Human Stories

Healing from an eating disorder with NVC

This time we have a story from our trainer Marije Roos:

This is about the way how NVC offered me a 100% recovery from my eating disorder started when I was 16 years old:

Despite being told I would grapple with it for life, I vividly recall a moment in the hospital, I was skin over bone, a tube of liquid food in my nose, and the nurse who was supporting me stating, “You will never fully recover from such a severe eating disorder.” I remember thinking, “Fuck you! I’ll prove you wrong.”

Eating disorder:

I was 16 years old at the time. How did I end up like that? It started when I was deeply unhappy—with myself. I hated school and didn’t see any meaning in being alive. I had many self-judgments and when my boyfriend broke up with me, it arrived as confirmation; “I was worthless.” I felt heartbroken and spiraled into depression. I lost my appetite and hardly ate anything. Weight fell off rapidly. Initially, the sense of control over my body’s urge to eat felt empowering. But very soon, I realized I had become dangerously thin. If I didn’t start eating, I would simply die.
It looked so simple: “If I don’t eat I die, so just eat.” But I felt as if I was possessed by a force beyond myself—a destructive presence obsessed with not eating, losing weight, and staying thin. It was as if a record was stuck in my brain.

I became very small; I didn’t go to school anymore, I didn’t see my friends—my world became the living room. Looking back now, I see how this destructive presence was doing all it knew to keep me safe. The tinier my body, the more numb I felt; the smaller my world, the less danger and pain I experienced. It felt surprisingly safe.

Fast forward through a harrowing 1.5 years: I ended up in a mental hospital where, after 6 months, they told me I didn’t fit into their program. I was discharged and sent home.
They were absolutely right; I didn’t fit into their program, which was based on punishment and reward. If I gained weight, I would get more freedom; if I didn’t gain enough weight, I had to stay alone in the living room, lying on the couch.
The painful thing was that their punishment & reward system reinforced the exact source of my pain —the idea that you can do something good and then be rewarded, accepted, loved, and if you do something wrong, you should be punished. Not living up to what they asked me to do strengthened my believe that I was worthless, that no one cared about me, and the worst part—I felt very, very lonely.

Finally, a strong antidepressant pulled me out of the darkness, and I regained a bit of motivation to live. I turned to marijuana to numb my pain and make it easier to eat. I went back to school, established a normal weight, and somehow managed my final exams. From the outside, it seemed like I was healed, and I thought so too. Compared to before, I felt great! I went to the art academy, led a normal life, yet the underlying issue remained unaddressed, and in moments of stress, I would either overeat and vomit or eat too little and be just underweight.

It was 1 year after I graduated from the art academy when my yoga teacher said to me, “You have to start listening to your inner-saboteur.” That sounded like a good idea, but back home, I had no idea where to start.
It was 4 years later when I met NVC that everything clicked for me. The biggest revelation was the profound sense of being welcomed exactly as I am. In my yoga communities, I still felt pressured to constantly improve, to be happy and be a lighthouse to others which easily led to a sense of failing whenever I would feel down. NVC allowed me to see the beauty in my fear, my depression, and my self-judgments. I acquired concrete tools on how to listen to the voice that was afraid to live, to be rejected, to not belong, and turn that into creativity and power.

I started listening to myself with the help of the trainers, and my fellow students. Without even noticing, I never turned to food anymore as a strategy to numb myself, or to feel my power, or to seek safety. I started to feel and trust my feelings. I suddenly realized that this eating record stopped playing in my head, even in moments of stress and pain.

I surely still have self-judgments on a daily basis. For a long time, I thought the goal was to get rid of my self-judgments. Now, I see it differently. For me, the goal is no longer to get rid of unpleasant sensations or thoughts but rather to welcome and hear them—to hear their longing and wisdom and let them guide me through life. I gain the actual experience of what it is to accept myself as I am. To love and trust myself. To love life and feel connected to life.

With much hope for deep self acceptance,