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Journeying Through an Eating Disorder

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Journeying Through an Eating Disorder

Laura Wylie

When you think of going on holiday do you think immediately of the destination or are you equally interested in the journey itself...in the coffee shops along the way, in enjoying the latest novel you have purchased or in simply people watching at the airport and creating imagined lives for each person you notice?

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I’m one of those people who endures the journey to reach the destination. The chairs above, although in close proximity to each other, actually represent a very long journey in my life.  This was another one of those journeys in which I was more interested in the destination and wanted to avoid the process of getting there, yet it turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life. The destination was so worth the pain and, as I discovered, the destination was unreachable without facing the pain and every challenging aspect of the journey itself.

The chairs above represent a therapy chair and a therapist's chair...symbolic of my journey to recovery from an eating disorder to full recovery and then progressing on to becoming an eating disorder therapist myself. Pictorially a short distance but, in reality, it entailed many years of hard work and pain which led to a destination that I never thought I would ever reach.  This wasn’t a straight path but one with many diversions and blocks along the way.

My journey to recovery took many years. The first part involved coming out of denial that there was a problem at all, facing the shame I felt especially around the eating disorder behaviours and realising I needed a lot of support including professional help to recover.  Because the eating disorder had been part of my life for so long (I spent 8 years fighting this monster without anyone knowing), the distorted thinking, the ability to numb emotionally and the use of unhealthy behaviours had become deeply ingrained and the eating disorder had virtually stolen my identity…so the recovery process was slow (but I know now it has been lasting, in fact, permanent!) 

The sooner help is accessed, the sooner full recovery can be reached…yes FULL RECOVERY!  An eating disorder does not have to be part of your life forever.  It’s an illusion that you can’t recover or that you at best you must learn to manage it for the rest of your life.  You can fully recover and live a fulfilling life with your eating disorder as a distant memory. You don’t need to live with the eating disorder masquerading as your best friend when in reality it is your worst enemy; or survive each day with the eating disorder ‘voice’ berating you; or exist in that place of mental torture with almost zero self-esteem and with no sense of who you are.  Those days can be over.  Full recovery and freedom (instead of control) are possible for all who accept the right help and are determined to put in the necessary commitment and work. Knowing this gave me the much-needed hope for the (often painful) journey. There were also moments of joy along the way, so be assured, its not all painful!

complete freedom

complete freedom

If you are reading this blog, I assume you have some interest in eating disorders, either in relation to yourself or a family member or friend.  Where are you or your loved one in relation to the therapy and therapist chair (for you the second chair may just represent recovery)?  Perhaps you are plucking up the courage to start your recovery journey or to speak to your loved one about your concerns for them?  Or you may have got up out of the chair having started your recovery journey but unable to face the pain or make the necessary changes?  Many times, I left that chair, promising to myself that I would never try again because I would never make it.  Something inside me knew though that life was not meant to be like this and that I could be free of this destructive condition, so I continued the journey.  God gave me the hope and strength to continue every step of the way.  Let me encourage you to continue your journey or to continue to spur your friend or loved one on. 

A significant part of my recovery process was through groupwork.  Some of the most powerful benefits of group work are the realisation that you are not alone, the learning that is made possible from the stories of others and the forming of trusting relationships through group dynamics.  In Links we will be starting groups for sufferers of all types of eating disorders and those who care for them. They will be non-threatening, educational and encourage a self-help approach that really works and will be run by counsellors and volunteers all of whom have personal or professional experience of eating disorders. 

The groups will run for 8 weeks and the first one starts on Thur 19 Sept from 7-9pm and will cover such topics as ‘Under the Iceberg: dealing with emotions,’ ‘Mind Matters’, ‘Food: friend or foe.’ We can also offer one to one therapy for all eating disorders, including binge eating disorder and obesity, and we are particularly interested in preventative care.  If you are interested in the groups or in individual therapy or to get more information about other sources of help in relation to eating disorders (there are eating disorder teams in every trust area accessible via you GP) please get in touch with Links…no one needs to journey alone.  Make sure your recovery journey keeps you moving forward from the therapy seat to the seat of full recovery. Hold tightly onto hope.