Reasons Eating Disorder Center offers a full continuum of care for patients struggling with anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder, and co-occurring issues such as trauma symptoms, substance abuse, bipolar, borderline personality disorder, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, or depression.
One of things we value at Reasons is advocacy. We believe in the importance of bringing awareness to the fact that eating disorders affect people from all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, gender identities and sexualities. For the past two years we have committed to sponsoring the Marginalized Voices Project through the National Eating Disorder Association. We are excited to announce our support of the newest initiative for 2018.
NEDA has partnered with The Trevor Project for 2018 National Eating Disorder Awareness Week to put out a survey to give a voice to young LGBTQ+ people. The Trevor Project is a leading non-profit focused on crisis intervention and suicide prevention among LGBTQ+ youth. (www.thetrevorproject.org)
This survey is a research initiative with the goal of trying to understand how many LGBTQ+ youth have had previous thoughts of suicide and eating disorders. Studies have shown that as early as age 12, gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens may be at higher risk of binge-eating and purging than heterosexual peers. And among males who have eating disorders, 42% identify as gay.
You can see there is a great need for more research and treatment options.
We are proud to be supporting this initiative and if you identify or know someone who identifies as LGBTQ+ and is between the ages of 13-24, please consider this survey. Speak Out About Eating Disorders!
Contributed By Christie Tcharkhoutian, LMFT, Clinical Outreach & Admissions Specialist
When you think about the transition from high school to college, what are the images that come to mind? Moving boxes, tearful parents, dorm room bulletin boards, the all-too-familiar concoction of fear, anxiety and excitement. This year of life, for many, is the beginning of a new season. The start of independence and the development of a new identity as an adult, a chance to differentiate and learn and build your own mark in the world.
The most common phrase to identify this first year of independence is: The Freshman 15. As a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist, Outreach Coordinator and Advocate for eating disorder treatment, I am disappointed, and frankly outraged, that our society has chosen to define this very crucial, formative year by a phrase that is used to describe what society perceives to be “negative gain”. Looking back on this time in my life, and this year for the many patients we have worked with at Reasons, this burden and fear of gaining weight begins to define what would otherwise be a year focused on all of the beautiful things that can be gained with this new chapter.
So let’s refocus, let’s focus on gaining the three C’s: Consistent Self-Care, Community and Compassion. I want you to fight for and create opportunities as you prepare to thrive during your transition to college– and through whatever transition you may be facing in your life. Focusing on positive habits, people and ways to serve, can help you focus on the positive gains in a season full of change.
Consistent Self Care
When everything else in life is changing, a consistent self-care routine is crucial to stay grounded, positive and fully present for your life.
This can start small, maybe you have a saying or mantra that you’d like to repeat to yourself every morning. One example is “I am valuable. I am here for a purpose. I am lovable, acceptable and capable.” Saying this affirmation the moment you wake up, can be a great tool used to center you when the day’s worries threaten to creep up like the rising sun.
Another consistent form of self care is having a mindful moment before mealtime, or saying a prayer giving thanks for the meal in front of you. Building in mindful habits is a way to check in and make sure you are staying centered, in touch with yourself through moments of change.
It’s important to stay personalized when you plan your self-care. Maybe journaling is a powerful tool of healing and centering for you. Buy yourself a journal you connect with and make it a habit to write in it, even if only a sentence, every night before you sleep to keep your mind at peace. Maybe you truly love being in nature, plan to drink your cup of tea outside under a tree or in as close to a peaceful nature setting as you can get, depending on your campus! Stay connected to what you love and this consistent self-care routine will help you work through even the most stressful moments of change.
Oftentimes the most challenging piece when transitioning to college is also the most important and that is: creating community. None of us were meant to live life alone. It’s so essential to surround yourself with others who can help lift you up, who accept you no matter what you look like and who you feel safe with and earned your trust. Creating your community should be the most rewarding and deliberate part of your college experience.
Compassion for Others
An essential way to stay grounded is by practicing compassion. Colleges offer a unique space to give back and cultivate compassion. Every institution provides unique opportunities to get involved in service projects, allowing you to practice and grow compassion towards others. This can also be a beautiful way to build a community, surrounded by like-minded people who care for the same causes you do.
Remember, the key to happiness is helping someone else and finding the right fit for sharing your love for others. These thoughtful actions will help connect you to your purpose during transition and throughout your life. As Maya Angelou once said, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.”
Want to join the conversation? Check out the “Get Real with Reasons” Facebook live series on our Facebook page and find out more about our upcoming live chats!
Contributed by Shannon Braasch, MA, Clinical Outreach Specialist
These days, there are so many alerts and cues letting us know when something is wrong. Cars alert us when
maintenance is needed, the electric company lets us know when our bill is due, and cell phones alert us when the battery is running low.
But what about our bodies, what cues are they sending us? Wouldn’t it be nice if we all came with a panel like our cars, letting us know that something wasn’t functioning right or disconnected? Unfortunately we don’t, which means we have to pay close attention for the cues that the mind and body send us. The good news is that these disconnections are not permanent. Reconnection is possible.
Who experiences mind body disconnection? Disconnection is tied to the fight, flight or freeze response, which is how we respond to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. Disconnection is a flight response—so as to avoid feeling threatened or unsafe. Meaning, anyone who experiences something that triggers the fight, flight, or freeze response is susceptible– which is everyone.
Signs of Disconnection
Inability to identify interests or strengths
Lack of self-care
Feelings of sadness, anger, despair
Desire to sleep more
12 Ways to Support Mind and Body Connection
Take time to identify your values– What do you value? I can say that most of us do not ask ourselves this question enough. It is so important to know what your values are in order to understand the need for reconnection. Our values can shift and/or change—making it that much more important to check-in and ask ourselves this question periodically. Here is a great tool to help you identify your values!
Restorative/Gentle Yoga– I know that some of you may groan, thinking “yoga is not my thing.” But remember, there are many different types of yoga. In a restorative or gentle yoga class, you will typically find slower transitions, attention to breath work and checking in with your body, and additional care given to new students. Reasons Eating Disorder Center offers this practice as a part of the treatment experience for their patients in an effort to develop a new relationship with their bodies, and reconnect body and mind in the service of healing.
Limit your use of technology – Yup I know, this sounds impossible. But being distracted by social media, texts and emails derails your ability to connect with yourself If you are constantly connected to your phone and/or other devices, studies have shown that our self-worth and self-esteem can take a hit. Getting a “like” has been shown to have addictive effects in the brain similar to those found in substance abuse. Set limits for yourself. Be willing to take regular breaks as an experiment.
Make time for friends and family –Disconnection can result in disconnecting from your support system. Make an effort to spend some time with your friends and family. By reconnecting with these positive relationships, you are creating opportunities for self-reconnection.
Experience something new—By introducing yourself to something new, such as visiting a new park or trail close to you, attending an art or music festival you’ve never explored, or volunteering at an event or fundraiser, you may begin to awaken creativity, joy and a desire for self-reconnection!
Do something that at one time brought you joy– It is totally possible that this might still bring you joy! With the disconnection of mind and body, you may have lost the desire to partake in this activity, and forgotten how much you truly enjoy it. Look at old photos to spark memories of fun experiences and commit to return to those places.
Prioritize self-care—I know it is hard, but you must prioritize this. Take care of yourself by setting boundaries, taking breaks and going out there and trying the examples that I have given you! If you find yourself struggling to use the magical word, “no,” ask yourself: am I speaking to myself about setting limits the way I would speak to speak to someone I love? If not, what would it be like to give yourself permission to try it – at least once in the next week?
Get some sleep – Sleep is so important for reconnection. If you are sleep deprived, it’s going to be hard to find the energy for connection. Create a bedtime routine for yourself, which includes a set time that you go to bed. Take an inventory of your behaviors the hour before you head to bed. If there are any electronics involved, unplug. Studies have shown that exposure to blue light (found in nearly all electronics and standard lighting) is over-stimulating and disrupts restorative sleep. And say no to caffeine in any form after lunchtime. Creating a routine will help you to create a healthy sleep schedule – one your body and mind will thank you for!
Try meditation-Okay, so meditation is not easy, but it’s worth a shot. And not just one shot, it takes practice. Set aside a few minutes every day to practice your meditation. Choose to start simple and focus your attention on one thing for as long as you can (smell, sound, focal point, etc.). When you get distracted, take a breath; acknowledge that this is the brain simply doing what it does. And go back to your focus. Starting off with restorative/gentle yoga may help you with this!
Clean up, declutter and get organized- Having a clean and decluttered living space can help to create a calm and cozy place for your mind and body to reside, just what you need while they get reacquainted. Take time to organize your space to help decrease unnecessary stressors i.e. losing your keys and looking for the scissors. Also, consider creating a self-care section in your home that you can fill with a few simple “tools” that help you focus in on your environment in a positive way. Things like a candle, soft blanket, and pillow are reminders that you don’t have to earn the right to a sacred space.
Take up journaling- Putting your thoughts and feelings down on paper is a great way to clear your head, express yourself and begin to process what is going on in that beautiful mind of yours. There are a number of apps available to help prompt you to do this – even if just for a few minutes each day. Keeping a journal or even a stack of post-its next to your bed that you can use to jot down thoughts and feelings at the beginning and/or end of your day can help clear your mind.
Seek help– Even with all of the above, a professional can help you to not only navigate reconnecting your mind and body, but also help you to identify the triggers that may have caused you to disconnect, and how to cope with them to avoid disconnection in the future.
When is the right time to reconnect? There is no time like the present, even if you are not experiencing signs of disconnection the ideas above can also help to strengthen your existing mind and body connection. Take care of your SELF!
Contributed by Shannon Braasch, MA, Clinical Outreach Specialist, Reasons Eating Disorder Center
We are living in a world filled with crisis situations, which feel even more apparent as a result of social media. As I witness the turmoil of Hurricane Harvey from afar; feelings of fear, anxiety, guilt, relief, sadness, anger, curiosity, confusion, helplessness, hopefulness, and grief are all stirring around inside me. These feelings, some contradicting, can become ruminating, stressful and consuming. I have noticed that these feelings come up more often as our nation and world are constantly faced with crisis situations, including terrorism, natural disasters, and social injustice. In addition to all of the external crises we are confronted with, we are also faced with personal crises, possibly within our families, relationships and careers.
With all that we are constantly challenged with, how can you protect your recovery? Below are a few ways that you can help to navigate the stressors and emotions that come up during a crisis situation.
Educate yourself– Take a moment to evaluate where you are gathering your information from. Is it a reliable source? Sometimes the news stories and information that we see on our social media pages and websites are not true. The distribution of false information and new stories across the internet has become more prevalent and unfortunately tends to be over exaggerations of the truth, or may not even resemble the truth at all! This false information creates unnecessary anxiety and distracts us from being able to effectively stay safe, take action, and/or make educated decisions. It is important to have a trustworthy source for information, and do your due-diligence to fact check and cross check sources to compare information before reacting to a situation. Keep in mind that this can be true within our personal lives as well; unintentionally, information and facts can get diluted from person to person.
Check in with your thoughts– Notice, are you experiencing ruminating thoughts about the crisis? These thoughts can increase anxiety and stress levels. Find a way to distract yourself; watch a movie, read a book, go to an art gallery, or maybe find a local event/activity to participate in such as a street fair. There are many ways to distract yourself, it is important for you to identify the ways that are best going to help you and have them readily available as needed.
Set boundaries – Take care of yourself, it is okay to limit your exposure to news stories, conversations and information about the crisis situation. It may be necessary to voice your need to limit conversations about the situation to the people around you. Or, if it applies, turn the channel, unfollow Facebook posts, and limit your social media and internet use. Unapologetically, do what you need to do to set a healthy boundary for yourself!
Recognize and honor your feelings – There is no one correct way to feel about any situation. It is important to take notice of your feelings during a crisis situation and give them the attention they deserve. Start by naming the feelings that you notice and do this periodically throughout the day. Also, be gentle with yourself; keep in mind that all feelings are valid, even when you don’t understand where they are coming from. Allow space and time sit with these feelings and notice how your body responds.
Radical acceptance- Often times the crisis at hand is beyond our control. It is easy to get hung up on the what if’s, but by focusing on the things that you cannot change and are out of your control, you may experience an increase in anxiety and frustration leading to suffering. The article, The Importance of Practicing Radical Acceptance, is a great place to find more details and information about this.
Offer support– There are ways that you can offer support, even in a situation that feels helpless. Outside of financial contributions and volunteering, you can offer support through the power of positive thinking. Focusing on the positive not only helps you, but can help others suffering around you. You can create a sense of hope and positivity for others, just by letting a person know that they are in your thoughts and/or prayers.
7. Lean on your resources – A crisis situation may trigger thoughts and feelings that can become overwhelming and feel unmanageable. Remember that you are not alone. Talk to your friends and family members. It is quite possible that they have similar experiences and the support and connection to one another can be healing. Also, it is okay to seek support from a clinician or local and online support groups. If you feel that you are unsafe, and/or are in an emergent situation, call 911 for immediate assistance.
Unfortunately, crisis situations happen, and whether or not you are in recovery it is important to take care of yourself! You are worthy — remember to pause and check in with yourself, show compassion to yourself and others, and ask for help if needed!
Extending Kindness Toward Yourself in Eating Disorder Recovery
If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.
Contributed by Nikki Rollo, LMFT, PhD ~ National Director, Program Development
It’s hard to talk about self-compassion. Especially when in the midst of an eating disorder or on the recovery path, there are so many self-critical thoughts that pop up. The idea of self-compassion can just feel foreign, hard, unattainable.
It can evoke many different feelings in us. At first, we usually think something like, “Oh, self-compassion! That’s a great idea and I would love to have more of that for myself!”
Then before you know it, those self-critical thoughts have started and all of a sudden, we find ourselves going from interest in the idea to deep cynicism. We question whether we could ever jump in with both feet and really embark on a journey of self-compassion.
Some of those critical thoughts might be things like:
Am I being selfish?
Do I even deserve this? I have so much shame…
Will self-compassion make me weak?
What if I lose my discipline? My edge?
What will happen to my motivation to be better?
Can’t you be too compassionate toward yourself?
Will self-compassion make me… fat??
Does any of this sound familiar?
We typically find ourselves willing to offer kindness to others, but skeptical of offering this same kindness toward ourselves. Why?
Perhaps it is because we are afraid it won’t produce the results we want. We might even be afraid it will bring the exact opposite of what we have been using the eating disorder as a vehicle to pursue.
It is important to know these are common concerns and fears about self-compassion when you are working on recovery from an eating disorder.
When someone first comes into treatment the idea of self-compassion can be quite scary! The eating disorder has served a purpose, perhaps even been a life-line, yet the shadow side of it comes with shame, self-criticism, and hopelessness.
A core part of seeking help for an eating disorder is engaging in the work of addressing this self-criticism and shame.
How do you do this?
Well, we know the antidote to shame is self-compassion.
And this work is not easy work! It takes courage. Our strongly held beliefs need to be challenged- particularly around automatic thoughts are regarding self-compassion.
So, in the spirit of opening our hearts to the idea of extending kindness towards ourselves, let’s explore two common myths and truths about self-compassion.
Kristen Neff, a researcher who has been studying self-compassion, talks about several different myths and truths in her work. She has found that some of the common held beliefs about self-compassion are indeed, actually myths.
Let’s take a look at some of these and see how they relate to the process of recovering from an eating disorder.
Myth # 1: Self-Compassion Stops You from Achieving, or Makes You Complacent
One of the big fears about self-compassion is that it will derail our motivation and drive to be a better person or better at something specific we want to achieve. We worry that if we are too kind to ourselves, we will become too agreeable, submissive, or just downright weak.
We are so used to motivating ourselves with self-criticism and shame it seems foreign to think that a self-compassionate approach could actually motivate us. We think taking an attitude of self-compassion toward our shortcomings will keep us stuck there, resigned to our flaws. We imagine we will live a stagnant existence, just wallowing in our own mediocrity.
Truth # 1: Self-Compassion is More Motivating than Self-Criticism
Take a minute to stop and think about it. How does self-criticism really motivate you? Would it truly be possible for anyone to stay motivated under constant self-criticism, berating, and shame? This might work momentarily, sure. But on a long-term basis, it simply cannot be sustained as motivation toward growth, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The reality is self-criticism makes us feel anxious and sad, depressed even. What it may motivate us towards is a path of self-destruction, rather than healing and hope. Self-criticism makes us feel small and unworthy. This form of “motivation” is actually quite effective at keeping us stuck in a mindset that maintains eating disorder behaviors and thoughts in our lives.
Self-compassion on the other hand, is about an attitude of kindness toward our failures or short-comings- not necessarily blind acceptance of them. This is an important part of self-compassion to understand. It is not about saying everything is ok as it is.
A self-compassionate mindset will probably shift your values of what you want to achieve, perhaps the goals become less about the eating disorder or weight loss, or perfection and more about you as a whole person, with all of your parts integrated.
But it is important to remember self-compassion is not de-motivating. Although it is sure to open your eyes to a new perspective about what is important and how you deserve to be treated.
Kristen Neff’s Self-Compassion research tells us that self-compassionate people do set high standards for themselves, but the difference is if they fail to reach a goal, they do not become berating and judgmental toward themselves. Instead, they acknowledge what went well and what mistakes were made and then set a new goal, with thriving and growth in mind. Self-compassion helps us become resilient in the face of challenges and failures in life, motivating us to keep going or try a new way.
This is such a needed skill in recovery. We set goals and meet some of them, and others we don’t. This recovery journey is a twisting, winding path and for those of you on it, I am quite certain you could use some of the resiliency and kindness that comes from an attitude of self-compassion to continue motivating yourself toward healing and a life full of meaning.
Myth # 2 Self-Compassion Makes You Selfish
We worry self-compassion is becoming self-indulgent. A common myth about self-compassion is that it is about letting ourselves off the hook and making decisions that benefit us, without concern for others- because it is the “compassionate” thing to do (for ourselves, for me, me, me!). We think about how others have it worse than we do, or think if we are so focused on self-compassionate living we won’t take action for others, or admit to our mistakes. We might even have been socialized or raised to think that our own happiness must come last and to pursue anything other than that means we are acting selfishly.
Often times part of the struggling with an eating disorder has meant denial or restriction of things from our lives. This could take the form of food, but might also show up in denial of big emotions, of activities we love to do, of a hobby, a gift, or talent, or of deep connection with other human beings.
Truth #2 Self-Compassion Energizes You to Care for Others (and Yourself)
When we are able to connect to the part of us that desires happiness or peace for ourselves, we can more deeply work to bring happiness or a sense of peacefulness to the life of another person.
When we express kindness toward our own short-comings, it can open up the potential for real vulnerability with another person. This vulnerability can lead to connecting on a deeper level and breaking the isolation that is part of maintaining an eating disorder.
Challenging the idea self-compassion makes you selfish means trying on a new way of being- like accepting your worthiness. You are worthy of this gift of kindness toward yourself.
We are more able to take responsibility for our actions and mistakes when we have an attitude of loving compassion toward ourselves – we know we are human, that it made sense that we behaved a certain way AND that we can set a new goal for ourselves- a new way of being.
With a new way of being toward ourselves, we are likely to find a new openness to both give and receive love and care to and from others as well.
This quote from the Buddha can give us some perspective here as we challenge the myth that self-compassion makes us selfish:
Looking after oneself, one looks after others.
Looking after others, one looks after oneself.
– The Buddha
This is a good time for a reminder on what self-compassion really is all about.
It is a sensitivity toward our own suffering with a commitment to alleviate it.
Sometimes our suffering is a result of choice, habits, or behaviors we are engaged in that truly do need to change. This is certainly true when you are seeking treatment for an eating disorder. There are some things that need to change and some values that need to be questioned or be replaced by something else.
The goal with self-compassion is not simply complacent acceptance, rather honestly looking at what is causing us suffering and taking actionable steps to improve our quality of life and overall happiness. This pursuit of a rich quality of life is not a selfish endeavor, rather connects us more deeply to the things that are meaningful and beautiful in life. Perhaps this is nature or animals.
One of our deepest hopes for you is that this also includes connection with other human beings that can help support and love you on your recovery journey.
For more on myths and self-compassion research, check out Kristen Neff’s book “Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself”.
Contributed by Alyson Lischer, LMFT Photographed with Jennifer Tarzia, SD NEDA Walk Coordinators
For the last five years I have participated on the planning committee for the San Diego NEDA Walk. Year after year, I have been elated to see so many different faces that come out for the walk. This year’s NEDAwareness theme was “It’s time to talk about it” and it is definitely time to talk about it. The reality is that the longer we stay silent, the longer eating disorders have the power and stigma and shame win out. Therefore, in honor of this year’s theme, I wanted to talk about why participating in the NEDA Walks has become such a passion project for me.
The reality is I walk for a number of reasons, most of which are grandiose ideas. I don’t really care if they are too grandiose to accomplish because just the ability to dream of a time when we can overcome these things, is a helpful step in the right direction. If we can begin to dream something, then we open up the possibility of it coming true. If I can play even a small part in society beginning to talk about our bodies, food and eating disorders differently, than it is all worth it to me.
I walk for three main reasons:
Standing up for Body Positivity
When I started out in the field, I became extremely attached to helping challenge the way that people thought about their bodies and their need to “control” their body and diet. I became very invested in this as a feminist issue but gradually, this has become just a people issue. It is important to me to separate out that no, I do not think dieting and eating disorders are the same thing, but I do feel both create shame and an unhealthy relationship with food and body. I walk to help spread the message that we should not spend day in and day out trying to manage our bodies and the food we eat. Our bodies are uniquely beautiful and beautifully our own. They are physically all we have in this world. Let us embrace our individuality. Let us treat our bodies with grace and respect. I know, it’s a big idea…but it has to start somewhere and why not start with us. The statistics on dieting and body dissatisfaction in our society is devastating and the impact begins at appallingly young ages. [Visit NEDA’s webpage for more details about these stats https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-facts-eating-disorders ]
Our children see us. They hear us. We need to begin to change the conversation. The NEDA Walks are a platform to stand up and say that this body deprecation is not acceptable. It does not help individuals feel better about their bodies, it does not aid in providing for a healthier lifestyle… body shaming only leads to erosion of one’s self esteem.
Stand up for body positivity. Stand up by taking the morality out of food. Help participate by speaking more positively about bodies (yours, others, all bodies) and avoiding “diet talk”. Help spread that word that body shape/size and what you eat is not connected to your value as a person. All foods fit and all bodies are beautiful.
Building Community to create a Bridge out of Isolation
Eating Disorders are a disease of isolation. When an individual is suffering they are held captive by their eating disorder both emotionally and physically. Building community helps build a bridge out of that isolation. Sufferers need to know that they have a community of other individuals that are struggling or have struggled. We need to work on building a community in our field that begins to challenge the shame created in the isolation of those suffering. In our field, we spend far too little time allowing people to acknowledge their struggles in an open affirming way. The NEDA Walks allow us to get out in the public and let sufferers see that they are not alone. There are peers and professionals alike that have love, compassion and acceptance for you wherever you are on your journey. You don’t have to wait until you are “cured” to begin to feel supported. It can start right now, today. Isolating and believing that you need go at this alone is a place that typically only keeps people ill.
Connecting with others can help grow your ability to see life another way. Connection can help challenge shame messages and help to build the belief that you are worthy of recovery. Sharing your experience can help you feel heard, understood, supported and enable you to work towards a different experience. When you are alone it is difficult to see a way out but when others see you it is like lifeline has been thrown to you to aid your way out of the darkness. There are resources, there is help and you are worthy.
Celebrating that Recovery is Possible
Working in this field can be difficult at times. Often times we see people when they are at their worst. We see people when they believe they cannot get better and when they believe they cannot go on anymore. As professionals, our hearts go out to these individuals and in turn, we pour our souls into helping in those moments but most of the time we do not get to see the outcome. Typically, we do not get to see when people come out the other side and what their lives look like after they have recovered. The NEDA Walks are an inspiring time, when as a professional, I get to see people that have gone through our treatment programs or that I have spoken to during their admission and hear their stories of recovery. This reminds me of what working in this field is all about. This is why we are so determined to help those suffering to see there is a light at the end of this tunnel. This is why we take phone calls in the middle of the night. This is why we have the same conversation over and over again to comfort someone’s anxiety. This is why we set boundaries when it is hard and feels scary. This is why we do all the difficult work… because A Full Recovery is Possible.
Whether you are admitting for the first time that you have an eating disorder or you have been in treatment numerous times, Recovery is possible. It will be filled with ups and downs, moments of feeling empowered and moments of feeling stuck and afraid. It is an arduous road but the road to recovery is there and it will lead you to freedom. Recovery is possible for everyone and at the NEDA Walks, you get to see so many different faces of what recovery looks like. We must take time out to celebrate the victories. We must take time to honor our individual stories and what recovery means to so many people.
So once again this year, I woke up early, packed up the car with my family, including my new little NEDA walker (well, crawler) and headed down to put on another San Diego NEDA Walk and once again, I was inspired.
This is why we do this work.
It is amazing to see the faces of colleagues that have sacrificed so much to support sufferers, the alumni who feel free and those that are still suffering showing up knowing they have a safe place to ask for help. It is refreshing to speak to so many people looking for resources, asking questions, and sharing stories. You are not alone. On this day, you are surrounded by others that know what it is like to be in your shoes. There is support whoever you are and wherever you are on your journey.
This week marks National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2017, created by the National Eating Disorder Association in order to shine a spotlight on eating disorders and increase recognition and access to care for those who are in need. The theme this year is “It’s Time to Talk About It” with a focus on busting myths, taking action, shattering stigma, and celebrating recovery stories.
Eating Disorders are serious mental health disorders with the highest mortality rate of any mental illnesses. Yet, so often people struggle in the shadows, in secret, afraid to seek help or not knowing what kind of help to seek.
It is also a reality that we live in a culture where things like limiting food intake, over-exercising, and modifying body shape and size are celebrated, no matter the cost. Yet, in a study of 14 and 15 year olds, dieting was the most important predictor of a developing eating disorder…and compared to those who do not diet, those who dieted moderately were 5x more likely to develop an eating disorder and those who restricted extremely were 11x more likely to develop an eating disorder. (National Eating Disorder Association).
In addition, weight shaming has been found to pose a significant threat to both psychological AND physical health. It can result in increased depression, decreased self-esteem, and increased dissatisfaction with one’s body. (National Eating Disorder Association).
These studies are sobering. This is something to be taken seriously.
Eating Disorders affect people of all shapes, sizes, genders, ethnicities, economic backgrounds, and sexual orientation.
They do not discriminate.
Those who are struggling often suffer from both social stigma and self-perception stigma. They fear what others will think and they also have negative thoughts themselves about their illness.
What are some of the fears and worries people have about speaking up?
It will make me look weak
I will be labeled “crazy”
I won’t be taken seriously
It will affect my future education or employment
People won’t want to be around me anymore
I will lose my friends
People will blame my family
I don’t want to be seen as different or weird
I brought this on myself
It’s not that bad
People will think it is just vanity
The reality is, unless we start talking about it, like the theme of NEDAW 2017, these fears will continue and many of them may become real for those who are in need of help.
The unfortunate truth is, fears of stigma exist for good reason. There are misunderstandings and false ideas about mental illness among the general public and among health care professionals. The individuals suffering and their family members often get blamed for their illness.
Fear of stigma is a major barrier to getting help and finding support, which could prove to be life-saving for some individuals.
Some of the greatest consequences of stigma are shame, isolation and silence.
We feel shame about who we are, about our struggle, and can feel like our illness is a reflection on our character or worth.
As a result, we pull away, we isolate, as a way to cope with the feelings of shame and the fear of rejection.
This isolation keeps us silent. It keeps us from speaking up, and asking for help.
So how do we shatter stigma and shame?
Take Responsibility: Shattering stigma and breaking the power of shame is all of our responsibilities. This means looking inward and recognizing how our own biases and prejudices against those with mental illness may be present.
Ask Yourself: Is there anything I am saying or doing that is making it hard for someone to share their experience with me?
Review Your Language: Do I or those around me use words like manipulation, attention-seeking, or crazy? Consider changing your language or encouraging others to change their language to be more compassionate toward those with mental health struggles.
Get Educated: Educate yourself about eating disorders, how they develop, and the process of recovery. Challenge assumptions or things heard in the media. Read the stories of people who have recovered and see the person instead of just the illness.
Get Involved: There are so many great ways to get involved and help to shatter misconceptions and advocate for access to care for the people who need it. Here are some organizations making a difference that you can get involved in:
Eating Disorder Coalition: Lobby our lawmakers to make your voice heard and advocate for more education about eating disorders and access to treatment.
Contributed by Alyson Lischer, LMFT, Director of Admissions and Business Development
Reasons is proud to offer the full continuum of eating disorder care. We believe that it is important for patients’ to have the opportunity to transition seamlessly between levels of care with a cohesive team offering a consistent treatment approach. One thing we believe sets us apart is our ability to provide Specialized Inpatient Treatment for Eating Disorders. The option of inpatient treatment may perhaps sound overwhelming for a patient or family, but it can actually be a critical resource for patients needing more support in the areas of medical and mood stability. The main focus of inpatient care is safety and containment. For some patients, their behaviors and/or mood instability have left them unable to be medically or psychiatrically safe at lower levels of care. For some patients, inpatient care can actually be relieving because they finally feel safe and experience a break from feeling dysregulated and out of control.
Reasons’ Inpatient Program offers patients safety and containment by focusing on supervision and structure. Furthermore, due to the safety provided by this structure, patients are better able to begin the deeper process of healing along with symptom reduction while they are at the highest level of care, participating in a mixture of process, psychoeducation, and experiential groups, individual therapy, and nourishing meals. At Reasons, we are focused on providing specialized eating disorder treatment from an Exposure and Response Prevention model that honors the individual and their needs, no matter what stage they are in treatment. Reasons Inpatient Program Offers:
Medical Monitoring and Internal Medicine Consultation
Acute Psychiatric Assessment and Stabilization
Daily Psychiatric Consultation and Monitoring
24-hour Nursing Care
Individual and Family Therapy
Nutrition Consultation and Therapy
Process, Psychoeducational, Experiential, and Nutrition Groups
Intensive Therapeutic Interventions
When might an Inpatient Eating Disorder Program be indicated?
Patient is in need of 24-hour supervision due to the presence of significant eating disorder behaviors
Patient is in need of psychiatric stabilization for co-occurring psychiatric issues, trauma, and/or chemical dependency and would benefit from daily psychiatric contact
Patient is experiencing suicidal thoughts/behaviors and/or recent suicide attempt
Presence of self-harm behavior, especially if behaviors increase while challenging the eating disorder
Patients’ weight requires intensive 24-hour supervision. Extremely low weight patients may require medical stabilization prior to admission to our program.
Motivation for Recovery may be low or present, but ambivalent
Unable to engage in programming/groups at lower levels of care due to being overwhelmed with eating disorder thoughts/behaviors/urges
Overall, lower levels of care such as residential, partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient are not able to provide enough containment, safety, or structure for the needs of the patient Learn more about our inpatient programs.
The First Installment of “Bringing New Life”~ A Blog Series on the beauty and challenges of pregnancy and early motherhood
It’s also helpful to realize that this very body that we have, that’s sitting right here now…with its aches and pleasures…is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive. –Pema Chodron
Contributed by Alyson Lischer, LMFT Director of Admissions and Business Development
Pregnancy is a special time, all wrapped up in a whole host of feelings. There is joy, excitement, anticipation but there is also quite a bit of fear and anxiety. When I found out I was pregnant, I was terrified at first and felt completely ill-prepared, but slowly my fear started to shift to excitement for this new adventure that would surely change my whole life. The thought of having a child that was completely reliant on me was overwhelming to say the least. I was worried about everything. How would I manage all the demands of parenthood? The endless sleepless nights, hours of crying, balancing my career and family, but also, how would I feel about my body? When I was younger I saw pregnancy as giving up your body, would I feel like that now? I honestly did not know how I would handle this body transformation. I believe all of these fears about change are to be expected but what I was not expecting was a profound healing experience in my relationship with my body.
I felt that long ago I had made peace with my body. I was accepting of my body image. I had accepted there were things about my body that I may not like but they were things I no longer felt needed to be modified, managed, or changed. The flaws I once found devastating and held me back from being able to fully engage in my life were no longer a fixation. I could love myself and my body despite these things I had labeled as problematic. Before pregnancy, I thought that in itself was me making my peace with my body. A sort of acceptance or tolerating of my body was enough but as my baby grew in me so did my understanding of true body love.
The body teaches us to nurture.
I became amazed with my body during my pregnancy, not just for the obvious that it was creating human life, but for how much my body was guiding my way through this journey. It was continuously nourishing my growing child and helping me care and provide for myself. Overnight, my body knew what it needed. It let me know when I needed more nutrients. It made me crave what I needed. It forced me to rest when my body required rest. It also provided me stronger emotions and responses through pregnancy hormones which was nature’s way of preparing me to nurture, protect and provide for my little one. Our bodies have an innate way of showing us how to care for ourselves.
It is not that this nurturing power of the body is only present when someone is pregnant; it is there all the time, just in more subtle ways. My body has always helped guide me in what I needed whether that is food, rest or emotions that I needed to be alerted to, I just had not been honoring the power of these messages to the fullest extent. This experience made me realize that I had made peace with my body years ago but what I really needed was to connect fully with my body. My pregnancy helped me move from feeling acceptance to feeling that my body is something that needs to be honored and cherished. Now my self-acceptance is more of a deep loving appreciation that I wish I had been connected to all along.
Change is Beautiful.
Ultimately, It was beautiful to watch my body grow and change with probably the excitement that most first time mothers feel. I anxiously waited for my belly to “pop” and for me to be able to feel my baby inside me. All of that was undeniably miraculous. I respected my body more than ever because my body was offering me the most beautiful gift ever. The more he became alive, the more I became alive in my body.
After pregnancy, there is clearly a lot of anxiety about whether your body will ever be the same. On my pregnancy apps and newsletters, the inevitable articles began to pop up about How to lose the baby weight or posts from desperate mothers trying to figure out how to get back to their pre-pregnancy size. Ultimately it made me sad and grateful to work in the field that I do because it provides me the ability to look through all of that to question the deeper meaning. The reality is my body is never going to be the same again and I don’t mean that with any negative connotation. It’s not the same body. It has gone through a transformation, a rebirth, if you will. This body carried my son, it made my son. I reach down now and rub my belly and think of the feeling of him wiggling around in there. I think of the first moments when I could feel his existence in me. It has provided his passageway into this world and all of his current nourishment.
I don’t want to be in such a rush to erase those memories. I am taking this time I have now with my newborn son focusing on him and our connection to one another, not on reshaping my body back to something it will never be. My body is today just as it is supposed to be.
The Body is incredibly resilient.
Our body experiences things right along with us. The body has experienced all of our wounds and is the source of our physical healing. I believe that just as with my pregnancy, my body knows what it needs to do now postpartum as well.
Just as the woman’s body creates and grows and child miraculously, it also has an innate ability to heal from childbirth. The female body has an amazing resiliency that shortly after having a child a woman can be on her feet again and within weeks the body has healed from the trauma of the birthing process. Our bodies are incredible when it comes to healing. Think of all of the wounds that your body has been through and how incredible fast it has healed. Most of the time, a scar is hardly left behind. Most of our scars heal, slowly disappear in time and those that remain, our body needed us to remember. Maybe it is a silly, clumsy act that left a scar to remind us to laugh at ourselves or maybe it was an incredible pain that left a scar to remind us how incredibly resilient we truly are.
Our bodies change. They grow with us. They change shape just like we internally grow and change shape during different phases of life. Our bodies develop wrinkles to remind us of all the laughs we have shared, all the wisdom we have gained and all the tears we have cried. My body is different now, but I feel more beautiful than ever in it.
One of the most radical things women can do is to love their body. –Eve Ensler
Second Installment of “Inviting Yourself In” A Blog Series on Supporting Recovery through our Inner Landscape
This series will explore themes of healing and going deeper into yourself, welcoming all parts of yourself- the light and the dark- to the metaphorical table, in order to live a life of meaning, purpose, and peace and experience a deeper appreciation for the complexities of the human experience.
How about Hosting Your Shadow this Holiday Season?
Whether the shadow becomes our friend or our enemy largely depends on ourselves ~Marie Louise Von Franz.
Contributed by Nikki Rollo, LMFT, PhD National Director, Reasons Eating Disorder Center
As we move into the holiday season, we will most likely be hosted at someone’s house for a gathering or at an event, or perhaps we will be the host of a community of friends, family, or co-workers. Hosting is an integral part of the holidays and involves opening up, creating space, and welcoming in others. It also can be about generosity, kindness, and love.
I want to invite you to come along with me on an exploration of this idea of hosting within the context of your healing and recovery process and consider dedicating your inner recovery work over the last few months of 2016 to hosting your shadow.
What is the shadow?
Let’s start with a little psychology (from the perspective of C.G. Jung) and explore a few of the different parts of what makes up the whole of who we are:
Persona: what we present to the world and how we would like to be seen
Ego: our sense of identity, what we are and know about consciously
Shadow: the parts of ourselves that we fail to see or know, hidden aspects
Self: the wholeness of who we are, the light and the dark, the base metal and the gold.
The great poet Robert Bly calls the shadow, “the long bag we drag behind us” and in this bag are things like what others don’t like about us, or what our culture says we should be, or every part of our personality that we just don’t like or want to acknowledge. It could be our spontaneity, anger, sexuality, individuality, impulsiveness, perfectionism, inferiority, shame, spirituality, a talent…. The list could go on but you can see that what goes in this long bag we drag behind us are all the things we deny in ourselves. The bag can be filled with anything we consider “less than” about ourselves, but it can also be filled with things that are purely amazing about us, but have not been given freedom for their fullest expression in our lives.
Of course, it makes perfect sense that we try to moderate or “hide” our dark side from the world. Think about it for a minute- it would not be ideal if we were exploding in anger all the time or seeking our own individuality or pleasure at the cost of life sustaining relationships; however it is SO important that we not “hide” this shadow side from ourselves. Our own inner awareness and exploration of our shadow is essential for recovery.
The body can also be a part of the shadow. It can be the part of ourselves we reject and condemn. It can express our deepest feelings of shame through armoring up, becoming rigid, tight, protecting us against the things we have disowned, perhaps things like pleasure and spontaneity, and mindful enjoyment of food.
I am a strong believer that the healing process from an eating disorder must include an invitation to and hosting of the shadow in order to restore us to the wholeness that we were born with.
We can’t have light without shadow, or shadow without light. They come from the same source, our wholeness, and are simply different expressions or aspects of who we are.
What happens when we deny our shadow?
When we refuse to look at this part of ourselves, it shows up in other ways, perhaps through dark moods, tension in our bodies, or anger expressed in the wrong direction. But remember, there is also gold in the shadow. We are not only denying the things we think are dark, such as our rage, but we may also be denying a part of us that is bright. This may or may not surprise you, but we often have a harder time recognizing the gold in our shadow. It is a lot easier to recognize the darkness such as impulsivity or rage (and then beat ourselves up for it) than it is to recognize the parts of us that are pure gold, but which have been limited and put into that long bag we drag behind us.
Sometimes what happens is that we see these things in everyone else but ourselves. We become irritated and enraged at the faults in others, their shortcomings, or perhaps in their gifts and talents, because we have rejected our own.
The shadow itself it not a “bad” thing. We all have it. It only becomes hostile when we ignore it or reject it.
How do we host the shadow?
Let’s come back to the idea of hosting and try to really get into the feeling space of hosting a party for your most intimate friends. It usually involves a few important steps:
Having the idea of the gathering and setting an intention
Initial planning of who you would like to be there, where you will host, and what time.
Extending the invitation with the details of where, what, and when to the guests
Approaching the day with an attitude of generosity and kindness in order to create a welcoming space as a host to those that arrive.
And of course, there are often feelings of both excitement and anxiety as the gathering day approaches
I think there are a lot of parallels here in hosting your shadow and creating a space for it in your life. Some of the best ways I know to approach hosting the shadow is through intention setting, extending the invitation, creativeritual, personal reflection and self-compassion.
Intention Setting is the first step. It is often motivated by a wondering or a curiosity. Set the intention to work with the shadow. This could be an excellent use of your time with a therapist and a good way to be grounded in a relationship as you embark on this inner work.
Extending the Invitation is the ask. It is the openness to asking the shadow aspects of yourself to come forward. The invitation is an openness to befriending the darkness, not forcing it to come to the light, but allowing it an opportunity to be fully integrated into the whole of who you are.
Ritual is about creating sacred space and honoring something. It can be the smallest, most intimate symbolic activity that acknowledges the existence of something. A ritual for honoring and making space for the shadow elements of our wholeness can be creative such as lighting a candle and painting, drawing, writing, dancing, or sculpting. This is not about conquering the shadow but more about opening up space for it to express itself in your life through your body.
Personal Reflection is inner work. It is the work of continual confrontation of the parts of ourselves that we don’t like, and consciously and intentionally giving value to the whole of who we are. This requires that we find time, quiet time, alone, to reflect, meditate, and together with the help of a therapist to help us explore the things that are hard, dark, and in the shadow.
Self-Compassion, Kindness, and Generosity toward ourselves is the core of this work. James Hillman said, “how far can our love extend to the broken and ruined parts of ourselves, the disgusting and perverse? How much charity and compassion have we for our own weakness and sickness?” We can find cure and deep healing in extending love and compassion to the parts of ourselves we see as most inferior.
Wrapping up here, I love this Jung quote and want to share it with you:
“To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light…anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides and thus gets in the middle”
The search for wholeness requires both the light and dark side of ourselves to be hosted and have space for expression. This middle is not about compromise but about vitality, creativity, and full expression of the whole of who we are!
So the question is:
Will you extend the invitation to your inner world and host your shadow with grace, self-compassion, and curiosity?