"Family" Chapter 13 Excerpt
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Expectations and assumptions, fantasies and reality, love and anger, disappointment and hope, all crash together when you consider your family. In or out of your eating disorder, family visits, communications, and memories may be your most challenging experiences. The family you grew up with is made up of the people who were part of your environment while you were developing your eating disorder. You may have spent years relating to them with an eating disorder as part of your coping mechanism.
If you are married with a family of your own now, you have been living a life with them, too, as a woman with an eating disorder. In ways you and they know and don’t know, everyone has adapted, for good or ill, to the psychological dynamics created by the eating disorder.
This doesn’t mean you are at fault. You were or still are living in an environment where you need to develop or maintain an eating disorder to survive. That doesn’t mean your family is to blame. It means the conditions necessary for your eating disorder to develop were and may still be present. Often the family doesn’t change. In recovery you take the lead. You change because you are going for freedom, health, and a better life. Nowhere will your commitment be more tested than with your family.
Part of recovery is tolerating complex feelings. When you are with your family and not bingeing or purging or starving, you can feel an inner roar when anger, guilt, fear, and resentment mix with love, duty, respect, and hope. Especially in early recovery, you expect the members of your family to understand your challenges and be supportive. This is complicated.
Sometimes you want them to give you room to practice your eating disorder, and sometimes you want them to give you room to be the healthy, more outspoken, free woman you’re becoming. Emotions can run high. You need to be able to sort the challenges inherent in your family relationships.
Your mother and father, your brothers and sisters, without knowledge or intention, sorely test you by their predictable habits. You are learning to use your new-found strengths and resources to help you care for yourself. You work to withstand the force of eating disorder triggers, and they abound when you are with your family.
You need to be kind to yourself, forgiving of yourself, and at the same time, search out and discover what triggers your eating disorder.
Your family does not know or understand your struggles or the specific nature of your healing work. Your new ways jar their expectations. They may feel hurt or angry by your unexpected behavior. Even if everyone in the home of your childhood behaved with great respect toward you, as a healthy adult woman simply being with them in old familiar settings can trigger you.
Excerpt from Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder , by Joanna Poppink, MFT, Conari Press, 2011. Copyright protected August, 2011. Media information.