Insight on Using Symptoms


I’m not really sure where to start, and I know this isn’t the best topic for a first post, but I have been struggling. I thought it might be helpful to share a little about this most recent struggle with my eating disorder, by providing insight. My treatment team always tells me that I have such great insight to by behaviors if I just think about it. Most of the time I feel like I have no clue what is causing me to use symptoms, but I have also come to realize if I do take the time to think and write, that I am able to find some answers. I can’t always find all of the answers, and the answers might not be totally correct, but they are something to work off of.

So the time before last when I had an appointment with my dietitian, she gave me an assignment to write down four reasons why I think I’m using symptoms more lately and what using symptoms is doing for me. I actually came up with five reasons, although my dietitian kind of guessed the first one, so I give her credit for that one.

(WARNING: May be triggering, but I didn’t use specifics, I was more vague, but please read with caution. My intention of this post is to give insight, not to trigger.) 

I. Maybe I am afraid of all the changes that have been happening lately. (going to work, planning on having my boyfriend move in with me, the increased want to go back to school, being pressured/pushed by my dad more recently to go back to school, and miss seeing my dog more often)

What symptoms are doing for me: Getting “sicker” means more attention/ attention grabbing, non-verbal communication, possibly going back to treatment means no work, the eating disorder feels safe right now.

[*Side Note* for you, the reader to understand.] I have been on disability for three or four years with no work, and I tried to go back to work in January, but that didn’t go so well. Going to work every day, even though it was for a few hours, it definitely added stress. Not to mention that the environment was too stimulating and that I was also working with my sister. I ended up quitting about after a month of being there, which was a good option to do so.

My boyfriend lives about 2 hours away, we have been together a little over a year, and love each other very much. I have my own apartment, plus I have all of my providers here in my area, so he said he would move up with me. I do love him, but it gives me some anxiety, which I can talk about in another post.

Since I have been sick, which started my junior year of high school, being at school had become more difficult. After graduating high school, I have been in and out of college. The desire to go back has always been there, but I think since I want to say maybe a year, I have been out of school because I have been in and out of treatment for my eating disorder. I actually have been in and out of treatment for my eating disorder since the eating disorder started, but I can also talk about that in another post as well.

Lately I have felt pressured by my dad to go back to school. He always asks when I will go back, which I don’t know. Plus, he gave me a piece of paper about a class that was starting that would result in a certification for medical coding. I know he cares and is just trying to make sure I have a better life, but it’s stressful to be “pushed” when I know I am not ready. I don’t even want to do medical coding. I mean, it seems a little interesting since I do want to go into the medical field whether it be physical or mental health related, but I would rather work with patients, than sitting at a desk.

I don’t live that far away from my parents and dog, so it is very easy for me to go and visit, but I do miss being around our dog all of the time. I love her so much! She is the first dog I have ever had. I asked all throughout my childhood, and we adopted her three years ago and I am twenty four. She is a very special dog. She has a great personality, she is funny, she is smart, she is beautiful, etc. She doesn’t like to cuddle though which stinks, but she gives the best puppy kisses. Ha ha.

II. Decreasing one of my medications has made me feel more depressed and made me feel more dependent on people.

What symptoms are doing for me: Feeling less feelings/feeling numb, but I have been able to cry a little easier.

[*Side Note*] I think the medication made me feel numb, so when I went off of the medication I started to feel more, which scared me because my feelings become too intense which can get me into trouble. Feeling intense feelings usually make me feel like I need someone right away because I can’t handle them. So I tend to get a hold of my providers my texting or calling them.

III. Self-Image issues. I feel uncomfortable with my weight and shape. There are parts of my body that I feel are too big.

What symptoms are doing for me:  Hopefully changing my weight. It feels safer to know/feel that my “identity” is about my illnesses.

[*Side Note*] I have never really talked about self-image issues with my dietitian, so when she read my list, she had no clue I felt this way really. I told her I never brought it up because it’s a very small part of the eating disorder and that I don’t like talking about it.

VI. I have always been back and forth in my head with wanting to recover and not wanting to. I think a lot of the time that if I hit “rock bottom” (hospital, feeding tube, massive weight change) that will motivate me more or make me say “I’ve had enough and don’t want to go back to that state, so recovery will be more “inspirational/motivating.”

What symptoms are doing for me: It’s kind of explanatory that using symptoms will more than likely at some point get me to that point.

V. The disorders are a constant when the world is changing around me.

I had also started reading my journals from when I first starting journaling after I became sick and I found some common themes among the entries.

Common Themes:

  • I don’t know who I am
  • I don’t know what I want in life
  • I like being “sick”

It’s almost like I just want to stay sick forever

I like feeling depressed, I like being preoccupied with thoughts about food, I like using symptoms, and I like self-harming.

I am not sure why someone would want to be in so much emotional pain or why they would want to not recover. I haven’t figured that out yet, but again I want both to recover and to keep the disorders. Hopefully I will be able to understand why at some point.

As for the reasons why I have been using symptoms lately, I hope it might have sparked some insight in yourself as to why you might use symptoms or why a loved one might use symptoms. Everyone’s case with mental illness is completely different. There may be some similarities/common areas, but everyone uses symptoms for different reasons and developed the disorders for different reasons.

I hope nothing was triggering. I tried to be more vague than use specifics because my intention was not to be triggering. My intention for writing this post was to give insight, maybe shed some light, maybe help someone out there know that they can be understood, that someone may be able to relate. I know that if I can relate to another or be understood by another that I feel better.

Please take care of yourself. I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite, but dealing with mental illness is not easy, and there will be times where I would rather let my illnesses take over, but there are also times where I want to fight.

Take Care my Friend.

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