Sunday, January 24, 2021

Eating Disorders and Suicide – Finding Hope

Eating disorders are known for having one of the highest suicide rates of any psychiatric disorder. Hopelessness is one of the most significant risk factors for suicide. Many individuals with eating disorders feel that their life is barren of hope – that they live in the darkness of hopelessness. Recently, I wrote a blog for our website that addresses hope in recovery from eating disorders, and I think it might be helpful to share it on this blog as well.

On the back of my business card I have a quote by Anne Lamott that says, “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.” Hope is an integral part of recovery from an eating disorder, and as a therapist, I have the job of imparting hope to our clients. Richard Schwartz, the founder of Internal Family Systems Therapy, once said that as therapists we are “hope brokers”- getting our clients to believe that things truly can be different. As a hope broker, I have an image of me opening a portfolio to our clients and having them choose from different hope packages- sort of like a travel agent. If it were only that simple. Hope is hard to describe and even harder to define. Rick Snyder, who like me, operates from a strengths-based perspective, defines hope as “the overall perception that goals can be met.” Based on this definition, it seems that we might be able to generate hope by having success experiences or engaging self-mastery activities. For instance, maybe passing a class or getting a job interview instills hope. Sounds good, I guess, but I don’t buy it. I ask myself- how do our clients become hopeful? I look at those who have embraced hope as compared to those for whom hope is still only a faint glimmer on the horizon. Hope may look different in each client. It might be a light that returns to their eyes, a hop in their step, or a belly laugh. It may look different, but I realize that what these clients have in common is that they have connected to something- maybe to others, to God, to nature, or to themselves. From what I can see, it has less to do with goal-achievement and more to do with relationships.

So Got Hope? No? You may want to do what Positive Psychologists suggest and achieve a goal. Or maybe better- get connected. It might be easier to start small- Call a friend, go to church, perform a random act of kindness, speak in your support group, write a note to your teacher, send a card to your co-worker. Maybe hope isn’t as elusive as it seems – it may just be a connection away…

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