Those of us with an eating disorder often struggle with an overwhelmingly loud critical voice which is intertwined with the eating disorder itself. We are familiar with it criticising us many times a day about the ways we act, look or feel. This voice may even seem comforting, like a friend, despite how unhealthy it is. It causes our self-esteem to lower, making us feel not good enough, hopeless and even worthless.
For me, learning to have a more self-compassionate voice to challenge the eating disorder has been an essential stepping stone towards recovery. I understand self-compassion can be misinterpreted as self-indulgent, selfish or a weakness. But why do we not deserve to be given the same kindness as we would give to a friend? I believe it is a way of using mindfulness to see and comfort myself in times of suffering. I find it soothing to place my hand on my heart and connect to a safe place within me that is separate from the stressful, anxious and unknown world around me.
In the past, I have talked down to myself because I have seen my issues with food as being pathetic compared to what others are struggling with. In these moments, I remind myself that eating disorders are about the food but they’re not about the food. I love my food! I try to build an awareness of what else might be going on in my life. I ask myself what am I struggling with? What am I trying to disconnect from? What unpleasant feelings am I trying to bury? I try to offer myself a kind, compassionate voice and sit with these emotions rather than turning to my eating disorder behaviours to cope. I now know that I can talk about what’s coming up with someone who I trust because this is okay, and I am not too much.
A therapist once said that we are all wounded healers. I now understand that the eating disorder is merely a symptom of trauma. We weren’t able to verbalise our needs and it was an attempt to communicate our internal struggles to the outside world. We developed it as a coping mechanism to help us survive a certain point in our lives. We did what we could with the resources we had. So, it served a purpose until it became part of the problem itself. When I came to terms with this idea it was much easier for me to treat the eating disorder from a place of self-compassion rather than hatred.
The thing to remember is that none of us was born with these critical voices. We have been wrongly fed information as a child which has escalated to a bigger and louder voice in our heads over time. We, therefore, have the power to restructure this information in our minds and form a more compassionate voice in its place. Remember, you are enough!
Top three takeaways:
- Eating disorders are about the food but they’re not about the food.
- The eating disorder is a symptom of trauma that helped us to survive.
- We weren’t born with a critical voice, so we have the power to change it.
Written by Hollie Fisher,
Recover Clinic client
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