How Therapy Changed My LIfe

By Rachael Spillman (Guest blogger)

In 2005 I was depressed, weighed 230 pounds, and my boyfriend of 5 years had just broken up with me.

To be honest, I was okay with the breakup, I finally had to admit to myself I stayed in that relationship so much longer than desired because the truth was I was terrified no guy would ever want to date me because I wasn’t ‘skinny'(self talk lie #1).

I felt so ashamed about all the weight I had gained and my life felt so out of control to me, hence my relationship with food became out of control too. With the love and financial support of my parents, they helped me get a personal trainer and connected me with an amazing therapist in the area. I think my mom was so wise not to just throw me in a gym, but instead said, “daughter you need to figure out what’s going on the inside too. You need to figure out the ‘WHY’.”

“You Need to Figure out the WHY”

I had never been in counseling before, but there I was, diagnosed at age 22 with Binge Eating Disorder, a mental health condition where a person eats uncontrollably in attempt to manage their anxiety.

Yep, that was me.

I will never forget one of the questions my therapist asked me during one of our sessions, “Rachael what are you getting out of this? What is the binging doing for you?”

And my reply: “Ummmmmmm what???? Nothing! I hate food, I hate feeling fat, I want to stop but I can’t. I want to be happy again, but I can’t.” (self talk lies # 2, 3, 4 and 5)

Over the next few months, I would learn exactly what overeating was in fact ‘doing for me’ besides making my clothes tight and my spirit miserable.

The “Real” Problem

My ‘real’ problem was not food, my problem was that I had very poor boundaries with my friends, family and guys. I had a strong negative belief that I picked up when I was very young that I needed to be available to everyone at any time, or else, I might not be very valuable to them. I learned that if I said YES to whatever it was someone wanted from me, I made them happy.

And I was so scared to not make the other person happy.

Food and binging, and even the weight I gained had become my outlet and way to cope with the anxiety I had over my fears of saying no or setting boundaries or risking losing someone because I disappointed them.

So at 22 years young, for the first time, I was learning what healthy self-esteem looked like, and I was hooked.

Fighting My Way Back

I went on to lose 90 pounds over the next two years. I also graduated with my psychology degree only to go right back to school to get my masters degree in Marriage Family Counseling and Education.

When people asked me how I lost all that weight I give credit to my amazing trainer who pushed me far beyond my comfort limits, but I always felt the need to put a strong emphasis on how hard I worked in therapy as well.

There were many tears and many days I resisted the notion that I could be different, and I had to learn to be open to the idea that I was letting my fears run my life.

What Healing Looks Like

Two years after starting counseling I no longer met criteria for Binge Eating Disorder. However, that doesn’t mean I still don’t have to monitor the self-talk that leads so many women (myself included) to that behavior.

I now get to teach other women to look for ways to change their WHY and better cope with whatever is driving the behavior that is causing them so much pain. I remind my clients when they say they ‘feel fat’ that fat is actually not a feeling; guilt is, shame is, and anger is for example, but focusing on the fat part actually keeps us away from getting deeper to that ‘real’ problem.

Often times people meet me and think that the reason I believe in therapy so much is because I am a therapist, but the truth is I believe in therapy because I have experienced it myself, and I know it can work.

 

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