A glimpse of life beyond a long-term eating disorder

Discovery of a thread of self-worth shows why we must never give up

A glimpse of life beyond a long-term eating disorder

A glimpse of life beyond a long-term eating disorder

I have been struggling with my eating disorder for a very long time and in the past two and a half years, quite badly. The act of taking sick leave for a long time is not necessarily accompanied by an obligation to cooperate as a patient. For example, an eating disorder does not always cooperate with the health insurance provider, who wants the patient to get back on track as soon as possible.

I am the first person to say, “Yes,” when it comes to striving for a successful recovery. For years I tried to get healthy in many ways and several times. But when life gave me lemons, my dear eating disorder friend, “ED”, volunteered happily to be my sweet habit of making the fruit taste less sour. So, recently my health insurance provider finally lost patience and arranged an inpatient stay at a specialized clinic. I just had to pack my things and check in for seven weeks.

I lacked belief I could be helped, but ….

The experience of no right to have a say is old and yet painful. I did understand the good intentions of this move but, still, I lacked the belief I would find real help now. I doubted I could be helped. But this time I was in for an awakening.

In the clinic, the whole team of doctors, psychologists and nurses could read my mind. They disbelieved my intrinsic motivation. The effect was that I did not trust them.

Building a good relationship with the people who wanted to support me in getting better took quite a while. What helped me was that I found a space where I could be honest. For the first time I did not hide my true feelings, I spoke out my actual thoughts. I cried real tears.

No one judged me. This non-judgmental approach was so irritating to my inner critic, the fiercest part of my inner team. He screamed and shouted like hell. Add to this the noise of my ED which hated the meal plans, the scale-dates, and the obvious change in my body. However, I learned that all this inner battle that carried on due to the inpatient care did not kill me.

I started to really listen

I paid more and more attention to the friendly voices from the outside, that is, around me in the clinic. I started to really listen. And suddenly some bits of my inner melee began to settle. Deep down I felt something lovingly growing; it was not all about self-destruction anymore. In fact, I started to see the big picture.

Yes, I made mistakes and often I felt bad and miserable. But I discovered that I am always more than this one negative side of the story. I am a bunch of things at the same time. My habit was to listen to my critical voice who loves to focus on the failures. Or to my ED that keeps telling me how unworthy I am.

Realistically I cannot push these perspectives away for good. But I try to add a new one: I am a human being, I do not have to be perfect to be safe. And it is okay to discover the parts that are already perfectly alright.

I guess, the limited and dark thinking comes with depression. I guess it means healing to realize the bright aspects, too. Of course, that new approach felt strange at first and it still seems weird to allow myself to laugh, dance or experience any kind of really joyful moments. Speaking of my ED, it costs an awful lot of effort to stick to my healthy eating plan. But I guess I found the intrinsic motivation: a little belief in self-worth. That as a whole I am okay. That I am a creature that at least deserves respectful and friendly treatment.

I took my 47 years of living to get to this point. I guess professional treatment at an early stage would have changed things significantly for me.

The health system is more aware, with age-group inpatient sections

What makes me very happy, though, is that nowadays the health system is more aware. For example, the clinic I stayed at has a special section for teenagers with an ED. The suffering girls and boys get a special program, visit their own school, and enjoy free time with their favourite activities. I observed their progress, and how they were encouraged to realize there is much more in life than being sick. This insight worked as the biggest motivation for me.

As with the younger patients, the adults also had their own sections. The adults surely benefit from this separation, too, since we can focus on the different stages of life our group is in. And what happens (or has happened) in each patient’s life is a big part of the therapy. It is not only about changing unhealthy eating habits but a much more holistic perspective and a systemic approach that the clinic strives for. The ED is a coping mechanism for challenges that occurred in the past or occur in the present. And especially the present may be very different depending on whether we are a teenager or an adult.

I now feel worthy of recovery

I now feel worthy of recovery from my eating disorder. I am learning to embrace myself in all my personality traits and accept that there are parts I like and parts I need to exercise responsibility, care for, and keep a good eye on (hard to kindly accept, but yes, there are unpleasant sides in me).

I practice true gratitude every day.

I have promised myself to not use my body for the discharge of inner battles anymore (my body deserves better.)

I want to use my energy in terms of contribution to the community.

I aim to gain emotional and physical strength to re-orientate myself job-wise. This is a long-term project, but I am willing to take every little step that takes me to my goal.

If recovering from an eating disorder means gaining space for creativity and imagination: I am full in. I am in my 40s and live in Europe. I love to write, draw, craft, express feelings in a creative way, since all kind of art is an elixir of life. Same with love. Connecting with the world in small, but also deeper ways gives me a sense of meaning. Maybe my story is to contribute with my drawings and by this means make someone happy.

One Response

  1. Tanya Motiani says:

    Hi Lotta,

    I have to write to tell you how much I keep looking at your incredibly beautiful – and apt – your drawing above is. You have drawn ME (and many others I suspect) … at peace in life, eyes closed, meditative in contentment … But … yesss, sitting upon a lemon, that trope of sourness and not-quite-rightness perhaps.
    I want to thank you for not only the image you’ve drawn, but for your insightful words.

    Tanya, Geelong, Australia

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