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February 5, 2016

I Know the Deep Shame of an Eating Disorder.

woman sleep eyes closed blanket sad

I didn’t realize I had so much shame. I just knew that when it took over, I felt like a primal animal—hurt and in pain—desperately trying to scratch my way out of this boxy prison.

Some days, I saw no possible escape from that prison, and I would binge and purge to make the pain go away.

You see, shame—like a full-on shame attack—feels like shards of glass vibrating and cutting on the surface of my skin. It was such an intense hell that I wanted to scratch my eyes out. But for me, I would binge, and that would numb the pain.

Then came the wave of guilt and fear about gaining weight, which would make me feel even less acceptable and more unworthy.

The feeling was like waking up to a blaring alarm—knowing you did something terribly wrong, and you’d do anything to make it right—any sacrifice was worth it. So, I would purge. It felt like I was cleaning the slate—starting fresh.

The purging not only brought me a sense of relief, but also an endorphin rush. I felt great afterwards—a little shaky, so to speak, but I knew I could live another day. I knew I could get through it. It was my secret weapon, and I did keep it a secret for a long time.

But I suffered.

At my worst, I would binge and purge three times a day. I would hold out as long as I could, sometimes almost until noon, and then it began. I started crying after I threw up. I didn’t like myself, and I started feeling ashamed of what I was doing. Besides that, I would isolate myself from my friends so I could binge, and I would miss out on a lot of potential memories. My relationships with men were shallow, and I found myself just craving immediate attention, so I would sacrifice my inner integrity just to be their object of affection for a night.

I started showing up to karate practice exhausted—my skin was terrible, and I was constantly bloated. I was also terribly depressed.

I felt trapped, alone and desperate.

I’m writing this, because I know how it feels. I can look back at this scared, young woman I was with compassion and understanding. I get it. I can look in a mirror and say: I understand why you did what you did.

It was how I knew I could create—albeit temporary—a little peace.

What shifted for me was when I became aware that it was my thoughts creating the shame in my body. It was like, all of a sudden, there was a little space between me and that thought. Interestingly enough, the shame had nothing to do with food or my body. It had to do with forgiving myself for loving someone who treated me poorly.

When I allowed myself to shift my thought from,“You’re so pathetic for loving this man, there’s something wrong with you,” to “It’s okay to allow yourself to love anyone at anytime”—my whole body shook. It was like what I once believed to be reality and fact had some doubt around it and room for change.

This process took place with a life coach I had the great luck and courage to open up to.

It seemed so simple, and she just asked me four questions:

Can you be sure that’s 100% true?
How do you feel and how do you act when that’s true?
Imagine yourself without that thought. Who do you become?
What are some examples that prove the opposite is correct?

By the grace of God, and with the help of coaching and my yoga practice, I have been cured of my addiction—my eating disorder—for years. Sometimes shame will still peak up, but it does not have the power over me it once did, and I am able to shake it by using the questions above.

You know what the best part is? Freedom. I feel so free. I feel like my world is so open, and I’m so alive.

I love myself, I do things to nurture myself, and I feel. I know how to feel my feelings and not freak out.

I accept myself, and nothing had to change about me physically. I just changed my perception and found that the answer was inside of myself all along, as I learned to create the love and compassion I once craved from everyone else.

I know the deep shame of an eating disorder, and I’m lucky now that I know the freedom that comes from conquering it.

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Author: Erin Geraghty

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Flickr/KariHak

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Erin Geraghty