Response to Crisis: Part IV of VI

Experience of Crisis If you have an eating disorder then you experience a crisis when you perceive, real or not, that the presence of a constant, reliable, important and nourishing something or someone leaving you. Your feeling of being adrift and alone in a vast emptiness with nothing to hold on to and where no one can reach you or even know where you are is unbearable. Regardless of what eating disorder you have you will feel the urge to do what works for you during periods of real or perceived loss.

Depending on the severity of your disorder and the severity of the loss, real or remembered, you may binge on food or exercise or go into starvation mode.  You may cut or edge toward suicide. You can fall into a binge purge episode stretching across a range of once in one day to 15 or more episodes per day for many days. If you have some degree of recovery you may find yourself saying to a friend or your psychotherapist, “I don’t want you to worry about me. I’m not going to do this. But I feel like I want to tear the flesh off my bones. I want to poke out my eyes. I want to scream and pull out my hair. “I won’t. I’m not going to. But I want to.”

What’s happening?
You recognize present or imminent loss that will leave you in endless inconceivable danger. You tremble on the inside. You feel an endless energy wave descending on your skull which feels like it brings isolation, darkness and an endless fall. You rush or clamber, stretch or grab, march, run or drive to your binge experience to block out these horrible feelings.

Examples of Loss that Can Trigger Perceived Crisis
When friends leave your home after a dinner party or when you leave friends after a social evening, or when your date goes home you may feel that relentless wave descending. You do your eating disorder activities to find quick a quick rescue. Perhaps your psychotherapist or best friend or parents or favorite teacher is leaving town for a while. Perhaps a man is withdrawing from your life or left abruptly. Perhaps you changed your physical environment: you changed apartments or moved to a different part of town or different city, state or country.

Change as Crisis
Change means something new starts and something familiar ends. Change means something is not the same. Yes, this is simple reasoning. But to the deep psyche of a person with an eating disorder, change relevant to a person, place or thing that serves as a life stabilizer is a crisis and perceived as a catastrophe.

Reaching for Solutions That Don’t Work
Will a binge bring forth warm understanding from a parent or spouse or romantic interest? Will a binge stop you from losing your job or bring back love from a man or woman who is leaving you? Will a binge help you pass an entrance exam or make friends in a new environment? Will a binge help you find a psychotherapist or doctor or lawyer or dentist or electrician or plumber or automobile mechanic or anyone else you need to help you work through your present challenges? No, of course not. You know that.

Why Reach for Irrelevant Solutions?
Eating Disorder behaviors will not solve the realistic challenge facing you. But you know you can’t bear the unbearable feeling of not just losing, but being lost. You feel untethered, unconnected, invisible, unheard, ungrounded. You feel and think you are in what could be an isolated, terrifying and endless free fall. You must binge or act out in other eating disorder ways, to make yourself solid, to find yourself through discomfort or pain, and simultaneously numb yourself to emotional oblivion. The solution that is irrelevant to your realistic challenge is effective in taking you out of your unbearable emotional experience. It works. You are flooded with pain and oblivion. You escaped your perceived crisis via drastic means which could even endanger your life. You won. Your frustrating problem is that the eating disorder behavior solution only works for a very short time. In fact, you might have to live your entire life bingeing, purging, starving and cutting to escape crises unless you make the courageous move toward healing.

More to Come
I’ll be exploring these questions around crises, what they are, how they are perceived, how and why a person with an eating disorder responds and what a person can do to respond with more health and skill in this six part post, “Eating Disorder Response to Crisis.”

Eating Disorders:  Response to Crisis

part 1  Overview

part 2

part 3

part 4

part  5

part  6

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