Hello. I’m 18 years old and I just graduated from high school. I have been struggling with an eating disorder for 5 years now. I’ve been to counseling before, but that didn’t seem to help. I’ve lost all hope in getting help, and when I feel like this whole thing is starting to get better, the next day it just seems to get worse. Is this ever gonna end? I feel like I’ll be living like this for the rest of my life. – anonymous
I find myself sighing and feeling sad when I read a panel question that states that (1) counseling did not help, and/or (2) you’ve lost all hope in getting help.
I wish I could crawl through my computer screen and sit with you for a moment and REALLY hear your experience. It is my belief that in every complaint, is a longing… a very important longing. I can try to discern out your longing and I find myself guessing that it is about being a “normal 18 year old girl” “free” of this disorder. I imagine that if an eating disorder was a kind of space suit we wear you would be willing to unzip it, step out, and dare to see if your new self could support life.
When we seek treatment for an eating disorder and find ourselves wondering “will it ever be over” we may sometimes mean something like the following: How do I soothe myself when the yuck comes back and takes over me? How do I extend grace to myself and still believe a new life is possible when I feel stuck? I think if we could learn how to radically forgive ourselves for our own shortcomings (i.e. a continuous struggle with body image/eating/appearance) and claim real Truth (i.e. we have been created by an almighty God, and we are perfectly and wonderfully made), we may have more days of peace then self destruction.
My question for you is this: How can you find a way to breathe in oxygen in order to be able to function? Don’t worry, I have not gone mad. I want you to recall the last time you flew in an airplane and upon takeoff heard the instructions regarding airplane safety procedures should an emergency arrive. The flight attendant is usually quick to explain that the adult must place the oxygen mask on their face FIRST in order to be a calm, peaceful, helpful resource for any other hurting person or young child. It goes against cultural brain function to think “save myself first.” Most of us would rather martyr ourselves by working on everyone else first and then placing the mask on our own face. But the important part of that instruction is that you must create a way for you to breathe oxygen in order to function.
So, given your current situation, what has to happen for you to be able to wake up and consciously choose to save yourself first? What difference would it make if you had a source outside of the problem you’re facing that sustained you? What difference would it make for you if, while you were in the midst of the problem (the eating disorder and/or helpless feelings about getting better), you had something that gave you room to breathe and be calm and functional?
While we can not finish this conversation via e-mail, my hope is that my questions will spur you to recognize that (1) the struggle with the eating disorder does not have to be your total identity, and (2) when the first professional does not work out, keep looking until you find the one that works for you.
Many of us disordered eating persons (in recovery and/or initial treatment or contemplating it) travel into and out of hope. Because we must learn that how we feel cannot be our Hope.