By: David Mayeski, Admissions Counselor and LCSW
Years ago I had the opportunity to work with a young woman who struggled with anorexia. I remember fondly our very first conversation more than 12 years ago. She told me, “It was the fall of 2001 when I got my eating disorder.”
I laughed. I was a trained therapist but obviously not as sensitive as I am now. “When you got your eating disorder?” I said. She said it as if it was a contracted disease or something. Looking back more than a decade later I didn’t know whether I was brilliant or merely stupid with that statement.
I look back on that experience with her and lament all the things I did not foresee during our 10-month journey together in residential treatment, the challenges we would face. Like many girls, she referred to her anorexia as a person. Ed was the name she chose. Like most girls with eating disorders, she was very bright and clever. If only we could channel this energy toward self-love and not self-loathing.
Was the anorexia something she contracted? Was it a life choice she was making? I struggled with this concept. As we worked together, deeper issues of control, hurt, and pain surfaced. She had a deepening need to cling to her anorexia. She used both creative and self-destructive patterns to extend this unhealthy relationship.
She trained herself to drink about 90 ounces of water before she was weighed in the morning. She would add weight either in her pockets or her shoes so it looked like she was maintaining her weight. The anorexia was “a relationship that seemed to love me unconditionally” she said. “Even in the hard times it would never leave me.” Breaking this spell would require inner strength for both her and I. I am not sure either of us believed strong enough in ourselves to get resolve her anorexia.
One of the most telling events happened at a time when I thought we had reached a level of trust and honesty in our relationship. I asked her how often she finds herself thinking about food. She replied, “All the time.” Again my training taught me to dig a little deeper into this obvious generalization. I asked, “So when do you start thinking about lunch?” I thought this provided a more specific time line. I was ready for her to say several times throughout the school day. She stated without hesitation “The moment breakfast ends and every minute leading up to lunch.” I was shocked.
Anorexia may have been a disease she contracted. It may be an unhealthy, abusive relationship from which it seems impossible to escape. Maybe it is about control in a life filled with trauma and chaos. But there is hope. That is what we must remember.
At New Haven, we know there is hope for the future. Our past doesn’t determine who we are. Our battles make us stronger; they do not govern our lives. Love and trusting relationships are a powerful force for healing. If you’d like to find out more about how New Haven works with eating disorders, please call us at 855-842-5591