My problems with eating started with binge eating during puberty, extended to bulimia in my late teens and have been punctuated by a handful of periods of restriction. It’s 13 years later, and I’m finally getting free, untangling myself from the mess of it all.
There are a few phrases that people say, often without thinking, that I really struggle with and feel can really negatively impact someone in the early stages of recovery. My main issue here is with ‘Well, you’ll probably never a normal relationship with food’. I’ve had this said to me by three separate therapists and over time my black and white, perfectionist eating disorder brain took on the idea that ‘well, if I can’t be totally successful, then why even try?’
I certainly don’t think blaming any one thing or person for an eating disorder manifesting itself is a good idea or, let’s face it, accurate. It’s clear from research that what makes one person vulnerable spans genetics, early years experience, family dynamics, cultural beliefs and a whole host of things that can lead to a particularly potent cocktail of vulnerability for an eating disorder. Recovery, on the other hand, I think is much simpler.
No one chooses an eating disorder but you can certainly choose recovery and for me the biggest part of that was finding the right therapist. I do think that for most people this a process of trial and error and I’m happy to say that lots of people do land on the right working relationship relatively early but if you’re like me and it does take longer and there are setbacks and you do turn your back on that process, that’s ok. These things take time. You can be gentle with yourself and when you’re ready to go back, it will still be waiting for you.
It’s 13 years later and recovery is finally becoming my reality. My advice to myself as a teenager who didn’t like the idea of causing problems or seeming rude is you are absolutely allowed to say if you don’t click with a certain therapist. People become therapists because they’re concerned with helping people so if it’s not going to work for you, they want to know. They want you to feel comfortable and like you can face the challenges of recovery and if that’s not with them, they aren’t going to be offended.
Now that I’ve found the right mix and am reaching the end of nine months of relatively intense CBT, I don’t just feel proud of where I’ve come from, but I’m actually excited about where I’m going. I’m excited about my career as I’m graduating from my degree this summer, which is something my eating disorder has time and time again got in the way of. I’m excited about my marriage which has become stronger and closer since I addressed my issues surrounding food. Most of all I’m excited about becoming a mother, which isn’t something I was always sure would be possible for me, and raising my children to understand and love, not only their bodies but themselves.
All of this is possible because I finally found the right therapist who made me feel heard and tailored their approach to suit my issues and personality. I don’t grieve the lost years when I was too shy to speak up as I’ve chosen to accept them as part of my journey but if I felt the optimism and thirst for life that I feel now I’m in recovery, I wouldn’t have delayed it. Recovery is hard work, but my goodness it’s worth it (and you can totally have a normal relationship with food)!
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