The Invisible Line: Finding your voice and setting your boundaries

For so many people the ability to stand up for their inner needs and wants can be very difficult. Often times many people I encounter hold many of their emotions and thoughts within themselves. I know especially for the eating disorder population so much of what feeds into their negative view of themselves is driven by an inability to feel they should be seen, heard or have a voice. I work very hard with my clients to not only empower them, but to help them find their inner strength to define their emotions, define their thoughts, define their needs, assert themselves and set boundaries in their worlds. This concept of standing up for ones self is a very hard concept for many people but for the eating diorder community it is especially tough. An eating disorder is a selfish disorder, its a mean disorder, its a bullying disorder. It makes a person feel unworthy, unlovable, and most of all unimportant. This post is for anyone who ever felt unseen, unheard, unloved, for the tears cried at night, for the silent taunting screams that haunt so many. To anyone who ever felt neglected, unappreciated, judged.

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So many peoples lives are spent and driven by the constant worry about what others think, worried about how others see and view them and I ask why? I encounter this pattern with so many of the eating disorder clients I work with, they have such a need and a desire to give all of themselves to loved ones, to worry about how others see them, never feeling good enough, never feeling like they matter. Often times this preoccupation with what others think and how they see us instill a silence within a person. This silence is a dangerous cage, when someone takes their emotions, thoughts and locks them away it’s only a matter of time before all those pent up emotions and thoughts want to break free. I have noticed that for a lot of people who suffer from an eating disorder they have either been surrounded with too rigid of boundaries which leads to suppressed emotions or not enough of a boundary which leads to a sense of not knowing ones own identity. The inability to handle or process emotions from lack of boundaries for someone struggling with an eating disorder can be acted out in many ways.

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Someone struggling with anorexia restricts their food because I often hear it is the one thing that they can control but it is also a way to numb emotions and thoughts. As someone starves themselves and the physical implications start to take affect, the internal implications are unwinding as well. Their is an inability to process or define their emotions and if emotions come up the anorexia serves as a numbing agent. When you are physically depleted, your brain is depleted as well. There is a disconnection between mind and body and often times someone suffereing from anorexia is so malnoursihed or week it serves as a way to disconnect from the world and emotions. This is why in treatment centers when someone is being renourished its an overhwmelming experience. They start to feel again and so many of the negative emotions and thoughts will begin to resurface.

Someone struggling with bulimia its a physical action based behavior. Someone who binges and purges or just purges whatever they ate is coping with emotions and thoughts through a physical act. The pain they feel is often times acted out through purging. It’s a physical release of what has been kept inside of them.  Its a physical representation of trying to purge ones emotions. I hear many comments from so many who suffer from bulimia that its a coping tool for them to release their pain, sometimes its a violent act against themselves, its an aggresive expression of the pain unfolding within them. Within the brain itself the brain associates the cycle of bulimia as a coping pattern so in treatment it is almost like detoxing someone off a drug. The withdrawls from the act of purging leave someone who suffers from bulimia feeling helpless and overwhelmed, when their feelings come up the coping tool they have used for so long is no longer their to serve its purpose and that can be very difficult for someone recovering from bulimia.

Someone struggling with binge eating it’s a way to disconnect from emotions and self. Its an uncontrolable force that takes over its a disociation where a person is not present in the moment until after the binge where guilt and shame then take over. The guilt and shame ruminate and taunt the person which leads to a lower sense of control, worth or value. These negative emotions then fuel the cycle of numbing out and mindlessly eating all over again to further serve a numbing purpose. In treatment for someone who uses food during emotional times this can be a very hard adjustment.

I bring up these three behaviors and components because they all have things in common, they serve a purpose to help someone distract, disconnect and dissociate from emotions that prove to much to bare or handle. I truly believe if someone can develop a way to assert their needs and boundaries and become and advocate for themselves because they believe they are worth standing up for,  it would help them define, process and learn how to handle hardships, needs and emotions. Boundary setting is a crucial skill for people to learn. We must empower our clients to envision and create an invisible line.

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Here is an example list of some unhealthy boundaries:

• Sacrifice their personal values, plans or goals to please others

• Allow others to define who they are and make decisions for them

• Expect others to fulfill all their needs

• Feel guilty when they say no

• Hesitate to share their opinions or assert themselves if they are being treated unfairly

• Frequently feel used, threatened, victimized or mistreated by others

• Afraid of confrontation or conflict

• Take responsibility for other people’s feelings

• Tell others how to think, feel or act

I really work hard to empower my clients to feel comfortable with their voice and their instincts.

Here are some good ways to start defining your needs and emotions:

1. Create a personal bill of rights to slowly feel comfortable identifying  needs and asserting them.

2. Become aware and identify your emotions, thoughts and feelings within your body. This process is about slowly reconnecting with yourself.

3. Set limits for yourself based on your needs and emotions

4. Acceptance- Come to a place of acceptance. Assert your need that you are of value and your thoughts and opinions matter.

For many people when someone starts to assert themselves it can at first be a shock to not only the people in their lives but to themselves. My message to everyone out there who may be struggling with so many emotions that they have pushed down or kept hidden, is to slowly trust in your inner voice, to slowly fight for yourself. There is a purpose to your pain and maybe one purpose is to give you a power you have had all along.

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MIrror Mirror On The Wall: Shattering the illusion that deceives

We all know the fairy tale of Snow White. As a little girl I remember being terrified of the wicked witch and her hatred for anything that the mirror on the wall could reveil would be more beautiful than she was. I reflect back on the messages I received from that one fairy tale, the impact and focus of the mirror on the wall. Determining truth, determining worth, determining value,  determining destiny. I wish I could say that the story of the mirror on the wall is just that a fairy tale however that would be false,  it is very much the reality of so many men and woman today. The mirror signifies worth, value, mood, thoughts, actions and life. What is this mirror and who decided it’s refelction of us was truth, better yet who decided it had the capacity to reflect all of who we truly are. This post takes a closer look at one of the cores of all types of eating disorder and that is negative body image and the distortions that feed into them.  I am writing to shed light on distorted body images that come from struggling with an eating disorder but for those who have or suffer from body dysmorphic disorder as well. My hope is this post will help shatter and break the glass in the mirror on the wall.

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We all have a vision or an idea of what we would like to see. For many when they look in the mirror there is a distinct focus that is the point of fixation. For so many their self worth is linked to what they perceive in the mirror but my message is that the mirror lies. I am not talking about the mirror itself but our minds mirror, the build up of words, ideas, thoughts, images that build up a visual of what we are supposed to look like, what we should see in the mirror and what we are worth. I challenge clients everyday to think for one moment if the image they saw and strived for in their minds would appear in the mirror would they stop chasing the vision, would they feel content, validated, happy. The answer is most always NO. The fear that confines and haunts those who suffer from eating disorders and distorted body images of themselves keep them wanting to go deeper and deeper, it feeds their eating disorders & validates the disorder. If their ” ideal body” was to show in the mirror, they would want to improve that image, go further, keep going. This is where the danger lies, this is the distorted body image that haunts so many people in the world. The belief that if they could achieve what their mind believes is beautiful enough that everything else in their world be alright.

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Body dysmorphic disorder is a psychological condition in which a person becomes obsessed with their appearance and a perceived flaw in their appearance. So many woman and men struggle with who they see in the mirror. They stand in front of it everyday, some in dread, some in anger, some in sadness and some in disgust. For some the idea of facing what they see in the mirror is so anxiety provoking that they avoid it all together. The race for perfection drives so many to fixate on what they perceive in their minds as flaws. The medias portrayal of what is beautiful as well as our own idea of what is beautiful can be very damaging. Kids at a young age are now paying attention to fashion and dieting the list goes on. For those struggling with a distorted body image I believe it goes beyond just the body focus but a distorted sense of self and the world. Often times those who dislike and hate their bodies dislike themselves. The core in dealing with this issue is to help a client work through what has led to their low self esteem and low self worth. By starting to uncover where they learned to question or dislike who they are. By helping them discover the connections we can slowly start to put cracks in the mirror. 

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It is said in the professional community of those who treat eating disorders that the preoccupation with body image is the last to go in the stages of recovery. While I can agree that yes body image acceptance is very challenging for someone recovering from an eating disorder it is possible. To see the transition from someone who hates their body and who they are, to someone who embraces their body and is proud of who they are,  for me as a clinician it is one of the most satisfying to witness.  I wish I could provide simple steps to loving your body etc I wish it were that easy. What I can provide is hope by just addressing this topic we are increasing the awareness for so many who struggle everyday hating their body. As clinicians I again empower you to educate yourselves and look beyond what is presented to you from your clients. I like to look beyond the negative distorted body image and start cracking that mirror. I look for patterns and connections of what else may be distorted in a clients mind about who they are and the life they could have. When clients can make the connections of the distortions they have that go beyond just their body it can be very powerful for them. If someone who suffers from a distorted body image can get a glimpse of their true reflection it can lead to them developing the tools to shatter their mirrors. If someone allows themselves to be open to challenge what they see, chances are that there may be a glimpse of their true self shown and thats where the power can lie, the reality vs. the mirror. It starts from within, developing self love, develop some empathy for themselves and one day developing pride in who they are. My hope is for anyone struggling to one day see yourselves for who you truly are and that is beautiful. 

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“Maturity is that time when the mirrors in our mind turn to windows and instead of seeing the reflection of ourselves we see others.” 

For more from Priscilla Jadallah and on eating disorders please check out her internet series Behind The Mask: Eating Disorders Unveiled

http://www.therapycable.com/streams/content/69-behind-the-mask