Which secrets are most destructive? Which inspire recovery work?


HHHIn the Healing Your Hungry Heart chapter on secrets I address and help the reader unravel secrets and lies that undermine health and strengthen the need for an eating disorder.

Somehow it's easier - not easy, but easier - to write about blatant secrets like affairs with married men than it is to write about little secrets like needing to chew 16 times before swallowing or hiding dirty dishes in the oven before guests arrive.

Of course, the main secret is about all the activities required to keep an eating disorder going.  But I don't want this chapter to be a list of secrets.

The point of this chapter is to allow you to discover at least one secret you can claim as yours so you feel understood and can find a way to begin or go deeper your eating disorder recovery work.

Right now I'm wondering if the big dramatic secrets are less powerful than the myriad of little ones, or if secrets themselves are of equal value regardless of drama because they all erode your spirit, your energy and intensify the need you have for your eating disorder.

I'm also wondering about the impact of secrets in terms of their age.  Do old secrets fade in their power or do they burrow into your soul undermining your sense of worth over time the same way the ground squirrels burrow into the side of our Palisades cliffs until the structure, your own psyche or the cliff walls, collapse.

I thought I finished this chapter. But my discerning editor asks questions for clarification.  And when she is confused about what I am saying I know I have to get into the material again. Sometimes copy editing is about grammar and sentence structure. But tonight its about rethinking and rewriting.

What bothers you the most - your big secrets or your little ones - your new secrets or your very old secrets?



0 # I don't know if this makes any sense, bushh 2011-03-10 00:55
I don't know if this makes any sense, but I think newer secrets that touch upon past secrets or open up old wounds are probably the hardest to disclose and the hardest to deal with...

....maybe there's a sense of feeling foolish or stupid and self-blame with those that tells you that you should've known better than to expect anything different than what you got?
0 # Having thought for a few moments, maybeshh 2011-03-10 01:00
Having thought for a few moments, maybe that's it - it's the amount of guilt, self-blame, shame, embarrassment that we attach to the secrets that governs how difficult they are to admit to and deal with.
0 # Hmm, I don't even know what my secrets aPTC 2011-03-10 05:28
Hmm, I don't even know what my secrets are. I guess I should start there.
0 # Hi PTC You might want to have a lookshh 2011-03-10 12:28

You might want to have a look at this link, to Joanna's workbook, "Triumphant Journey", there are sections that explain about inner secrets and help you to start fathoming out what yours are.


This was the thing that made me realise that I had an ED, and needed to get help.

Shh xxxx
0 # You've got me thinking about secrets thiKym 2011-03-10 17:47

You've got me thinking about secrets this week and I've broadened my idea what a secret is. I think I've been mixing up lying with secrets.

I have been honest from the beginning of my recovery work, but I haven't always been opening up with things not asked about.

I have a recent example. For some unknown reason, my body has changed and for the last two weeks I've been feeling hungry as soon as I get up in the morning. Normally I get up at 5:30, drive to the town I work in, park, do my (approved) walk and then eat breakfast at 8:00 when I'm finally hungry.

Because that plan has been approved by my dietitian and has worked, I've ignored the early hungry pains and thought "I'm doing what I'm suppose to be doing." But this week, I started postponing my breakfast until 9:00, but still "doing the right thing" because I get all my exchanges in.

But the truth is, I've been enjoying the "high" from the hunger pains and my ED has been enjoying this little secret, making me feel powerful and in a false feeling of control (which I believe is the reason we keep secrets!).

Of course, I didn't mention any of this to my therapist when I saw her Tuesday because she didn't ask (she wouldn't have had any reason to ask!).

This morning I finally listened to my "wise mind" who told me that I'm playing with fire, and just a few hours ago, I told my secret to my dietitian.We came up with a new eating plan that will prevent me from temptations.

I'm not sure I would have seen this as a secret before your posts. Nor would I have seen it as an act of my ED but rather I saw it as a pleasant side effect and my role was to just passively let it happen while I pretend I'm "doing the right thing."

Thanks for helping me to open my perception of what a secret is!

0 # I think any secret can inspire recoveryhannah 2011-03-10 18:48
I think any secret can inspire recovery work. Whenever we can't be honest with ourselves or others we need to examine why that is occurring. trauma is a huge secret that can be almost crushing. the danger in secret is the associated shame and our chosen behaviors to alleviate that bad feeling.
0 # Dear Spazzy bob, PTC and Hannah, Youpinkjoanna 2011-03-11 13:17
Dear Spazzy bob, PTC and Hannah,

You are doing great recovery work! I'm so glad to see the insight and the generous sharings you are posting.

Yes, the eating disorder itself is often a huge secret in someone's life. Yes, eating disorder behavior serves to block shame about those secrets. Yes, discovering your secrets and be the beginning of recognizing you have an eating disorder.

Brava. I look forward to hearing more about your discoveries.

warm regards,

0 # Just been thinking about this, and wondeshh 2011-03-14 02:20
Just been thinking about this, and wondering about the secrets that you never realised were secrets?

When you believe that everyone else is being treated the same way as you are behind closed doors, then there are no secrets as such, the only secrets are the emotions that you feel guilty for not being able to handle very well, when everyone else that you believe to be in the same situation as yourself seem to have no problems with.

When you realise that everyone wasn't in the same boat as you, and you got the raw deal, and it makes you wonder "why me, what did I do to deserve that?" The power of those feelings is quite overwhelming.
0 # I sometimes feel that I am the secret. Ttracy 2011-11-25 21:48

I sometimes feel that I am the secret. That no one knows who I really am. I have been the competent one, the strong one, the wise one, the educated one, the nice one, the hardworking one, the listening one, the good one. It takes so much energy to put on this appearance. To feel one way about myself, and to present to others in a whole other way, because you see, I am the responsible one. I have bills to pay, I have children to raise, I have respect to earn. I can't fall apart or ask for help (outside of my therapist).

You see, I was also the molested one, the emotionally abused one, the raped one, the alcoholic one, the cocaine abusing one, the pill popping one, the bulimic one, and now, the restricting one. No one in my family, and very few friends know of most of these things. Talk about extraordinary effort on my part to appear normal. I am tired.

I don't feel the need to disclose many of these things to these people at this time in my life, but I think it is important to connect these things with myself and where I am with my eating disorder. I think that being touched by my grandfather at 5 (and for years to come) and hearing the disgusting sounds he would make was the catalyst for everything that has come since.

I struggled with OCD as a young child, but no one helped me. I was miserable, I wanted to die because I was a "bad" person. I begged God to kill me. My parents just bought me books on God and praying and kept me busy with cleaning to "keep my mind occupied".

I struggle with being touched now. I hesitate to be in relationships. I am scared of men and I am 42 years old. My most recent relapse occured several months ago when my best friend became involved with a man who truly loves her and treats her well. This on the heels of a failed relationship on my part which ended badly. So you see,my secret has been trying to appear "normal" and competent, despite the fact that all of these things have not been resolved.

So now, I just want to be the disappearing one. I would rather fade then explain. What has driven me to this attempt to recover (yet again), were recent thoughts that scared me. I caught myself thinking on several occasions that I would never, ever do anything to hurt myself and leave my kids with that memory, but that somehow it would be different if I just slowly vanished away.

I am determined to get better for them, and in the process am trying to do this for me. I am tired of the secrets, but I know that I am the only one who can confront them, and finally put them to rest. I don't know if I am doing better, but I know I have never written anything out like this before. It feels good to share my secrets even if it's with people who don't know me.

0 # I love your determination! It's fueled bpinkjoanna 2011-11-25 23:20

I love your determination! It's fueled by your love for your children, and that's a mighty force. Yes, one of the agonizing apects of eating disorders is profound psychological and emotional isolation as you move among other people who think they know you.

I'm so glad you wrote out your experience. Writing in this way empowers you to reveal your own secrets to yourself and discover you can bear them. That's a vital first step. Once you can do this you have already developed beyond your old limitations.

It's terrific to know that you can. Then, from this new perspective, you can gradually bring more compassion, kindness and understanding to your true experience. This helps you to develop and continue to develop. You start making different and more healthy choices because you can cope with the consequences.

Recovery is gradual, step by step with lots of unexpected surprises that come from healing along the way. It's not linear, but it is progressive.

Please remember, secrets are a terrible burden. Coping with them and freeing yourself from their burden involves developing new resources within yourself. You didn't have such resources that you didn't have when you were a vulnerable and exploited child. You reached for what you could and that turned into drugs, alcohol and an eating disorder.

Now, in recovery, it's time to pick up the development that stopped when the abuse started. It sounds like you have begun.

Congratulations on weathering the worst of your storms. Now you fight off disappearance so you can be a sturdy and loving real presence for your children and for yourself.

0 # Thanks, Joanna. I log onto this site evetracy 2011-11-26 07:48
Thanks, Joanna. I log onto this site every morning and every evening. It has been so helpful to read your blogs and the comments of those who are recovering or seeking recovery. It is helpful to read your book. It is helpful to see my therapist. I have been logging on for almost a month now. The past several days I have felt a bit less obsessed and guilty over food consumption. I think my zoloft is finally kicking in as well, which is helping me to actually be able absorb all the things I am reading and to be able to "hear" my therapist when she talks to me. We have been dealing with the above in therapy for a while, yet I still have such difficulty being present when the subject of my grandfather comes up. What I am trying to say is that I am so grateful I found this site. I am going to obsess over my recovery as much as i obsess over my illness. I am going to bug the hell out of you and my therapist until I can navigate this course better on my I do need to "pick up the development that stopped when the abuse started", which means I am about 5 years old...hmmmmm...when I think about my almost 5 year old navigating the world on her own it scares me...but I guess that's exactly what I have been doing for so long. I think I have done amazing despite this, if I look at it like that. Deep breath...and thank you.

You must login to post comments

Who's Online

We have 26 guests and no members online

Copyright © 2022