I’ll post up my teaching in bits but here’s part one. And these are a couple of introductory comments on how complicated these issues can be….
When I was trying to overcome anorexia, my mum would sometimes look at me and ask, ‘what did we do wrong?’ But it’s rare that there’s one big reason – in all likelihood there are lots of different factors involved. These range from personality type (e.g; high-achieving, perfectionist, thinks in black and white categories, low self-esteem), to culture, (a media obsessed with the body, conflicting messages about what it means to be male or female, lack of positive older role models)…the list goes on. This can be a big help in terms of recovery too – as we try to negotiate the territory between sickness and sin. Am I a victim of circumstances beyond my control? Well, to some extent, yes. Maybe I’ve been hurt and sinned against in terrible ways. And that’s something to be genuinely grieved over. But is that the end of the story? Using the language of sickness and victim-hood seems to be the most loving approach. But in fact, it can actually take away our hope. If I am the victim of say bullying, then I’m under the bully’s power. Not just my sickness, but too often my recovery, may depend upon someone else. But that’s another post.. The point for now, is that life and people are complicated – there are rarely simple causes and consequences to anything.
Every person and every story is unique, but at the same time, there may be common factors or traits which predispose certain people to manage stresses in this way. And before we dismiss these weirdos, take a minute to think about the spectrum of ‘normal’ behaviour ..
This morning, for example. I lost my phone. My brain was saying, ‘Emma, you IDIOT. Why can’t you just get organised. You’re so STUPID.’ Well, that looks a lot like self-harm – not as extreme as some, but coming from the same heart.
Or maybe I’ve had a really horrible day. I come home and crack open the Haagen Daas. Before long, it’s just me, the empty pot and a spoon. Comfort eating? Or a binge?
I can’t help thinking that to help others who are struggling, we need a real awareness of our own weakness. All of us are in a mess – and all of us need a Saviour. Too often we can dismiss other people because they don’t fit our categories of acceptable sinners. But for many struggling with eating disorders (ED) or self harm (SH), these behaviours are not problems but solutions. Not ways of trying to cause pain, but to deal with it. Not ways of trying to die, but to learn how to live.