Inner strength

August 31, 2009 at 11:25 am Leave a comment

Today I got an email from 16-year-old Maya. Since I have a similar story, still have my diaries from back then, and a 16-year-old daughter of my own, I am in the happy position of being able to understand more than previously.

My daughter turns 17 this fall. It is a difficult age. When I was 16, I felt grown up and knew about life. My mother tried to meddle, but to no avail. At 16 I tried to find and understand myself and my world. It really wasn’t easy. And now as a mother, I see what I would have done differently. The results of childrearing mistakes are impossible to oversee. But this time will pass as well. My sister-in-law made mistakes, and my niece was a wild teenager. They used to argue like crazy. Today my niece is almost 30 years old. When I watch the two of them together, it gives me hope for the relationship with my own daughter.

It took several years to realize: Things happened in my childhood over which I had no influence. Through my parent’s divorce and all resulting consequences, my world was out of control. I was terrified, and felt very lonely and abandoned. I sought a problem I could solve, and found it in my weight. Yet I didn’t really want to solve it at the time, since the real big problem (family situation) remained.

Maybe I was looking for attention. I wanted to say: “Hey, look at how I feel! I am not doing well!” But I was not able to voice that, so I lost weight. Then they had to notice me — but then I resented that attention.

As I’ve said before, I think the disordered eating served a function. So I will not blame myself. But something is of utmost importance: I needed to learn to look at the situations in which I could do something, over which I did have influence.

I started with my eating problems when I was around 13, and it took another 13 years to get rid of them. When I was 17, I knew I had a food problem, but I was not able or willing to stop. I missed the transition to adulthood — that point at which I could take hold of the reins and make decisions. It became a habit, and soon I knew no alternative for dealing with loneliness, emptiness, boredom, free time — and never mind feeling hungry or satisfied!

I began to recover when I realized I could do something. I could be active, make decisions, and influence things. Yes, I also had to consciously work on my relationship to food, but that was not the absolute top priority. Top priority was: ME!

All I can say is, if you have the opportunity for therapy: use it!!! I have had various therapies — eating disorder groups, individual, and general self-development. Just last year I turned to therapy to aide me through a crisis and gain clarity. Therapy does not offer healing like medication. Rather, a good therapist helps me to mobilize my own healing powers. Ability to heal and cope is within me, sometimes it just needs to be activated. That is true for all of us!

I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again: The eating disorder was only a symptom, a coping mechanism. My life was unbearable, and I was too young and powerless to do something about it. In later years, I learned to take action — that I could do something to deal with a situation. I developed more positive methods of coping, and gradually was able to give up the food.

As a teenager I went to therapy. But I didn’t even mention my food problem until nearly the end of our sessions — I was too embarrassed and ashamed. Or perhaps back then I realized the other problems were important and that I needed help in dealing with daily stuff. I had taken on responsibility for my younger brother, and was totally overwhelmed by this. My mother had gone back to work, and I worried about my brother. I couldn’t just leave him. In therapy I learned to give up some of this responsibility. After all, I was not his mother. As a young teenager, I needed a mother myself!

Life gives me a lot to handle — sometimes too much. But there is always a solution, even if sometimes it takes longer than I expect. Meanwhile I’ve reached the point where I can say: “I’ll sleep on it.” Or:”Even if I can’t find the solution today, life goes on.” Or: “I know I will not dissolve into air or nothingness if I don’t find the solution now.” I can wait. I can be patient. It’s not always easy, but it is possible.

At first, I had no idea what to call this post. Then “inner strength” came to mind. I always had that strength — whether sick or healthy. This strength kept me alive. It is a true gift that came with me the day I was born. At times it amazes me to reflect on what I was/am able to endure, tolerate, survive, change, produce and create — and it was never dependent on my level of faith. But with faith and (self)confidence, my energy is mobilized and centered. I seem to be better able to utilize it. I believe in my inner strength and the universe, and I trust that I can cope with all that life puts on my plate.

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Entry filed under: life after bulimia. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

The crisp, cool breath of Autumn Mothers and (bulimic) daughters

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