You Say I Have a Problem. I Don’t Think So. Now what?
By Kathryn Cortese, LCSW, ACSW, CEDS
You’ve heard it all – “I’m worried about you.” “You keep going to the bathroom after you eat. Is something going on?” “Why don’t you talk with me anymore?” “You’re looking kinda skinny. Is this a good thing?” “Why are you wearing a sweatshirt? It’s so hot today.” “You seem to be eating more lately.” “Are you sure you really need to go to the gym?” “How come you don’t come out with us anymore?” “How do you stay so thin?” “You mean the plumbing is clogged again?” “Where did the left-overs go?”
And you’ve heard – “I think you have an eating problem … an eating disorder.” “Are you bulimic?” “I don’t know why you think you look fat.” Etc. And, what you know is, “You think I have a problem and I don’t think so.” Now what?
Well, you can do nothing. You can keep secrets. You can sadly suffer silently. You can worry about numbers on a scale. You can stress about your next family gathering. You can try on 10 outfits before you decide what you’ll wear for the day. You can compare your hips to someone else’s. You can go online and look at Facebook and feel inadequate. You can wonder, “Do I look fat?” You can feel guilty because you ate 2 cookies. You can feel shameful because you ate a sleeve of crackers. You can get up at 4:00 am and exercise for 2 hours before work because you “have to.” You can tell yourself not to eat breakfast or lunch because you’re going out with friends tonight. You can remeasure your thighs with your hands. You can tell yourself you’re disgusting because you ate ice cream. You can shame yourself to tears.
But then, you can push the pause button instead and just wonder – wonder why certain people take their time to tell you they care and they are worried about you even though they know: you’ll blow them off, you’ll get annoyed, you’ll be defensive, you’ll leave the room. Why would someone approach you anyway? Can you write down some possible answers? While you’re writing, think about the character of the person who brought their concern to your attention. Is this a decent person? Is this someone with a good heart? Is this someone who would love to give you a hug? Is this someone who matters to you? Is this someone with good judgment and values?
So, why do these people approach you? Is there something in it for them? If so, what would that be?
Now, take a moment and make a list of your safe people. It may be one individual, or a few, or more. Who can you share your thoughts about this essay with? When you think about your safe person or safe people, what do you know about them? In order for a person to be “safe,” you need to feel trust. This is someone you’ve known to show a sense of humanity. This person respects you and sees you as a competent individual with skills and talents. This person walks the walk and lives by what he/she says. This person will tell you the truth, not just what you might want to hear and doesn’t take advantage of you. He/she is strong enough to be there for you, not control or try to control you, and gives you space. While being non-judgmental, this person will share his/her opinions and thoughts. This person makes good decisions which are based on reality. This person is also open-minded and is interested in you and your ideas. This person has earned your trust. Sometimes this “safe person” is a family member, a friend, a professional, someone at your school, someone at work, someone at your house of worship.
What if this is something you choose to do today – pick a person and talk about this essay. Let this safe person know that your goal in your conversation is to exchange ideas, not to agree or disagree. Just to talk. Go ahead. Give it a try.
And remind yourself you are amazing!
About the author:
Kathryn Cortese, LCSW, ACSW, CEDS, began working with individuals with eating disorders in 1989. She is committed to the beliefs that recovery is real, support is essential, and hope matters. In 2013, along with her son, Michael, Kathy purchased the Gürze Catalogue. They offer the annual Gürze/Salucore Eating Disorders Resource Catalogue, a monthly ENewsletter featuring articles specifically written for this as well as a Book Interview, the edcatalogue.com website, EatingDisordersRecoveryToday.com, the ED Pulse, and podcast series, ED Matters.