We humans love to personify non-human entities in our environment in our quest to control our destinies. For instance, we have a history of naming the cars we own. Have you ever named your car? I can recall a couple that my family owned: Angie and Fifi. Both were foreign-made cars. I find these names not only amusing, but revealing of the nature of our family. After all, we didn’t name them “Slugger” or “Killer.”
You can imagine my mom or dad, on a cold morning (such as right now), going out to start Fifi and finding that the engine was stubbornly refusing to start. “C’mon, Fifi!” my dad might have said. “I can’t let the carpool down today!”
Was Fifi truly being temperamental? Was Fifi “acting out” as a child would do? Was Fifi feeling rebellious like a teenager, or angry or jealous of the other car in the family? Was it sibling rivalry? Penis envy?
Can machines have feelings? Do they? Can they think? We humans assign thoughts and feelings to inanimate machines knowing that machines do not have thoughts and feelings. We talk to machines knowing that they can’t even hear us, as if talking to them might influence them to do what we want them to do. Does this work? Or are we just doing this in jest?
Let me alter this a bit. What about bodies? Uh oh. This makes us think for sec, doesn’t it? Okay, okay, you might argue. Bodies aren’t machines. Bodies aren’t man-made. However, can a body think? Can a body feel emotions? Can a body speak?
We’re getting in a gray area here, a very scary one indeed. A fine line that I’d like to tread for a bit even though it’ll likely be an uncomfortable one.
We need to get to the point of asking, “Am I separate from my body?” Yes I know this very well may be stepping on some religious toes here. I’m going to try to step very lightly so kindly bear with me.
Let’s say you have a stomach ache. Does this mean your stomach is talking to you and you need to listen to it?
I can go back to around 2011 and envision myself in therapy right now. I can envision psychodrama. I remember it well and I wish I did not. I know now exactly why psychodrama, engineered by a control freak abusive therapist named Maria nearly killed me.
Had I walked into therapy telling Maria that I had a stomach ache, she would have insisted that I then speak to my stomach out loud in role-playing right there in her office. She would have had me place my stomach, metaphorically, in a chair, represented by a stuffed animal, which she sometimes called a “stuffie,” and then, insisted that I talk to the stuffed animal, then, get up and trade places with the animal so that I and this child’s toy could have a running dialogue back and forth. Her goal was to push me and push me until I burst into some tearful admission of guilt or shame. This was supposed to be curative. Often, though, I’d leave her office with the fleeting impulse to jump in front of the subway.
No matter the outcome, it was as if my stomach was a separate entity from Me. She insisted that my stomach had thoughts and feelings, and that my own thoughts and feelings were separate from my stomach’s thoughts and feelings. Because I was seen as disordered, diseased, and disabled person, surely, then, my own desires were contrary to the upright and true desires of my body. Maria pushed me to start a World War within myself. That’s what anorexia is. I can assure you that a therapy-induced inner World War is extremely unpleasant.
Thus, as the therapy continued, the division between myself and my own body, in my mind, grew wider. In her insistence that I “listen to my body,” I lost touch due to her “therapy.” I numbed out. Maria took over totally. She was now in charge of my body. I separated further and further from it. This made starving myself and losing even more weight extremely easy. And I did.
Somewhere in my writings from that time (which I shared with Maria) I told her I felt that I was walking into the ocean. I was continuing to walk forward until I got to a certain point and then, it was suddenly so deep that the water was too high and over my head. Instead of turning back to safety, though, I was lured deeper and deeper into the water. It felt compelling and inviting to me and I was now past the point of no return.
I didn’t know what else to do. She continued to jerk me around and my life felt like a roller-coaster. Therapy, directly or indirectly, almost killed me.
Shouldn’t eating disorder recovery, if it’s even called that, involve taking our bodies back? For some, this may mean taking our bodies back from controlling or abusive parents or other situations where we feel trapped or cornered. For others such as myself it meant taking my body back from controlling mental health professionals.
For me, it’s been so important to realize the subtle difference when I speak of my body. I know I sometimes might say that my body is speaking to me if I have some kind of ache or pain. But is my body really speaking to me? I see things differently now. I own this ache or pain and I take responsibility for it. I choose whether to wait it out (often the better choice) or to take action. I try to do the right thing. What’s important is that I am the one making these decisions, and ultimately, I own those decisions, too.
Stopping therapy was the best favor I ever did for myself. I can’t say it’ll work for anyone else but if you are experiencing ED and decades of therapy have not helped, you might consider what I am saying. Maybe my story rings true for you.
Taking my life back, in a nutshell, sums up how I got over three decades of suffering from an eating disorder. I’m immensely proud that when I say “got over,” I really, really mean it.