CW: Mentions of Suicide
Pretty much anyone who knows me also knows that I’ve recovered from an eating disorder. As an eating disorder therapist, I’d shout it from the rooftops if I could! Why? Because in the midst of my eating disorder, I felt ashamed of who I was and felt like there was no way out. I thought a lot about suicide. In my work with clients today, I see this pattern play out similarly. Therefore, I’d love to share with you a bit about my story and my recovery from shame, suicidal ideation, and my eating disorder – in hopes that it will help someone else find life beyond their eating disorder.
One of the landmark turning points for me on my journey was when I watched Brene Brown’s Ted Talk, “Listening to Shame” . In this powerful presentation, Dr. Brown shares the truth that, “Shame is the most powerful master emotion. It’s the fear that we aren’t good enough.” Shame is the, “intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging” . When I was in the midst of my eating disorder, I truly felt unlovable. I thought that if people saw the real me, the true me, the defective me- I could never be accepted.
It may not surprise you, then, to hear that I also thought a lot about suicide. It turns out, suicidal ideation and death by suicide are far too common in the eating disorder community. Research suggests that up to 1/3 of people with Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa have attempted suicide . Depending on the eating disorder, people are up to 18 times more likely to die by suicide than the general population .
However, I learned in my recovery journey that it is a lie that I could not be loved. Secrecy, silence, and judgment kept my shame alive . I began to combat shame by letting others in. Instead of isolating and “doing” my eating disorder all day, I began to reach out for help. I learned to share the thoughts I was embarrassed of with others, and learned that my feelings weren’t so unique to me after all. I saw that there is a shared humanity to us all- that we have struggles and doubts, and that’s what makes us human. I learned I wasn’t the only one. And the shame couldn’t survive.
My recovery from shame (and my eating disorder) fueled my passion to become an eating disorder therapist today. It is my life’s mission to walk alongside clients and meet them with empathy. No one is too broken to be unworthy of love and connection. And every single human on the planet is deserving of care.
If you are living in secrecy, silence, and shame with your eating disorder, please know that you are not alone. And you don’t have to be alone in it anymore. If you or a loved one is struggling, please reach out. The National Alliance for Eating Disorders offers a free, therapist-staffed helpline to provide education and referrals to eating disorder treatment. We also have a website called findEDhelp.com. There, you can look up eating disorder therapists, dietitians, doctors, and treatment centers all over the United States. In addition, The Alliance also offers free, weekly, therapist-led virtual support groups for individuals experiencing eating disorders, as well as groups for those that support and care for people experiencing eating disorders. To sign up or learn more, visit allianceforeatingdisorders.com or call 866-662-1235. We are here to listen, support, and connect you to care.
Recovery is possible, and it’s happening. And it can for you too.
- TED. (2012, March 16). Brené Brown: Listening to shame [Video]. YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psN1DORYYV0
- Brown, B. (2021, October 28). Shame vs. guilt. Brené Brown. Retrieved February 4, 2022, from https://brenebrown.com/articles/2013/01/15/shame-v-guilt/
- Smith A.R., Zuromski, K.L., Dodd, D.R. Eating disorders and suicidality: What we know, what we don’t know, and suggestions for future research. Curr Opin Psychol. 2018 Aug; 22:63-67. doi: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2017.08.023. Epub 2017 Aug 12. PMID: 28846874.