A colleague recently shared this piece with me, written by a student at a local college, and it resonated with me and is right in line with a lot of conversations I’m having with clients this fall, who arrive at my office unsure why they are diagnosed with an eating disorder and “have to stop” when many of their peers, especially in the privacy-free dorm setting, are so obviously engaged in the same behaviors, but are not being labeled/diagnosed or sent to treatment.
What I say to these folks, and what I’m saying to you if this rings true, is: if they’re doing what you’re doing, then they’re doing just as much damage to their health and psyches as you are. The eating disordered part of your mind may be crying “Unfair!” and wishing to use this as evidence that your behavior is normal and need not be changed. But the reality is, if you ended up in my office, or in another office being “diagnosed” then your suffering at the hands of your own choices was apparent enough to you or to another person that your functioning could hardly be considered normal. Average and normal are very different things! Your undiagnosed, untreated friend who is restricting, binge eating, purging, over-exercising or abusing laxatives is not the lucky party – you are. You are being offered a chance to heal your relationship with your body and with food such that extreme and damaging behavior no longer feels like the only possible path to ok.
“I recall my therapist at the time describing the situation like that of a recovering alcoholic taking up a bed in the local bar. The temptation to relapse was evident from day one. After all, I could be certain nobody was monitoring my behaviors – if anything, UMass seemed to be providing the very tools I needed to fuel an all-consuming focus on health.”