To begin with, a caveat. I’m obviously not saying that spending most of your formative years in an environment dominated by alcohol (or any other form of out of control behaviour/violence/aggression) is ideal.  Not even close. The impact of addiction within families is often  under recognised or dismissed and it is something I’d want to protect any child from at all costs. However, I do […]

Opening up, reducing the amount of compartmentalising we do, it’s massive in eating disorder recovery.

My husband came to my therapy session this week. This is HUGE. A friend commented that the degree of anxiety it caused me is quite telling. What is so difficult about having my husband, who I share the entirety of my life with, sitting in the same room as my therapist and talking about my eating disorder. I don’t know. It is just not something I have EVER done. I have always tried to manage things myself. It’s my issue, after all.

For a long time I’ve had a habit of keeping things separate, without even really realising it. Especially, but not solely, when it comes to eating and weight. I recognise this is about protecting myself, but it is also about protecting others from things I feel they are either unable to, or shouldn’t have to, cope with. Sometimes, sharing seems unnecessary, not because I want to hold things back (though sometimes I do) but because it feels like the most responsible option. I have also worked very hard over the years to function and keep going, and I definitely do not see myself as a ‘patient’ or someone who is very ‘unwell’. I don’t want other people to view me as that – or certainly not as only that either. Continue reading

We hear a lot about how controlling weight and eating can be motivated by the desire to appease a general sense of not being good enough. If you have unrelentingly high standards, weight loss is measurable evidence that you’re doing ok somewhere. This is especially relevant in a society where women are socialised to value thinness as attractive. I know for me, controlling food became tangible proof that I could definitely achieve something, albeit in a very distorted way. These are the ‘usual’ issues we hear about. However there are other important themes. Things we don’t often hear about in the media, because they aren’t convenient and they don’t fit the (more palatable) narrative of the white, appearance focused, over achieving young woman. Contrary to the popular myth that anorexia is narcissistic, it is more often about a person being silenced, feeling unheard, or having a lack of control in areas of life that really matter. Turning to, or away from food can be a way to manage feelings of worthlessness, an attempt to ‘fix’ a constant, nagging sense of never quite measuring up.

Of course, dominant narratives around being female prime us early for a disordered relationship with food and our bodies. The message that thinness is synonymous with attractiveness and power sits heavily. But not everyone exposed to the ‘thin ideal’ develops a consuming eating disorder. Often, it is where difficult relationships or experiences outweigh our ability to cope, that weight loss all too easily comes to provide tangible, measurable evidence of achievement. ‘At least I’m doing ok somewhere’. People with the psychological and practical resources to manage difficult experiences and painful feelings usually don’t develop eating disorders. But for some, controlling food is the only available way to manage an overwhelming sense of confusion. It isn’t a choice, it is about survival.

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