I am not, by nature, a very confident person.  I doubt myself.  For that matter, I doubt everything.  And so, like many people with eating disorders, I doubted my ability to get better.  For years, I thought I was too messed up to ever return to anything called normal.

I was lucky.  I had family and friends and a treatment team who believed in my ability to get better.  As much as I hated being strong-armed into treatment, I realize now that it was a sign of how much they believed in my ability to overcome anorexia.  They (rather smartly) didn't try to make me become a prima ballerina because the odds that the class klutz could manage a pirouette were pretty slim.  I think they knew, deep down, that I could get better if I had the chance.

There were many things that made a different in my recovery, but I think that was one of the big ones.  I needed someone else to believe in me until I could believe in myself. I tried to get better numerous times, but I could never shake that monkey on my back.  And so each effort, I had less and less belief that it would actually work.  Not surprisingly, each effort had less and less effect on the ED behaviors.

Some of the clinicians I saw doubted my ability to get well.  I was "chronic" and "long-term" and "unlikely to recover."  I had no reason to disagree with them.  But those treatment providers who did continue to believe in me provided me with a ray of hope.  That ray of hope wasn't enough for me to kick anorexia on my own.  I had to be strong-armed into treatment one last time, but nonetheless.

It's hard for people to balance their confidence in your ability to get well and the extreme difficulties that getting better actually takes.  The Pollyanna-ish "Oh, you'll be fine, dear" struck me as rather fake.  An eating disorder isn't a cold.  It's not a take two and call me in the morning illness.  Yet in order to do the hard work, to go to therapy week after week and take your pills and eat the damn food (all that damn food!), you need to know that, somehow, you will get well.

I think people underestimate the effects of confidence.  I finally have confidence in my own recovery, after years of doubt and disbelief.  By giving me no other choice that complete wellness, I could finally get healthy enough to see that recovery was possible.  It sounds almost paradoxical, but it's true.


Anonymous said...

I think that what you touched on here - having a treatment team that believes in you even when you don't - is so important.

It reminds me of the research done for Pygmalion in the Classroom - is this reasearch with which you are familiar? I don't know in depth about the research, only a little bit about it, but would be curious to see if you've come across it in your research travels.

As for myself, struggling with my ED, I do not get a sense of hope from my team, or the idea that I can get better. How can I hope for recovery when the people around me do not convey the possiblity that recovery is in my deck of cards?

So yes, I think having people around you that do believe in you, even when you don't, is so important.

Thanks again for an interesting post!

Girl, in Progress said...

Carrie, I couldn't agree with you more. Clicking with your team and having that sense that they see a light at the end of the tunnel (even when you can't) really is key. I am lucky enough to have that as well, although it has taken quite some time to learn to trust them and their optimism. But it is evident when they believe the future holds more for you; you can tell in the extra time they spend with you, the patience, and the support they provide. I am so happy for you that you have that, and I think it is a major reason you have started to develop that confidence in yourself.

hm said...

Did you ever struggle w/forgiving the strong-arming? I see that you are thankful for it now, but were you always? Or did it feel hurtful and make you angry?

Carrie Arnold said...


It took a long time for me to be okay with the strong-arming bit. This last relapse was the exception because I appreciated it right away (I didn't always appreciate it, but I wasn't always bitter and resentful, either).

What helped me come to terms with these forceful but loving reactions was actually my cat. Having to deal with her medical issues gave me much more awareness into how my parents must be feeling. I make sure Aria takes her pills twice a week, whether she wants to or not--and she *never* does!

Does that help?

Ashley Noelle said...


I do believe that everybody have that little gems inside them. Sometimes, it takes a very long time to reach to that spot inside ourselves and even longer to bring them out. You are capable of everything, I know. There will be some "non-sayers" and people who will try to say differently including Anorexia. Don't let them pull you down or believe what they say to you. Thanks for sharing this with us--it certainly made me think about my "journey" to find my confidence.

Charlotte UK said...

Maybe I am an optimist. Maybe I live a glass half full life but I genuinely believe that every sufferer from anorexia CAN get better and I am willing every one of you on.



IrishUp said...

I love this!
I am printing it for some people who could use to read it.

hm said...

Yes- getting myself to make the shift over the mindset of a caregiver DEFINITELY helps. I forget that, as caregiver to my own children, I would indeed force a doctor visit for an illness or a dentist appointment for a cavity. I forget that- and when caregivers strong-arm me, I get confused and feel like a victim. I need to try to keep perspective in my hurt and anger at those who really do care about me (parents, husband, therapist). I think this whole "recovery" process is incredibly confusing- reading your posts helps to clear up some of that confusion. Thank you very much for responding to my question. Yes, that helps. :)

Butterfly said...

Dear Carrie
Do you realise just how much confidence you give to others because of your amazing ability to share your journey and the fabulous links to information about research and recovery. So, Thank you because everyday your twitter feeds help me and help me understand my recovery even more :)
On Hope and Confidence, when I am in the depths of my ED and all and/or I relapse etc I have one very close friend who I know believes in me 100% and I can call him up and all I have to say is Please Can you hold my Hope and Confidence for me ... because I'm about to drop it and he does and when things improve he hands it back. It might sound crazy but allows me to not have to give up but let someone else do the believing for a while.
Thankfully many people have shown me kindness and belief even some of my care team ... although some see it as "Chronic" and that I am "unengaged"
Thank u
R xxx

Emily said...

I want a treatment team SOOOO much! I don't have health insurance and am so frustrated because I just don't know who I can turn to. Do you have any suggestions? I feel so alone and hopeless and just really want someone to tell me that they can help me get better.

hm said...
Look them up, call them up, give them your location and they'll give you names/addresses/phone numbers. You can then begin calling and asking about fees, etc. Some practitioners work from home and have reasonable non-insurance rates.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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