Survivor, I Applaud You!

As I was reading a number of articles from Christian Counseling Today about eating disorders, I was reminded again of my time working with adolescents in residential treatment who suffered from eating disorders. I came into contact with so many hurting teens who had endured numerous challenges—within themselves and with their families--and yet they were brave enough to come forward and receive help. Some of these clients had endured childhood sexual abuse and were working to reclaim their lives from these experiences. In one magazine article by Eberly, a startling statistic was cited from a study at Remuda Ranch: 49% of eating disorder clients had suffered childhood sexual abuse. That’s huge! Often, those with sexual abuse turn to the bulimic form of eating disorders, though sometimes anorexia is also the choice. Trauma, whether the sexual kind or others, leaves victims feeling like just that—victims, people powerless to keep themselves safe any longer. I am also reminded of the many clients who did not have the luxury of feeling safe in their families because of lack of parental harmony, substance use, or the stress to be perfect and perform. These adolescents were not able to be whom they wanted. Instead, they became parentified children, scapegoats for the family’s underlying issues, or maybe the vehicle through whom parents were living vicariously. Truthfully, I felt sad for the parents and families who had their own set of challenges and were likely hurt themselves by someone in their own lives or pasts. So I say these things not to berate families but to highlight the way that an eating disorder is an issue that the whole family needs to address and work together in supporting each other through it. As part of my role, I facilitated many, many groups and I saw the way that group therapy was hugely beneficial. Here, clients could share common feelings and concerns and be supported by one another. Granted, sometimes the adolescents had to be reminded not to glorify the illness, but often it was a source of growth and support, a way they were reminded they were not alone. I was daily inspired by them—their tenacity, resilience, resourcefulness, and openness. So, today, if you are an adolescent with an eating disorder and you are getting help, I applaud you and stand with you! If you want to get help but feel you are alone, please know that you are most definitely NOT alone. If you feel that you have been too violated or traumatized, know that you are worth it! Once you know you are worth it, you will be unstoppable. The fact that you are still in the game means you are a survivor!

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