I have been thinking back on the years of therapy, and looking at how far I’ve come, as I patiently wait to completely finish and I thought about how much shame and embarrassment I felt for even having an eating disorder. I wanted to hide this disease from everyone and if people found out I was terrified they would judge me. I can’t say I’m one who broadcasts it to the world, but I can say that I no longer feel shame for saying an eating disorder was a part of my life. I no longer feel shame or embarrassment attached to the idea.
I think we live in a world where eating disorders are seen as something that is vain, and many people don’t understand them, but we also live in a world where the stigma of mental illness is losing the grip it once had. In this information age, people are realizing more and more that illnesses like depression isn’t just something that people can “get over” and smile through, and eating disorders aren’t about beauty and food.
So, what if you looked at the eating disorder through a different lens – How would you view yourself?
What if you saw it as something that wasn’t so shameful, or embarrassing? What if it was just something that you needed for a time period? What if it was something that you turned to for help for a period of time because you didn’t know what else to do? Would you cut yourself a break? What if it was just a coping mechanism, or a survival mechanism, to get you through a terrible life situation, or to help you deal with something that was so traumatic or difficult? You know, like a survival skill you learned.
How would you view yourself now?
Would you view yourself as having a shameful flaw, or would you view yourself as being strong for figuring out how to survive? Given the situation that you were in, you found a way to manage (Don’t get me wrong – it’s not a healthy way to manage, but you found a coping skill when you had none, even if it was an unhealthy coping skill – and you didn’t end your life). When things were so hard to deal with, you found a way to handle what you were going through… you were able to say, “It’s okay, I’m going to do ______ and I’m going to be okay.” You made an attempt to “be okay.” You wanted to be okay. You fought to be okay when you felt like you had nothing else. Doesn’t that make you strong?
Think about it.
What does it say about you going into recovery? It says that you no longer need the eating disorder because it no longer serves a purpose in your life. You are willing to accept help and change. You’re now even stronger than you were before because you are willing to learn new and healthier ways to cope with life. Maybe it did serve a purpose for some time, but now you realize that it no longer does what it used to do for you. You’re stronger because you can see that these disorders kill.
Sure, it was a maladaptive coping skill, but that maladaptive coping skill saved your life for a period of time. It kept you fighting through a difficult situation – whatever it might have been. Now you’re learning new coping skills; healthy ones. You don’t need the eating disorder because you don’t have to do it on your own anymore. You are stronger because you are willing to save your own life now – you don’t need the disorder to do it for you.You don’t have to figure it out on your own anymore because you have support.
Think about it.
You’re eating disorder doesn’t make you weak… It makes you strong because you thought to hold on and find a way to “be okay” in a dysfunctional situation you might have been in. You did what you had to do to get through, but now you don’t need that survival skill anymore. You were strong by yourself for long enough. Now, in order to stay alive, we have to let go of that maladaptive survival skill we learned because it doesn’t fit in our lives anymore. Each day you are even stronger because you are learning to live without it. Recovery is for the strongest ones.