I don’t know how to recover

I was due to start some body image work with my counsellor yesterday. I have gained enough weight and kept it stable for long enough that body image work is now an option. for me. I was both terrified and excited. I am feeling horribly uncomfortable in my body right now. I’m trying to ‘deal’ and barely managing it. It’s that pervasive ‘can’t look in the mirror, need to try on a zillion outfits generally ending up in tears in front of the wardrobe, self-harming due to a photo’ kind of feeling. I keep telling myself I’m ‘over-evaluating weight and shape’ but the rational voice isn’t making a dent.

So I went to my appointment and we went through the usual reporting behaviours etc. I admitted I’d purged a few times over the past fortnight since my last appointment. My counsellor responded with ‘it just has to stop’ and that there is no point in doing body image work until the purging is under control. Apparently I can’t work on accepting my body until I stop behaviours.

My counsellor is amazing, so I trust her that this is the way to do things, but man, I am struggling to see the sense in not helping my accept my body due to the behaviours that are occurring because of the fact that I can’t accept my body. It just goes round and around. I understood this with weight gain, there’s no point in learning to accept a body that is only temporary until the weight stabilises. But my behaviours aren’t due to weight. I know binging and purging will only make me gain weight, and I know purging after normal sized food is more likely to end up with me eating more overall.

I understand the behaviours need to go but I honestly do not know how to do this. I said this to her and she seemed to really think I can. I really wanted to believe her but I don’t think she really understands how ingrained the purging and the binge/purging is. If I’m not restricting, I’m purging, and I have been doing this for more than 20 years now. This is the way I live my life. I have never been able to conquer it without resorting to restriction.

She set me the challenge of 4 weeks of no purging. I told her how incredulous this was and she told me that I just have to do it and that I know how and I can do it I just have to follow through. I was sceptical initially but by the end of the session really committed to trying. I want to get rid of this more than anything in the world and I am willing to give it my all.

So today I felt full after lunch and distracted with a walk. I ate crisps that weren’t planned and I distracted with a nap after work. I ate a healthy meal with a friend and observed the feelings of eating more than her. Then she showed me a photo of me from a race that someone had posted online and bam the urge to purge was there. I distracted by sitting down to do some phd. I got stuck with PhD and the urge grew stronger. I repeated and repeated to myself that it was just an urge and that it was not my rational brain (thanks, ‘brain over binge’). I did everything I should have and yet, there I am a while later purging my dinner and crying in the bathroom.

It wasn’t about undoing any calories, it was about trying to survive the feelings about my horrible grotesque body and my stupid brain that is stuck with my phd. It didn’t help, as I still feel bad now, and even worse as I failed to last even a day. I feel pathetic but I’m also really frustrated as I don’t know how to make my counsellor understand that I can’t ‘just stop it’. I honestly do not know how to recover, and I’m so scared that I can’t make anyone else understand this. She is meant to be my ally in all of this but right now I just feel so alone. It’s not about not wanting it enough. I want to be free of this horrible demon so so much, but I genuinely do not know how. I don’t want to the person that can’t even go one day, but in the moment I seem to have no power.

So here I am, failing again and struggling to see how I will ever stop ending up back in this place.

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11 thoughts on “I don’t know how to recover

  1. I’m so sorry you are going through this. Have you looked in to any treatment centers? I honestly don’t know if I could have stopped (for as long as I have now) without the help of the center I went too! I know this struggle and it’s so so hard! Your not alone. ❤️

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    1. I’m in the UK so anything more intensive is not an option unfortunately. I see my counsellor fortnightly or monthly depending on her working days and I’m really lucky to have that, there’s lots of people in my position that wouldn’t be able to access that or would have had a limited number of appointments and then it stopped. I so appreciate the help I’m getting, I’m just frustrated at myself for not being able to make it work!
      Thanks for your comment though, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am in a similar situation at the moment. I get 10 sessions of CBT on the NHS for bulimia and my therapist has wanted me to move on to body image work for a while. Ideally I was supposed to have stopped binging and purging before doing body image but I haven’t been able to stop doing it and we’ve been forced to move on because of limited time. I still binge and purge once or twice a week and it’s hard to stop even though I really want to get better. The only advice I can give is don’t hate yourself if you give in to urges to binge or purge, feeling guilty and negatively towards yourself won’t help you get better. Also talk to your therapist about it if you can, it’s their job to help you if you are struggling. I wish you all the best and I know that you will get through this x

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    1. Thanks for you support. It’s so frustrating how resources drive therapy delivery-10 sessions is nowhere near enough for you- I am very lucky that mine is more open ended (it’s through the University service and as demand is lower in summer I get extra sessions!). That’s interesting you’ve been told the same thing about behaviours before body image work, I wish you didn’t have to rush through it but I’m intrigued to hear how it goes for you. And yes you’re right that I need to be more clear with my therapist about how I’m feeling even though they’re tricky conversations! Thanks again.

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      1. I feel really lucky that the therapy I get is free on the NHS and as well as the 10 sessions I get a one month and a three month follow up session to monitor progress so it’s not all bad. But I do wish it wasn’t so rushed as recovery is something that takes a lot of time and patience in my opinion. That’s really good that your university provides this service, it’s great how mental health support is advancing and becoming more of a priority. I imagine doing behaviour issues before body image is the standard treatment for eating disorders but I doubt that works for everyone. Talking to people never ends up being as difficult as I imagine it will be, so hopefully your therapist will understand.

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  3. Sorry that you are hitting a low point, it’s hard but you will recover and come out of it having learned a little more than last time. But when I have had something to achieve in the past I have used the ‘just for today’ mindset. It’s so much easier than 40 days! And when you get to the end of today, if you did it great you survived! Try again the next day. I recently read (sorry, you know me and my book recommendations) Tara brach’s ‘Radical acceptance’. She talks about trying to fill that hole in side with addictive behaviours, not just alcohol and food but perfectionism or work etc which really struck a chord with me. I felt understood. She does some good podcasts too. Sending you love 💖💖

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    1. You’re right, it’s a low point and not forever, maybe I will fully recover, or maybe I won’t, but as long as I keep moving forward that’s all I need to focus on. I do manage to forget that sometimes. And yes, one day at a time, just for today is my new mantra- a month just seemed unrealistic, but a day is do-able.
      I love book recommendations so please keep them coming. I’m going to order this book! thank you x

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  4. This could be written about me. We are very similar people indeed. There is something in you that you still have your hands gripped so tightly around. I guess it’s a process of letting go. ‘What of?’ I hear you ask. I can only talk about me and my journey, so please know this is based around my experience alone and not casting any assumptions on yours.

    For years I was in quasi-recovery. There was part of me bargaining with my eating disorder:-

    I’ll do recovery but I won’t put on weight
    I’ll do recovery and I’ll eat but I’ll still exercise ridiculously
    I’ll eat more but I’ll start getting 10,000 steps in every day

    Also for me, I had to let go of the thinness and what it represented. Because until I did that, there was no hope, I was still bargaining because it was still the epicentre of the problem, I still wanted to be thin so it was constantly undermining my ability to get the purging sorted once and for all. The purging for me has been the biggest thing in my eating disorder to take to task. In the end, the saying goodbye to my scales and letting go of thinness as my God was what helped with getting rid of the purging. I try and mark my recovery now with whether I have energy, or feel good in my bones and muscles.

    My therapist from rehab said the purging would be the hardest thing for me to give up as it was hardwired in my brain from 18. I’m now 43. It was as autonomous as driving my car. Neural pathways established over years and years of doing the same thing. I had to rewire the circuit. It wasn’t easy. I have to keep practicing so this new pathway gets more and more embedded. It’s still not autonomous but it’s getting there.

    I’ve over eaten and had to sit with it, literally doing a backbend over a pillow because I felt so full I couldn’t breathe. I’ve had to not purge when I’ve had feelings of deep sadness and hideous feelings of anger and just wanted to vomit all these evil feelings away. And I’ve got coping strategies. Even a little 10 minute walk, not to burn calories, just to help with digestion has been utterly a lifesaver. And I do know one things, the feelings pass. Some days it’s just my absolute stubbornness that gets me through, the same stubbornness that didn’t allow me to let the purging go.

    These are just my findings. And it’s always good to talk about this stuff as there may or may not be something useful in it for you. And if not, then at least you know there is a person walking besides you, who ‘gets’ it. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so so so much for your lovely reply. You do seem to get it, and while I’m sorry you’ve felt the same, it is very comforting to know that people understand. My counsellor has said the same about the purging and rewiring the circuits. The more I resist purging, the easier it will become, but oh my the resisting is hard. I have managed it two nights though even when I’ve over eaten, I feel horrendous about the calories but then that is linked to the need for thinness, and that too has to go. Taking a walk helps me too, but I struggle to get myself out the door sometimes (often because I’ve declared myself ‘in for the night’ but that’s something I can change) – I definitely need to so something for the post dinner risk time.
      Thank you again for all your advice, it is really appreciated (even if I’m late to reply!) xxx

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