An Eating Disorder has a loud voice. This excerpt is from a journal entry from a 14 year old with Anorexia taken from the book Biting the Hand that Starves You: Inspiring Resistance to Anorexia by Richard Maisel, David Epston, and Ali Borden.
I ask myself why am I so miserable? Anorexia pretending to be me…disguising its voice and imitating mine, answered: “ Because you’re fat.” Period. Very blunt. Anorexia approached me when I was miserable. It told me it could make me feel better. It told me that my fat was making me unhappy and it told me to get rid of the fat and I would feel better. Basically, Anorexia told me that losing weight would make me feel better, because all of my problems and all of my bad feelings were existing because I was fat and ugly. P. 46
A young woman picked this out for us to read aloud and discuss last week. It echoed perfectly with what she was experiencing. We had been talking about this certain predicament of the eating disorder. She says, “My life is better with the eating disorder, I am miserable without it.” She wants what it promises her and this means that when she follows orders, it stays quiet for a while. Following orders is hard work and uncomfortable, and this takes a lot of fun out of her day. This feels ‘happy’ in comparison to when she is acting in resistance.
She says she is miserable “without” the eating disorder, meaning when she doesn’t listen to its demands, it torments her and punishes her, often asking her to punish herself in some way, to redeem herself. Of course she is miserable, but I am not convinced she is “without” it. She is attempting to resist it, but it remains very much present; so threatened by her resistance that it takes its torment to another level.
I am aware she may not be able to imagine what life might be like without being tormented at all. Sometimes to remind her of this possibility, I ask her again to tell me why she comes to counseling, (I already know the eating disorder gives her hell for this). Sometimes this silences her, Eating Disorder doesn’t want her to talk. But sometimes, quietly, she can answer that she doesn’t want it anymore and that part of her wishes that she did not have to feel this bad. It is only when she’s invited to step back from this scene, she can see that both ways are miserable. It has been necessary to invite perspective from this distance over and over, as eating disorder draws her in again and again.
Resisting the Eating Disorder
I have seen the same thing with other young women. When they attempt to resist, the eating disorder gets so vicious and it deters them from trying further. These are eating disorder’s tactics to maintain power. This same young woman comments about this: ‘I think it’s important to heighten awareness as much as possible of the ed’s tactic of trying to maintain power because if we aren’t aware we can’t even begin to resist. What are the signs of him/her trying to maintain power? How can we counteract those things? In what ways can we make them more visible? What helps us resist? What doesn’t help? ‘
However, if we look, we will always discover little bits of continued resistance. ‘Hope to get rid of the Eating Disorder’ often lies in these acts of resistance. I end this blog entry with another resistance letter to illustrate this resistance…
Dear, or no so dear Eating Disorder,
If that is even your real name. You disguised yourself as perfection, attention, and control. You promised me a relationship of love, trust, and reciprocity. How could you betray me like everyone else has? What happened to turning to you when I couldn’t turn to anyone else?
I’m starting to see your true nature. Your real motives. You don’t want to save me. You want to destroy. The few things I have that are good, you are trying to rob me of. I can’t have real relationships when I’m having an affair with you and I can’t pay attention to school work when I’m only studying you. I can’t take care of patients when I’m nursing an addiction to you. When will you leave me alone? Won’t you just pack up and leave? Don’t make me do it. We both know I’m terrible at goodbyes. But maybe I can learn. Maybe I can learn to love myself so much that I don’t need you. I’m already good at hating myself. There’s no need for you to aid in that. So why are you still here? I think you need me.
You are nothing but a parasite leeching the life out of me. The more I die the more real you become. And I know you’re becoming stronger as my weakness grows. You’re thriving off of my decline. I have to stop you. I have to stop you before you gain any more of me. You can’t have me. No matter what lies you may feed me, I am going to fight them. I’m going to fight your persistence. And I’m going to take your dedication as a compliment.
Thank you for making me worth it. I know I deserve better.
You can write a resistance letter to any problem you have not just an eating disorder.
What would you include in a resistance letter?
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