February 4, 2022

Getting off the clinical carousel

By Amanda Goodfellow
My body weight dropped dangerously low at the depths of my eating disorder. It actually didn’t feel that bad. In fact I didn’t really feel anything at all. That was the point – not to feel anything.  I felt completely numb. Controlling my body and occupying my mind was the only way I felt I could function. Over 1 million Australians have a diagnosed eating disorder – that’s a lot of people living in a state of disconnection.

Of course, an eating disorder is not a deliberate strategy or a conscious choice. It is a maladaptive way of avoiding deep pain and feelings of unworthiness.

I talked my way through thousands of therapy appointments, feeling just as puzzled as everyone else as to how I had got myself in this absurd situation and even more baffled as to how I’d get myself out of it. Trying to figure out where things went so wrong when nothing I would call ‘significant’ had ever really happened to me. It felt mysterious and hopeless.

For 10 years I rode this clinical carousel – in and out of hospital – eventually gaining enough weight to be considered ‘normal’ and released back out into the world. I got a job, started a relationship and tried to integrate back into society.

But although I now looked normal, I wasn’t ok. For years after I had recovered from the eating disorder, I was still ravaged with self-criticism and feelings of unworthiness.

The trauma that had created the disorder in the first place was still present in my body, lurking in the background, influencing my beliefs, choices and behaviours. Bouts of depression came regularly, seemingly out of nowhere and for no reason. I was sure there was just something wrong with me and I’d always be broken or dysfunctional.

In some ways, not having a visible illness was far worse. A high functioning mental illness is a dangerous thing. It can be overlooked and brushed off as being ‘just the way I am’.

I wonder how many people are functioning like this?

My life changed when I learnt how to safely feel emotions in my body through somatic mindfulness.  Somatic mindfulness helped me see and feel the disconnection between my mind and body that talk therapy hadn’t been able to achieve.

Somatic Mindfulness is the tool that helped me to regulate my nervous system and sit with strong emotions – even the ‘bad’ ones. It helped me to see things clearly, including my own worth and value.