When injustice occurs, let the written word be your sword

June Alexander

Fifty-five years ago when I developed an eating disorder, there was no help. My little journal was my sole confidant. Thankfully, we know a lot more now, especially for treating children, but for adults, there are fresh challenges, making today’s recovery path possibly more difficult than the path I faced all those years ago.

There are several reasons.

  • Social media
  • Cultural and societal emphasis on body image, dieting, and exercise
  • Self-declared “experts” who target vulnerable people

When feeling vulnerable it is easy to be besieged by these “in your face” challenges and to succumb to their influence.

Leah developed eating disorder behaviors in childhood but somehow managed to get by until her mid to late 30s, when the eating disorder thoughts became louder and began to affect every part of her daily life. That was bad enough, but when she started to search the Internet for help, she encountered a fresh batch of harmful obstacles. Writing about this experience is one way Leah is able to assist her own healing and inform others, who may be feeling susceptible:

In primary school, I came home and would eat and eat. My parents would go out and I would eat…I didn’t know it was wrong but yet I would try to hide the evidence, that is, the empty packaging, and eat in secrecy.

I was bigger than other children my age and felt uncomfortable in my own skin. I felt uncomfortable eating in front of others at school and hated school camps because people would see me eating meals. Kids would be cruel, and being weighed at school was horrendous.

The dieting started in my 20s, and my weight began to yo-yo. Even in my teenage years, I would try “shake” diets and going to the gym. But nothing helped.

Looking on the Internet for answers

I started to think this is not normal. Why is this happening to me?

I was unable to control myself around food. I was either in or out of control.

I was confused, ashamed, guilty; I felt disgusted and very isolated and alone.

I started to look on the Internet for some answers.

This was after I had my children.

I began to surf the ‘Net.

Key words: bingeing dieting.

I was always looking at dieting, to lose weight.

There were many diets to choose from on the ‘Net.

I found people on the ‘Net who were coaching people to lose weight.

I actually lost a lot of weight.

I would go through periods of time when I would not binge, but would always lapse back, It was always in the back of my mind. Maybe I would manage a few months, on a high, losing weight.

But at the same time, I became really scared, like, “I can’t eat this or that”, and had all these rules, which were increasing. Don’t eat potatoes, don’t eat bread except for sourdough, eat a few purple grapes but no green grapes.

One so-called therapist had a plant-based program with an extended juice cleanse – so I was becoming very restricted in what I could eat. Only vegetables and fruit were allowed (but I was scared of the fruit due to the sugar).

Going out for a meal with others was difficult as I would want the vegan option.

So I would make up excuses and stay at home. This went on for a couple of years.

I felt worse. I felt like I had no control. I could not trust myself with food.

I kept trying a new diet as I did not know what else to do. For a short time on one of the online diets, I did well. I excelled at the juice cleanse – I was advised to continue to it if feeling good, so I did. I yearned for some broccoli soup but that was breaking the rules.

An enema was part of the daily “treatment” routine.

Caught in the vicious binge-starve cycle

Eventually, I started to eat and couldn’t stop. I spiraled into depression and despised myself for being weak and failing yet again.

This was my pattern: self-blaming and loathing myself.

The online therapist did not encourage me to see a local mainstream doctor. She actually said she had no faith in doctors.

She would tell me to “recalibrate and re-start” her eating plan the next day. Vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds. That was it.

When I did not improve, the therapist put me in touch with a psychologist online – this led to an introduction to hypnotherapy but again, this made me feel more desperate than ever.

Online therapy was not working and not knowing what else to do, I searched online again, this time booking into a health retreat that marketed itself as a rehabilitation center. The owners claimed their expensive four-week program, which was led by psychologists and counselors, would be helpful for my ED symptoms and IBS. However, their whole food approach allowed no dairy, no processed food, no artificial additives, and no preservatives, and had juice cleansing. The experience set my mind up to go further down the restrictive path. It was an absolute waste of time and money.

Be careful

Earlier this year, by now in her late 30s, after years of searching, Leah found the right path to recovery. A family friend in the medical world suggested she arrange a referral to a local psychiatrist with real ED expertise.

While looking online into the background of this psychiatrist, Leah came across my name,  started a fresh thread of research, and found this online blog.

Leah’s message for you when seeking help online

Do your research carefully because a lot of people out there claim they are experts and can help you. In reality, many of them are no more of an expert than me.

They say they have “this program”, and you have to pay upfront; they promise success: they “screen” you for suitability for their program; you are told you are a “perfect fit for this program”; you are told “a lot of people are not suitable, but you are”; “you have the offer of the last spot, we can’t hold it for long”; “we don’t know when the opportunity will come again, and oh, you need to pay up front.”

Feeling desperate for help, you pay.  No amount is too much because they convince you that they have the “fix”.  You join and immediately you see more new people coming online each day.

I’m fed up with being led down the wrong path by people who took advantage of my illness, my vulnerability and my desire to get better.

Be careful and always listen to your gut.

When in doubt, do more research and save yourself the heartache of having yet another expensive, failed attempt at recovery.

Here are some helpful and reliable links to explore:

https://www.nedc.com.au

http://feast-ed.org

http://beateatingdisorders.org.uk

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

https://bedaonline.com/understanding-binge-eating-disorder/binge-eating-disorder-treatment-providers/

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