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Posts Tagged ‘anorexia’

On my blog entry entitled Good Article on Overcoming Food Addiction, a reader posted the following comment:

and its just came to my mind the way that one reader wrote a letter to her body, during my therapy I was required to write a letter to my eating disorder treating it as a friend. It went like: Dear ….(whatever eating-disorder it is),

I would like to thank you for….
ie. always being there for me, for always protecting me…etc

It totally helped me change my perspective cos then I was able to see how much I got out off that “relationship” with my eating disorder and why it had been such a faithful companion to me. And step by step I was able to see my needs behind it and learned to fulfill those needs in a more constructive way ~ Queen of Acknowledgement

I have been thinking about this comment all week and trying to decide how I feel about viewing my eating disorder as my “friend.” I also talked with an off-line friend about this theory. She rejected the notion of viewing an eating disorder as a friend outright, but I am much more open to the idea, although I confess that I have never once considered doing so.

On the one hand, I have one offline friend who told me that it is important to distance yourself from what ails you. She says that I should not call compulsive overeating “my” eating disorder because I don’t need to claim an attachment to it. Her advice is contrary to what Queen of Acknowledgement is saying.

I have been thinking about the advice I give repeatedly – that the key to healing from child abuse is to love and accept every part of yourself, expressing your feelings and emotions as you experience them. Isn’t what Queen of Acknowledgement advises doing just that? Rather than reject the part of myself that found comfort in food when my life had little comfort, perhaps I need to honor and accept the creativity I found in surviving the unsurvivable. Perhaps Queen of Acknowledgement is onto something really profound. What do you think?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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How is this for weird? I think I must have just found my “inner anorexic.” This is really weird, and I don’t know how long it will last … but let me back up…

Since I was 11 years old, I have used food to help me “stuff down” the bad feelings. I just thought I had no self-control. I was well into adulthood when I learned that there was a label for what I did – binge eating/compulsive overeating – and I was shocked to learn that it was a real eating disorder. Since I wasn’t thin and did not vomit up my food, I did not appreciate the severity of the eating disorder. It was validating to call it what it was and recognize that the problem wasn’t just me being “lazy” or lacking in self-control.

I generally succumb to the urge to binge eat at this time of year and wind up putting on weight. Because most people tend to overeat to some degree during the holidays, nobody ever seems to notice this pattern in me. However, this year I have an added stressor – next month, I will be seeing my mother/abuser for the first time in six years as we both attend my sister’s college graduation. I expect to battle the eating disorder in spades, so I have been trying to nurture my body during the times that I am doing okay. I am actually making some progress!

I went to battle with an alter part recently. I finally “met” one of the parts that drives the eating disorder. This little girl believes that being bigger makes me safe, so she is always hungry. Once I recognized this in myself, I started putting energy into fighting this false belief. I have been telling myself that, as an adult woman, I am no longer a small, vulnerable child. I am about 20 pounds overweight, and the extra weight actually makes me less safe. If I need to run away or fight back, then I will actually be safer if my body will get a little bit smaller.

I guess I got through to that part of myself because the urges to overeat have all but stopped. (This has only been for about a week, so I am hardly holding my breath that this is permanent.) In fact, there have been a couple of days where I started feeling lightheaded and could not figure out why. I finally realized that I had not eaten anything other than rice milk all day, and my body was reacting to having so few calories in it by lunchtime. Still, I did not feel hungry.

This is not normal for me, and I am curious to see how long it lasts. In the meantime, I am perfectly happy to drop a few pounds before the next wave of binge eating rears its ugly head. I would love to believe that I have conquered it, but it will take me prolonged periods of eating in a healthy manner for me to believe it.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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One of the biggest joys in my life is helping others along their healing journey. That is why I write this blog. I don’t get paid for it. I only registered as an Amazon affiliate so that this blog can raise money to help fund Isurvive, my favorite charity for child abuse survivors. The checks go directly to the charity.

This blog is a labor of love, because I hear frequently that the lessons I have learned through my fierce healing battles are helping others along their own healing journeys. I see others find healing in my deepest wounds, and it brings value from what otherwise would have been meaningless. I will never be grateful that I was abused, but I will be forever grateful that I am helping others to heal.

What frustrates me is how I am unable to help some of the people I care about most to heal. I am helping people on other continents along their own healing journeys, but I must stand back helplessly and watch others in my day-to-day life struggle without being able the help them. The difference is that those of you who are reading my blog are in a place where you are ready to face your demons and heal. Some of the people I care about in my off-line, day-to-day life are not there.

I have one friend who is struggling with anorexia, but I cannot do anything about it. She is not ready to hear me. If I say anything, she will only push me away and further isolate herself, which will only make matters worse.

So, I watch in silence as she wastes away and pray that she will talk to me one day. I have told her about my own personal h@#$ of battling an eating disorder, so she knows (or should know) that I get it. However, my version was the other extreme (binge eating), so maybe she won’t know. I see her speeding toward a brick wall, and I am powerless to stop her.

Then I have another friend who was recently diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It was news to her that this was an anxiety disorder, and she had it all backward. She has agreed to take medication so she can alleviate the symptoms, which she believes are causing her anxiety. I told her that her symptoms are how she is managing the anxiety, but she did not want to hear this.

She also did not want to hear that, if she would focus on expressing her repressed anger, she would see a big reduction in her OCD symptoms. I was not advising this in place of the medication but in addition to it. She is not ready to face that she has any anger to deal with. She says that she has forgiven her abuser and even continues a relationship with the abuser. In my experience, forgiveness cannot occur until after you give your anger a voice. She never has.

I cannot make another person heal. It is just so hard to see someone I love going the wrong way and be powerless to stop it. I guess I need to focus on who I have helped rather than who I cannot.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Magenta Plant (c) Lynda Bernhardt

I had an appointment with a new doctor yesterday. I have had bad luck with retaining primary care physicians (PCPs). For whatever reason, they keep leaving the practice!

I have been without a PCP for a while now. I do not generally need to see a doctor until cold and flu season. I figured I had better go ahead and find a new doctor now that this time is upon us.

So, I found a doctor who is new to a practice near my house. I did not know a thing about her other than that she takes my health insurance, which is obviously a plus. I had my “well visit” today to get to know her and transfer over my medical information.

I really like her. We established a good rapport pretty quickly. She is very knowledgeable about a number of issues in my health history, so I feel really good about this relationship.

So, when we were finishing up, I found the courage to say the words, “I used to have an eating disorder.” Man, that was hard. I felt the tears hovering a few times, but I was able to hold them back the whole time. This is not information that I usually share with my medical professionals.

She was so cool about it. I told her that it was binge eating but not purging. She asked, “Do you mean bulimia?” I said, “No. I do the binge eating, but I don’t throw it back up.” She looked at me funny and said, “Then how do you stay so thin, because you are clearly not overweight.” (Did I mention that I really like this woman!?!!) She asked if I starved myself afterward, and I said no.

I told her that I have been managing it much better for the past 18 months but that I still never got obese because I typically binged on lower fat and lower calories foods. She confirmed that what you eat can be just as important as how much you eat.

She looked back over my recent blood work and could tell that I am eating better these days. Apparently, eating disorders can cause red flags in your triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels.

She cautioned me that, once you have an eating disorder, you will be vulnerable to it for the rest of your life. I told her that I knew this. One difference is that I have healed most of what fueled the behavior. Also, when I “fall off the wagon,” I no longer beat myself up over it. I just pick myself up and try to do better tomorrow.

I am really proud of myself for opening up to this new doctor.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Frog Statue (c) Lynda Bernhardt

Many abuse survivors struggle with eating disorders. Eating disorders are a way to manage emotional pain. For many years, the only form of eating disorder that most people acknowledged was anorexia nervosa. However, today we recognize that there are many different forms.

Anorexia Nervosa

People who struggle with anorexia nervosa greatly limit their caloric intake and can become very thin. In most cases, the drive behind the disorder is control. In the case of an abuse survivor, she had no control over her body when she was being abused, but she can control what goes into it today. Many women who struggle with anorexia nervosa also feel a strong drive to be invisible. By becoming physically smaller, they feel more shielded from others. Eating a regular portion of food is very difficult because the person fears losing control and being “seen.”

Bulimia

People who struggle with bulimia compulsively overeat and then force themselves to purge the food they have just eating through vomiting, laxatives, or both. The drive behind this disorder can go in two directions. The appeal to some is the “stuffing down” of the painful emotions. By overeating, they are able to “stuff down” the pain so that they do not feel it. The purging is more of a way to control weight gain. For others, the appeal is the purging aspect. When they purge the food, they symbolically purge the pain so they do not have to feel it.

Compulsive Overeating/Binge Eating

People who struggle with compulsive overeating and/or binge eating have a similar disorder to bulimia without the purging. These people might exercise frequently or eating lower calorie foods to manage their weight because of the vast quantity of food they are consuming. Others might want to be in a larger body because they equate being in a smaller body with being vulnerable to abuse.

A binge is when the person cannot get enough food into her body fast enough. Compulsive overeating is less intense and rushed but still involves eating much more food than the body needs. By binging and overeating, the person “stuffs down” the painful emotions.

Other Eating Disorders

There are many other forms of eating disorders, but all center around using food to manage emotions. The eating disorders can manifest in a variety of ways. Some people starve themselves all day and then binge at night. Others limit themselves to only one type of food for days or weeks at a time. While these forms of eating disorders might not be as well known to the general public, they are a very real struggle to those who wrestle with them.

If you struggle with an eating disorder, you are not alone. Eating disorders are very common among adult survivors of childhood abuse. Recognizing that your eating patterns are not normal is an important first step to healing from them. An eating disorder is a coping tool you are using to manage your pain. The more you can lean on more positive coping tools, the less you will need to lean on your eating disorder. See Positive Coping Tools for Healing from Childhood Abuse for a list of positive coping tools.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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