Fear Can be Useful Tool for Overcoming Eating Disorder


This entry is dedicated to my professor and friend Prof. Calvin Townsend for instilling the perfect fear into me and saving my life.

So often fear carries a negative connotation, and to some degrees this connotation is warranted; to be afraid is not often seen as preferential, nor is living in fear recommended. However, fear does play a very powerful role in certain circumstances and more specifically, since this is a blog about recovery, fear can play a very valuable role in the recovery process – at least it did in mine.

I haven’t spent much time mapping out the stages of my eating disorder, and I don’t think this is the blog entry to do that in; but I will give a brief overview of a period of time when I reached one of my lowest points and ED had (or at least it would seem he had) control over almost every aspect of my life.

This all took place in early 2010. At this point my bulimia (after gradually building in intensity) became so severe that it was almost unbearably debilitating. It got to the point where I couldn’t keep anything down – I would purge a sandwich, a cup of yoghurt, a glass of juice. Within no time I began dreading taking in any food because I knew that it was just going to come back up again and at that point I was already traumatized by the constant sore throat, the constant burning stomach, the scar on my finger... And so I reacted in a way that many do when they are traumatized – I developed a fear. And my fear was food.

I became petrified of it – not afraid of the food itself, but of the action that I associated it with: the act of purging.

I woke up one morning and I couldn’t touch food, couldn’t look at it, couldn’t smell it, and I wished I could say that I couldn’t even think about it, but I had no such luck – it was all that I thought about.

I went days without eating... Not even a glass of juice.

As I sat across from one of my Professors, scared, trembling from weakness, I asked him, “How long can I live like this?”

To which he replied, “Without food a human being can survive for 30 days.”  

Thirty days...that’s how long was left in the semester. That was one month – or not even a month in the case of January or December. Thirty days left to live...

What would you do if you only had thirty days left? Thirty days until you died?

I’ll tell you what I did...I pulled myself up on my feet, bruised, weak, frightened, and I began to fight. I entered into what would be the most difficult, most frightening, and, yet most important fight of my life: The fight FOR my life.

See, sometimes it takes being forced into a place of absolute terror in order to want to pull yourself back up again and begin to fight. And when faced with the reality of self-destruction, death can seem like the greatest terror of all. However, for me, being faced with such a horrific realization of my reality, suddenly the thought of choosing to recover didn’t seem so frightening.

In his book “Sickness unto Death,” Soren Kierkegaard says, “Such is the way a man always acquires courage; when one fears a greater danger it is as though the other [danger] did not exist.”

And that is how it was for me.

When faced with the choice: recover or die, suddenly recovery wasn’t so frightening. Suddenly it seemed even attainable. And so I picked myself up, took one step forward and began the fight that would change the course of my life.

It wasn’t easy and there are bruises, and cuts, and maybe even a few scars; but I fought! I fought for my life and I won! I WON!

I got my life back and I’m OK.

And now, looking back, I am thankful for my battle. I am thankful that I was forced to fight.

I think we all need to experience a time when we are scared into courage and have to fight like hell to stay alive in order for us to fully appreciate our lives – our very existence on this earth – and to want to stick it out for the rest of our story.

And so my advice is this: Be afraid, be VERY afraid.

Lauren Bersaglio

Last week I was told by my therapist that it wasn’t necessary for me to come back and see her anymore. I graduated! And it feels great!! (And nothing is stopping you from doing the same – I believe in you!)


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