Eating Disorders are not your fault

One thing that has been told to me over and over in treatment, and it’s never settled in my head is that the eating disorder is not your fault. This has been told to me by every professional I’ve worked with and for some reason, it just never stuck – until now. When I started treatment, I didn’t want anybody to know that I was going to treatment and that I had to go to this place to learn how to eat again – where people had to monitor how much I ate and had to make sure I ate 100% (sounds embarrassing for a 28 year old!).  Eating disorders are filled with secrets, shame, embarrassment, anxiety etc. When I was there, in the many groups we were in, we learned a lot about eating disorders so we could understand them. I learned that eating disorders are not your fault. You didn’t put an eating disorder on your Christmas list, nor did you go to the store and buy an eating disorder. This makes so much sense! I would never choose to put myself through this hell! The eating disorder happened to you – and it’s not your fault that it happened!  You didn’t choose it, much like people don’t choose depression or cancer. It’s an illness that happens. It’s not “a diet gone wrong” or about “being thin”…. It’s about pushing down things that are too much to handle, or avoiding emotions and feelings that are tough. Eating disorders are often described as starving models, and people think models only starve to keep a job – but how you would feel if you were never good enough in your job? If you were told that you were too fat for the job you loved? Or if you were always compared to those around you, and told you weren’t good enough? It’s not all about looking thin, it’s also about taking control over feelings and emotions that we feel are out of control. It’s about controlling something in a world where we feel we have no control over anything else. If you think about it, a model has NO control over her life at all…. she is told how to look, how much to weigh, where to be, what to do… but she can control food.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Speak what you think today in hard words and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said today” … that is what is about to happen here.

So, my last post of Tough Realizations made me think about how I have to take responsibility of my recovery. I was really pissed at this new family therapist for making that comment to me saying, “so you didn’t do this to yourself?” when I was giving her my explanation about my “angry stage” about my treatment team making me fat with my meal plan when trying to fix my metabolism (if you’re confused, go read that post).

Backstory: I have figured out that my body takes the scenic route for recovery while some others go from point A to point B as quickly as they want! I’m in a struggle to fix my metabolism and it’s just not cooperating!

So, after she said this, at first glance I got mad and I cowered…. I took blame, restricted my dinner and some other meals and said it was my fault and continued like that. But, I was still mad.

After long pondering, I’m coming to realize a lot of things. I didn’t ask for this eating disorder. So there are things I should say to this lady, that I probably won’t but it would be awesome if I could. So, here is my message to her in the form of an unsent letter:

Dear Lady With Whom I Am Angry,

 NO, I didn’t do this to myself, and this isn’t my fault!!!! I get where you were going with your comment – It’s not Beth’s fault that I’m fat healthy because my dietitian can’t force feed me – and  it’s not Lisa’s fault that I’m fat healthy because she can’t force feed me, either. It’s not MY fault that I’m fat healthy either!

You work with eating disorders, you say… I’m beginning to question that. There are reasons people have eating disorders, and it’s not what most people think.  It’s not about being thin, it’s not about how you look, and it’s not about fat.  It’s about being in a world of pain, having no support or comfort anywhere, and needing something help you feel better.  IT IS NOT A CHOICE.  IT IS NOT MY FAULT.

If I don’t choose it, and I don’t cause it, then I have to accept that the problems with recovery aren’t my fault either.  I’m pretty sure that I didn’t choose to have my metabolism respond the way it is.  You don’t choose how your body is going to recover. My body has decided to make it hard on me, and that’s okay. I can come to terms with that. I can be upset with it, and still find a way to deal with it, but I don’t have to take blame for something that has happened to me that was not my choice. The only choice I have is to fight the eating disorder or to succumb to the eating disorder. I choose to fight. If, in that fight, I have to do things that I don’t like (Beth makes me do plenty), that is fine with me, but I will not take on fault that is not my own. I did not put Ed on my wish list, and I did not run out to the store and buy him – would you tell a kid with cancer that it is their fault? I didn’t think so!

In closing I would just like to say….. you’re mean, and don’t say that crap to me again because I’m pretty sure I’m one hell of a fighter and I’m only surrounding myself with professionals who are supportive. Now, we all deserve second chances, so surely I’ll give one, but you’re on a tight leash!

Sincerely,

Rachel

So, if you’re reading this and you have an eating disorder, I hope you know it’s not your fault. We all have shame that comes with it, but we don’t have to! If you’re reading this and you don’t, I hope you can realize that we don’t choose this problem and it’s not a problem we want. When we deny treatment or food, it’s not because we necessarily want the disorder, it’s because we feel we need it, or we are terrified to give it up at that moment. I think it’s safe to say that many of us want rid of the disorder (sadly there are some who don’t), but there are some who don’t feel strong enough. I, my friends, am strong enough to get rid of it, and these professionals are stuck with me until it’s gone…. Their problem, not mine! 🙂

So, in closing:

Do you have any unsent letters that you would like to write? If you could write one unsent letter today, who would you address it to, and what would it say?

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2 thoughts on “Eating Disorders are not your fault

  1. I think thats a brilliant post, I feel a lot of guilt and shame around my eating disorder. I too am 28 and feel that people seeing eating disorders a ‘teenage girl thing’ and I ‘should know better’, but the truth is until you’re experiencing and going through an eating disorder, no one can possibly know what it’s like. It’s very easy to judge people and label people too quickly. I completely agree with your post, no one would ever choose to have an eating disorder and it isnt because you want to look good in a pair of jeans. It’s so much more and sadly so few people really know what it’s like to go through that. Great Post 🙂 x

    • I know what you mean about the “I should know better” but to be honest, it’s not something we choose! Rationally, we should know better, but this isn’t a rational problem! I’m learning to let go of the shame and guilt as I accept that it’s not my fault and I don’t have to hide it. Thanks! 🙂 And don’t feel guilty! As long as you are fighting the disorder, you are better than it!

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