Today marks my third week in treatment. My experiences here have been tumultuous and eye-opening. For so long, I have been disconnected from my emotions and unaware of what I have been feeling. Suddenly I’m being asked to explore what’s really going on inside my head, and it’s pretty scary. I’m not sure I want to know everything about myself. I’m a shy person, and I feel as though I’m being asked to get to know a stranger intimately. Who is this person who claims to be Katherine? What’s under the Warden’s influence? The question is always: who am I without my eating disorder?
There have been a lot of surprises as I have explored the inner mechanisms of my mind. Although I feel more connected to myself, there is tension. As I have been trying to figure out what it really means to be me, I have been arguing with myself. It’s difficult to separate my voice from that of the Warden. I’m not sure what’s me and what’s not. There’s a lot going on in my head, and some days I can’t seem to make sense of any of it.
Today during process group, which open-ended group therapy, we had a powerful conversation about holding on to things that don’t work. We all have coping skills. Some are good ones, or adaptive coping skills, and others are bad, or maladaptive coping skills. My maladaptive coping skills include self-harm and eating disorder behaviors (such as restricting my food intake and purging), as well as engaging in unhealthy relationships, taking drugs, and smoking. I know for a fact that they don’t work. So why am I still holding onto them, grieving for the ones I’ve stopped using, and trying to find ways to incorporate them into my recovery? A full recovery does not involve the regular use of maladaptive coping skills. I can’t be recovered but still purge. I can’t love myself but still seek approval from people who treat me badly. I can’t commit to taking care of my body but still smoke.
It’s time to throw away the maladaptive coping skills. It’s time to acknowledge that they don’t define me and that I am worth more than harming my body and psyche. I am scared to find out what’s driving me to hurt myself and what’s under years of self-loathing. But I am excited to find healthier ways to cope with depression and anxiety, and to find a way to feel better. I look forward to what comes next.