A few weeks ago, I mentioned on this blog that I went to see a counselor and that I would eventually write more about my experience. It felt a little embarrassing to admit that, but I don't know why. There is no shame in admitting that I don't know everything, and I'm not perfect, and someone outside of my friends and family had information that has helped me.
I wrote a little bit about my experience with counseling for an article for The Power of Moms, which was published yesterday. For the article, I simplified the explanation of why I went to counseling. I said that I wanted to learn more about healthy ways to deal with stress, and that is true, but what I didn't get into on their website was the fact that the counselor that I went to see specializes in eating disorders.
For the past ten years, I have dealt with stress through food--both undereating and overeating. The year that my mom was dying, I barely ate at all and ran between
5-8 miles a day. I remember actually having the conscious thought that I
couldn't keep my mom from dying, but I could control the amount
of food that I put into my mouth and the number of miles I ran every
day. This pattern of using food as a means of coping with stress and
negative emotions has continued in the ten years since, but during my
years of infertility and adoption stress, it went to the other extreme.
I remember coming home from fertility appointments and thinking, "Well,
if I can't have a baby, I am going to have a brownie (or the entire pan)
instead." The year when we had the ectopic pregnancy and all of the
failed adoptions was by far the most stressful year of my life, and I
ate to comfort myself. And then adjusting to being a stay-at-home mom
with a baby who rarely stopped crying in a city where I didn't have any friends yet made things even worse.
I don't have any of the "major" eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia, but I just feel like I've had a dysfunctional relationship with food for the past ten years, and I have tried to overcome it on my own, but it has never worked. So that's why, with lots of prayer and the support of my sisters, my dad, Ryan, and several trusted friends whom I truly believe God brought into my life, I decided to go talk to a counselor about it.
It has been a really good experience. It's definitely awkward (I kind of hate talking about myself so much--it feels selfish and one-sided), but I have learned a lot, and, most importantly, it has helped. I don't feel controlled by food or my emotions anymore, and I just feel so much happier in general. I've let go of a lot of my perfectionism, which has definitely fed this problem. In addition to one-on-one counseling, I also attended a ten-week therapy group where we discussed Dialectical Behavorial Therapy (DBT), which is basically just healthy ways of dealing with stress. (It's like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, if you've heard of that.) My article on The Power of Moms shares one of the strategies that I learned in the DBT group that is simple and has helped me a lot. So check it out if you're interested.
In the coming weeks, I will write more on this blog about some of the specific things I've learned and insights I gained, but for now I thought I would just put this out there. I don't think I am the only woman on the planet who struggles with this problem, and if it helps even one person to know that she is not alone in this struggle, then I am willing to open up about it. There have been a lot of times in the past ten years when I have felt very alone in this struggle--ashamed, weak, hopeless--but I don't feel that way anymore, and I don't want others to feel that way either. None of us is perfect. We all struggle with things. I want people to know that they can talk about the things that are difficult for them and the things that matter to them. That's what life is all about.