An eating disorder can be a lonely place. The behaviors the eating disorder requires you to follow are quite isolating. It is difficult to eat meals with family or friends when one's meals are so rigid and ritualized, or if eating patterns are chaotic and impulsive. This doesn't lend to normal eating experiences. Many patients are aware of the bizarre nature of their behaviors around food and don't want to be seen eating this way in the presence of others. It is easier to appease the eating disorder in private.
Additionally, depression and anxiety often go hand-in-hand with an eating disorder, both of which can also be very isolating. Depression causes loss of interest in everyday activities along with fatigue and lethargy that can make it hard to get out of the house. Anxiety can be equally as crippling. People who are highly anxious often have a hard time engaging in daily life, as their minds are wrapped up in anxious thoughts. While they may be physically present their mind may be miles away. Anxiety is all about avoidance. Avoiding whatever makes you uncomfortable. For someone with an eating disorder, situations involving food tend to make them uncomfortable. This includes most social gatherings. It's easy to see how an eating disorder isolates someone.
Recovery can also be lonely. Treatment is time-consuming. It may mean traveling out of town or state and living for a period of weeks or months away from one's home. Even outpatient treatment takes a lot of time. Having a weekly appointment with a therapist and RD, perhaps a weekly psychotherapy group, and not to mention additional appointments with the doctor, psychiatrist, and trips to the pharmacy. Even with all of the members of treatment team a person can feel lonely in the process of recovering.
The act of living in recovery itself can also be isolating. The non-negotiable of stopping for regularly scheduled meals and snacks throughout the day – EVERY day – can be inconvenient at times. The foundations of recovery are counter-culture in many ways. It's almost a faux pas to not go on a diet or obsess about calories, gluten, sugar or saturated fat. To live according to a definition of "healthy eating" that includes ALL food groups and types of food. For someone in ED recovery, going to Wendy's for a bacon cheeseburger and enjoying it without guilt is healthy. Not tracking one's weight and obsessing about it being low enough is also counter-culture. The nurse might look at you like you're from outer space when you turn your back to the scale and ask her not to tell you your weight. And the doctor might be at a loss of words when you say that you don't want to discuss your BMI. Recovery doesn't always align with the behaviors of those around you. And that can be lonely. It takes a lot of practice and development of a strong sense of self-worth to stand firm in your recovery.
The eating disorder is a lot like an island, separating you from the rest of humanity. Let recovery be your bridge back to a rich and fulfilling life.
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