Personifying My Eating Disorder Helped Me Recover
During my stay in Residential Treatment, I dedicated many hours of my life to completing assignments and attending groups.
One particular assignment we had was to create a “Relapse Monster.” The premise was relatively simple. Our group therapist wanted us to imagine and create a monster that represented our mental illness and what it would look like trying to pull us back into its clutches.
Some girls drew actual monsters- like the ones you would see in Monsters Inc. Personally, I didn’t feel like my eating disorder was this scary and terrible thing.
I saw it as something warm and comforting. Why would I go back to it if it was so aesthetically terrifying?
So instead of drawing a fantasy monster, I took out a picture of one of my favorite male celebrities and glued it to a piece of paper. To accompany it, I wrote a paragraph:
"He tries to comfort me. He tells me that if I go with him, I won’t feel this pain anymore. He promises me warmth, love, and strength. At first, he embraces me in a hug. Soon enough, I receive coldness, hatred, and weakness. Sometimes, he leaves me alone, only coming back to beat me into nothing when I break his rules. Yet, when I run away, it’s only a matter of time before that adorable smile pulls me back to him.”
I personified my eating disorder as a very real and very manipulative abuser. I had to acknowledge that I was attracted to the monster and the false hope it gave me.
Ever since that exercise, I refer to my eating disorder as a “He” or an “It.”
Luckily, my insurance kept me in treatment longer than most girls were allowed to be. So, I got to participate in this activity again. My monster had not changed, but my view of him had. I used the same picture, but wrote a different paragraph:
“I have finally moved out. I left some things there and gave some things back. Occasionally, he calls. He asks how I am doing. Often, he has the nerve to ask me out to dinner. Sometimes I pick up the phone, and sometimes, I say ‘yes.’ If we do have a meal together, he talks to me, constantly in my presence. I ignore him and eventually he gets up and leaves. Maybe one day I will have a final conversation with him. But until then, I will work until he doesn’t knock on my door anymore.”
Personifying my eating disorder may seem silly, but it is one thing that has really benefited my recovery. I used to believe that my eating disorder was a part of me, that those intrusive thoughts were who I was.
Personification helps me helps me visualize something to take down other than myself. So, whether you imagine your eating disorder as an "one eyed one horned flying purple eater" or the mean girl at school, always remember that you are fighting something that is not you.
You are not your eating disorder. You are not fighting who you truly are. You are a completely separate entity that deserves to be free of the terrorism and abuse that is an eating disorder.
You can beat your monster.
About the Author: Abigail O'Laughlin
Abigail O’Laughlin resides in Destin, Florida. At Project HEAL, Abby is dedicated to spreading awareness of eating disorders throughout her local community. She can often be found discussing mental health, photographing her best friends, petting her 3 cats, and spending way too much at Starbucks. Abby’s favorite ice cream flavor is Huckleberry!