Eating Disorders and Trauma: Journaling for Recovery

Eating Disorders and Trauma: Journaling for Recovery

Journaling can offer a cathartic release from issues you are going through in life and also what you are experiencing in therapy – whether it is for eating disorders and trauma, or something else. During therapy sessions with me, clients often bring a notebook or ask for a notepad to write down key points or homework. I also encourage clients to be open to journaling outside of the therapy office. Eating disorders and trauma(s) can elicit a myriad of unanswered questions in which continuous exploration is necessary. So why not keep that notebook or journal handy to document your journey, including triumphs and struggles? Approach journaling with curiosity by becoming a detective on your own life. Too many people overthink the process of journaling, and feel a pressure to write a specific number of words or paragraphs, but it’s much simpler than that. Push aside that critical voice that shouts,  “You cannot write,” “You have awful grammar or punctuation,” or, “Your journaling needs to be perfect.” Be raw! Let it go! Take a few deep breaths and mindful moments, then write down simple one-word answers. If words do not come naturally, you can jot down a picture to answer each question you come up with. Here are a few journal prompts to get you started: I am… I need… I love… I want more of… I want less of… I enjoy… I see… I smell… I feel… I taste… I think… I believe… I wish… I wonder… I fear… I am learning… I am grateful for… Start small and remember nobody is looking at this unless you share it with him or her. Take...
Eating Disorders Therapy: How Is Therapy Like Doing Laundry?

Eating Disorders Therapy: How Is Therapy Like Doing Laundry?

Eating disorders therapy can be very beneficial, and in fact necessary – and yet, eating disorders therapy can also seem like a lot of work, so it might be tempting to let issues pile up until they absolutely have to be dealt with. And then, by facing these issues a little bit at a time with lots of guidance and support, the work in eating disorders therapy isn’t so hard. The outcome of fresh perspectives and a sense of freedom from past pain is worth it! Isn’t eating disorders therapy a little bit like doing laundry? Introduction to Erica Faulhaber’s blog post written by Dr. Dorie McCubbrey, MSEd, PhD, LPC, CEDS, Owner & Clinical Director at Positive Pathways ***** Laundry – the necessary evil to get out dirt, grime, stains and unwanted stench.   A task resulting in revitalized, fresh and clean garments to go forth into the world. Doing laundry for most involves time, sorting, detergent, water and folding skills. Manufacturers provide labels that suggest hot or cold water, low or high heat and “lay flat to dry” or the fan favorite “dry clean only.” Who really likes doing laundry? There may be a few folks out there that enjoy this task, but for the most part it is just something that needs to get done. Like laundry, therapy is an option to get out the gunk – it may take longer than the standard seventy-minute wash cycle, but it will be well worth it! I think of coming to therapy (including eating disorders therapy) like coming into a laundromat. You bring a bag or two or three, and we will start to work...
Eating Disorders and Trauma: What Is Trauma?

Eating Disorders and Trauma: What Is Trauma?

How do we define trauma? If you look up the word “trauma” various definitions populate. The underlying theme amongst the trauma definitions involves an unpleasant experience that leaves a person with an injury. The injury can be physical, emotional or even mental. So then, how do we define trauma in a counseling setting? When I first meet with a client we go over quite a few questions to help me better understand their want for professional help. As we get to questions about trauma, some clients initially respond they have not experienced trauma in their lives. As our discussion continues, I help clients identify what mental health providers refer to as BIG T’S (Big Traumas) and little t’s (little traumas). It is estimated that “Approximately one half (50%) of all individuals will be exposed to at least one traumatic event in their lifetime” (American Psychological Association, 2016). While 50% of folks may experience trauma, responses to such trauma differ from person to person. One person may be able to continue through life with little to no help with the trauma while others could have lifelong difficulties. Big T’s can differ in the level of severity along with the healing time involved in resolving such trauma. There are some cases in which these traumas impact an individual for the duration of their life. Examples can include witnessing a horrific crime, experiencing war, surviving abuse (emotional, physical, sexual) or neglect, exposure to violence and being involved in a car accident. Little t’s can be very impactful and are not necessarily less significant but different in nature from big traumas. Examples can...
Metaphors Of Eating Disorders: Eating In The Light Of The Moon

Metaphors Of Eating Disorders: Eating In The Light Of The Moon

Eating in the Light of the Moon, by Dr. Anita Johnston, is a book that speaks to one’s relationship with food, particularly naming what may feel true about food, eating, and weight for those who identify as women. Dr. Johnston offers wisdom here that may apply to those who experience disordered eating, as well as to anyone who has wondered about the concepts of true nourishment or food as a metaphor. During a recent lecture for a group of professionals in the eating disorders field, Dr. Johnston named that so often, one may try to push away an eating disorder, to get rid of it, and to eradicate disordered eating patterns from one’s life as fast as possible. However, Dr. Johnston points out that the disordered eating itself is not actually the problem, nor is getting rid of the disordered eating going to illuminate why these eating patterns arose in the first place. Rather, disordered eating is actually pointing to a much deeper relationship with food, with getting what one wants in the world, and with feeling deeply nourished and satisfied. Dr. Johnston advocates that disordered eating instructs us to metaphorically “dig here” at the roots of the disordered eating to uncover what may be buried beneath the symptoms that initially present themselves. In Eating in the Light of the Moon, Dr. Johnston takes the approach that disordered eating and frustrating relationships with food may be metaphors for needs not being met in life. She challenges readers to question what an insatiable hunger may really indicate – whether this is actually a hunger for food or whether it may...
Eating Disorders and Emotions: Inside Out

Eating Disorders and Emotions: Inside Out

If you haven’t seen the movie Inside Out, or you want a chance to see it again and discuss its incredible message, please join us at Positive Pathways for Movie Night on December 11th from 6-8pm! (more details at the end of this post) Movies can be a great way to add context to things that we are going through – like eating disorders and emotions. The journeys of characters can help us gain different perspectives on our situations. To illustrate how we can navigate through the complexities of eating disorders and emotions, the movie Inside Out by Disney’s Pixar offers a wonderful roadmap. Inside Out is a great story about a young girl and an emotional journey. It combines elements of the hero’s journey with important emotional truths about the human experience. For those struggling with eating disorders and emotions, this movie can be a great analogy for the interplay of our primary emotions, and how to allow our emotions to come into balance. All of our emotions have a purpose, and while some may be uncomfortable, it is learning how to feel all of our feelings that complete recovery from eating disorders is possible. Without giving too much of the storyline away, Inside Out shows how we need all of our emotions, and that when we favor one, it can squelch important experiences. The main character, Riley, is shown in her stages of developing memories and personality. One of her dominant emotions strives to keep in control of all experiences in order to make Riley happy. Putting on a happy face even when we are feeling sad or angry or...
Eating Disorders and Trauma: Holiday Coping Skills

Eating Disorders and Trauma: Holiday Coping Skills

The holiday season can flare up remembrance of past trauma. Perhaps it is reminders of loved ones who have created the trauma, being around non-supportive folks or maybe even how traumatic experiences occurred right around the holidays. So how then, can we wrap up trauma with a pretty little bow? Being able to wrap up or contain our trauma from affecting our daily lives is a difficult task. Here are a few ideas for how to start the process: Grounding Coping Toolbox Self-Care Grounding is a way to put you back in the present moment. This tool is helpful when experiencing flashbacks, if you start to drift off or disassociate, and to serve as a reminder that you are safe in this exact moment. To “ground” yourself, you can begin by using your five senses (i.e. sight, touch, smell, taste, hear). Using these senses, you are not only able to slow down your racing thoughts but also become reconnected with your body. When you are not grounded, the traumatic event(s) can hijack your thoughts, emotions and body. You are taken right back to that moment in time where you felt scared, powerless or stuck. Another method to grounding can be as simple as tapping your fingers on your knees or shoulders and saying “In this moment, I am safe.” A coping toolbox can also be extremely helpful to ground you and to create calm in a time of distress. Your tools can help with breathing, the release of the physiological parts of trauma and help you outside of traditional therapy sessions. Bubbles: Target and the dollar store have small...
Eating Disorders Help for the Holidays

Eating Disorders Help for the Holidays

‘Tis the season – for family gatherings, Holiday parties… and lots of food. It can be enough of a challenge to stay on course with your eating disorder recovery in your day-to-day life. It’s even more challenging when you’re triggered by your Aunt Mary’s comments about your weight, or your Grandmother’s pumpkin pie. Here are a few strategies for eating disorders help for the holidays: Know Your Triggers – Identify the people, places and events that are the most challenging for you to deal with. By acknowledging that your Aunt Mary always makes a comment about your weight, you can actually be less triggered when she makes a comment this year. She might say, “You look so good – how much weight have you lost?” Or, “What happened – you gained so much weight since the last time I saw you!” Knowing that she will make some kind of comment, you can be prepared and therefore less triggered. Similarly, knowing that you are going to a family function where you will encounter foods which can trigger your eating disorder behaviors, you can diffuse the power of the trigger simply by being aware of it. You know that your Grandmother will bring pumpkin pie – and you also know that she will push you to have a piece. You also know that she’ll give you a “sad look” if you decline to have a piece, and she’ll push you to have seconds if you agree to have one. Have a Plan to Deal with Your Triggers – After you have identified some of the main triggers you might encounter, come up with specific action steps for each. When...
Eating Disorder Support Groups

Eating Disorder Support Groups

I remember what it was like when I was struggling with eating disorders – I tried to hide my eating disorder behaviors from others, I justified my actions if I was confronted, and I denied that I had a problem. I felt ashamed about my eating disorder behaviors, confused because I couldn’t control them, and afraid to ask for help. To cover up all of those uncomfortable feelings, I turned to my eating disorder even more. Can you relate? Eventually, I had a moment of honesty with myself – I admitted that I had an eating disorder, and that I needed help. I had a friend who was in school to be a social worker, and I contacted her to see if she had any resources for me. She told me about eating disorder support groups in my area, and suggested that I start there. What?!? Walk into a room full of people I don’t know, with the label eating disorder stuck to me? My friend explained that other people at eating disorder support groups probably felt the same way when they went to their first meeting. She added that although I might not know anyone, that we would all share a similar experience – and that I would quickly feel understood and connected with others. Really? There are other people like me? I won’t have to feel so alone any more? I contacted the facility where the eating disorder support groups were held, to get some additional information, and to ease my worry about what to expect. I learned that there were usually 4-6 people at the eating disorder support groups, and that the groups were led by...