No I am not a unicorn. But just like some people are mathematically inclined and others great linguists, the way my brain in not going to be identical to every other sufferer of an eating disorder, and vice versa.
Cognative Behaviourable Therapy (CBT) is a fantastic method. It helped me overcome a period of my life where the social anxiety was crippling, I learnt so much about my self and the way I thought and really often how irrational these thoughts and fears were. So when I was finally medically stable enough to attend sessions as an In Patient I finally thought I was going to be able to locate my daemons and deal with this whole eating disorder thing as easily as I had delt with my social anxiety.
Fast forward a to three months later and I was even more despairing of my situation. Week in week out I was failing to do as many 5 part models as needed. Spending hours trying to find positives and negitive from my day. Trying to locate the need that my disorder was fulfilling in my life. And then trying to write it all down. All the while getting more and more anxious that I didn’t understand it. I felt I was making it all up. I felt I was failing at therapy.
I couldn’t understand, it had worked so well before my therapist was gorgeous, we really connected and gave me so much time. So why was I relapsing? I haven’t been back since the end of August and I hate my self for it but it has been such a relief. Purely for how pathetic I felt after every session.
I was discussing with S in my session on Monday how I felt that all this time I had been searching for the root cause of my eating disorder, what it was a coping mechanism for and what need it was fulfilling in my life when really there was a simple answer to it all. I, Katie had always wanted to be thin, and at a certain point I dieted to a point that I was malnourished and from there my poor starved brain and my genetic make up and personality type meant that I had developed an eating disorder. That’s it. No deep trauma, no other reason. Just as with most cases and as portrayed in The Minnesota Starvation Experiment I had simply fallen victim to my own body’s symptoms of starvation and now that I was weight restored the only thing I had left was that niggling want to be thinner.
S was able to shed some light on the reason it did not work for me. You see treating mental illness is treating those who are not (albeit sometimes temporarily) coming from a place of reality. The thoughts, behaviours and compulsions of the patient are not coming from their developed brain, their true self. For example my social anxiety was based on a fear of being judged. My therapist at the time asked me ” when your having a conversation with some one new, what is running through you head? ” my answer was ” I’m worrying about how I look, is my make up okay, dose my outfit make me look fat? ” by seeing that I was thinking about my self and really in all honesty most people are worrying the same things about them self rather than judging me. So every time I had the thought I could successfully challenge it and my anxiety was reduced.
In those suffering from an eating disorder ( and I would say a lot of mental health issues) these thoughts are not coming from a place of reality. Sometimes the thoughts are so removed from what the individual is actually feeling and sometimes it’s hard to differentiate. Call him Ed, the voice, Satans dialogue what ever you want to call these thoughts and constant inner monologue, they are not coming from the real you. So can strike at any time, there’s no rhyme or reason for them so identifying the thoughts and then challenging them and changing your behaviour may work to deal with some aspects of the disorder but for me it was a bit like a game of Wack-a-Mole.
Its well documented that the personality type susceptible to developing an eating disorder is high achieving, goal orientated people pleaser with perfectionistic type tendencies. And I guess that’s why the therapy with S is working so well, it’s not punitive. She doesn’t make me feel I’m failing when I have a tough week, she rationalises it for me. She said to me this week ” you don’t need therapy Katie, you need clarity” and that’s exactly what she gives me. And more importantly hope. Hope that one day my body will not be the be all and the end all of my life. She is walking proof that remission can be achieved.
Ive also become increasingly aware through my recovery that many therapists still work with many myths surrounding eating disorders and I may do a few posts on the ones I have found most derailing.