Melissa Binstock: Author of Nourishment: Feeding My Starving Soul When My Mind and Body Betrayed Me. Available at local bookstores or from http://www.nourishmentthebook.com/.
I don’t want life to be painful anymore; life shouldn’t be painful. I remember when I spoke these words to my older sister when I was a freshman in college. I had called her from my dorm room where I sat alone, pale, tired and starving. That was four years ago, yet I still remember it as though it was yesterday. That’s how I feel about almost all the events surrounding my eating disorder. Maybe it was the pain associated with these events that imprinted these memories in my mind. I don’t know. All I know is that the memories are there, and they are strong. I can trace the first of such memories back fourteen years when I was just eight years old. That was the year my eating disorder started–the year when the Sick Person entered my mind.
My eating disorder began as a result of the loss of control over my mind and body to dyslexia and Tourette’s syndrome. The inability to read and to control the odd jerking movements my body made caused me to seek control in some area of my life. Naturally, I turned to food, one of the first things we have control over in life. I began making up strange rules for my eight year old self–No more than twelve grams of sugar per item and twelve grams of fat per day. I thought it was all fun and games at first. I could choose to eat the PB&J my mother made me or I could choose not to. I was in complete control–or so I thought. Eventually, though, I no longer had the option to eat, as every time I tried, I would hear screams of, “You’re losing control, control, control!” blaring in my head. The Sick Person had taken over. Soon enough, screams about losing control turned into screams of, “Disgusting girl, fat, disgusting girl.” At times, the screams of the Sick Person became so loud that I would flee to my bathroom, curl up in a ball on the floor and scream. I thought that if I screamed loud enough, I could make her voice stop. Yet, it was too late; the Sick Person had already taken over.
I’m not going to tell you my whole life story. After all, that took up close to three hundred pages, the pages that comprise my book, Nourishment. What I will do is tell you that when I was sixteen, my anorexia and self-hatred caused me to become so ill that I had to enter a treatment center for close to four months. After that, I was hospitalized again when I was eighteen. True, I could focus the rest of this article on my hatred of my body, on the Sick Person that dominated my mind. Yet, I feel as though we bash our bodies enough; we talk about the darkness enough. What I want to speak about now is how I got out of the darkness, how I quieted the Sick Person.
It was soon after that painful phone call with my sister that I began to dedicate myself to silencing the Sick Person. What catalyzed this difficult endeavor was not a sudden decision. Rather, it was the years of pain, sadness, and isolation; it was the hunger for something more in life. I knew I had the tools to get better, to thrust myself onto that long road of recovery. After all, I been in therapy for over half my life, and now I was a psychology student. So I began to put those tools into practice, which included using Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Motivational Enhancement Therapy. CBT is based on the idea that your thoughts influence your feelings and your actions. Therefore, if you change your thoughts, you can change you feelings and actions. MET, on the other hand, is based on using different techniques such as goal making to motivate yourself not to engage in destructive behaviors. I knew these things in theory but it wasn’t until I used these techniques on myself that I realized something extraordinary; they work. I began by using MET by writing down goals I wanted to achieve but knew my eating disorder was getting in the way of. One such goal was going to graduate school for clinical psychology. The dangerously low-calorie diet the Sick Person restricted to me prevented me from thinking clearly, making school extremely difficult. This desire to go to graduate school so that I could learn to better help others was a strong enough motivation to push me towards health. But I still had to learn how to silence the Sick Person. This is where CBT came into play. I began challenging the Sick Person’s cries and screams, yelling back at her for the first time in my life. With practice, time, and effort, I found that the Sick Person’s voice began to hush, finally freeing me from her deadly grip. True, the process wasn’t easy, and I still have my daily struggles. Now, though, I’m finally fighting back.
I am no longer the prisoner of the Sick Person; I am Melissa.
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