldn't watch "Thin."

    And I think you are spot on in this post, both with EDs being very individual and with the need to remember joy and beauty in life as a way to mitigate anxiety and loosen the grip of the EDS....

    I'm glad you're writing a blog. I'm sure many people will find your words invaluable...

  2. Thank you so much. Yes! I agree about needing to remember joy and beauty. I love the way you put that.