Drawing my emotions has helped me integrate fragments of my life into one picture. I recognize that the lines drawn for me at an early age are not meant to last a lifetime. I choose to color my life with an open heart.

I hear this a lot, “I want to recover. I am 10 pounds under my goal weight. I don’t want to put on weight. I am depressed and isolated in my illness. I workout 6 days a week and I eat “enough”…. Or this:

“I hate working out. I drink every night of the week. I eat until I hate myself. I need to lose 50 pounds and I am embarrassed to go the gym. I just can’t get myself to do it.”

If you are currently struggling with an eating disorder this might sound familiar. The thing is that recovery will never happen if you are unable to accept weight gain or weight loss.

You will not get healthy and you will not live a life filled with happiness until you accept change that needs to occur. In recovery we focus so much on physical changes, like, “I need to gain weight. I am scared I will lose control…” Discomfort in our skin can drive us crazy.

We obsess over the way our bodies look. We say the problem is “I am too fat,” “I am not skinny enough,” “I have boob fat…” The list goes on and on… Let’s get REAL here. Your real issues have NOTHING to do with the way you look. Most of the time, we simply don’t want to deal with buried issues. We don’t want to look back at what hurt us. We don’t want to relive the past.

You are not overweight or obese because you really like food. You are not dying on your deathbed from bulimia or anorexia because you don’t like the way you look.

I have been in treatment four times in my 10 years of being sick. I got closer and closer each time to “wanting to get healthy,” but I could not break down my own FEAR of addressing REAL issues.

Everyone who is struggling with body image issues [or any level of an eating disorder] has some type of trauma. DO NOT minimize your trauma because you think it’s silly. For example, I thought my parent’s divorce wasn’t trauma. I thought, parents get divorced, so what? Now, looking back, my parent’s divorce played an important role in my eating disorder. Maybe you were triggered by a mean comment. Maybe it was something else – It’s time to address the cause of your unhappiness.

 

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In 2011, I went into treatment for a final time. I was ready to work. Looking back, weight gain wasn’t the hardest part of recovery; instead, I made myself talk about the biggest trigger/moment/event of my life. I buried this moment deep down inside me for years. I finally allowed myself to speak up.

In 2006, I was raped. I was a virgin at the time – a young teenager with nothing but a world of opportunity. I did not talk about being raped: I wanted to pretend it never happened. My world changed in that moment. I woke up and spent the next day binging and purging in my empty house. I wanted nothing to do with my body (as it was not mine anymore). I wanted die, but instead I was filled with anger. Anger and sadness is what fueled the next 10 years of my life.

I spent months in therapy talking about how I hated my body. I cried in therapy one day because my legs started to touch each other – my therapist laughed at me and asked: “what’s really going on?”

I was 25 years old the first time I spoke of being raped. 11 years later, I verbally purged the darkness that manifested in my physical torment. I could barely speak of this event to my therapist: it was too much for me to handle. Instead, I expressed myself by drawing the feelings on paper. SLOWLY, I opened up to healing and personal acceptance.

I was unable to speak when I told my therapist what happened in our first therapy session – My throat swelled up and I just cried. My physical body reacted to the thought of going back to my moment of darkness. I opened my mouth to speak but I couldn’t get any words out. As an alternative to talking, my therapist asked me to draw the feelings and emotions I have about being raped. I drew a “tree lady.” My tree lady was a representation of me and the symbol of the eating recovery center. I drew her tied at the waist, unable to breathe, move, or grow. She was rooted in a dark space. The drawing was my first step in healing.

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