Anorexia Recovery Challenges
- Category: Help Resources
If you are suffer from anorexia you do not eat in ways that fully nourish your body. Yet you, like the lovely lotus, need nourishment to radiate the vibrant beauty of health. Without adequate nourishment the lotus will wither and die. Would you starve this flower?
Your lack of nourishment affects your weakening body and the ability of your brain cells to function normally. Your perceptions are distorted. Your thinking, impaired by lack of nourishment, is based on distortions. Your conclusions are not reality based, but you believe your conclusions are obvious and make sense. So out of the thin bony mouth of an emaciated person in the hospital on feeding tubes we hear the words,
"Yes, I know I'm dying. Yes, I know I have to eat. But those doctors want to make me fat. If I eat I'll get fat. Please help me."
I've known anorexic women who run for hours on treadmills in desperation, truly running as if chased by nightmarish monsters.
Such desperate women will run on broken bones, twisted ankles, and dislocated knees. Anyone who suggests that they pause for a few weeks to give their bodies a chance to heal are met with,
"Oh no. I'll get fat if I don't run." or, "You just want me to get fat."
Providing nourishment is essential to if your are suffering from anorexia in order to establish healthy brain cells so your can think more clearly and participate in your recovery process. But you are too afraid to tust and try. Why?
Information about physical consequences of your anorexic behavior can help inhibit risky or dangerous behavior IF you are clear headed enough to understand the validity of that information. If your brain is starved you will discount the information, not hear it at all or twist it in your own mind to mean something different from what is being said.
You may believe the validity of this information yet be certain it relates to other people but not you. Or you believe the information is not true and that the message is part of a ploy being used by someone who wants you to get fat.
How to intervene effectively in this tenacious pattern is the challenge
Parents, siblings, spouses, children and all of us in the mental health professions who sincerely want to help the anorexic person be well want to know how to help you.
The how seems so simple. Stop starving and running. Eat and be kind and appropriate to your body.
I think most of us touched by this disorder in some way know that the simple path to health - appropriate food and appropriate exercise - is far beyond the grasp of an anorexic person. In fact, if you do move in this healthy direction it is evidence that you have achieved considerable healing and are well on your path to recovery.
Getting on that path is the challenge. Creating as many open gates, doorways, tunnels, flight decks, crawl holes that might give you a glimpse of your way to your recovery path is what we in the field of eating disorder recovery do as much and as well as we possibly can.
If you are anorexic you need to feel and actually be in a "monster free" environment
Your healing requires a secure place where you don't feel you must run as if ghouls were at your heels. Some day, in recovery, that place can be within you. Now you need to feel safe and loved in a trustworthy environment so you can take one bite more of nourishment, swallow it and allow yourself to digest and use the nutrients. Yes, you need to take in and digest food. You also need to take in and digest love.
You may have people in your life who care about you and love you. These people could be family members, friends, a psychotherapist, members of a 12-step group. They may want the best for you, and try to help you. But you can't take in their love and caring. You don't want them to see you or comment on your appearance. You don't want them to intervere with your anorexia way of living.
You don't understand that when caring people comment on your thinness they are not necessarily talking about your aesthetic appearance. They are worried about what is happening to your organs, your blood, your bones and your life force. They see that you are dying before their eyes, and they don't want to lose you. When they suggest that you eat or eat more, they are not saying that they want you to get fat.
If you are anorexic you don't want to know about your body beneath your skin.
You want a thin and boney look. You don't seem to appreciate that the workings of the body beneath the skin keeps you alive, healthy and functional. Nor do you appreciate that the caring and loving people in your life also strive to keep you alive, healthy and functional.
Functional is a dry word rich with juicy meaning. It means able to laugh, love and be loved. It means being able to have a baby, love it, care for it, nurse it and raise it to be a healthy person. It means being able to work, play, rest, share and listen to other people. It means being able to be active and quiet. It means being able to enjoy silence and peace as well as noisy activity. It means being able to eat and enjoy being with others who are eating. It means creating a healthy family life that lasts. It means following what is authentically meaningful to you in life. It means being able to be honest. It means dropping harsh criticisms on yourself and others based on weight and looks. It means being able to relax and live in freedom. It means you don't have to starve yourself of life any more.
All too often you can be terribly confused and challenged by the emotional voices and advice of other anorexic women. Care, love and support seems to pour out of them toward you, and you want it. You need it. You are starving from lack of food. You are starving from lack of love.
Before you listen to these women be sure they are on their own recovery path. An anorexic women in the depths of her illness will support your illness. She will advise you on how to be safe by getting thinner and acting out your anorexia in new and more severe ways. An anorexic woman in recovery will support your health and your life. She will advise you on how to tolerate your feelings and take risks by giving your body food. She supports your moving toward a healthier life regardless of size (and that can be terrifying).
Creating a "monster free" environment for you where you can feel and be safe, loved and willing to learn to care for yourself in a healthy way is the great challenge that needs to be met for anorexia recovery to take hold. I believe every eating disorder recovery psychotherapist and every residential treatment center strives to accomplish this. Some succeed more than others. You can help us do better.
If you are or ever have been anorexic, please write in. What do you believe might help others to help you eat, live and be healthy and strong. What worked or is working for you? What do wish you had in your life that would help you recover?