My Experience With Disordered Eating: I Started Group Therapy + Never Looked Back
For as long as I can remember, I felt ashamed of my body. I had been a *chubby* kid growing up, + people at school made sure to let me know that wasn’t okay. In elementary school, they would bully me to my face, then as I reached middle school, they whispered behind my back. I had never done anything about it, no dieting or over exercising, until my senior year of high school. From college applications to personal relationships, everything seemed to be falling apart + out of my control, except for my body, ++ that is when the pattern of behaviors began — the strict exercise regimen + dietary restrictions. Straying in any way led to an intense feeling of guilt + self-hatred. These destructive behaviors followed me into my freshman year of college, making the first semester one of the darkest periods of my life.
December 18, 2016. I’m sobbing on the bathroom floor of a restaurant because there wasn’t anything “okay” to eat there. My mom walks in, + asks me what was wrong. I say “I’m so scared of getting fat. I feel so fat. I hate my body so much.” Then, she said, “If you really feel this way, you need to talk to someone about it.” I had been miserable for so long but never felt “sick enough” to reach out for help. I needed someone to tell me it was okay. A few months later I finally got the name of this monster in my head: eating disorder. December 18, 2016. The day I hit rock bottom. The day I decided to turn my life around. The day my mother saved my life.
I contacted my college’s counseling office, + was able to set up an appointment for when I got back from winter break. My first therapist wasn’t my favorite, but she still helped me in taking the first steps towards recovery. I always try to tell people that if they did not have a great experience in therapy, it was probably because the therapist wasn’t a good match. Finding a therapist is like dating, you have to talk to a few to find out what you like + don’t like until you’ve found the one [find our tips for finding a counselor here!].
I also found a lot of support in online communities. I found mental health + eating disorder instagrammers//bloggers. I started cleaning up my feed + making it into a positive place. If I am going to spend hours every day scrolling, I might as well feel inspired while doing it. Also, I try to follow the rule of thumb of only following people my size + bigger [with the exception of friends]. This helped open my eyes to how beautiful people were regardless of size. It has helped change the mindset that thinner = prettier.
Then, after about six months of treatment, my therapist + dietician had suggested I try going to group therapy. I was absolutely terrified. I didn’t feel like any of my experiences were “valid” enough for me to share in group. What it really came down to, though, was being afraid to be vulnerable. Being too scared to sound weak. But, to quote Brené Brown, “vulnerability sounds like truth + feels like courage. Truth + courage aren’t always easy, but they are never weakness.” I started group therapy the beginning of my sophomore year of college + never looked back. Group therapy has been the most effective part of my treatment. Being surrounded by people that understand what you are going through + validating your experiences is so vital to recovery. Mental illnesses try to isolate you, + things like group therapy remind you that you are not alone.