Thursday, February 25, 2010

Emptiness: Physical or Emotional?

What is the comfort in emptiness? What is behind the desperation felt by being 'full', and what does 'full' apply to?
Why did I feel so 'successful' when I could feel my bones, and I knew my stomach and bowels were empty? Why did I feel more 'safe' when I was emaciated, despite knowing that I could die?
There is a common desire among people suffering from an eating disorder to be 'empty'. Hence the extreme restriction of food intake, the purging of food after eating, laxative abuse to rid one's body of ANY food, or obsessive exercise in an attempt to 'use up' or compensate for what one has eaten.
I can only speculate on this, even now, being recovered, and I do not completely understand the psychology surrounding this. I do believe however, that this 'need' for emptiness has more of an emotional basis than a physical one. This correlates to how an eating disorder is not about food or weight, but about any combination of emotional stresses.
Speaking for myself, as I am now able to look back at my ED behaviors with a more 'clinical' perspective, I can identify some of the truths about how anorexia presented in my life, and what (pseudo) purpose it served.
My need to be empty had everything to do with my emotional overload, and very little, if anything to do with physical emptiness. The 'fuller' I was of intense, and what I perceived to be 'bad' feelings, the more I felt the need to be empty in a physical way. I had no knowledge or practice of releasing or expressing my feelings, but even more, the belief that those feelings were 'bad' or unacceptable held me captive.
My fear of criticism and rejection was probably one of the most painful, constant emotion that I lived with.
For some reason, being physically empty felt safe to me. Feeling my bones was comforting, as if I was protected by that fragility. I suspect that my desire for this reassurance had to do with the numbing affect of my symptoms, and of course, the sense of control it gave to me.
As with many fears that an eating disorder may hold, figuring it all out was not the way to change it. It was much about tolerating the discomfort of eating, feeling food in my body, and not using any compensatory measures, that eventually led me to trust my body.
I began to develop new ways to cope with the emotions that were no longer stuffed down inside my soul.
As strange as it may seem to some, I now welcome being 'full'. 'Full' is much more about being complete as a person, than having a full stomach. I am full of life, love and passions that were never within my reach before.

Without apology ♥


  1. It is fascinating to read your posts. When I was diagnosed I knew nothing about eating disorders. Although I have learned a great deal from my treatment team and from others who deal with ED (unfortunately not all of it good), it is so helpful to see myself in what you write. I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into believing I have ED. Nothing any clinician has told me has been as helpful as reading about your feelings and experiences. Thanks.

  2. thank you jan....
    amy xoxo

  3. Mara..I'm happy that you can relate and find some sense of kinship by reading my writings. Thank YOU for your kind words. I try to write about issues that may be helpful to others, by relaying some of what I have learned and/or overcome as a part of my recovery. Please feel free to ask me about anything that might be helpful to you. Take care..Jan

  4. god bless always for you & your blogs ! i am looking for my life & hope but now it isn't there for it again & my insomia is aweful just like before my relaspe . so tired all the time & then i have no appeteite even more ! do you feel insomia is a part of ed ?

  5. sunset..yes, insomnia is often something that plagues people who suffer from an eating disorder. This could be due to a number of reasons, but I think the main one is that your body is so out of balance with nutrition, and the obsessions in your mind make it so much more difficult to relax. Are you getting help? Please consider this is you are not. HUGS...♥