When to ask for help with eating disorders? I am a very proud person. I have always felt that I could do anything if I needed to, and that I could do it without anyone’s help. I am one of those people who never read the instructions because I think I should know how to do everything without having to learn first. This is because I can’t stand to admit that I don’t know how to do something and that I might have to ask for help. For me, asking for help is admitting that I am stupid, and that I should know better. I grew up being afraid that I would get in trouble for asking for help, and that if I did, I wouldn’t get it. This has resulted in my enormous pride.
This same pride is what drives my food obsession. I used food and dieting to cope with all the little things in life that I think I should be able to handle on my own. I ate because I felt tired, angry, sad, happy, confused, excited, or bored, and then I dieted to lose what I thought was excess weight. When that didn’t work as well as I thought it should, I ate to ease the loneliness, fatigue, and demoralization brought about by dieting. So, I had many solutions for all of life’s problems, and most of them involved turning to food or dieting. I created a little world in which I didn’t have to ask anyone for help, where I felt I was safe from judgment, and where I lived with the illusion that I was handling life. I asked the food or the diet for help every day, but the problem was, they didn’t help, so instead of admitting that I didn’t know what to do, I dieted more, I ate more, and the cycle continued.
Finally, I came to see that my “solution” was causing me more grief than it was helping me. I was eating more and more, and dieting less and less. I didn’t have the energy to exercise compulsively anymore, and even the food, that old, comfortable solution, was turning on me. Eating to feel better only made me feel worse.
This is where pride comes in and challenges me in recovery. I find it discouraging to admit that my coping mechanisms aren’t working. Aren’t I supposed to be an independent, self-sufficient, intelligent young woman? How can I live down the shame of admitting that I don’t know how to cope with life? If all my efforts to cope are useless, what do I do now? What if I don’t get the help I think I need?
In my experience with meditation and breath work, I have learned that admitting I don’t know what to do isn’t the horrible place I think it is, it is in fact a starting point for change. Once I accept that I don’t know how to deal with life’s ups and downs on my own, I open the door to learning. Once I admitted that dieting and bingeing weren’t working anymore, I could finally let go of my pride and ask for help. I had to be desparate enough to face the anxiety.
Now, when I am struggling with a situation, which I often do, I need to get to a place where I can see that all my attempts to solve the problem, to fix or control whatever is unacceptable to me, are no longer working. At this stage in my recovery, my tolerance for frustration has become significantly lower, so I don’t have to be as desparate as I used to be to look outside of myself for a solution. But no matter what, I need to see that my way isn’t working before I turn to the breath and the practice for help. Then, I can sit and get quiet with what is going on. Being still allows me to stop trying so hard to fix myself, the problem, or other people. Instead, I let the breath guide me to a place of peace and acceptance. But first, I have to let all my pride go. I have to accept that I sometimes I am unwilling to accept. This, in my experience, is humility, the acceptance that I can’t fix anything, that I need help, and that the solution will be just what I need.
That source of help is found within me, deep down in my belly, and I get there by focusing on the breath and my centre. Once I allow my attention to rest there, and not fixate on the problem, the fear, anger, and pride that grip me as I let go of the need to control slowly release, and I am able to accept that there is another way. Sometimes I am inspired to take a whole new course of action, sometimes I am moved to do nothing, but more importantly, no matter what the outcome, I have simply become aware of all the fear that lies at the source of my compulsiveness with food, dieting, and life. I see that my pride is really the fear that I will not be OK, and that if I don’t take control and make sure things turn out the way I think they should, I will be abandoned and forgotten. With that awareness, I am able to accept that I need compassion and acceptance more than I need to look like I know the answer.