Juggling: Eating Disorder Thoughts
THE UNCOMMON-COMMON STRUGGLE
Note: First of all, I promised you this "cool" (notice the quotes) picture in the "Recovery means having fun... photos" blog post about a week ago. I'll explain how we did it at the bottom of this post.
The majority of people that I have met and worked with who suffer from eating disorders have described feeling...
If you are reading this and you suffer from an eating disorder, you probably just nodded your head. If you have not suffered from an eating disorder, you probably just said "huh?" in your mind.
You see life, for people who do not suffer from eating disorder thoughts or other mental health issues, still has its struggles, but sort of a sense of "efficiency" to decisions, thoughts, and actions. Such individuals are not (typically) paralyzed with fear and indecision when sitting down with friends at lunch - let alone upon waking up.
For people suffering from eating disorder thoughts, the struggle and mental games are
Yeah, like, all... the... time.
Like they're juggling 10 balls -or apples, see what I did there? ;) - in the air and can't let any fall.
Like you're thinking of the movie you're watching, they are thinking about eating disorder thoughts.
And I don't say this to put anyone down. If you have never suffered from an eating disorder, thats awesome! I'm very glad. But this also may mean that you will have to be thoughtful in how you understand their struggle.
This can allow you to empathize - or - understand what it is like to walk a mile in their shoes.
And this is tremendously helpful if you are a support or loved one. Because there will be ups and downs. There may be times where your loved one is closed off to support, and this is painful. In these times it will be helpful if you are connected (with their permission) to their treatment team so that you can know how to best be supportive.
There are many views on eating disorders in general. I tend to view many individuals suffering from eating disorders from an anxiety perspective, though many knowledgeable folks in the community may argue for an addictions perspective or others.
But, for me, viewing the person as suffering from a specific phobia, of sorts, helps me understand the two parts to their mind.
Part 1 - the eating disordered self.
The part of the person that is filled with negative eating disordered thoughts that tell the person all sorts of bad things will happen if they stop engaging in their eating disordered behaviors (whatever they may be).
Part 2 - the healthy self.
The part of the person that is much closer to the core of who that person is outside of the eating disorder. Their "true self" if you will.
A battle, of sorts, wages between the two parts.
So, 2 Tips to stop / slow the battle.
1) FACE THE EATING DISORDER HEAD ON
I know, I know. You're like "Next," right?
Like, "does this dude seriously expect me to do that?"
Yes, but with the support of loved ones and your healthy self. A common treatment for anxiety and phobias is to face your fear. There is a lot of recent research support for this (see research on the treatment of anorexia by Joanna Steinglass). The essential idea is that as fears are faced over and over again, they lose their power. While at first anxiety may increase, in the long run, the process of habituation (i.e. nervous system boredom) may result in significant reduction of anxiety.
Sorry if that was a little too scientific-y.
2) MEANING MAKING
Finding a sense of meaning and purpose for recovery is vitally important. It is very difficult to recover, let alone without a sense of meaning behind it. If you can think through what you want to recovery for... then change becomes a bit easier.
I have spoken to several people who have had a sort of "aha!" or "lightbulb" moment when they were able to connect with a sense of meaning and purpose in their life and it dramatically shifted their ability to cope with the current struggle. They became more accepting of themselves and their circumstances and also became more optimistic.
The purpose of this blog entry is to share eating disorder recovery related ideas and does not represent professional medical of psychological advice from Mike Thomas or Recovery Spark. For professional advice, please connect with the professional eating disorder specialist that you work with or find a local health professional.