Monday, May 2, 2011

Are we self-absorbed?

i think this post will be controversial and perhaps some will be angry with me, but i figured i'd still put this out there.

someone said that their first impression of anorexics was that we are self-absorbed and unappreciative. now, however, that person says she knows differently.

i, however, think that our eating disorders do, in fact, lead us to self-absorbed and unappreciative behaviors. we are not to blame -- we are very, very sick and struggling, BUT i do think we can be quite narcissistic, as well as unappreciative of all that others do for us and all they withstand.

it's less now, but certainly in the past, my eating took over every meal. what did Melissa want, what would i eat, what would i NEVER eat? what time was it comfortable for me to eat? what could be kept in the refrigerator? what must never be in the refrigerator? what holidays could i tolerate? at which holidays (thanksgiving, christmas) would i never appear.

everyone's world revolved around me. was i eating? was i sneaking off to the bathroom every time i ate? was i being honest about my intake?

special arrangements always had to be made for me, and if they weren't -- oh the wrath i'd unleash. and there was absolutely no way to please me.

during all the years i was starving, i was mean and miserable. but i felt entitled to my fury and moods. when i think of what my friends and family dealt with, yikes. and particularly my mother. how would i have dealt with me?

and unappreciative. did i ever say "thank you" for all the special arrangements? i honestly don't think so. i was more angry that they were putting fattening food on the table. why couldn't everything be steamed or poached? why did we have to have meals at all? what about ME?

perhaps i'm being harsh. and i suppose that knowing this wouldn't have helped me much -- i was desperately, miserably sick.

but i wonder, what if i had said "thank you"? what if i had been kinder and gentler, and more aware of my parents' struggle -- NOT in a self-hating, guilty way, though. self-hate is once again just self-absorbed. and guilt is useless. what if i had just been nicer? and less resentful?

who knows? who knows if it were even possible, what with how unhappy and confused and desperate and sick i was.

very importantly, i don't think we need to feel badly about ourselves for our actions and behaviors -- we are dealing with very, very difficult issues, afterall. i just think it's interesting to notice and perhaps, if possible, make some adjustments. if it's not possible to do things any differently, perhaps, it is at least, good to notice.

i'm just wondering what you think. i would love any and all feedback from you guys. what DO you think?


  1. I agree. It is part of the illness, but I agree. It certainly doesn't make me feel good about myself, but with awareness comes change:)

  2. Great question.

    I am not an anorexic, but rather a bulimic with anorexic tendencies. As a people pleaser, I never expect anyone to accommodate me. But I often just "pretend" to eat. It takes an educated and/or very aware eye to notice that I'm not really eating, as I am very good at hiding it ...Trips to the kitchen to clean up, talking rather than eating, busy busy busy.

    I also have phobias about eating in front of people, especially co-workers, so I never participate in any of the social functions, pot lucks, etc, that involve food. I always have too much work to do, etc.

    The only one who really notices what I actually eat is my husband. He can tell you exactly how much and what I eat at any meal, especially holiday meals. He keeps me honest at such events now.

    All that being said, yes, I am self-absorbed, but it is all in my head. I don't believe anyone else knows, so I wouldn't describe myself as narcissistic. I expend a lot of energy worrying about what others think. And because people have a lot of other things to think about besides me (I'm learning that!) I don't believe they are very aware of my angst.

    One caveat to the above...I am getting so much better to the point that I could almost refer to my behaviors as in the past...therapy is helping a lot.

    As Angela said, with awareness comes change. Definitely true for me.

  3. Hmm it makes you think doesn't it. Yes it is a part of the illness however looking back at occasions when I've been all me me me when people are merely trying to makes you feel guilty :S Good post!

  4. yeah, i think you are right for the most part. I mean, I knew i was self absorbed and I didn't like it. I felt trapped inside this torture machine of myself and I wanted OUT in a way, but yeah it was pretty much the Sick and Sad Show. I was very angry at people and their efforts to 'help' even after i began to get better I felt a bit resentful - "i am getting better FOR YOU."
    In many ways, I am still self absorbed but much less so since with all this recovery came awareness.

    The thing about the self absorption is that it a hard thing to breaking out of a cacoon. It can be scary bc even if you feel trapped inside your self or self hatred at least it is familiar.

    wonderful post - you always make us think!

  5. Blogger ate my comment... but this was a lovely post and I agree with you for the most part. I think the last thing I wrote before my comment was eaten was that you may have appeared thankful even when you didn't say anything -- since actions can speak louder than words. Also, I think that at least your parents had the benefit of knowing what was going with you (I did such a "good" job of hiding my ED -- moved out and they didn't see me often, that my parents actually suspected that I had other problems... which may have made them more worried). But regardless of what kind of a person we are, I bet that all of us who had EDs have probably missed out on noticing someone else's feelings (like maybe they look stressed, etc) because we were preoccupied with our ED thoughts.

    lovely post, as always :)

  6. Yeah, I think eating disorders DO make people pretty self-absorbed. They're very much in their own heads. I speak as someone with an eating disorder and one that knows many people with an ED. I think that at times, it has made me selfish. I've seen others with EDs that have come across as extremely consumed in their self-absorption.

    And not only that, but I think *treatment* makes people even more so. You're constantly talking about yourself and told to concentrate on yourself, put yourself first, etc. It just blows up your head even more. Then you're out in the real world and you realize that that isn't normal.

  7. I agree with Bananas; I was very self-absorbed durring treatment. It was all about MY triggers and MY healing and MY stress level and MY issues and making sure I was making time for MYSELF. It took a bit to learn to balance taking care of my needs while being there for my husband and kids.

  8. Angela; i definetely don't think we need to feel badly about ourselves at all. i do believe that thru awareness comes change.

    Grace; so glad you are doing and feeling better. thank you for your thoughtful comments! i am glad to get to know you better.

    Willing-to-recover: i really don't believe we need to feel guilty. when you're sick, you're sick. yet, i do believe that it's really helpful to look outside of ourselves and, if possible, make some changes going forward.

    ghost girl: it IS so hard to move away from the familiar. when i get tense, i still go right to my body. there's still comfort for me -- if i can't control anything else, i can control my food intake. but that doesn't last long these days -- i know it doesn't help. but the old behaviors and thoughts do linger

    Kris; it was weird in my family -- no one ever commented on my weight or food issues. they accomodated me -- but i sure didn't make it fun or easy.

    i know i certainly didn't notice ANYTHING that was going on with anyone else. i just assumed they were all tons happier than i.

    thanks for your great comments.

    bananas: such a great point. i had years of therapy and i really don't think it touched my eating disorder. you're right, you talk and talk and talk. it was almost like it was validating my eating disorder.

    however, i do believe that it can help and work -- i'm sure it depends on the setting and clinicians.

    lisalisa; it does get confusing -- we must take care of yourselves, but we also are always taking care of those around us. AND i do believe it really helps us to think of others BUT not at the expense of ourselves. i don't how i could ever have managed a family in addition to all my issues. i give you SO much credit

  9. Eating disorders are all consuming.
    They consume us, and our lives.
    And everyone we come into contact.
    They infiltrate into everything.
    I don't particularly think we as people are self-absorbed, quite the opposite, but the behaviours and repercussions, are.
    I like you wrote about this xxx

  10. bananas - great comment. i agree.

  11. So insightful and honest. Of course, I'm reading this thinking, well at least you have something to blame your self-absorption on. In my case, it's just a character defect.

    Love you.

  12. Sia Jane: sooo well said. we don't mean to hurt anyone, but the fall-out from our actions is not always the most positive. as i am working on compassion and kindness and consideration of others, my own life is so much better.

    ghost girl; i agree, shawna. i think bananas should post about it on her own blog!

  13. VVL: i highly doubt that you are self-absorbed. you're so gracious and loving. because you are grounded and know who you are, you are able to take care of yourself AND be available for others. of course i don't know you, but that's the sense i always get.

  14. Wow, I'm surprised my comment went over so well! I really didn't want to offend anyone. I'm just a real straight-shooter. ;) Sometimes it doesn't work out so well for me!

    I think I'd just want to add that I know that for me, stepping outside of myself and trying to see a bigger picture really helps. It is really hard when you're in complete despair, but I encourage everyone to try, because it does help.

  15. It definitely depends on the person.

  16. Very good point. The first time I EVER cried in therapy was when my psychologist pointed out that the ED made me self-absorbed. I was devastated, because I like to think of myself as a caring, generous person and not haughty and selfish (NOT the same as self-absorbed, but at the time it felt that way to me). And I was mostly devastated because I knew deep down she was right. She didn't mean I was a nasty and selfish person, just that the ED kept me entirely wrapped up in me and what I was doing, resulting in me sacrificing pretty much every opportunity to get closer to others. Which increases the feeling of isolation that can exacerbate the ED, lovely cycle, huh?

    Brave post, I'm glad that you did it, it's always nice to see issues like this aired out.