The heart of Rachel’s message, which I connect deeply with, is to move beyond recovery from sexual abuse into living an empowered and flourishing life. It is powerful to choose to be a survivor instead of a victim. It is even more powerful to choose a life that is beyond simple survival. This was part of my own journey when I recovered from an eating disorder. I am no longer a victim to the disorder. I choose to be a warrior for my own best life and for the lives of all people who are struggling with an inner battle with food.
As I deliberated about what was most important to share with you all during this blog series, I explored the connections that exist between sexual trauma and eating issues. I found these threads: secrecy, numbness, feeling out of control, a sense of hopelessness and unworthiness, which I shall weave together with choice, in order to create a rich fabric of a fulfilling life.
During this series, we will explore how to choose:
- Connection, instead of Secrecy
- Awareness, instead of Numbness
- Creating Practices, instead of Feeling Out of Control
- Fulfillment, instead of Hopelessness
- Love instead of Unworthiness
When I was three years old, I remember sitting in the pantry while I listened to my parents screaming in another room. I would take one spoonful of brown sugar into my mouth and let it dissolve. As I did, I would feel a little bit more comfort, and a bit less anxiety. Then, I would take another.
As I grew older, the way that I used food to cope became the only way that I knew how to deal with what I was feeling. It eventually turned into a full-blown eating disorder. I spent 10 years of my life stuck in the vicious cycle of binging and purging.
I felt totally out-of-control and hopeless. Eating was simultaneously something I would do to comfort myself and to punish myself. I felt crazy, racked with guilt and shame, but I didn’t know what else to do.
I am deeply grateful to say that I survived that decade long battle with an eating disorder. I found the support that I needed from a coach, and learned a whole bunch of powerful tools and skills. I recovered more fully than I ever imagined possible. I see the sparkle in life now. I listen to my deepest hungers and I gleefully feed myself the food, love and creativity that I long for. Now, all I want is to support other people to find their own version of freedom from the inner food battle.
Finding the Gift within the Pain
The largest point of pain in our lives can be our greatest gift, depending on how we react to it. To be very clear, I am not saying that any of us deserve any pain that others inflicted upon us. I am simply saying that it is through the hardest moments that there is an opportunity to learn what our core needs are and how we can satisfy them.
If we learn to move away from the negative coping patterns, and instead start to look inside the patterns to see what the deeper hungers are, we uncover the keys to create the life that we really want to live. Go here to read more about this in my last blog post called the "3 Steps to Move Through Dark Cravings Without Overeating".
Weaving in Choice
Choice is one of the most empowering tools that we have. When we are suffering, we can choose to honor our deeper hunger and meet that need. Since I have flexed my “choice muscle” enough, I know that when I am upset, I am now capable of really choosing an action that honors my deeper hungers.
Sometimes I choose to eat the Doritos. Sometimes I choose the walk around the block. Both options are great, because now I am choosing, instead of feeling like a snowball rolling down the mountain straight into Doritoville. My hope is that this series will help you to see some moments in your own life when you can make purposeful choices that help you create your most engaging life.
Connection instead of Secrecy
Secrecy is an inherent part of both sexual abuse and eating disorders. Here are a few of the poisonous thoughts that make us keep our pain a secret:
We are afraid. We don’t want people to judge us. We don’t want people to know. We are scared what would happen if they found out. We are ashamed and we feel guilty. We are afraid everyone would abandon us if they found out.
I am here to banish this kind of thinking. Secrecy causes more suffering. I speak from experience.
I went ten years without anyone knowing about my eating disorder. Ten years! Can you imagine how many lies I told to the people that I loved? How many times I abandoned plans with people so that I could retreat into the cave of numbing myself with food? How many snack wrappers I hid in the trashcan so no one would know how much I was eating? My heart hurts remembering all of the effort I would go through to hide what I was doing, even though I desperately wanted help.
Ok, great, but how do we make the transition away from secrecy? My antidote is connection. Once I found a coach who really understood me, I was able to really talk about what was happening. I grew a little more comfortable with my reality of having an eating disorder. I started to tell people around me.
The compounding suffering that I experienced because no one knew was infinitely more painful than the process of stepping out and speaking my truth. I have been amazed in my own journey about how compassionate, loving and non-judging people were when I told them about my eating disorder.
Now I know that the moment that I want to hide is probably the perfect moment to reach out. When I feel the snowball of a possible binge building, I know that finding someone to be with really helps. We don’t even need to talk about what ever is going on. Connection is often enough.
My relationships have gotten infinitely better. Now that I am not hiding anymore, I am actually able to connect, have deep friendships, and an incredibly powerful romantic relationship. Connection is simultaneously the antidote and the reward to coming out of hiding.
A Few Suggestions for More Connection:
- Get involved in something you love. Meetup.com is great to find local activities. This is great first step because you don’t have to expose what is happening, you can just go straight to the activities that support you, while connecting with others.
- Find an animal to pet. Seriously, physical touch is so important and animals don’t care about what is going on in your life. Start creating more connection with other living beings!
- Explore support groups, either in person or online- Facebook can be great for this. Dip your toe into this relatively anonymous pool. You might be amazed at how freeing it is to tell a group of people what you have been hiding, even if you don’t know them.
- Find a professional who understands what you are going through, and stick around long enough to be courageous and tell them what’s happening.
- Make dates with friends or family members. Build up to the point where you are ready to tell them about the pain you are experiencing.
If you are interested in learning more about my work where I support people to find freedom from the inner food battle, I would be honored to give you a complimentary Food Freedom Consultation. During this session, we will get crystal clear about where you are now, where you want to be and you walk away with some tailor-made suggestions and tools that you can implement immediately. Go here to schedule your session now.
If you are curious to find out more about what I do, check out my website at natalieforsythe.com.