How Do I Tolerate How Terrible it is to Have an Eating Disorder?
Re-posted from the Cleveland Center for Eating Disorders (CCED) blog archives. CCED and The Emily Program partnered in 2014. Contributions by Sarah Emerman, Therapist at The Emily Program – Cleveland.
In our conversations about eating disorders, we sometimes forget to state the obvious, which is that it’s horrible to have an eating disorder. It is always horrible for the person that has it and the pain of the disorder often extends far past the individual to their family, friends, and community. Eating disorders affect everything about us. They affect the way we think, the way we feel, our self-image, our experience in our bodies, our minds, and who we are in the world.
They destroy our health, our hearts, our brains, and ultimately can take our lives. Eating disorders affect our relationships, school, work, and the ability to have the lives we want to have. They are illnesses in the truest sense of the word. They disable us and take our health and well-being. Part of the awfulness of having these disorders is that they are not well understood or appreciated for how terrible they are and the pain they cause. Layered into all of this is that the treatment for the disorder often causes more pain. Trying to refeed, stop behaviors, change self-image, and work on body image can take us to places that are both painful and frightening. Yet there is no other choice. So what do we do? We find strength from each other, find ways to feed ourselves and make our bodies healthy, and find a community that is healing. We need to believe in and seek out the evidence-based care that can help us and trustworthy providers, family, and friends who will be there with us. In Marsha Linehan’s writings, she talks about the pain of living in hell and how the only way out of hell is to get on our hands and knees and crawl through the fire until we reach the sunshine. So we acknowledge the pain and acknowledge how awful these disorders can be, but also know that if we keep moving forward we can find the light that will give us our lives back and let us escape the disorder.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Warren, MD
Dr. Mark Warren is the Chief Medical Officer for The Emily Program and Veritas Collaborative. He is also one of the original founders of the Cleveland Center for Eating Disorders, which became The Emily Program – Cleveland in 2014. A Cleveland native, he is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Medical School and completed his residency at Harvard Medical School. He served as Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Mt. Sinai Hospital and Medical Director of University Hospital Health System’s Laurelwood Hospital. A past vice-chair for clinical affairs at the Case School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, he continues on the Clinical Faculty of the Medical School, teaching in both the Departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics. He is currently a faculty member and former chair of the Board of Governors at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland. Dr. Warren is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, a two-time recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, and a winner of the Woodruff Award. He leads the Males and Eating Disorders special interest group for the Academy of Eating Disorders.