By: Anonymous Client
Well I guess it’s time for me to explain what It feels like being trapped in the head of an eating disorder. Personally, I think it’s funny when people say things like “she just wants to be skinny” or “she should just stop what she is doing… doesn’t she know what will power is? and surely eating disorders are a choice! There is plenty more but I’ll save that for a later date.
Here’s a little insight into how an eating disorder works.
I am going to give it a name.. Bully..so we can clearly identify it. So let’s learn a little bit about Bully... Here are some of it’s qualities!
Firstly, it is very nasty, opinionated, controlling and mean. It thrives off disappointment, self-doubt and uneasiness. It likes to never leave you alone, it always lets you know it’s there, sitting on your shoulder. There is always a comment it leaves with you at the start and end of each day. It never misses a beat, always aware of all the things you do wrong, and all the terrible outfits you put yourself in. It’s just like having your own personal bully who follows you everywhere. You never get a minute alone without it second-guessing your decision, your outfit, your meal or the lipstick colour you choose to wear. Yes, I know it sounds like your crazy right?
Well sometimes you do feel a little crazy and you believe and listen to the voice that makes all these final decisions for you. It feels like you have lost yourself and are on auto- pilot, just waiting for something big to happen to shock you back to reality.
I am going to explain a day in the life of an eating disorder so here goes!
You wake up, you’re tired and really feel like sleeping in, considering you have trained every morning for the last 5 days. Your body is sore, you feel weak and lethargic. It's 5 minutes past your alarm, 5 minutes turns to 10 minutes then all of a sudden….”Good Morning get your fat lazy arse out of bed… last night you ate chocolate and that is going to turn into extra stomach fat you don’t need… MOVE IT!”
Then you find yourself sprung out of bed in your gym gear walking out the door, with your eyes half closed. Your body feeling like it’s going to collapse on the floor, but you put one foot in front of the other and you do it. Then Bully goes silent whilst you push yourself, your legs feel like they are going to give out from underneath you and your completely out of breath on the verge of tears.
You get out of the shower you look into the mirror in disappointment; you look at the fat, the freckles and my white skin. You look at the acne that’s plastered all over your face as a result of purging and you fall to the floor in tears. This is when Bully gets a lot of enjoyment and starts throwing these comments at you “yeah you look disgusting, cover yourself, cover your face”. "You shouldn’t be allowed in public looking like that.”
It all eventually becomes a blur, you get up wipe the tears away and get on with it. You go to pick your outfit but Bully is back..”yuck, gross, don’t wear that it looks horrible…you look so fat!!”
Next you go to make breakfast, Bully says.. don’t eat that toast, don’t have butter, you can’t have milk. You have just trained your butt off but you’re only allowed a banana. Bully is happy with that decision, you get to work and bully starts again, are your sure that’s right?, double check that?, you probably stuffed it up.
You start to feel hungry, bully nope you can’t be hungry, you already had a banana. Just drink some water that will fill you up. So you drink litres of water and you find yourself starving, you’re lacking concentration and you can’t focus.
It gets to the end of the day, so you know how you have already trained at 5.30am this morning. “Yeah well you didn’t work hard enough. You need to do another session.” You race home, chuck you gear on and off you go.
It gets to dinner you are ravishing hungry, so you literally eat everything in your sight, which is a binge episode. You sneak food into your room to eat faster than the speed of light. You lay there feeling hot, uncomfortably full and of course Bully leads you to those colourful comments again. The next minute you find yourself making yourself sick. At this point you feel possessed, like a demon. Bully, who is fully in control of you and you are just completing its request at the sake of your health, teeth, mental and physical wellbeing.
The next morning you are back punishing yourself from your bad choices you made the night before. Bully loves that bit!!
That is just a small snippet into just 1 day of an eating disorder. Now take a moment and imagine working a full- time job and having that going on in your head everyday, yeah I bet your exhausted just reading it.
Now is it really a choice?
I am successfully in my 9th week of recovery from bulimia nervosa, I have relapsed but I don’t let that ruin all my hard work. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, every day I just want to throw in the towel and give up, but I don’t.
I just keep on keeping on otherwise I will never recover and I couldn’t imagine a life living with this for any longer. It is poisonous and deadly, you need to take the power back and keep soldiering on.
I believe I will eventually recover, it will take a long time but if I don’t start I will never make it.
I wanted to write this as I believe it is important to kill the stigma around eating disorders. It’s not a choice but instead it is a deadly illness that takes a hold of you and gets tighter and tighter to the point of suffocation.
I have been very fortunate to have been guided to a wonderful, passionate and strong therapist. She has not once judged me. She helps me see the positives even when I am blind sighted to it all. I think for me the most important thing about her is she understands and genuinely cares!!
I believe without her support, I don’t know If I would even be here writing this. I have been so desperate to have someone who listens to me, let’s me cry, doesn’t judge me and is always reminding me of all the positives things.
She will always help me laugh through the pain. I believe the most important part of recovery is finding someone you connect with and allowing them in, eating disorders try and shut you off to help.
I want to say try so damn hard to not let that happen. The first step to recovery is knowing recovery is possible and with the help and guidance your start to really feel it and believe It. At the end of the day it’s about putting one foot in front of another and repeat. You may fall, trip but you get up and continue or you will never make it to your destination.
Ps: the whole time I have been writing this I have been second guessing myself!!
But I want to share because it’s raw, real and honest.
By Urja Refalo
Psychotherapist / Counsellor
What is Gestalt?
Gestalt is a German word which when roughly translated means ‘whole’. Gestalt therapy has a broad, deep philosophical and theoretical foundation. What stands out for me having been a client for many years of Gestalt therapy is that I’ve felt respected, treated as an equal and empowered to be the expert of my own life by the various therapists I’ve worked with. I have felt well supported to explore the different aspects of my mind, body and spirit and at times this has created significant changes. The therapist has been solidly present and authentic, has given space for me to tell my story and supported my exploration. By engaging with the therapist in a way and style, that I had not known previously, I have experienced myself as fuller, more whole; have felt recognised, acknowledged and significant.
Gestalt therapy is deeply embedded in the present moment, in the here and now. By being in the past, or so far ahead in the future we can miss the present moment of contacting and connecting with others and our surroundings, leading to isolation and a myriad of difficult psychological experiences. Increasing awareness of how our past is impacting on our mind and body in the present moment supports our ability to live life in the here and now. What I know from my own journey and working with lots of people is that staying unaware of how we are living our lives can often make it difficult to see our potential and what possibilities lay ahead of us. What we do instead is hold onto an old version of ourselves, one that may not work for us anymore but we don’t know what to do with it.
When we become aware of our thoughts, what our body is saying, our behaviours, what we say to ourselves and our use of language and we have good support, change is inevitable. Awareness of where we are, what we do, and how we do it is what brings about change. By becoming more aware of how we do life and relationships, we can become mentally clear and free from negative habitual thinking. We open to experience reintegration, greater life force and an experience of being whole again, a sense of coming home to yourself.
Gestalt therapy offers a way of exploring the various parts of ourselves that we often keep hidden, either out of shame, fear or anxiety. By finding gentle and supported ways to express ourselves more fully, in all our shades, we can make a space for these parts of ourselves to exist more harmoniously. In Gestalt therapy, your mental, spiritual and physical experiences are given space and by experimenting together we gain more awareness of your patterns and new opportunities follow to live differently, with more choice, more in line with your authentic self.
In short, Gestalt Therapy is profound, authentic, powerful, supportive and perfect for all issues and experiences, ranging from relationship problems to stress management as well as all mental health issues inc. depression, PTSD, trauma; loss, grief and personal growth. I work with couples and individuals.
(I’d like to acknowledge Tracy Kavessy-Bell for her inspiring words www.thrivingsolo.com.au)
By Jo Field
Parenting Educator at Harbour Therapy Clinic
Jo Field parenting educator at Harbour Therapy Clinic, Coffs Harbour, outlines a respectful approach to parenting that is based on good relationships.
There is no such thing as control over our children. All we have is influence within a strong and respectful relationship. With a background in teaching, I took on the prospect of becoming a parent with naïve gusto. Having studied child development at college I though I would be well prepared for what was ahead. I could not have been further from the truth!
When my three-and-a-half year old daughter (now 20) would speak to me with her hands on her hips in a tone of voice I recognised as my own, I thought, “I need help!” It became very apparent this little human being had a will, agenda and feelings of her own. Most of my training as a teacher did little to guide me as now I was emotionally invested. This was MY child - not someone else’s I could give back at the end of the day.
How was I going to get her to do what I wanted, without having to resort to punishment or methods that did not sit well in my heart and with my values? This question set me on a path of exploration and discovery of what it meant to be in a mutually respectful relationship with my almost four year old and be able to guide her as her parent.
I felt lost and confused in the sea of information available. Much of it was contradictory and definitely not a match with my inner compass. The work of Carl Rogers was my inspiration and supported the way I knew I wanted to parent, where love was not conditional and where we didn’t only get what we needed when we ‘deserved’ it - dessert when we finished vegies and love and affection only if we ‘behaved’.
“Getting positive regard ‘on condition’ is very powerful and children bend
“The Heart of Parenting” is a practical, fun and enlightening look at how we live in relationship with our children.
• The skills to promote and support a strong parent- child bond/connection
• How to parent through connection, respect and true communication rather power, punishment and coercion
• Decoding children’s behaviour and responding to their needs instead of reacting to their behaviours.
• How to break generational patterns and learn how our feelings are caused by our unmet needs not our children!
• How to raise cooperative, respectful and self disciplined kids without being a dictator or a doormat
• The importance of emotional intelligence and how it helps to raise children’s self-esteem and independence
• How to strengthen and deepen your relationship to last a lifetime
Children do not rebel against their parents but rather against the control methods they employ.
They form themselves into shapes determined not by their natural actualizing tendency but by a society that may not have their best interests at heart. A good little boy or girl may not be a happy/healthy boy or girl. Children begin to like themselves only if they meet up with the standards others have applied. If they are unable to meet these standards they are unable to maintain self esteem.” Carl Rogers
For the past 13 years I have been researching this relational approach to parenting and facilitating parenting workshops known as “The Heart of Parenting”. The focus of the program is to develop awareness and skills to strengthen and deepen the parent- child bond. This connection is a vital condition necessary for children to mature and thrive. It is also the most potent parenting tool we have.
Parents often see uncooperative behaviour as a challenge to their authority. Once we understand that cooperation is directly linked to the emotional connection a child feels with the parent, we can decode the child’s behaviour as trying to communicate something, such as an unmet need or emotional hurt, which they are unable to put into words
For example, a child who is using a whiny tone whjch you interpret as ‘demanding’ may be asking for your presence or attention or for connection and reassurance. We forget how busy our lives can become and often our children are struggling with the pace. When we are stressed so are they!
“Children are like the corks that bob up and down on the waves of their parents’ stress levels.” Steve Biddulph
A child who is ‘unco-operative’ or plain angry may be in emotional overload. They may just need a cuddle or some ‘special time’ with you. They may just need a good cry as a download of their overwhelming feelings. This helps to re- regulate their nervous system.
Remember our children’s need for connection is on a daily level, just like food.
We do not say that we will not eat for a few days but will feast on the weekend! If your children are not getting enough connection time from you, they will demand it by way of their behaviours. For example, at bedtime if they have not seen you much that day it could be one more story, need to go to the toilet, want a glass of water, and so on. We need to be able to decode this as them wanting more time with us, not being ’manipulative’ or ‘naughty’.
In this example, a parent could aim to start bedtime half an hour earlier and give time willingly. Otherwise, children will find strategies to get the connection they need, even if it is not in the most enjoyable way!
We need to respond to the unmet needs rather than react to the behaviours, as children’s behaviour is their communication.
Instead of asking the question, “How can we get kids to do what they’re told?” and then proceeding to offer various techniques for controlling them, we want to be asking, “What do children need - and how can we meet those needs?” This question then generates ideas for working with children rather than doing things to them.
‘This all sounds great...but what about discipline?’ many of my workshop participants ask. Relational Parenting asserts that co-operation is directly linked to the connection and safety a child feels with the adult they are relating to. When a child feels safe, loved and connected to the adults around him, a child’s intelligence is fully engaged. He can learn, cooperate, be flexible about his wants and needs, and be more in tune to the needs of others. That’s why Relational Parenting grounds ‘discipline’ in love, connection and respectful communication rather than relying on rewards and punishment or fear and control.
Children need to rest in secure relationships, in the context of home and in any other framework in which they are cared for such as daycare, school or with grandparents. These secure relationships are vital for maintaining influence with our children, especially in their teenage years. Children do not rebel against their parents but rather the control methods they employ.
There is no such thing as control over our children. All we have is influence within a strong and respectful relationship. We need to model the respect we expect.
This approach is not permissive parenting. Children need firm boundaries. It is how we communicate these that will determine the amount of mutual co-operation. Authoritarian methods only disconnect our children from us and lock us into unworkable power struggles while a ‘hands off’ approach is just as alienating.
The ‘Heart of Parenting’ course I run, which explores these issues, is based on the principles of Connection Parenting and Compassionate Communication (alternatively called Nonviolent Communication) developed by Dr Marshall Rosenberg.
Dr Rosenberg asks “What do you want your child to do and what do you want their reason for doing it, to be?” We are hoping it is out of a genuine connection to you and your relationship, not out of fear of punishment, for a reward, guilt or duty.”
Jo Field- is our specialist parenting educator at Harbour Therapy Clinic, Coffs Harbour. For an appointment with Jo contact Harbour Therapy Clinic on 66521120.
By Rowena Bianchino
Existential Psychotherapist, Social Worker, Relationship Counselling & Group Therapist.
“And thus forward upon the path of wisdom, with a firm step and good confidence! However you may be situated, serve yourself as a source of experience! Throw off the displeasure at your nature , forgive yourself your own individuality , for in any case you have in yourself a ladder with a hundred steps upon which you can mount to knowledge.”
What I really love about this quote is that it celebrates individuality and promotes self acceptance. How many of you spend hours of your days wishing you were somehow different? Your nature is all that you have been, are in this moment and will be in the future. It is a combination of your given circumstances when you came into the world and your experiences since then. We cannot be like any other and yet, we can catch ourselves wishing to be like someone else. Nietzcshe and his fellow like minded philosophers carved a new road for self realization, taking back the moral high ground from organised religion and encouraging each autonomus being to decide for themselves what was important and what was not. In other words, the freedom to choose what is important to each of us and with it the responsibilty to act according to our own ethos.
Curiosity is the key to freedom!