Unmaking My Eating Disorder

Probably my most personal, self-reflective, simultaneously analytical article to date. It was a challenging story to write – a mini memoir of tough times – but it allowed me to step back and examine not just who I am, but why I am.

I’m proud of the result, ‘Unmaking My Eating Disorder’, which you can read here.

Issue 16 of Psychology Tomorrow Magazine focuses on the theme of ‘childhood’. As I write in the introduction to my article:

“It would be extraordinary for a grown woman to spontaneously ration herself to 300 calories a day or vomit after every meal. Odds are that the skeletons pacing your average ‘Eating Disorders Ward’ have not had a short-term relationship with celery and self-loathing… There’s a process – one that often begins in childhood.”

Featured art: 'Child Innerside' by Boeeuen Choo

Featured art: ‘Child Innerside’ by Boeeuen Choo

Every kid faces certain psychological challenges that, to a lesser or greater extent, shape the adolescent and adult s/he becomes. I had a pretty great childhood, yet there was a confluence of certain internal and external factors that affected me deeply and, in part, led to and maintained my eating disorder.

Tricky terrain, this, and I’m still in the process of navigating it.

But while tackling these complex, painful issues is the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted, I have a feeling it will also be the most worthwhile.

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On being human and reaching out…

“That we can only be human, no matter what we do, is a hard thing to face; many of us have held very dear the notion that if we tried hard enough, we could be, or could at least appear, superhuman. Perfect. Unassailably good. Without blemish or flaw. This standard to which we have held ourselves has had a very curious, rather contorted effect: we have simultaneously lost all respect for ourselves, judged ourselves lacking, and felt like the most regrettable specimens of humanity around; and, afraid of feeling yet worse, we have also resisted looking very hard – or at all – at ways in which we have, in fact, screwed up.

But our time in self-examination has allowed us, finally, to take that long hard look. Now comes the next step: we speak.

At this point, many of us are tempted to ask why. Why on earth should we open those old wounds? we ask, as if we do not scratch them open ourselves all the time. Why should we tell someone else about all these things only we need to know? Whose business is it, really, but our own?

What we mean is, What will they think of me? Will they respect me? Will they forgive me? Am I allowed to have failed? Or does that cost me my place in the human race?

…We are not seeking forgiveness by some external force; we are seeking truth and clarity in how we move ahead in our lives. That truth provides us with the guidance we require as we look over the things we’ve done and the people we’ve been. It provides us with the map for how we can take action from now on.”

Waiting: A Nonbeliever’s Higher Power, Marya Hornbacher, 2011 (pp. 64-65)

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