As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder for over half their life, I know from experience that recovery is anything but linear. You don’t go from Point A to Point B and then it’s over and you’re done. There is no cure, no being “fixed,” no one good day that guarantees an endless string of good days ahead.
Accepting this truth has allowed me to high-five myself for any number of steps I take in the right direction, no matter how small they may be or how many back steps I might take along with them. Awareness- and acceptance- that my disordered tendencies may very well forever lurk in the darkest corners of my mind has helped, rather than hurt, my recovery.
My black-and-white mentality wants me to believe I either have an eating disorder or I don’t.
However, since I’ve come to terms with the fact that a grey area exists, I’ve learned that I can use my old patterns and habits as a tool that prompts me to take a step back and examine what’s really going on in my life that may need some extra attention.
When I’m stressed or feel unstable or unhappy in any area of my life, I know I have the propensity to want to take tight control of anything I can. It’s a sort of coping mechanism, I’ve read, one that is characteristic of my near-text book Type A personality.
In the past, that control has always taken shape in the form of a new diet, a more intense workout routine, more restriction, more rules. It wasn’t until I swore off dieting for good that I realized I had nothing to tighten the reigns on when something in life was uncomfortable.
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Being honest with myself about these patterns and habits was tough at first.
‘No, I’m just being healthy,’ I would rationalize. But little by little, I started to understand just how unhealthy my “healthy,” subconscious, impulsive coping strategy was for me in the long run.
It happens almost as sure as the sun is set to rise each day: something in life is bugging me, and thoughts about what I should or should not have for my next meal instantly start to formulate in my head. For years, this would suck me into a miserable, restrictive way of life, but now when those thoughts become louder, it’s my queue to stop and take a look at the bigger picture.
With time and practice, I’ve learned to consciously replace the disordered thoughts with positive ones. ‘
I don’t really need to cut x out of my diet; what’s going on with me?’ ‘I’ve been feeling really unsatisfied and stressed out at work lately. Why don’t I update my resume and look into other jobs that would be a better fit?’
Sometimes that’s all it takes to silence the dark noise in my head. Other times it’s not that easy, but I can always use those internal prompts as a cue to be extra good to myself. I have a mental list of “feel good” activities that are sure to lift my spirits when I’m unhappy about something in life that I can’t control, and I do them often: get a pedicure; read a new book; spend extra time with my kids; schedule a date night with my significant other; call a friend; hug my mom; go for a walk; buy a new outfit; or cook a fancy meal.
Being honest with the people you love about your disorder is important, but being brutally honest with yourself is even more crucial on the road to recovery. Be your own best friend, pay attention to your habits and patterns, and remember that freedom is possible.
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