The body says what words cannot.
What are you trying to express through your body that you cannot find the words for, or have learned that to express it through words is unacceptable?
One of my fears of recovering and letting my eating difficulties go is that no one will support me anymore, because I won’t need it. I learned somewhere in my life that people will not treat me gently unless I am sick. This was a reaction to my experience of anger being dangerous and life-threatening–both other people’s and my own.
My father hurt dogs when he was angry. Though he never hurt me physically, I learned that anger can cause immense physical pain. The few memories I have of him being gentle with me were when I was sick. Two of the times that I was the most sick (very, very, very sick) was when I had whooping cough at age 4, and coxsackie virus shortly after.
In both cases, I could not eat. When I had whooping cough, it was too painful to swallow, and I would cough until I threw up because I couldn’t breathe quite often (an association with throwing up that created physical ease). With coxsackie virus, the blisters in my mouth would bleed constantly and made it too painful to eat.
Looking at the timing of things, I am beginning to see the complex purpose of being sick. I was a very quiet baby and toddler, with one exception: when I was two, I had the most magnificent tantrums, in private and public places alike. My mom would have to leave the grocery store because I was so disruptive. My parents got divorced when I was three, and the tantrums stopped abruptly. Maybe it was the terrible twos. Maybe it was distress due to their relationship falling apart. In any case, a child views herself as the center of the universe, and thus the cause for everything that happens. Perhaps I learned that my anger and expression of intense emotional distress split up the family. Perhaps through sickness almost immediately after, I learned that being sick brought gentleness and reduced conflict.
Disordered eating is a coping mechanism that has allowed us to survive. Its purpose must be honored and respected. Then, when we realize the ways in which it was essential for our survival, we can begin to see how we still use it, develop other coping skills, and deal with those issues directly.
Keep at it, my woman warriors!