How do I tolerate how terrible it is to have an eating disorder?

By Mark Warren, chief medical officer of The Emily Program

In our conversations about eating disorders, we sometimes forget to state the obvious, which is that it’s horrible to have an eating disorder. It is always horrible for the person that has it and the pain of the disorder often extends far past the individual to their family, friends and community. Eating disorders affect everything about us. They affect the way we think, the way we feel, our self-image, our experience in our bodies, our minds, and who we are in the world.

They destroy our health, our hearts, our brains, and ultimately can take our lives. Eating disorders affect our relationships, school, work, and the ability to have the lives we want to have. They are illnesses in the truest sense of the word. They disable us and take our health and well being. Part of the awfulness of having these disorders is that they are not well understood or appreciated for how terrible they are and the pain they cause. Layered into all of this is that the treatment for the disorder often causes more pain. Trying to refeed, stop behaviors, change self-image, and work on body image can take us to places that are both painful and frightening. Yet there is no other choice. So what do we do? We find strength from each other, find ways to feed ourselves and make our bodies healthy, and find a community that is healing. We need to believe in and seek out the evidence-based care that can help us and trustworthy providers, family, and friends who will be there with us. In Marsha Linehan’s writings, she talks about the pain of living in hell and how the only way out of hell is to get on our hands and knees and crawl through the fire until we reach the sunshine. So we acknowledge the pain and acknowledge how awful these disorders can be, but also know that if we keep moving forward we can find the light that will give us our lives back and let us escape the disorder.

Contributions by Sarah Emerman, Therapist at The Emily Program – Cleveland (formerly Cleveland Center for Eating Disorders)

How do I tolerate how terrible it is to have an eating disorder? originated on Cleveland Center for Eating Disorders blog Clevelend Center for Eating Disorders blog in July 2012.

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