You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves” -Mary Oliver
The Building Blocks of Recovery
There are many ways to recover from an eating disorder. Ultimately, each individual will find her own way to restore health to the body, mind, and spirit. The most important factor in attaining a full recovery is to seek treatment early. It is a hopeful sign that you are currently researching treatment options. The first step in recovery is to make an appointment with a trained specialist to assess the level of severity of the eating disorder and define clear goals for treatment.
Treatment may include:
- Therapy one or two times per week
- Consultation with a dietician/nutritionist
- Medical management by a physician
- Group support
- Referral to a higher level of care such as day treatment, residential, or a hospital
- Adjunct therapy referrals could include: exercise support, somatic interventions, spiritual/religious support, career counseling, academic support, help with co-addictions
At our initial meeting we will address the individual and family concerns around the disordered eating and mutually decide if Siskiyou Therapy is the best support resource for you. You will be given general treatment recommendations at the first session. Over the course of the first 1-3 sessions we will collaborate on creating a multidimensional treatment plan that will guide the work we do in your therapy. You are always an active participant in the decision making process. You can stop therapy at any time.
Although the field of eating disorders debates the efficacy of a full recovery, I believe that a complete recovery from disordered eating is possible. Therapy is usually a long-term process. Research shows that a full recovery takes between 5-7 years, although regular therapy does not necessarily need to occur for that entire period of time. It is prudent to conceptualize entering treatment for at least a year to solidify your progress.
The Soul’s Journey of Recovery
To fully recover means to meet life with a wholeness of heart and a balanced brain, to be free of unhealthy food behaviors, have confidence in one’s true nature, and to embrace the body we live in. We are called to let go of the lethal pursuit of the unattainable beauty ideal and respond instead to the soul’s journey. A recovered woman is aware and accountable. She has integrated mindfulness in exchange for rigid, chaotic reliance on food rituals as an attempt to regulate her nervous system. She faces life directly rather than withdrawing into her illness. She learns to live in a balanced way. Confidence rises easefully as the morning sun when we live as the person we actually are.
Women on the trajectory of disordered eating form a false self at the rite of passage through adolescence. Despite intelligence and ability, development of an authentic self is thwarted and life becomes organized around obsessive food and body rituals. Food becomes the tangible attempt at individuation, but seeking after a flat stomach fortifies a flat self. We wish be good and selfless, striving for perfection at the risk of our own extinction. We want to transcend ownership of human frailty and rise, like a little bird, to some form of sainthood or “no-self”. Instead, we restrict our food and pleasure in exchange for the misguided self-concept of purity. The fundamental truth of recovery is that one cannot be selfless until we accept the whole Self.
Our misplaced obsessions around food are not our fault. Our culture teaches us to mistrust, objectify and even despise the female body. Weightism is a rampant prejudice which girls internalize before they are even conscious of the stigma. Girls enter adolescence with aggrandized dreams of attaining perfection through the body, fluttering with expectation of who will find them desirable and worthy of love. They surrender their sovereignty, trading in their natural sexuality and intuition for scraps of attention as they strive to squeeze their body and beauty into rigid molds of who the culture says they should be. A detachment begins to take seed within as they seal their stony sculptures of self through anorexia, bulimia or binge eating. Grasping for control and clinging to the values of the patriarchal culture, they flee from the perceived powerless prospect of growing into a full-bodied female.
A sustainable eating disorder recovery is never a surface level job. If we seek true freedom from food and body obsession, we are called to not only change our eating patterns, but to summon courage to face our dark night of the soul, to grow beyond the false self into an embodied and richly textured Self. Full recovery is illusive to two-thirds of women because they do not want or know how to travel inward to reclaim and integrate the disowned feminine, without which a full recovery cannot be sustained throughout the inevitable storms of life.
Healing Happens in Connection
No one recovers in isolation. We heal in connection. Our brain is a social and emotional organism that needs attuned relationships for healthy life functioning. As highly sensitive beings, some women with eating disorders did not receive the quality of attunement and mirroring needed to grow into confident and integrated individuals. Therapy can be a powerful place to repair these attachment wounds that will help to regulate the brain and strengthen the self. We gain confidence as we collaborate withour care professionals rather than nod our heads as passive recipients. Creating a multi-dimensional and integrative treatment plan that is responsive to your individual needs is a complex and essential process.
Challenging Cultural Norms
Our culture has not nurtured our body or our beauty. We have used the body as a measuring stick of power and worth, equating the image of the body as the self only to find ourselves distraught as it evolves through the seasons with organic rhythms of change. Living under the shadow of control, we fail to embrace and celebrate the enormity of transformations that occur in a woman’s body. Unlike the tree, growing naturally with the seasons, humans organize and plan, anxiously attempting to ward off what they cannot control. In our fear of facing life and the body directly, we’ve lost ourselves. We’ve become cultural ornaments to hang up and admire at the sacrifice of soul. Health and resiliency blossoms when a society honors creativity and narratives of diversity. We are not simply a species competing to be the most fit; we are a complex, social organism that evolves as it encounters and relates to all parts of itself.
Body image is the most challenging aspect to resolve in eating disorder recovery, but we can’t afford to let it remain unattended. If we wrap up recovery without body healing, it festers like a splinter, only to rise, infected and demanding care. In your therapy, we will implement creative strategies and spend significant time working to heal your relationship with your body. You have this one good body for this life. It is possible to stop the war with your body and learn to live in peace.
The foundation of a full and sustained recovery, and perhaps the ongoing health of the world, is built on gratitude. This includes shifting beliefs about our body, personality, relationships, abilities and life position from “not good enough” or “too much” to appreciation and care of what we have and who we are in the moment. While anger, pain, hurt, and betrayal are justified and need to be expressed and sorted through in therapy, peace eventually comes from gratitude. Each person will find her unique style and expression of gratitude. When gratitude practice becomes part of our personal paradigm, the once unreachable dream of freedom from the torment of food takes shape and form into a life of one’s choosing.