How I Stopped Playing the Blame Game
Six years ago, when I was 23, I published a memoir about my long struggle with an eating disorder. My painful story pointed the finger at family and friends who didn’t understand what I was going through.
Looking back, I see that playing the blame game only prolonged my illness instead of helping me recover. It’s an easy trap to fall into. You take yourself off the hook by holding others responsible. However, my experience shows that it is possible to get out of this trap, and in turn, start to heal.
When I started losing weight as an adolescent, my parents sent me to one mental health professional after another. I didn’t want to be labeled as “mentally ill” and resisted treatment.
Meanwhile, I was going to war with my body. I stopped enjoying food. I counted every calorie. I punished myself in cross-country and tri-athlete training, while also withdrawing from my circle of friends. I ate lunch alone at school most days. It was easier that way to refuse the snacks everyone else ate, like pizza or ice cream.
In high school and college, I sought approval by getting high grades. At the same time, I used studying as an excuse to isolate myself and avoid interacting with other people.
The Impact of Placing Blame
My memoir gave me a chance to settle scores. I wrote it in isolation to express bottled up emotions and challenge everyone. I blamed my parents for making me leave my friends in Maryland and move across the country to body-conscious southern California. I blamed my friends for failing to support me. I blamed my unresponsive crushes for making me believe I was ugly and unwanted.
My story did not make me the superstar I dreamed of becoming, nor did it tame the demons that fed my eating disorder. Instead, the faults I found in others threatened important relationships in my life, especially my family.
My memoir blindsided my parents because I had not shared a draft with them. They tried to put on a happy face, praising me for my accomplishment. But underneath they were very hurt by a narrative that portrayed them negatively. We never had a dialogue about each other’s feelings and reactions toward the book.
People outside of my family were not so nice. I was hoping that my writing would impress my former friends from Maryland, but many of them ignored me. Some even made fun of me on social media. It really hurt.
My world crumbled after that. I suffered a life-threatening seizure in an emergency room. Then I bounced from one eating disorder program to another. I submitted to forced-feeding that I didn’t believe in and failed to connect with a merry-go-round of psychiatrists.
Starting the Process of Healing
Over the past year, I have begun to put the blame game and my memoir behind me. A treatment center in south Florida helped me make pivotal changes. Its holistic approach differed from anything I had ever experienced. I established rapport with the clinical team. I became more comfortable in my own skin and my social skills improved.
I was diagnosed with a mental illness, which could be managed with the right mix of medication and therapeutic support along with my own determination. I believed him and accepted my disorder for the first time.
Coming to grips with my mental and physical challenges has helped me understand how important it is to move beyond blaming others for my condition, especially those I love.
Lessons Learned Along the Way
I have thought a lot about my journey, turning it over in my mind and trying to get a deeper understanding of what happened. If I could, I would go back in time and do my book all over. Since I can’t, instead, I have distilled four lessons that I would like to offer others looking to get help and avoid the blame game.
Self-awareness is a precious asset.
You can’t gain self-awareness by blaming others, or, yourself. Today, I know that my eating disorder is rooted in fear, anger, guilt, shame and sadness. It is much more important to address those root causes than to try to assign responsibility to others.
Accepting the past is key.
The blame game acts as a barrier and prevents you from making good decisions.My memoir created a black and white world. I made villains out of people who hurt me, without considering their intentions or my vulnerabilities. Now, I see the importance of taking a more balanced view of the past instead of seeing myself as a victim. I have learned to offer forgiveness, compassion and open my heart.
Everyone needs support.
Playing the blame game isolated me and put my support network at risk. Fortunately, my family and my college advisor stuck with me. Now, I have a real appreciation for how much their support means. They made it possible for me to be my true self by living independently and returning to graduate school.
Don’t let a setback stop you from doing what you love.
Just because my memoir fizzled does not mean that I stopped writing my story. I have a different voice and perspecitive now that is based on a deeper understanding of where I am in my journey. I see more clearly now the challenges I face, and I have begun to recover from the trauma of my past. I’m no longer writing from a dark place of blame. I write with compassion and hope.
Laura Yochelson is a published author and summa cum laude graduate of American University with a bachelor’s of science degree in health promotion. Recently, she spent a life-changing year in treatment at Lifeskills South Florida. She earned her certification to teach yoga in 2018. Laura will complete her master’s degree in health promotion management in the spring of 2019. Laura'a writing reflects her long-term interest in helping others with mental disorders.
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