Steps Towards Recovery
If you are visiting this page because you suspect that you have an eating disorder, I commend you. You have taken a first step toward recovery. Before you will be able to fully recover from your disorder, you will need to go through several phases or steps. The first is recognizing that you have a problem and admitting it to yourself and to others. This first step is very difficult; particularly because the person with an eating disorder has grown used to allowing his or her conduct to be controlled by denial and pride. Confiding in too many people can bring up feelings of personal threat as you begin to imagine what other's are thinking about you, You may begin interpreting their "normal" behaviors toward you as becoming controlling and manipulative. These fears and feelings are rarely based in valid truth. And when personal control is the metaphor for the eating disorder it can often feel as if the most gracious actions of others are actually ploys to take your control away; and that type of thought process can lead to the anorexic or Bulimic becoming even more paranoid and more insistent that their way is the only way. When the brain is starved, it begins to fall into a mental state that cuts of some of its functionality such as cognitive reasoning, in order to stay in survive mode. Consequently, When one's brain is starved the anorexic patient is no longer capable of making decisions that require reasoning and abstract thinking skills, as they are temporarily shut down. The Patient needs first and foremost to be willing to learn about what she is missing cognitively because of her starving brain, If and when she truly begins to understand her self imposed limitations, she is then in a place where she can choose to begin to heal what is broken, or not.
Pride & Vanity is what keeps you from seeking help. But underneath that vanity is a much more deeply rooted feeling going on that may have it's roots into the very depths of one's soul - and that is fear! Fear of loosing control, fear of getting fat, but most importantly, fear of realizing that without your eating disorder, you have no redeeming value to yourself or to the world. And with that the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness feel very heavy and dark. Admitting to significant others that there is a problem will not come until you can see and accept that your core fears are what needs to be dealt with. Denial is the defense mechanism that allows one to rationalize or minimize the severity of, their situation. Pride also is a major player in the idea of looking "socially acceptable" or "socially superior." Embracing this first step is often one of the most difficult, but it is the most crucial.
Once you have admitted that you have a problem and have overcome the feelings that has prevented you from seeking help in the past, the next step is to allow yourself to "receive" help. This requires being teachable, and being willing to try new things, even though it is difficult. When someone develops any type of compulsion or habit that has become a way of life, it can feel uncomfortable and threatening to accept that there is a different way of doing things that is more productive than what you've grown used to. In other words, change is difficult. Even when, deep down we know that the new plan is the best way out, it is very difficult to let go of old, habitual ways of dealing with life, especially when we have been rewarded in some way for our maladaptive behaviors. It is difficult to make the decision to replace old behaviors with new and unfamiliar behaviors, but is essential to growth, and healing.
Part of having an eating disorder is feeling a lack of power in one's life; experiencing or feeling a lack of control over the direction one's life is going. Becoming entrenched in an eating disorder, at first, feels like we are taking control over one aspect of our life. Unfortunately, it eventually begins to control us, and the original feeling is perpetuated, and the cycle continues.
The next step is realizing that life is a series of choices. You choose to become involved in many of the events that led to developing an eating disorder and you can choose to work your way out of it. Believing anything less is choosing to remain powerless, a victim of society, genetics, and every other influence in your life. Before you can begin to extricate yourself you need to choose to take back your power, regain control of your life, and stop choosing the victim role as a way to live your life. Remember, the choices you make today determine your tomorrow. It is great to read self help books, but they cannot cure you. You can't just read about change, you have to create change in your life. And that takes a plan including steps you agree to take everyday of your live for as long as you must.
Unfortunately, the solution is very simple, but putting that solution into practice is very hard. However you must always remember that you are capable of doing hard things!
This step involves many steps. It includes developing your:
- Self image
- Self esteem
- Self worth
Once you have realized and accepted the fact that you have the power to control your life; that you have made choices and can continue to make better choices for yourself, the next step is to prepare a list of the areas in your life that you would like some control over; those things which you would like to change. Be sure to include items from all areas of your life, not food related issues. It is also a good ides to gradate the list from easy to difficult, or short term to long term, or less frightening to most frightening. Include items that you feel confidant with, that you can accomplish quickly. For example: "I would like to dye my hair a lighter shade of brown."
As you might guess, the next step is to learn the steps to positive and effective change. Having these simpler items on your list is a way to begin to feel the positive effects of having made some change in your life. It is important that you have several successes before tackling a larger change in your life so that you will begin to feel successful and capable of making changes in your life. The more you accomplish, the better you will feel about yourself, and the easier it will be to go onto more challenging items on your list.
People with eating disorders often have a history of setting unrealistic expectations for themselves (i.e. I won't be happy unless I get all "A's". This may be a defense against feeling the pressures that come with to success. When we set our goals too high, subconsciously we doubt that we will be able to accomplish them. We tell ourselves that we are being a successful person because we have such high goals, when actually we are setting ourselves up for failure. An all-or-nothing attitude is common. I once knew a woman who set her educational goal at obtaining a Ph.D. She was so tightly focused on that goal that she could not bring herself to enroll into a masters degree program (generally an interim step toward a Ph.D. program) she said "I don't want to get a Masters degree because I'm afraid I'll sell myself short of my ultimate goal." The reality was that she was shooting herself in the foot, and preventing herself from reaching her goal.