Personal Reflection: GWEN
As Carolyn and I went back and forth, probably overthinking as we tend to do, trying to decide which assignments to include in each Key, I would sometimes wonder whether or not you, our readers, would actually take the time to do them I have been there and know there are many reasons for this not having enough time, not knowing the answer, not wanting to see it on paper, and many more. I’m sure you will notice how many times we suggest putting it on your Weekly Goals Sheet, also challenging, which is why we are always saying, if possible take it to a therapist or a support person.
Even though this is a self-help secrets, recovery is very hard, and sometimes too hard for many people, including myself, to do it alone. During my treatment, both the writing and sharing part of these assignments and listening to others, helped me gain the insight and perspective I needed to understand myself, choose recovery and get there, but this was after suffering with all types of eating disorders for over 15 years.
In 1980 there weren’t many secretss, and no self-help secretss for eating disorders, but had I been asked to write down the benefits vs. emotional toll I was paying by having my eating disorder, and had enough insight to know the answers, my list would have included: feeling like a fake and therefore very disconnected from people, incapable of intimacy, superficial relationships, selfbetrayal, shame, low-self esteem, low energy, no interest in sex, no enjoyment in life or much desire to do the things I used to enjoy (like read or watch movies), isolation/loneliness, hopelessness, anxiety, irritability, hypersensitivity, fear of the future, and a mental state that vacillated between selfabsorption and self-criticism a toxic combo. In this soul-sucking cycle, I would perseverate obsessively about how bad I was, and what extreme action must be done to correct it. Of course, I could never do whatever was good enough, which would inevitably trigger harsher self-reproach and criticism, and so on and so on. Although everyone will have different emotional costs and consequences, I’m sure you will agree that I was not a healthy person.
So, if I would have done that assignment and seen how much my eating disorder was taking from me, and if I was brave enough to be honest, the only benefits on the list would have been: Less fear of being or getting fat (lessening my fears of rejection and abandonment) and feeling in control of myself and therefore, hopeful about feeling good about myself and happier in the future.
When I look at that, it just doesn’t seem worth it. Right?
At that time, I doubt I would have realized how easy those so-called benefits are to poke holes into. The truth is, I was much more afraid of gaining weight than I had ever been (even when I was actually overweight), and a part of me was even vaguely aware that my plan for a happier future was weak and undeveloped. I didn’t know to call it my ED Voice yet, but it wasn’t totally lost on me that having the belief and hope that all of this misery could somehow result in happiness was a little crazy, and would more likely result in an early death, like Karen Carpenter, who was my only reference. I really thought strength, control, or hope was driving my behaviors, but really it was all fear and my life was getting smaller and smaller to keep it out.
So, the bottom line of this personal reflection is this: If I would have seen on paper the costs and benefits of my eating disorder and all that it was taking away from me, would it have made a difference? I can’t say for sure, but I honestly think it could have. I know they are hard to do on your own. I realize being in treatment helped me to do these assignments, but they are the same, or similar to those here, only better as they have been fine-tuned and tested over time. I have seen them working for many years as a patient and then as a therapist, and am quite certain they will help you better understand the battle in your mind, body, and soul and give you the ammunition you need to override and quiet the ED Voice in your head. So, if you haven’t done any of the assignments yet, it is not too late to start.