Thursday, July 15, 2010

The symptom or the problem?

I have known that things with me have not been right with me for awhile. I couldn't figure out what it was, but I knew that I needed to get into a counselor ASAP. As I have written about before, I have been in counseling before and found it very helpful.

I put off calling the counselor last Friday. Finally around 4:45, I called. No surprise; he wasn't in the office. What did surprise me, however, was how tough it was to place the call.

"Nah, you're really ok," my inner voice said. But every shred of evidence and an even deeper inner voice pointed toward the truth. Things are not ok. I am not ok. And I need help.

My eating had been spiraling out of control. Not out of control binge city 24-7, but enough to know that I was teetering on the edge of a cliff that, if I didn't find my way off of, was certain to lead to impending doom. I have worked too hard to make too many good changes to sacrifice this progress. The 3-4 lbs I've gained over the last two week are simply the warning sign of what's certain to be a downward spiral if I'm not careful. My mental health felt similar to how my back feels right before it's about to cause me major trouble. I am learning to recognize the signs.

I was unsuccessful in getting in touch with my counselor from before, so I took to the internet to find someone knowledgeable about food issues and eating disorders. It seems odd to think of myself as having an eating disorder because I have a mental image of people with eating disorders being skinny -- usually scarily and unhealthily so -- and that I sure ain't. However it's hard to make a compelling argument that my thoughts around food are healthy, and that my eating is not disordered, so I think I fall into this category (not to mention that binge eating disorder is officially recognized by the medical community as a problem).

I found a counselor with eating disorder expertise, of course did a bunch of background googling on her, and ended up deciding to give it a shot. I met with her for the first time yesterday.

I went in there expecting to talk about food, how I could reframe my relationship with food, and, eventually get more sane, healthy, and normal in my relationship with eating and food. However, we talked about the gambit of things. The official diagnosis? I am depressed. Very depressed. Again. DAMN IT!!!

As I think about it, though, she is right. Ever since I had the problems with my hip and back recur -- and have had to spend lots of time inside, not doing much so I don't hurt myself more, etc -- I have sunk deeper into a funk. I hate that.

The food and the overeating is a symptom of the problem, not the main problem (for now). The problem is depression, and food is just a coping mechanism for the problem. I will work on my relationship with food during counseling, but I will also work through the other stresses surrounding my life -- most notably, my job and my difficult time finding friends here. By dealing with the root causes and dealing with the food stuff too, I hope I can get fixed. I hate feeling broken, but admit that it's tough to get past the brokenness without acknowledging it first.

I am glad I was able to catch this 3-4 lbs into a gain rather than 20-50-60-100 lbs in. I am optimistic that working with someone who understands disordered eating, life as an academic, and mental health in general will be helpful. And I believe in myself and my ability to overcome depression, again. For the second time since I've moved here. Is this a sign of something?!?!


  1. I think this stuff happens in cycles. It is not something that gets fixed and goes away forever. I am extremely proud of you for recognizing it and taking that step to get help. I think the emotional portion of our lives easily gets pushed aside, it is not something we can measure, see, or touch day to day so when working on it, it is hard to "measure" the results and it can easily slip back into a dark place.

    It is not an uncommon thing to have resurface however, it is uncommon and very brave of you to have recognized it and begin to address it quickly. Keep up the good work, We're all pulling for you!

  2. "I am glad I was able to catch this"

    Me too Sarah!

  3. Sarah, I looked for a way to email you directly, but I didn't see a link. So I'll try and keep my comments brief on here :)

    I think recognizing that counseling is helpful for you is a key step. It was for me. I found myself in similar circumstances after moving to Salem and rapidly regaining all the weight I had worked so hard to lose four years earlier.

    My therapist helped me recognize that the root issue was my (nearly lifelong) struggle with depression. I began to learn to recognize signs and symptoms and come up with remedies that would work for me. And I keep trying...

    I hope you'll keep us posted on how this approach is helping you!


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