Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

self-respect and eating disorders


lost in another world

I recently asked people to offer topics for my blog, and one of the ones I received was respect.  Having self-respect/not having self-respect while having an eating disorder or while recovering.  It’s taken me a couple of days to figure out how to put what I wanted to say into words.

While I was anorexic, I was also a straight-A student in undergraduate and then graduate school, a successful writer, held two separate jobs, and (I hope no one disagrees) was a supportive and encouraging friend to others.  I could knit up a storm even then and loved making things for others, I cared for my two cats, and I kept up my apartment.  All of these things (aside from the eating disorder) should have resulted in a decent amount of self-respect.

Did I have any self-respect?  Only when I lost weight.  I took no pride in any of the other things I was doing.  The eating disorder had full control over my mind.  Part of the problem was that I did not let very many people know what I was struggling with.  The friends who did know tried to get me to focus on my strengths and abilities and talents.  But by that time, I was convinced there was nothing to focus on of that nature.

When I entered recovery, I suddenly realized everything I could do.  It really was like discovering something brand new to me, but one of my friends commented that I could do all of those things for quite some time.  I just couldn’t see it.  All I could see was the eating disorder.

Now?  Fully in recovery?  Sometimes I still feel guilty for taking pride in something I’ve done or made.  Self-respect still can feel, well, wrong, sometimes,  just out of years of habit.  I am able to fight it now.  When I notice the guilt kicking in, I am strong enough to recognize that it’s misplaced guilt and then remind myself that taking pride in yourself and your abilities and strengths is a good thing.  (Yes, you can be over-prideful, but I bet that’s a bit difficult to achieve when you’re used to putting yourself down every chance you get.) I wonder what would have been the course of my eating disorder if I had been able to take pride in myself all along?

My challenge to you?  And my challenge to me?  Make a list of everything that you are good at.  Make a list of your strengths.  Make a list of your abilities.  Make a list of your positive characteristics.  This won’t be easy.  Your eating disorder will be screaming at you the entire time.  For if you don’t believe there is anything good about you, you are more likely to stay with the eating disorder and not believe recovery is possible.  If you make these lists, you can see that you have things to work for in recovery; you have a life aside from the eating disorder.  If you need to, ask a trusted friend to help you.  Keep the list in your journal or daybook, someplace you can see it regularly, so you can remind yourself of everything that you are aside from the eating disorder.  These lists can help you fight; they are your ammunition against the eating disorder.  The more strengths you can list, the weaker the eating disorder becomes.

I’d love to hear your comments on self-respect and pride.

And if you have any other topics for blog entries, let me know.

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April 20, 2011 - Posted by | Eating Disorders, feelings, identity, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I remember doing a writing exercise in IOP about what we liked about ourselves. No one wanted to share because we were all scared we’d sound arrogant. There’s a difference between bragging and being proud, but sometimes it’s hard to see. I still hate telling people about my book because I feel like I’m bragging. It’s really difficult to accept the positive when others are capable of doing the same. It’s easy to say, “…but I’m not the only one.” And so then being good at the ED seems special because not all people can do it.

    Comment by Jen | April 20, 2011 | Reply


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