Archive for the ‘psychotherapy’ Category

A quick warning: this post is going to discuss compulsive eating, self harm and alcohol. Please be careful if these topics are triggers for you.

I wanted to post about something that seems to be happening to me at the moment – namely, that my compulsive overeating is getting a lot worse, I’m drinking too much, and I’m considering self harming again. All of this has happened more and more since I’ve been seeing a new psychotherapist privately. We started working together in January.

The therapist, Diane, and my NHS psychiatrist thinks that what I am going through is a direct result of  the work I’ve been doing with her. As if working through deep and difficult problems leaves a psychological rawness or exposed part of my mind that I’m trying to push down and keep away with food.

I don’t know if this is correct. Diane has stated that she wholeheartedly believes I can and will get better and stop having to use food to alter my mood. At the moment, my eating resembles something frantic, where I feel so trapped and on edge that I have to eat to calm down. Booze works better to calm me, obviously, as it’s a depressant, but I can’t drink at work so I use food instead.

That also might imply that I have some kind of control over it. I don’t. When I need to eat it’s like a tidal wave. I just can’t help but give in to it. It’s like a voice in my head telling my body to do things as my mind watches helplessly.

So, my questions are two:

1) Has this happened to you – have you ever gotten much worse in therapy before a breakthrough/getting better?

2) Have you, or anyone you know, ever fully recovered from an eating disorder (especially compulsive eating)?


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So, I thought I’d share how things have been going on the fluoxetine (Prozac) recently, and see if anyone has any ideas…

1. It’s stopping working… slowly, over the past 2 months, it’s been getting less and less effective. Firstly, the feeling of general contentment slipped away, putting me back to the usual base level of continual insecurity and worry. Then the bad thoughts started to reemerge, and the depressed moods return. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still better than it was when I wasn’t on medication. It really is. It’s just losing its efficacy with every day, it seems.

2. I went to the university health centre, and they won’t let me see any other doctor than the one I’m registered with. Last time, because he was on holiday, I saw an amazing doctor who was really positive about alternate types of drugs and was very reassuring. The doctor they assigned me just sits there in silence most of the time and then hands you a prescription. Nurses have told me he’s very shy, but I feel really uncomfortable around him. And now he’s back I have to see him on Wednesday and tell him how badly things are going… and I just don’t feel comfortable doing that. I’m dreading it.

Any advice?

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Some of you might know that a while ago I started up a Compulsive Eating Workshop at Sussex Uni. Based in the Women’s Room, we all read Fat Is A Feminist Issue and worked through it, discussing body issues, our disordered eating histories, depression, and anything else we wanted to.

I’m leaving uni this August – I’m moving back to London as my MA has finished – so it won’t really be practical for me to carry on the group. Luckily, the women involved in the Sussex group are totally amazing and are carrying it on without me! But I want to start up a group, in London, along the same lines, to continue my recovery and facillitate other women’s.

But… London is a much bigger place than Sussex Uni… so I need help! I want to make the group completely free, and as such need a venue which is either low cost or no cost. I also need a venue with good transport links (central if possible…) and which is suitable for the group, i.e. has plenty of chairs and is pretty private.

Have any of you guys started groups in London before? Would any of you be interested in joining the group? Got any ideas about venues? Comment below!

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One thing I love about therapy is those little revelations that mean so much. You know, when either you, someone in the group, or your therapist says something utterly x-rayish, which goes to the root of what you feel and aligns some of the mess of feelings into something understandable.

I thought I’d share just such a revelation that I experience on Wednesday in the Eating Disorders Group I’m part of at Sussex Uni. This is a university counselling service group, different from the Compulsive Eating Workshop, which I started. The group is made up entirely of young women, all under 30. There are some bulimics, some anorexics, and me, a recovering anorexic and bulimic with compulsive eating issues.

On Wednesday, one of the anorexics of the group started talking about faith to recover. The belief that you can recover, can get better, can start to have a more normal attitude to your body and food. Obviously, none of us talk about ‘normal’. We have agreed that normal eating does not occur very often for women in Western societies. However, most women also don’t have problems to the extent that we do, either. So this was the revelation – that I don’t have belief in my own recovery.

For me, recovery means fully adopting the feminist way to eat set out by Susie Orbach in Fat Is A Feminist Issue; eating whatever I want, eating whenever I am hungry, stopping when I feel full, dealing with my problems without food, being relaxed about all this. But that in itself is radical, something most women in society wouldn’t be willing to try. When I tell them I’ve already lost weight doing it, however, and have started to find my body more beautiful than ever before, they become very interested.

Anyway, the revelation was about belief. The anorexic who discussed it said she has started to believe she can get better. That she can imagine, now, what her life without anorexia will be like. What her body will, or might, be like. What her relationships might be, or might turn in to.

And I was trying to work out why it’s so, so hard for me to see this for myself – my own recovery from twenty years of compulsive overeating, anorexia and bulimia. Perhaps because I’ve had eating problems almost my entire life. They started when I began Primary School (another recent revelation). I have hardly ever known anything except worry, confusion, desperation, addiction and fear around food. I have also over exercised my belief abilities. I’ve been overweight almost my entire life, and I’ve also been dieting almost my entire life, and depriving myself, or stuffing myself. At the start of every new diet, I’ve talked myself into believing that this will work – this will be the eating regime I will somehow be able to stick to forever and be thin, or at least not forever, but for the summer.

In the past few years, this has become harder and harder. As I read more feminist texts and uncovered the truth about diets, about the 95% recidivism rate, about the psychology surrounding restriction, I could no longer believe that any diet would work. It became a massive struggle to force myself to believe in this latest one, and I started to just hope for losing weight for a very short time – perhaps a month of blessed thinness. And eventually, it stopped working completely. I could not believe any more. And, without wishing to use any overtly religious language, I despaired.

I was very scared. Had I given up? Become incapable of caring for myself? The terrifying arena of non-dieting loomed before me. I put on some weight, although not much. And I read Fat Is A Feminist Issue. And I started the Compulsive Eating Workshop. Months went by with no change, but the more I talked about my issues with food, and examined them with other women who understood, and read the book, and tried to listen to my body, the easier it got, until last week. When I realised that I had actually lost some weight, although I will stress that I am still trying to make that not the most important thing about recovery in my head.

I’m still finding it hard to accept that I might have found a way to eat that is secure, adapted to my body and my hunger and appetite. That isn’t ruled over by anything, even my brain, but is instead dictated by my stomach and my tastebuds. I still can’t believe. But I know that I need to start believing again. Unlike any previous plans, however, I’m giving myself time. I’ve managed to get weighing myself down to once a month. If I don’t lose any more weight for months, or even years, I think I’m ok with it. I just want to eat well, and eat for my body, and start to accept it, and promote my bodily autonomy. Nothing that happens in my life should make me reach for food. I am developing an emotionally literate mental army against the things that used to send me to the fridge. Slowly. It does feel different, however.

Perhaps feeling different is the start of believing different.

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Susie Orbach, feminist psychoanalyst and author of the famous Fat Is A Feminist Issue will be speaking on ‘The Talking Cure in the 21st Century’ this Thursday (5th June) from 6-9pm.

The event is being held at the Brighthelm Centre, North Road, Brighton (v. easy to get to from Brighton mainline station).

I’ll be there, but if anyone else wants to come email Bob Withers (bob.withers@ntlworld.com) for ticket information. Tickets are £5. Comment if you’re coming – let’s meet up!

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I’m seeing a psychologist. I’ve seen him twice to see if his sort of treatment (psychodynamic psychotherapy) would be appropriate for me. I’m on a really low income and this sort of support is only usually available on private, but he is doing some further training for two years and has said that he can offer me support for a nominal fee for two years while he is training, as a mutually beneficial deal. I have no idea what to offer him, he seems to suggest the amount is not important, but i dont want to be rude and offer him the little we can really afford. I had to see a second psychotherapist (she is in charge of the region) to give it the go ahead, she seemed to think this would be good for me, although she considers me something of a flight risk. Not surprising really, i cant fault that reasoning.

I’m seeing him next Friday for our first proper session and from then on I will apparently be seeing him for two one hour long sessions a week, for two years. Thats a helluva thing. On the basis of our first session he says he thinks it unlikely that I am bipolar, although I do share many symptoms with bipolar people. I’m skeptical at the moment but I guess we’ll see.

Actually I’m really scared right now. I’m scared he’ll think I’m a fraud and kick me off my incapacity benefit. I’m scared he’ll think i’m incurable and get me sectioned. I’m scared it will cause problems in the future with my kids – could it be used against me, could they be taken from me? I am not harming them and I love them dearly but I just don’t trust the authorities to give a shit about this stuff, just mark me down as mental and take them away. I’m scared that i’ll be cured and i won’t be me anymore. I’m scared that my mental issues are all there is to me and if they’re cured i will disappear. I’m scared to find out who is underneath it all. I’m scared that there isn’t anyone there anyway, that I’ll turn out to be just a figment of my own imagination, that i’ll cease to exist once everything has been talked away. That i really did die a long time ago and now i’m just energy hanging around trying to convince myself i’m real.

I’m scared that i really am a fraud and that i’m wasting someone elses needed time.

I talked through my life in a nutshell with these two psychologists and they both noted how out of it I am, how matter of fact, how much I refuse to cry or feel. How I laugh about abuse i’ve been put through, because, I say, “in retrospect it’s quite funny really”, to their nothing-expressions. There is concern I will run away if I feel they care about me, about what I’m saying. Because I can’t deal with people expressing sorrow or care without feeling patronised, feeling I should show manly strength in the face of assumed weakness. People say “i’m sorry for what you have been thorugh” and I respond, why, *you* didnt do it, other people have it worse, i’ll survive, i always do. And then the psychologist says to me, why cant you cry for yourself? Why do you hold it back? Why do you stop yourself from feeling? And I think – because it’s all I have, this pseudo-strength, its what keeps me from dying. And then I don’t want to talk about it anymore, it hurts so much, I just want to die.

Wish me luck, i’ll be posting updates as I can. I’m trying really hard to take this seriously because it’s too easy for me to use humour and skepticism to not take it seriously, and I don’t want to waste my time and money.

And on money – any suggestions on what it is appropriate to offer? £5 a session? I can barely afford that – that’s a tenner a week too much. £1 a session? Seems so rude. I have never been one for haggling and this guy has left it totally up to me – i’m not sure if it’s a test, but i see tests everywhere, all the time.

Anyway – money – how much – help??

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