If you have experience with trauma-informed mental health care, it's quite possible that you're also familiar with EMDR therapy. Otherwise known by its much longer name, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, EMDR therapy is an intervention used to help the brain resolve unprocessed traumatic memories, as well as the thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and physical reactions or sensations connected to those memories. But is EMDR therapy useful for eating disorder treatment? That's a nuanced question without a one-size-fits-all answer. However, as someone who is currently in the thick of EMDR sessions myself, I want to examine the potential benefits for eating disorder recovery.
For almost a year, I have been going to therapy to work through the trauma associated with the debilitating episodes of acute panic and anxiety I suffered late summer of 2021. In recent weeks, I have been practicing my anxiety-mitigation strategies and testing my resilience to anxiety triggers in preparation for a return to the location where the apex of the episodes occurred. With extreme gratitude, I'm happy to say that revisiting the place was a tremendous success.
I recently bought a deck of cards full of question prompts, and one of the first question cards I drew was, "What is your vice?" The answer that surfaced for me was familiar; Food. I will always be conscious about food, even in times of ease in my recovery. Sometimes this reality is frustrating, and I envy the people around me who seem to enjoy food without stress or guilt. I also learn about the depths of myself from the healing process. I'm understanding now that there's always more to uncover about myself and eating disorders like Binge Eating Disorder (BED).
Up to this point in my life, addressing my mental health struggles and seeking recovery has been personal work. I’ve learned about my illnesses, done self-reflection and soul-searching. It’s been by myself, except for a stint of attending peer support groups and being a part of online peer support groups. During all this time, I’ve wondered, will I benefit from therapy for my mental health?
Facing a verbally abusive situation is emotionally and physically draining. In addition, many victims of abuse find that alcohol plays a factor in how their circumstances play out daily. As someone who lived in a relationship of verbal abuse, alcohol, and substance abuse, I found the combination of these outside elements intensified an already negative situation.
It’s one thing to say that the opinions of others don’t matter, but actually believing these words to be true is another beast entirely. Growing up, people had a bad habit of telling me who I was, what I offered, and even who I was going to be. Sometimes I would brush these comments off, but I would mostly let them sit and fester until the line between what I believed and what others believed of me blurred. I was susceptible to the thoughts and expectations of others because I lost touch with my sense of self. Our sense of self is like a river flowing through every ocean of our life. It’s the birthplace of thoughts, actions, and patterns. What we think of ourselves drives how we live our lives. When that sense of self is rattled and easily shaken, we leave the door open for the unfounded opinions of others to walk right in and sit on the metaphorical couch that is our mind. When our sense of self is stable and fortified, well, the door is just that, locked and bolted.
I will never forget one specific breakfast during my time in residential treatment. An on-staff clinician supervising the meal told me to throw out my pancakes and grab a new batch. When I asked her why, the answer was confusing, but as with most rules at this inpatient facility, it left no room for further questions. "You spread peanut butter on your pancakes—that's a food ritual," she replied. So I mutely tossed them in the trash, reached for another stack, and ate every single bite. That brief incident took place over 10 years ago, but it's still fresh in my mind for one particular reason: I love peanut butter on pancakes and always have. Is this not acceptable in eating disorder recovery? Is it a food preference or a food ritual? Moreover, how do I spot the difference?
I haven’t heard schizoaffective voices in over a year. I am so elated about this, especially since I’ve struggled with auditory hallucinations since my first and only psychotic episode in 1998 when I was 19 years old. Being free of the voices is absolutely liberating.
If you've ever asked yourself the question, "Why do I feel like hurting myself when I'm mad?" know that you are not alone.
Thanks to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), I'm easily distracted. This is especially difficult when I spend time on YouTube binges or scrolling through social media apps, even though I'd earmarked that time for working.