Several months ago, my therapist said something to me about her own experience with an eating disorder. How looking back, those maladaptive coping techniques, though they were all she knew, seem to be so harsh and so cruel. That the behavior was anything but ‘normal’ and in some ways, quite disgusting.
I nodded my head as if I understood. I *did* understand that she felt that way, but my own thought process didn’t quite agree
I still saw what I’d engaged in as something that, at least to me, made sense. It, in no way, seemed disgusting or harsh, cruel or self punishing. What FELT self punishing was eating breakfast every day, eating dinner even when tired or worn out, emotionally charged (good or bad).
I realized recently, through watching a friend cling to her behaviors for all she’s worth .. she’d rather die than give up purging and has no concept that the purging could very well, destroy her quality of health, if not take her life … I realized that I’d never ever wish this on my worst enemy.
It dawned on me watching TV, not even sure what i was watching, but there was something about prisoners of war (probably a movie my husband was watching and i was ignoring) and them forcing the prisoners to not eat .. they’d give them one very stark meal a day … just barely enough to stay alive, certainly not enough to keep healthy. I realized how much a prisoner I’d become and I was both prisoner and prison keeper. Restricting intake and punishing if I went over the ‘goal’. In no way would I see the treatment of the prisoners as something that was anything but cruel and unusual.
If we learned of a parent who was forcing their child to throw up, we’d throw them in jail (and do!). If a teacher suspected that a parent was purposefully starving a child, they’d turn them in to the state ..
and I would find it disgusting that the prison guard starved the prisoners or the parent the child. I’d be completely disgusted by someone forcing another to throw up and yet, for years I forced myself to purge. I refused to eat limiting the intake … and no matter the harm to the body it seemed, to me, to be reasonable.
The realization that I’ve treated myself no better than a prisoner of war .. or no better than an abused child is quite eye opening.
Tracing back the path to how this all got started is hard, and somewhat painful, but I have the distinct feeling that as hard as it is going to be, it’s not as hard as if I kept myself locked into that prison of self punishment.
I guess, it’s progress to realize that these not only are not normal, but are both sad and alarming.