Eating Disorders and The Role Trauma Plays

My eating disorder began in high school, but it greatly intensified three years ago following traumatic events that occurred during my sophomore year in college. There is not one singular cause behind why I have an eating disorder. Genetics, depression and anxiety, a perfectionistic personality, struggles in adolescence with identity and sexual orientation, low self-esteem, etc. all play a role, but trauma is a piece of the puzzle that cannot be ignored.

I developed PTSD as a result of the trauma I went through and restricting my food became my way of coping. In my mind shrinking my body has become my method of protecting myself. I have told myself that if I lost weight my body would no longer be desirable and therefore I would be kept safe. Being a healthy weight was and is scary and triggering for me. My healthy body is a powerful and unwelcome reminder of the ordeal I survived. My mind has a challenging time remembering that it is a different body living in a different time than the one that was abused and it is a body that I have become afraid of living in. 

With PTSD the line between the past and the present become fuzzy. Despite the trauma being behind me flashbacks, anxiety attacks, hypervigilance, and nightmares challenge my mind to remember the reality of the situation. My body has essentially become stuck in a permanent state of fight or flight mode, and it has trouble recognizing that the threat has passed. This fear makes me want to shrink myself and fade away because the idea of taking up space terrifies me. I feel this fear each and every day, and if I am honest, I still have no idea how to move past it. Watching my body continue to gain the needed weight weighs heavily on me (no pun intended) and it is indescribably challenging.

Being a higher weight is scary, and I am trying to push through it by reminding myself that continuing to remain sick is letting my abuser “win” against me which is something I am done doing. Anorexia operates in the same way someone who is abusive does. It makes promises that it does not keep and masks abuse as a fake and dishonest form of “love.” It hurts and harms again and again before promising it will change.

But, I am the one who is going to change. In all honesty, I feel like I have no clue of how to achieve that change, other than to do my best to surrender to my treatment team (shhh don’t tell AAC I said she’s right ;)) and to lean on their support in addition to the love of my support system. One day during group at IDC I came up with the saying “bite by bite I will fight” and that is how I am going to take these next steps. Session by session, appointment by appointment, hard conversation by hard conversation…I am going to keep moving ahead.



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