Needing some eating disorder support

Hello, I know I have posted here in the last once before and I never responded to the reply’s I got. I’m sorry about that. I went through a really rough time and have been in and out of hospitals. I struggle with mental health and an eating disorder and life has been pretty out of control with it. My last admission to hospital I finally realized how bad things got, I hit rock bottom and it was basically a wake up call. I realized I couldn’t keep going the way i was going and that I need to chance things in my life and work on things in therapy. I am starting next week a new therapist, an art therapist to see if that approach will help me express what’s going on with me better. Also, I am waiting to get into a virtual day hospital eating disorder program ( which could be 2-3 months away) I can do all the groups and everything from my living room through zoom so it makes it a bit easier.
The only problem is that its so far away. I am still struggling a lot since being out of hospital. I have a new prospective on life now, seeing life more clearly and my mood isn’t in the state it was before but the eating disorder is VERY loud, and I am still struggling a lot. I am working with a dietitian right now doing little check ins but I feel like the ED is getting out of hand. The dietitian says she sees improvement but I dont see it, I see how much im struggling with it and how much its effecting my every day life. Its time consuming. Waiting 2-3 months to get into a program is too long and I am trying to figure out how to cope and make sure that my mental health stays well.
would anyone who has been through an ED or knows someone how has and has some positive coping skills that they could share? I feel so alone in this battle. I hate feeling like this, I hate how the ED has such control over my life and I want to recover, but I dont know how to at this point. I am willing to be open about what I am going though and share and I would love to talk to someone who has been though this and see how they are coping/ working on recovery.

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Hey there. Thank you for sharing. It’s a tough battle you’re fighting there. Hope you’re doing okay and stabilizing after having been to hospital. You’re not alone in this. I know this battle far too well.

Do you know Carolyn Costin’s 8 Keys to Recovery? It’s a self-help book for ED recovery and similar to behavioral therapy approaches in terms of identifying triggers that lead to ED behaviors, such as emotions and thoughts related to particular events. A major tool in the book is dialoguing between “healthy self” and “ED self”. The healthy self is the part of you free of the ED, which is still there inside of you but isn’t loud enough to fight the ED self’s voice. The concept is basically that you listen to what your ED tells you and reply to it from the perspective of your healthy self. If you have problems finding a healthy answer, think about what advice you’d give to a loved one. For example, would you tell them they aren’t worthy and don’t deserve to eat? Probably not.

Another coping skill could be journaling. When is your ED particularly loud? Is it predictable? What can you do to distract yourself? Which activities do you enjoy? If you know the occasions when your ED comes to play, anticipation and planning of alternative activities could help. It is much better to put the energy into a healthy coping skill and not focusing all the time on what you’re not supposed to do.

Eventually, there might be times when we have to sit with the discomfort, hear those voices knowing they are not true. Practice, patience, and persistence is key to overcome this. It is not easy and probably frustrating at times for everyone going through recovery. That’s probably not the most exciting part to hear, but having realistic expectations and knowing that this just sucks a lot might even prevent major frustration cause we know what we’ll be dealing with.

Keep your goals and motivation in mind. For me it helps not to focus on “I’m not allowed to do this because this is detrimental to my physical and mental health.” but to focus on the freedom I’d get when overcoming this, the things I’d be able to do. My suggestion would be to make a list of things that your ED prevents you from doing.

I wish you all the strength to fight this battle. I’m right here with you. Sending you much love and hope you’re doing okay. :hrtlegolove:

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Hey. Thanks for the reply.
I have never heard of that book I will have to check it out. I am looking for a book to read through that’s like that to work on by myself. Thanks.

Yes, I do journal. Journaling is something that definitely helps. I journal multiple times a day to just vent what im feeling and get it out of my head. ( and to write down what i did in the day and some positive things so I can remember when all I can think of is the negative i can look back at that) When the ED is very loud is when i do most of my journaling. I have recently been re reading my journal and seeing how the ED self and “healthy” self are battling. In the moment the ED self can rationalize things but sometime when I go back and read it I realize how messed up things are once I am doing fine. Does that make sense?

I also do a lot of art work as a distraction and as a way to express what’s going on when I can’t write. These to coping skills help.

I am trying to stay positive about doing recovery, but it has its ups and downs. I guess i am a bit scared of recovery. I want it, but I have never gotten the actual treatment I need so now that I am in a better head space and wanting the help it’s a bit scary. I was doing ok i guess you could say for quite a few years and now it seems like the ED is taken over my life again and the more I want to fight it the more the ED fights back. Don’t know how to describe it to make sense)

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It does absolutely make sense. That’s amazing what you’re doing there. So proud of you! It’s great to have something that is working for you.

What is it that scares you about recovery? Is it a vague, rather general feeling or can you narrow down the reasons behind the (irrational?) fear? Are you scared to lose a part of your identity?

What was it that helped you overcome the ED last time? Was there a particular tool that helped you cope?

I can totally relate to it. I make the same experience that it fights back a lot. I try to take on an approach that is as compassionate as possible. Everything we do, all our patterns are there for a reason - they do something for us, which is also true for the ED. Rather than pushing it away and demonizing it, I try to say “thank you for reminding me I have to make sure that my needs are met. I can take care of it now.” There is a quote from Eckhart Tolle which goes “what you fight strengthens and what you resist persists”. That resonates with me a lot. (But of course totally okay if that’s not helpful.)

There are some more resources that might be helpful:

  • HeartSupport resources: Twitch streams (very nice streamers, very helpful and encouraging, you can go there, hang out, put into chat what’s on your mind), and action groups you can find on the HS Discord server.
  • Online recovery groups: There are OAs (all types of EDs) and ABAs (specialized in anorexia and bulimia), these are both 12 steps programs. Then there is also SMART recovery with a focus on CBT tools. Most of the participants deal with alcohol, but the meetings and tools are very general and there are also participants with EDs.
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I am scared of recovery because I dont know what this is going to look like. I feel so trapped in the ED that I dont know what the outcome will be. I am terrified of gaining weight.I have atypical anorexia binge purge type and have lost a lot of weight but am still considered normal weight. ( I was over weight before) I am restricting and purging for the most part and am worried that my weight will sky rocket and be to were it use to be once I get my eating “stable” again. My weight is not low enough for me ( and yes, I also know that my weight will never be the right weight for me) but I cant go back up in weight.
I am also afraid of change, what that is going to look like. I have always not liked change because I need to know what is going on, and be in control of things in my life. Right now i dont feel like im in control. But when I was not in recovery and wanting to chance i found it a lot easier to cope. My life wasn’t as messed up. My brain wasnt fighting back and forth so much. Does that make sense? I know, that must sound messed up. I have tried to explain it to people before but I can never explain it right. But I can rationalize it in my mind and things make sense. I’m not the greatest explaining how i feel and what is going on with me ( my last therapist told me that I am too much and that I dont open up and have too many emotions, so I guess getting help and getting recovery is scary because of the things she said and saying that I am “too much” for people)

To be honest, I dont know. I have been coping fine or so i thought since 2010 for the most part until August. I have not struggled this bad since 2010 and I have blocked so many events/things out of my life that I have gone through as a coping mechanism. I wish I knew. The reason the ED crept back in is because of therapy and the things we dug up ( was in trauma therapy and dug things up and ever since have been struggling with the ED. It was like my mind couldn’t take it and this is the way i delt with things before) During before 2010 I struggled with just anorexia and I feel like this time the ED crept up on me is alot worse. The reason I say its worse this time is because I was only restricting then, and now with the binge/purge and all that with it it seems more out of control. And medical part of it isn’t good either. I am doing worse medically now and have more problems then I remember years back.
So I dont know what helped last time and i dont know where to go from here. The things I am struggling with now i never use to. when asked by healthcare/mental health professionals how i got through this the last time, no one believes me that I can’t remember. Like i said before, I blocked things out of my memory as a way to cope. Which is not good. ( I have even blocked good memeries out too that I didn’t know). I don’t remember blocking things out but when people mention things from the past there are a lot of things that I just don’t remember about situations.

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Hey @I.will.not.go.speechless, I am so sorry for getting back to you only now. I haven’t been in a good place recently and under such circumstances this topic is a major trigger for me so I had to stay away.

I am so, so sorry that you had such a bad therapist. It is absolutely not okay to tell a patient that there is something wrong with them, that their emotions are wrong, and even that they are too much. I am really shocked. I am not a therapist, but human nature tells me that what she told you is light years away from good practice, and so wrong also from an ethical point of view. That does more harm than good. I can totally understand that you are scared to seek professional help again. I hope you’ll be more lucky next time, and please make sure you don’t stay with someone who tells you such inappropriate things.

What you’re writing makes totally sense to me. I can very much relate to the fear of uncontrollably gaining weight. Physiologically, that’s rather unlikely though. Maybe this would be a good scenario to practice dialoguing between healthy and ED self. Why is this fear there, what are the implications about weight gain - what do you think they are versus what they actually are. It might be that your self-esteem is closely tied to the number on the scale (ditch it if you haven’t done so yet). Distinguishing between objective facts and the stories we tell ourselves is essential - not easy at all, but really important and worth the work.

Based on this massive fear of not being able to control what is happening to you I already thought that this sounds a lot like trauma. I am very familiar with this feeling, too. So I also understand that you cannot recall a lot of the experiences, even if someone tells you what happened. When being traumatized, we become disconnected from our Self. We aren’t able to be immersed in the present moment, so it is very difficult to remember anything of what happened. Dissociating is a way to cope. Period. Gosh, it makes me mad that people tell you they don’t believe you. Your experiences are valid. I can relate to that to a great extent. Please don’t let other people’s ignorance affect you. It is also rather common that ED behaviors become worse when you go into the painful emotions. We use them to feel in control when everything else seems so out of control. This is relatable, it makes a lot of sense. It doesn’t mean we’ll need these behaviors forever, because we can learn new skills and ways to cope with difficult emotions. Healing trauma takes time.

You are valuable and you are loved, and I can assure you that you are never too much. :hrtlegolove:

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Small additional note: Just scrolled through social media and read: “EDs are avoiding mechanisms” (in contrast to coping mechanisms). An interesting take on it imo and in there lies the answer to why we have to come back to it again and again and again. It helps us escape, but we don’t deal with the underlying issues. Thus, there’s no solution to it and we’re stuck with the ED - which doesn’t get us anywhere.

Very insightful for me. Hope that’s something interesting to keep in mind for you, as well.

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Ok, i have a question for you or anyone else who reads this. I had art therapy today and the therapist told me to re think things of how I see the eating disorder. Instead of being angry at it, thank it for protecting you when you needed it. She said that right now its not protecting me, she said it was making me sick but before this how did it help me. ( I couldn’t do that, so she told me to draw a picture of what it looked like when it was protecting me) But it was suppose to be positive. Thinking of your ED as a positive protector. I struggled with that. we diidnt get far in the session because my self defence mechanism kicked in and my mind just went numb as a way to deal with things. This is my second session with her, so opening up was hard.
Do you know what she means by that or have any ideas on how you would express that through art? And also, do you or anyone else struggle with going numb when things go tough?
This was a very weird session and i dont really know what to think of it.
Thoughts?

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Hi, we don’t exactly have an ED but we do have a severe problem with lack of appetite. Dunno if that counts or not but when we were little we learned that when you haven’t eaten for a long time you not only lose your appetite but when you eat and drink it hurts. Maybe as you continue eating you will get hungry again. You can start off small but as you go start increasing the meals. It usually starts off as a small protien smoothie and then fruits and then bigger foods. You have to be slow about it though as the body is not the way it was before. It can take a while for weight to get better as the body need some nurishment than storing substances. So that could be why it takes so long.

If you want to recover then you will. It will take work and effort, but it’s possible. You an do this. You may not see improvement right now, but it’s happening every day, every time you eat you are getting better. Remember that.

This is the best advice we can offer, as this is how we deal with things, and we don’t exactly know if we have an ED.

Hope this helps.

✷K

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Hi I.will.not.go.speechless
I know the feeling of getting out of hospital in the right mindset but that mindset getting challenged every day. I am sorry you are struggling so much. I have not experience an eating disorder myself but I I will try to give you some advice that might help. Try to keep food frequently but in small portions. DO NOT check how many calories it has and stuff. let the numbers be numbers. Thinking about it all the time is also not good. Getting some food while watching NETFLIX might be good or something similar to keep your mind off the food. Maybe just listening to music while eating. Anything that would distract you. I have also found this video about it that might help. I hope you will continue to go on this path so you can be happy with yourself :wink: Coping Skills for Eating Disorder Recovery - YouTube

Thank you for sharing your experiences from your session today! I’m seeing a counselor, too, and I usually don’t have any access to my feelings during sessions. It’s all numb and many question marks in my head. From my perspective that’s not surprising given the trauma. Sharing personal things with someone may be extremely scary, thus protective mechanisms are at play in this threatening situation.

There are even behavioral therapists who tell their ED patients to write a goodbye/thank you letter to their ED, as if it had been a real friend. At earlier times in our lives, especially the traumatic ones, but also generally when we haven’t had skill available to cope with difficult situations, we used our ED as a coping/avoiding mechanism. The ED protected us by numbing our feelings and helping us to escape the present moment. It helped us control a part of our lives, when other parts were out of control. It’s always been there, close to us, our best friend. Reliable, it was always there. Unconditionally. That’s massive. We may not have received unconditional support ever. In my experience that’s what makes it so powerful. Being all alone on my own, suffering, and no one cared - that’s what opened my ED the door into my life.

There are probably many ways to express that artistically. What comes to mind for my experience would be me inside of very, very thick walls (= the ED), all dark outside and a nice and sunny environment inside.

My advice would be when you struggle with accessing your emotions and expressing them by drawing, you could first journal about how your ED helped you cope with life. What did it do for you, what are its bright sides? Maybe that makes it a bit easier to picture something. I guess at some point the goal is to get a better access to your emotions and not approach this rationally, but it’s a start. In terms of what to draw, that could be anything, there is no right or wrong. Your therapist won’t judge what you’ll have drawn. There is no pressure to these things.

Hope this helps and most of all that you can enjoy the painting process!

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