“The opposite of happiness is not anger or sadness…. It’s hopelessness… It’s the belief that everything is f*cked, so why do anything at all?” Manson, M., 2019
The beginning of an eating disorder is kind of like a roller coaster, just starting to climb up its first peak. At first, each little clack up is thrilling, a slightly different vantage point. Maybe you can imagine the effort of the engines and feel like you’re achieving a new level of control. As the coaster crests that first peak, that race towards the first turn may still feel like this is your ride to conquer. Maybe it’s your third or fourth flip where suddenly, the ride has you pressed upside-down into the padded bars and you’re wondering ‘okay, I’m ready for this to end…but how do I make it stop?’
In treatment, moments that the eating disorder wins inevitably happen. There’s this overpowering feeling that can take over which may sound like, “I’ve heard all this before, I already know what the therapist is going to say.” Or, “I’ve been doing everything you want me to do and I still have all the same feelings.” “What does it matter in the long run, I won’t get better”.
But listen up, because here is the tea: Your eating disorder actually has the same stake in keeping you sick as you need to have to get well.
So how do we progress toward eating disorder recovery?
“Our psyche needs hope to survive the way a fish needs water.” Manson, M., 2019
A lot of eating disorder treatment happens just through showing up and being around people who have hope.
Sometimes, that person is you, but it’s okay to be the one holding onto the handlebars for dear life. The good news, is that there are conductors (treatment professionals) who can help you to steer when you feel like you’re veering off course. And, one of the reasons group therapy is so effective is because not everyone has to have hope at the same time.
There’s this moment towards the end of the ride where the coaster usually has to crank back up that hill. That’s you in treatment. Working really hard at something that, sure, might once have been really easy. It may be upsetting at first, but you know this path. You’ve done it before so now you have the benefit of hind sight and experience. It can be whichever you want – another chance to give in, say ‘f*ck it”, or this time, look around you, know what’s coming and be ready to walk away from your eating disorder roller coaster for good.
Quotes from Everything is F*cked: A Book about Hope, Mark Manson.
Emily Forsythe, MA, LMHC is an evaluation clinician for Walden Behavioral Care’s Waltham, MA eating disorder clinic. Emily’s work with patients over the years has focused on building relational and individual re-storying for whole-life wellness. Emily completed her Masters at Bellevue University, and completed her licensure in professional counseling (LPC) in Austin, TX. Emily uses a narrative lens to see her patients as the experts in themselves, helping them see eating disorder treatment as beginning a new chapter when they first come for evaluations.