Shame Traps You in an Eating Disorder But You Can Break Free
By Z Zoccolante
Shame can keep you trapped in an eating disorder. Shame is insidious, creeping into our self-esteem and wreaking havoc on our thoughts and feelings. Eating disorders come with both shame and guilt, but the difference is important. Shame is the feeling that “I am bad,” while guilt is the feeling that, “I did something bad.” The insidious part about shame is that we begin to see ourselves and the eating disorder as one. When we do this, we become all bad and shame keeps us trapped in the eating disorder.
Shame Traps Us into Thinking We Can’t Change
People are multifaceted. We are not just one thing all the time, consistently, unchanging, forever. But shame has this way of tunneling our vision. When I was deep in my eating disorder, I couldn’t imagine even an hour of my life in which I didn’t think something about food, my body, or throwing up. I couldn’t imagine not feeling a cloud of depression or anxiety. I felt like a failure most of the time. In the brief moments I could step outside of the tunnel, I’d see that there was so much more of life that I longed for, and then I’d get sucked back in.
Shame Traps Us in Isolation
For years I felt broken, like the core of me was dark and dirty and that if people saw this they’d run in the other direction. I’d be left alone. This caused me to isolate myself because I felt if I was the one choosing to be alone then no one could leave me because it was my choice. I told myself, it was safer to be alone because then no one could hurt me.
The problem with this is that we are designed for connection and being alone is lonely. It also doesn’t help with healing from an addiction because we heal and get help, and realize that others are like us when we become part of a community. This is the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) model and many eating disorder facilities follow it. The model is people coming together to admit they’re not perfect and supporting each other in recovery. Community is where we grow and receive support.
Shame Traps Us in Eating Disorder Hopelessness
When we’re in an addiction like an eating disorder it’s hard to see ourselves as ever being able to be on the other side of it. We mourn the loss of the things we may want but are already telling ourselves that we can’t have because we’re messed up or not normal. I remember being scared to travel because of my eating disorder getting in the way. I’ve talked to women who are terrified of their bodies changing if they were to have kids.
Eating disorders, like all addictions, take us out of the present moment. They disconnect us from the people that love us and make us fear that we will always feel hopeless. Hopelessness makes us feel that we won’t be able to have the things we want in life because we are not good enough to have them.
Shame Is a Bully That Traps Us In a Lie
And shame lies. The truth is that recovery is a difficult process and life is so much better on the other side. Yes, there is guilt that comes with the eating disorder but it’s because we are not happy with the behaviors we’re doing. It means that we are still good at our core but we’re doing things that are not in line with who we’d like to be.
This is a good thing because we have an awareness of who we’d like to be. Keep that version of yourself in focus and move towards it every day. Little by little you can be free of shame and your eating disorder. It is possible.
How to Free Yourself from Eating Disorder Shame
*This post first appeared on HealthyPlace.com.