Since my first book, Life Without Ed, was released, I have had the chance to connect with thousands of men and women in recovery from various ailments. Several topics come up frequently; one is the connection between eating disorders and trauma. Another is self-injury. Over the years, I have looked for resources to recommend related to these topics. Below is one. Many thanks to Melissa Groman for allowing me to share an excerpt from her wonderful new book.
Better is Not So Far Away: Decide to Recover from Bingeing, Starving or Cutting
2015 McGraw-Hill Education, book excerpt
By Melissa Groman
While many young women who have been hurt or abused, sexually or otherwise, develop eating disorders or self-injure, many don’t. And while many women with eating or self-injury disorders have been abused in some way, many have not. Emotional pain has many provocateurs, and though the sources of pain differ, we can share the many tools for and paths to healing…
It is also important to note that not all experiences of sexual abuse are obvious. Many people experience feelings of shame, repulsion, discomfort, fear, helplessness, and confusion from more subtle experiences such as being kissed on the lips, tickled, massaged, or spoken to in an inappropriate way. If it resonates somewhere in your psyche, it’s worthy of attention.
Clients of all ages have come to my office to begin the slow and tedious trek toward talking about what has happened to them, how they have responded, how to heal, and how to live safely, freely, and emotionally well. Many have connected the dots between unwanted touch and starvation, between violence and vomit, between repulsion and ripping skin.
With tender care—not insisting that someone talk too soon or too much about events that were or are deeply wounding—I help them sort through the maze of feelings, thoughts, and patterns.
If you have been hurt or abused and you are sifting through incidents, large or small, wondering what was your fault and what was not (abuse is never a child’s fault); what you do or don’t have control over; how to stay safe; how to release painful thoughts, memories, or feelings and unlock the shame, the fear, the blame, and the secrets you carry—or you are pushing it all away—you should know that you are not alone.
Since this book is about wanting to get better—about feeling safe while feeling and being well—it is not my intention to discuss in detail the specifics of healing from abuse except to say that healing these wounds is most likely a necessary part of getting better. Sometimes staying in the eating or self-injury disorder seems like the only way to push away the pain of those traumas. It often feels better to be deeply involved in cutting your arms up or throwing your guts up than to face and deal with all the trauma and awfulness of being abused and all the feelings that go along with it.
I do not think that injuring yourself or sinking deeply into anorexia or bulimia or food compulsion is a conscious choice. But recovery is. It requires pulling yourself forward in the right direction again and again and again. The pull to protect yourself, escape the pain, and release it on yourself has a power all its own. Your task is to uncover what gets in the way of your being able and willing to get relief without hurting yourself.
Recovering from the trauma of sexual abuse is its own journey, and if you are also suffering from an eating or self-injury disorder, the journey is intricately connected with your recovery from the disorder…
If we could look at a map of the journey, the destination would seem so far away—so high up on the mountain—that we would think it hardly possible to reach. Why even set out? We will never get to Pluto, it seems. Maybe it’s no better there anyway, even if we knew what Pluto would mean…hopelessness, self-hate, sadness, rage, and resentment are not reasons not to try for better. They merit as feelings to be acknowledged and reckoned with but cannot be employed as excuses not to recover, much as we might like them to be. And it’s hard to fathom peace and happiness if you’ve never really felt them.
If we could look at a map of the journey, the destination would seem so far away—so high up on the mountain—that we would think it hardly possible to reach. Why even set out? We will never get to Pluto, it seems. Maybe it’s no better there anyway, even if we knew what Pluto would mean.
…hopelessness, self-hate, sadness, rage, and resentment are not reasons not to try for better. They merit as feelings to be acknowledged and reckoned with but cannot be employed as excuses not to recover, much as we might like them to be. And it’s hard to fathom peace and happiness if you’ve never really felt them.
So in recovery, we go step by step. We take breaks along the way. We rest. We breathe. We keep on keeping on even when we are not so sure we can. We gather nuggets of wisdom from those who know the pain and have traveled the path, and we gather ideas about life and love and possibilities that make the journey easier, that clear the way a bit and bring comfort. What those things are specifically follows later on in the book.
The destination is not finite or final. There is no finish line, but rather many milestones. There are always more places to go. But there will be accomplishments, victories, and periods of true relief, joy, and insights along the way that will form pillows under your psyche so that when the bad feelings need to be let loose, you can land softly. And as you go (and I hope you will decide to go), you will see that you can.
Bit by bit, you can.
For a chance to win a copy of Better is Not So Far Away, just post a comment below. One winner will be selected randomly from all commenters.