Pain, power and healing

When I first met Emily*, she was a softly spoken, serious young woman with intense blue eyes and the habit of pausing before speaking to consider her words deeply. We talked together about how she loved her dog, about her passion for painting and crochet and we talked about how she had recently been hospitalised for the third time due to complications related to her eating disorder (ED).

As we continued talking and Emily filled me in about the details of her experiences, of her interactions with medical professionals, of the things that had been said to her by friends and strangers, and about the way that she was speaking to herself, it became clear what Emily believed to be true.

Emily believed that she was broken, completely and irreparably broken, flawed, disgusting, shameful. And she was being treated by everyone around her like she was broken. She was being treated like she was something that needed to be fixed.

We could all write 1000s of words on why a young woman like Emily would come to believe that she was flawed and broken. We could talk about societies messaging, about the pitfalls of social media, about the education that she had received about who she was and how different that was to what she knew to be, we could talk about moments of trauma and feelings of inadequacy, but all of the reasons don’t matter.

What does matter is that in order to heal, we have to see ourselves as powerful.

Healing takes courage, it takes grit, it takes commitment and self-forgiveness, it takes facing our demons and learning how to love ourselves just as we are. In order to truly and deeply heal, we need to see that we are powerful and not shamefully broken.

Emily and I came to an agreement during that first conversation, we agreed that she was powerful and that I was going to hold her in that power, not matter what she said or what she did.

‘Underneath all of your eating behaviours, your coping mechanisms, I see a powerful person and I am going to hold you in that power. Yes the disease is going to try to convince you that you are powerless and broken, but I am going to hold you in your power’.

Holding Emily in her power gave her permission to see herself as powerful. As it became a more comfortable space for her to be in, she began to ask all of her health professional and her family and her friends to also see her as a powerful person. And that was the beginning of her true healing.

Each and every one of us is powerful. More powerful than we can ever imagine.

Until we take our power back into ourselves, until we are honest about what we have given our power to (food, restriction, ED behaviours, other people, our trauma…), deep true healing is hard to impossible.

So, if you are struggling with eating or food or body image or self love or any ED behaviours, what would the answer be if you asked yourself this question:

‘Who would I be in this moment if I admitted to myself that I was a powerful person?’

And if you are caring for someone with an ED or other disordered behaviours, what would happen if you acknowledged to yourself and to them, that they are incredibly powerful people?

As Emily slowly learnt who she was as a powerful person, she was able to heal and then to thrive.

This is something that is available to all of us.

I am powerful. You are powerful. Let’s see that in ourselves and see that in others. Let’s be powerful together.

 

*name changed

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