Do you see your ED as having been a battle with your appetite, your body shape, or compulsive behaviours that have no real ‘meaning’ other than that you feel you must do them?
My response to this question from Extra Long Tail is, all of the above. Eating disorders, like people, come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s interesting to reflect on factors that influenced our journey. To illustrate my experience, I share a letter given to my therapist when on the cusp of regaining me. First, her reply:
My read of the situation is that for many years (due to your eating disorder) you have been more familiar with anxiety and mistrust than peace, security and safety.
Now, the letter:
August 13, 2006
I have not sat down to write about my feelings for a few months now. I want to show myself I can take action and do what is right for me rather than just keep talking about it and making excuses. I have been making some progress. In the past 18 months I have experienced some big highs and a few lows.
I applied for and was offered the position of newspaper editor in a country town in March 2005. I accepted the position although I didn’t know anybody in the town or region, for that matter.
I found a beautiful house on four acres just out of town, and bought it. I felt I needed this house to fill an emptiness caused by the traumatic revelations during the past few years in regard to my parents … I had felt a need to find my own special “patch” to help heal the hole in my soul. ALL of my children, their dad, my friends and doctors thought this an excellent decision, for my sake, but nevertheless I felt very distressed. I felt very alone, very panic-stricken at times, wondering why I had come to this town where I knew no-one…I had come for a job, that was all, a job. I became very unsure of my ability to make good decisions for myself. I had no connections, no sense of belonging, in the town; I would waken in the night, feeling I was on the edge of a disc-shaped Earth, and about to fall off. I was afraid.
But gradually I came to realise that, beyond this pain, this place was where I was meant to be. I gradually began to meet people and felt very happy the first time someone in the supermarket called out “hello, June”. I was starting to develop a sense of belonging.
My children were very supportive, as was my girlfriend Helen, who corresponds almost every day via e-mail. I had now joined the Rotary Club and was making more friends in the town. I was taking walks, and feeling in control of myself. I had come to realise that property and material goods were not essential for a feeling of wellness. The most important thing is to feel well WITHIN one self.
I decided to down-size my housing, and eliminate need for a mortgage, so that I could cease working full-time to focus on establishing being a writer of books. I sold my house and rented a log cabin on a rural property just out of town. At the same time my daughter had announced she was expecting her first baby in October, 2005, and I wanted to be free to travel to Melbourne to visit as often as possible.
The other BIG thing I have been doing , with my psychiatrist’s slightly reluctant approval, is easing off my medication, an anti-depressant which I have been taking for many years (I have been on anti-depressants for some 20 years). I have been gradually reducing since January…I am now at the point of taking 10mg each second day, and next week, I will be completely off medication. This is wonderful!
I have felt this is an important step towards my goal of writing my soul book (A Girl Called Tim). However, I am trying to be sensible. My second son Rohan accompanied me to see Professor last week, and he outlined to Rohan that there was a risk I might “blow up” within a month or two. That there was quite a strong chance my depression may re-appear and I would have to accept life-long medication. However Professor said he understood my desire to try and live without the medication because I want to be fully in touch with “ME” to write ‘Tim’.
This is important to me: to be free of medication so I can attempt my Everest in Life…of venturing into dark and scary places, within myself, to write my memoir. This said, I am prepared to take my solicitor’s advice, my Professor’s advice, my girlfriend’s advice, my children’s advice, and your advice, to give myself the best possible chance of achieving my goal.
I have been coping reasonably well but have been struggling a little with my meals. I am not happy about this and realise that I must make more decisions and act on them. I need help, and must dedicate myself to accepting it, in dealing with my fears and anxieties, and allowing myself to feel good about being safe and secure in the right way.
Professor says I try to always look for the good in people and this is why I make mistakes in relationships. I feel very blessed to have four beautiful children who love and support me. Also their partners are very supportive. They are my future.
To summarise my current situation:
I am ready to take your advice and guidance because I have TWO big things in my favour right now, that will help me be strong:
1. I am almost off my medication and staying off it is of vital importance to me;
2. My grand child is due to arrive in October and I want to be free to enjoy being a grandmother. Much of my motherhood was marred by my struggles with chronic depression and anxiety.
And I will start writing my book.
That was 2006. In 2012 I have accomplished the goals I dreamed of, and more. Recovery required learning to feel safe and secure with body shape and behaviour. As for appetite – I had no idea what an appetite was, but I have one now. Above all, I have contentment.