If you’ve read my latest book, Your Turn, you know that I write a great deal about some of my personal struggles with mental health, addiction and a very pertinent topic at this time period in American society, eating disorders.
It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week from Feb. 24- March 1, and there’s no better time to talk about this vital, yet largely underreported, topic than now. The theme for this year’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is “Come as You Are: Hindsight is 20/20.”
I believe this is a great theme because it focuses on an important point, we cannot change the past, but we can control the present; we are imperfect people, and we all try our best to be good people, but sometimes we falter and make mistakes, and that’s perfectly okay.
Unfortunately, as I’ve learned from personal experience, having an eating disorder distorts your perception of the present, your self-image and the conception that others may have of you. An eating disorder is no fleeting diagnosis or condition; I want people to realize that living with an eating disorder is an utterly serious experience and is very much an addiction.
The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness says at least 30 million Americans will struggle with a significant eating disorder during their life. So, there’s a good chance that some of my readers now will understand the immense hardships associated with having an eating disorder. For those who don’t, use this information and awareness to help someone in your life who may be struggling with such an addiction.
Below, I’ve included a section from my latest book about my personal experiences battling an eating disorder that I wrote about extensively in Chapter 4: Freedom from Addictions (pgs. 33-35). This is an important story about treating those suffering from eating disorders and giving them the resources to heal and battle this addiction:
As a young woman, I developed a habit of overeating until my stomach made me look as if I was pregnant after I stuffed myself with as many greasy, sugary, fried foods I could until I felt physically ill and needed to purge myself to relieve my sense of feeling out of control.
Once I left Menninger, I developed a habit of sending short essays to my former Social worker at the Clinic that focused on binging and purging. Even though I had overcome alcohol addiction I continued to struggle with my habit of binging and purging.
My social worker shared my stories with his supervisor, and I was invited to speak at a Menninger-sponsored in Aspen, Colorado for social workers earning more CEU’s. I was thrilled for the opportunity to give back.
After sharing my story about my recovery from bulimia, I opened the floor to questions. One of the attendees began, “I work on a locked unit for patients with eating disorders. Among the staff, we’ve struggled with a decision—whether to lock the community toilets on our unit, requiring patients to ask
For permission to use the bathroom or not to lock the stalls. We are concerned that needing to ask for permission hurts their self-esteem. What are your thoughts?
I immediately saw myself kneeling on the floor, head hanging over the toilet. Before I thought about it,
emphatic words flew out of my mouth. “You have to decide which is worse for someone’s self-esteem: having to ask to have the toilet stall opened, or suffering the self-imposed degradation of kneeling in front of a toilet bowl as if it is a shrine, their head hanging over it with fingers stuck down their throat, vomit and fifth running down the arms spraying all over the toilet bowl and walls and then working to clean it up before anyone notices.
Then comes the guilt. They know they’ve given in to their addiction one more time, feel disgust and failure, and are exhausted. Bingeing and purging are an addiction like alcohol. The motions are different, but you get the high for a short while and then are overwhelmed with disgrace and agonizing fear of being out of control.”
I stood quietly, amazed at my words and shocked that I had been so direct with a group of professional social workers.
After my talk, several attendees thanked me for my candor. I don’t know if that was the right answer, but my response was honest.
“I’ve learned healthy self-esteem comes from within,” I told the social workers. “When people suffer from an addiction like bulimia, they are unable to control their need to act on their compulsion to binge and purge. If clients were able to refrain from bingeing and purging, they wouldn’t need to have the toilet stalls locked. By leaving the toilet stalls, it feels like you are setting your clients up for failure.
In my opinion, locked toilet stalls telegraph that you care about them and have put safety measures in place to keep them safe from hurting themselves. The message to them is you believe in them and know they can and will overcome their bingeing and purging behavior.
© 2020 Tyra Manning