Mixed feelings. Patients and clients at The Surrey Centre often admit that they both do and do not want to get better. Both/And! They see this as a fault, as a failing, and too often they feel ashamed of it when actually it is a truth of the human condition that we often, if not always, have mixed feelings. So ‘I like having my eating disorder, it gives me something to control’, can exist side by side with, ‘I can’t bear my eating disorder it has taken total control of my whole life’. We are full of contradictions!
So how can we learn to stop judging ourselves negatively for having mixed feelings? People coming here often say they previously found this too befuddling to think about on their own. For example, a woman may have initially started restricting her food intake and perhaps, begun to exercise rather too much, for perfectly good, legitimate reasons such as feeling a dress size too large and wanting to get fit. She often hasn’t noticed why over time she actually began using these activities to help herself cope with, even distract herself from, difficult feelings around relationships, work, depression etc,.
But sooner or later people who come to The Surrey Centre for help often say they found their dietary and fitness solutions to these relationship, work or depressive problems which were helpful at first have themselves now become a problem. Eating too little, using laxatives, even being sick after meals and exercising too much, began to take them over.
They need help to allow themselves to be human! We all do! Often, for people with eating disordered problems, this means having the courage to ask for dietetic help to eat healthily as well as psychotherapeutic help to think about the relationship problems, the work problems and/or the deeply unhappy feelings which triggered their eating disordered symptoms in the first place.
Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre For Eating Disorders