Becoming Whole Again
In our society today, the desire to have the perfect body is very prevalent especially in teenage girls which has correlated with the increase in eating disorders over the years, one being anorexia. Anorexia begins normally when people struggle with low self-esteem and body image issues. People who are anorexic always see themselves as fat, even when they become emaciated. Anorexia takes a huge toll on both the mind and the body of the human being. It is a struggle yet part of being human is suffering as Spelman explains in Repair. In Repair, she discusses the need for apology in order to repair, yet I believe one of the most significant parts of mental and emotional repair is the apology to one self and learning the value of self-acceptance and self-love, after the self-punishment the person has inflicted upon themselves during their battle with anorexia.
According to the NYC Girls Project, a 2010 study said, “31% of girls admit to starving themselves as a strategy to lose weight.” (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa). In our society today we are constantly comparing ourselves to others, especially people in the media who are perceived as “perfect.” Think of all the times your scrolling through Instagram and have thought “I wish I looked like this.” The comparison between oneself and someone else is a slippery slope. The media has created this false idea of what the perfect body is, and what it looks like. Being a culture that is media based it is inevitable that we will always be surrounded by this. Many girls get obsessed with what they want to look like, that they go to severe unhealthy measures such as starving themselves to get there. Not only does comparing ourselves to others in the media contribute to a low self-esteem but it is said that another significant cause of eating disorders is going through a stressful experience, such as loosing someone, moving, going through puberty, a breakup, etc. Many of these factors that contribute to low self-esteem are inevitable things that we go through in life, yet some may not know how to deal with them so we develop unhealthy eating habits without even knowing we are doing it. The NYC girls project also states that, “An estimated 24 million people suffer from anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder.” (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa). Anorexia is when someone completely starves themselves. The mentality of someone who is anorexic is that they never see themselves as skinny enough, and they constantly are afraid of gaining weight, therefore, their self-image becomes completely distorted. Anorexia also creates detrimental issues in your body, which is why it has the highest death rate of any mental illness. It causes reduction of bone density, hair loss, overall weakness, muscle loss, slow heart rate and low blood pressure.
The solution to this mental health illness may seem simple, but that is not the case. People who struggle with anorexia have to undergo a long term treatment process, including psychotherapy or counseling. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, “recommended care is provided by multidisciplinary team including but not limited to a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, nutritionist, and/or primary care physician.” (National Institute of Mental Health). A nutritionist’ job is to educate the patient on what the body needs and to help create a better intake plan that will control their eating. Psychologists also play a significant role in the treatment process. They identify the issues, and help the patient think more positively, while making sure they are aware of their problem. In relation to this, the American Psychological Association says,
“simply changing the patients’ thoughts and behaviors is not enough, however, to ensure lasting improvement, patients and psychologists must work together to explore the psychological issues underlying the eating disorder. Psychotherapy may need to focus on improving patients’ personal relationships. And it may involve helping patients get beyond an event or situation that triggered the disorder in the first place. Group therapy also may be helpful.” (National Institute of Mental Health).
Psychotherapy also deals with anxiety, poor self-esteem and self-confidence issues that the patient may be dealing with to defeat their struggles. As well as help identify the main cause of the eating disorder through talking or other skills done by the therapist. The goal of this type of treatment is to reduce the negative feelings the patient has. In addition to this patient’s may also attend support groups, family based therapy, or mindfulness based therapy. As reported by Eating Disorders Victoria, “Mindfulness based therapies have in common on emphasis on the practice of mindful meditation, mindful eating, yoga and a range of other techniques aimed at increasing awareness and acceptance of eating behavior and the self.” (Wansink). Whereas support groups focus on the patient being surrounded by people who have gone through the same issue. Along with this, family therapy focuses on the changes that need to be made within the family unit to support the patient as they go through their treatment and try to get better.
Not only is anorexia treatment helped by the different types of professionals but it also requires a self-recovery, which focuses mostly on your own ability to accept yourself as you are. On your own, you have to learn to develop a self-love, and appreciation for your body, without this you will not be able to repair. Deborah Klinger, a therapist, says,
“The antidote is self-acceptance. This is bedrock. It means zero self-judgment, no self-criticism, no comparing to others, no using external criteria as indicators of worth or value. It means affirming that, “No matter what I do, think, feel, say, or look like, I deeply and completely accept myself.” It’s not about whether one is acceptable in the eyes of others. The active practice of accepting one’s self is healing.” (Klinger).
Learning to acceptance and love yourself is key to being able to forgive not only the situation that may have caused this, but forgiving yourself. Full treatment cannot be successful without the patients’ desire to get better for themselves, and others. Mental, emotional and physical healing after struggling with anorexia is a long process, yet it is possible with a support system. As Spelman explains in Repair, healing oneself from any sort of brokenness is difficult, but attainable. Anorexia is an illness that will always be a struggle for the patient even after undergoing treatment, but wounds can always be healed.
In Repair, by Elizabeth Spelman she states that, “like cars human beings suffer wear and tear.” (35). Spelman brings to life an important point in this section of the book. She explains the inevitable, that we will suffer. As humans we go through different struggles in life, in this case I focused on anorexia as the struggle, as Spelman stated, human beings suffer wear and tear. The process of repair of anorexia can be compared to a scar. Often, when we undergo healing, or a wound is mended there is often a scar. The scar actually has a different texture to it than the skin around it, which allows you to realize that something has occurred. A positive aspect of a scar is it can be a reminder of how we healed. A downfall of a scar is that it truly never goes back to the fresh, soft skin that existed before we were cut, or burnt. The scar will forever be right in front of our eyes, reminding us of our struggle. The damage will never be erased. If it is not in eye sight, the thought of the event will always be in the back of our minds, haunting us. In many shapes or forms the person has changed because of it, and because we are all different, some wear their scars on their sleeve while others remain hidden. After dealing with a sickness like anorexia, the treatment and repair that is undergone changes the human being, we will never be the same version of ourselves as we were before we suffer. Sometimes even if we believe hurt is of the past, something so small can bring it to surface again. In this case, a low self-esteem may have caused anorexia in the past, although you overcame this struggle, later on in life you may be put in a situation where you feel badly about yourself some way or another. This may cause you to fall back into an old struggle although it has already been repaired. She makes it known that repair is always possible, as long as the person or people involved want to repair or restore themselves. In this case, after dealing with anorexia it may be impossible to ever restore back to your original self, as a car may be able to do, yet you may never be the the person you were before you struggled with a disease. Which is why Spelman’s idea of repair correlates with the idea of fixing yourself when dealing with Anorexia.This portrays how Spelman explains that even though we may have repaired ourselves, the struggle always remains and stays with us as well as the reality that as human beings we will always suffer.
Another part of the repair process that Spelman discusses is apologies and forgiveness. She states, “A child is heartbroken over the death of a grandmother, or, for that matter, of a goldfish. A friendship breaks up or is slowly falling to pieces. A young person’s confidence in her abilities has been shattered. The family tries to figure out how to deal with its own breakup due to separation or divorce. Children need to learn what an apology is, and when, how, and to whom to make one. They need to think about what it means to keep or break a promise. They need guidance in identifying what constitutes damage to themselves and others, aid in reflecting on what it is possible to fix, what not, what it is desirable to fix, and what not.” (35). This is significant because an important part of the repair process during anorexia is what Spelman points out here, apologizing and learning that brokenness is able to be fixed if you desire it to be. Many people who deal with mental health issues, especially eating disorders tend to think it is impossible to fix, and that they will struggle with it forever, because they are incapable of seeing a way out. This then leads to frustration with yourself because you feel you are unable to stop, because starving yourself has become your new normal. Yet we forget, as Spelman said that if we desire for something to be fixed, it is possible for it to be fixed. In my opinion, this is one of the most important parts of the repair process. If we don’t want to help ourselves, then nobody will be able to help us, if we don’t want to get better we won’t. The freedom to choose is always ours. In addition to this, Spelman discusses the relevancy of apology in life, and how repair most of the time involves some sort of an apology. She mostly focuses on role of apology in relationships. Yet, I believe during the repair process when dealing with anorexia, one’s body is constantly being put as risk voluntarily, part of healing is apologizing to yourself and appreciating your body. Another part of it is forgiving yourself or forgiving the situation that lead you to end up in this position. Overall, learning to accept and love yourself for who you are.
All in all, in Repair Spelman teaches us many important factors that play in into the simple, yet very complex process of repairing ourselves when we feel broken. Many of her points about suffering, apologies, and forgiveness related back to the process of healing when it comes to the mental health illness that some people deal with, anorexia. If not the disease itself, teenagers nowadays struggle at some point with body image, and what they look like. We repair ourselves every day because we are human beings, our sufferings may leave scars even if we have been healed, yet if we can accept our humanity as imperfect then eventually we are able to look at our scars and still feel whole.
I would like to thank my small writing group, Nick, Alicia, Kelly, and Kit for always giving me good feedback on how I can make my essays better and more organized. I appreciate their help so much. They have helped contribute to my growth as a writer in many ways. I would also like to thank Megan, for taking her time to review my essays with me in detail and always responding to my emails when I’ve needed guidance, especially lately. Most importantly, I would like to thank Professor Harris, for all his help, and for being a great Professor who has taught me new ways to advance my writing techniques that I never would have known without before in his class, for example, how to develop deeper ideas, rather than just stating the obvious. He has also been very patient with me and understanding. Overall, without all those who have helped me during this semester, I wouldn’t have been able to complete this essay to my full ability, so thank you to everyone who has helped me become the writer I now am today!
Andrist, Linda C. “Media Images, Body Dissatisfaction, and Disordered Eating in Adolescent Women.” MCN: The American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing 28.2 (2003).
Ed. K. Lee Lerner and Brenda Wilmoth Lerner. Volume 2. 4th ed. Detroit: Gale, 2008. p1428–1430
Hoffman, J.P., and S.A. Baldwin. “The Dynamics of Self-Esteem: A Growth-Curve Analysis.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence (2002).
Klinger, Debroah. “The Role of Self-Acceptance in Recovering From Eating Disorders.” GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog. N.p., 18 Mar. 2010. Web. 16. Nov. 2016
Shisslak, C.M., Crago, M., & Estes, L.S. (1995). The Spectrum of Eating Disturbances. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 18 (3): 209–219.
Spelman, Elizabeth V. Repair: The Impulse to Restore in a Fragile World. Boston: Beacon, 2002. Print
“Eating Disorder Statistics.” ANAD.org. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, Inc, n.d. Web. 29 July 2013.
National Institute of Mental Health. (2007). “Eating disorders.”