Eating Disorder Recovery: pain and joy


Eating Disorder Recovery: pain and joy                                       
    Suffering and Joy to reach her goal

Often clients in my eating disorder recovery practice don’t recognize their accomplishments. In the moment they may be experiencing pain or anxiety.  They don’t understand that experiencing their pain and anxiety is part of releasing the eating disorder and gaining emotional strength. They don't know, yet, that they are crossing a threshold into stronger and healthier ways of being in the world. Growing your way out of eating disorder entrenchment, even a little, can feel frightening.

Joy in Recovery Work

Being with someone who is climbing out of the prison of an eating disorder and blinking from the light of the new world she enters is an incredible joy. Being with her as she discovers her own strengths and value is wonderful. We share the always unpredictable turns of life as she heals and develops on her way to a better life. It’s a never-ending growth experience.

As she brings her healthy and united sense of herself to face the world and follow the genuine lead of her heart and soul, I feel privileged and grateful to share in her journey.

The Beginning

In the day to day of my professional world the people I meet who are affected by eating disorders, for the most part, are on their healing path. They come to me because they are ready to begin. Or they come to me because they have begun and want to go beyond their current limits. Or they come to me because they want to begin and hope I can show them how.

Suffering and Ignorance

When you are embroiled in an eating disorder you suffer terribly and are in a state of ignorance. You are aware enough to know that your eating disorder behavior, whether bingeing, purging, restricting, overeating, over exercising, is out of control. Plus, it's not giving you the benefits it promises, i.e. freedom from anxiety and self-doubt.

What makes the suffering worse is that you are ignorant of your true condition.  You think you are weak, a failure, a loser because you can't control your behaviors. You don't know that the eating disorder behaviors are your protection from unbearable feelings. You don't know that because you don't know that. That knowledge is out of your awareness. You think, wrongly, that you are deficient as a person. 

That sense of deficiency fuels self-doubt, self-criticism, shame, guilt, worthlessness, and more suffering.  It's a terrible loop. And when you make strides away from being entangled in that dark, looping labyrinth you leave your familiar protections. At first you feel frightened or angry because you are losing the familiar. And I want to cheer.

creates a hurdle difficult to leap. It’s an interesting word. It could mean that information is ignored. Or it could mean that information about something isn't available or accessible. So, if a person with an eating disorder is ignorant of dangers in her behaviors, is it because she doesn't know the dangers or is ignoring the dangers? If she is ignoring the dangers, is this a conscious choice? Does she feel or believe she knows that the danger of an eating disorder is less dangerous than losing it?

Hope, trust in the process of the psychotherapy work, and a small voice within that reminds her she is walking, sometimes crawling, sometimes staggering toward healing and health keeps her going. Her awareness rises. She recognizes past achievements she didn’t appreciate in the moment. She relies on her lfe force to guide her and her therapy to encourage, support and stimulate real healing.

It’s the best work she has ever done for herself. Healing work will bring her to her true and valuable self. It will bring her into the world in a strong, capable, lovable and worthwhile form. And then we both can cheer.

Joanna Poppink, MFT, is a psychotherapist in private practice specalizing in eating disorder recovery. All appointments are virtual. For a free telephone consultation e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Author of This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder

Image by 
Erika Marcial from Pixabay

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