One of my favorite groups here is “Creative Arts,” which is basically art therapy. It’s led by Marissa, a wonderful, kind therapist who always comes up with inventive ideas for activities. Yesterday she did not disappoint.
When she said we were making hate projects, I admit I was a little confused. Treatment is about learning to love yourself, not wallowing in the self-loathing that got you there in the first place. We were given magazines, glue, and construction paper and told to make collages representing everything our eating disorders, which are personified as Ed (or in my case, the Warden) tell us about ourselves. I tried to tap into what the Warden tells me, but much to my surprise, it was hard to identify exactly what he says to me on a daily basis. In the past, I would say that this is because those negative messages are so deeply ingrained in me that I mistake them for fact, but today, I am happy to report that the Warden’s voice is growing distant and hard to hear. I made a collage of the beach and wrote, “The world is an ocean and I am an oil spill.” By this I meant that I feel worthless and small compared to a world of seemingly happy, functional people. I meant that I feel defective.
After we finished our collages, Marissa brought us outside and had us do something pretty surprising. She instructed us to rip up our collages. The group was hesitant, and we went one by one. As each person tore off something negative from the collage, she said something positive to reframe the negative thought. When it was my turn, I ripped my collage tentatively and was slow to come up with affirmations or reframes. Marissa asked me what feelings I associated with being an oil spill. I said I felt worthless, stupid, unimportant, and unlovable. As I shredded my collage, I found myself saying, “I matter. I’m important. People care about me. People do love me. My parents love me and God loves me. I am allowed to love myself. It’s not selfish. I am intelligent. I am a talented writer. I matter.”
After I was finished, my negative thoughts, which I had so carefully constructed, were laying beside me in a little pile. It was pretty exciting to see that I have the power to destroy negativity and unwanted thoughts. I don’t have to listen to the Warden when he tells me I’m worthless and unable to recover. Instead, I will listen to the genuine Katherine who believes in herself and knows she’s worth recovery.