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On Guilt

March 5, 2011

Since I’ve got a full day of Mardi Gras celebration, I scheduled to have this post today. It’s a bit heavy but really important especially given that last week was National Eating Disorder Awareness week.

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Despite everything I was feeling and fighting during my eating disorder, once of my biggest emotions was guilt. I felt so terrible that my parents were spending money every week on my nutritionist and counseling visits all because I couldn’t manage to eat enough food. Honestly, what kind of self-centered person was I? They worked hard to save up for retirement, education, and emergency needs, not to blow it on therapy sessions for their messed up daughter. I sucked.

The guilt made me want to get better, but it also didn’t change my behaviors. What needed to change was my understanding of my disease. Did you catch that? An eating disorder is a disease, not a lifestyle one chooses. And understanding that was crucial in my recovery and acceptance of my past.

According to the medical dictionary, a disorder is “a derangement or abnormality of function; a morbid physical or mental state.”

Sounds pretty drastic, right? That’s because it is. When you have an eating disorder your mind isn’t functioning properly. You aren’t making the same decisions you would if you were healthy. You may be aware of the harm you are causing yourself and know what you need to do to fix it, but your brain won’t allow you to do those things. An Eating Disorder isn’t a choice.

I didn’t really understand that when I started my recovery and it completely held me back. I was so embarrassed and ashamed of myself that I refused to talk to other people about my problems. Sure I had a counselor at school, but I never opened up to my friends about what I was going through. Instead I convinced myself I could cover it up and act like nothing was wrong. But something tells me emaciated frame, my intense mood swings, and my anxiety around meal time made it pretty obvious.

A few things happened during the Spring of my freshman year of college that changed my mindset. First, I attended Notre Dame’s Eating Disorders Conference where I saw the movie Thin and met my best friend LB. Thin exposed me to girls with even more severe disorders and the intense medical care they were receiving helped me to realize that an eating disorder was not something to be taken lightly. LB was the first person I could talk to about my eating disorder. She listened and didn’t make me feel stupid. Suddenly I didn’t need to be afraid of what I was feeling and it was liberating.

Second, I went on medication for depression and anxiety. The immediate improvement in my moods and eating behaviors convinced me that there was truly something wrong going on in my brain. It wasn’t just me being selfish and incompetent. I was suffering from a disease just like so many others, mine just happened to be one that much of our society views as a character flaw.

Once I had gained enough weight and was living more normally I started being more open about my past. To me, hiding in shame only made it seem like I chose that lifestyle. Willingly telling people that I had an eating disorder meant I knew that it was nothing to feel guilty about. And sharing my story with others helped spread the message.

While I certainly am not proud of my past and still internally struggle with some disordered thought, I have come to terms with my eating disorder and try to appreciate the positives that have come from it. I learned so much about myself, how I deal with stress, and how to keep myself happy and sane. I educated myself on health and nutrition and have made so many friends and “blends” through shared passions. And I hope that I can help others either with an eating disorder or that know someone with an eating disorder understand more about what they are going through.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. March 5, 2011 1:19 pm

    Once again, such a good post. I can relate to so much of that guilty feeling in aspects of my life. I’ve realized recently I feel guilt about a lot of things that I expect out of relationships and people in my life. I find a hard time expressing myself and what I need from people and end up unhappy, filled with anxiety, and have mood swings like crazy. Like your past with eating disorder, these aren’t things to feel guilty about, they help make us who we are and can lead to so many positive improvements if we learn from them.

    • March 7, 2011 12:41 pm

      Thank you so much! I didn’t blog about it, but I was feeling really guilty about expecting more out of my relationship too. I broke down and finally talked to Alex which made thing 100% better. It is awful to hold emotions like that in!! Clare *Clare Brady* https://fittingitallin.wordpress.com

  2. March 5, 2011 1:38 pm

    I really am so thankful for your posts. I know your story will help so many girls and women!

  3. March 5, 2011 2:21 pm

    Thank you for this post! I’m actually working on one myself about really opening up about our pasts as a way to embrace our present and move forward to be the healthiest, happiest version of ourselves possible. It really is a huge step, but part of who we are today is what we’ve been through, and we shouldn’t hide it!

  4. March 5, 2011 4:25 pm

    I really appreciated this post. Guilt is such a huge part of ED and it is tough to get past those feelings. You are so strong for going to therapy, talking about it, etc.

    P.S. Hope you enjoy mardi gras more than I did… went to a parade in Sydney last night and it was insane! Way too many people… stay safe!! 🙂

  5. March 5, 2011 8:59 pm

    I think it’s so great that you are open and honest about your experience. That just shows how you worked through everything and came out stronger in the end. There is nothing to ever feel ashamed about with an eating disorder. Just like depression, it’s real and has to be treated. And look how beautiful and confident you are now! You’re a great role model 🙂

  6. March 5, 2011 11:50 pm

    Such a great post! I think guilt is one of the biggest things people with ED have to deal with, as I still deal with it almost every day, 7 years into the disease. I too went through those phases of feeling bad about how much a of a burden I was upon my parents, friends and even counselors. I have definitely gotten better with it, but I agree that that understanding that you have a disease and not something that you chose to have helps relieve the burden of it, a bit.

    Have a great weekend celebrating mardi gras!!! I have a friend in NO right now and am super jealous!

  7. March 6, 2011 6:51 am

    such a beautiful post!!!!!!!!!! I can RELATE 100%.. i havent spoken about it on my blog but i did struggle with an ED when i was 11 years old.. 11! so young.. and i felt SO MUCH GUILT.. all the guilt you just explained- it was horrible… and i also didnt see it as a disease until MUCH later, which reallly helped me talk openly about it to family and friends… such a great post !! have a great weekend!!

  8. March 6, 2011 7:27 am

    This is a fabulous post! I can’t imagine how difficult, yet liberating it is to share this kind of information. I’m earning my Master’s in Counseling (which does NOT make me a counselor in any way!) but my research has been on eating disorders. It’s is 100% a disease and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Would you be on medication for the flu? Would you go to the doctor and get a cast if you broke your arm? Yes. It’s the same thing for a mental health issue – you needed help. Don’t feel ashamed! You’ve done great 😀 You should be so proud of yourself!

  9. March 6, 2011 10:33 am

    This is such a wonderful post! Truly an inspiration! I think guilt is one of the hardest things to deal with. There was a period in my life when I would take laxatives if I ate too much and hoped that it would prevent me from gaining weight. This is not something I have talked about with many people whatsoever, but I felt a great deal of guilt as well because here my parents are helping me out with food and I couldn’t control myself enough to not overeat and then I’d take pills to get rid of it all. It was awful, and being able to overcome that has been such a great feeling. Unfortunately now I have to deal with IBS and other things from taking the laxatives.

  10. March 6, 2011 4:08 pm

    What a great post. You’re very brave for being upfront about such a personal and sensitive time in your life! So glad you got through it 🙂

  11. Natalie permalink
    March 7, 2011 12:12 pm

    Clare,

    This is an awesome post. I am so happy to hear that you are healed and continue to help yourself each day. Your honesty is really appreciated on this subject, and you are a great person for people suffering with an eating disorder to look to for positive guidance. Keep up with the excellent blog!

  12. March 26, 2011 11:10 am

    This is great. Thanks for sharing.
    It is hard for us to realize that we didn’t make the choice to be miserable. I hate how selfish ED makes you..
    Anyway, I really appreciate this.
    ❤ Haley

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