Mental Health Blogs

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Eating Disorder Recovery

Things have been stressful for me lately, so I decided to take a mini-vacation and stay at my sister’s — about two hours away from my home — for the weekend. I visited with her and her husband before they left for vacation, met with my eating disorders psychiatrist who lives nearby, and basically had a relaxing time sitting around drinking Starbucks mocha frappuccinos, reading my Nook and playing with her two large Rottweilers that act like overgrown babies.

Then I decided to stop at this quaint, 50s-style drive-up diner . . . and proceeded to get into a heated shouting match, complete with expletives, with another customer.

Why does food always have to complicate my life?

Emotional Overload

My recent emotional overload is caused by several factors. First, other than two slips, I have stopped drinking and abusing prescription medications. Second, I am eating better. Finally, I am embroiled in some issues that have shaken my new-found sense of serenity and security.

All of this is very tiring, and the first night I stayed at my sister’s, I basically collapsed into bed around 10:30 p.m. — a phenomenally early time for me.

The Emotional Pot Bubbles Over

My emotional pot bubbled over this weekend. It was a warm, sunny day; almost unheard in the Northern Midwest state that I call home. I was driving home from an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting when I decided to stop for a bite to eat.

I always experience a bit of melancholy when I go visit my family, because all the members except me live within close proximity with each other and are involved in each others daily lives in a way that I am not.

My emotions first came to the surface at the AA meeting. Everyone knew everyone else, and I was an “outside” who came from another city. It wasn’t that the members weren’t nice and welcoming, because they were. But their lives, families and friendships with each other stood in sharp contrast to my solitary existence.

Things got ugly when I accidentally parked behind another customer’s vehicle. I didn’t mean to cause trouble, and the driver proceeded to yell at me without provocation.

But that didn’t mean that I had to add fuel to the fire by shouting back and swearing at the person — no matter how much I felt he deserved it.

But what does any of this have to do with recovery from an eating disorder?

Emotions and Eating Disorder Recovery

In the past, I had restricting, drinking, and pills to blunt my overwhelming emotions. Feeling anxious about something? Have a few drinks. Depressed and lonely? There is a pill for that. Feel flooded by emotions?

Starve myself, and eventually the feelings subside.

It was a great coping mechanism that could have killed me. Take away my coping mechanisms, and watch me become overwhelmed as emotions re-enter my life.

However, I’m committed to recovery and therefore these self-destructive acts are no longer an option for coping.

But that means I have to find new ways to deal with the emotions that crop up during the process of recovery. I am currently exploring some options, such as yoga, meditation, and going for walks and other physical activity, to calm the emotional beast within.

I often find myself calling people, simply to talk and defuse the cauldron inside me that threatens to bubble over simply because I feel overwhelmed by these unfamiliar emotions, long dormant because of anorexia and alcoholism.

I also listen to music, read and journal, and pet my cat, to both calm my emotions and to feel connected.

Some of these emotions may feel like too much, but the alternative is to stay mired in my eating disorder — something that I refuse to do.

Find Angela E. Gambrel on Facebook and Google+ and @angelaegambrel on Twitter.

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2 Responses to The Emotional Roller Coaster of Eating Disorder Recovery

  1. Amy says:

    This is so true. I am totally experiencing the rollercoaster of emotions right now. I am coming off a week of “good” behaviors but my emotions are all over the place. I am really fighting the urge to find something to calm me down, to find something to make me feel better. Good job on channeling your emotions in a healthy way. Keep fighting and stay strong. You are doing great!

  2. Abby says:

    I have no great words of wisdom other than I can completely relate. Without choosing to numb things out–mostly the emotions and stress caused by not being able to numb things out with exercise or (insert vice here)–I’m left wondering what to do next to make.it.go.away.

    But through deliberate mindfulness and asking myself what my true intention is behind the action, I’m slowly able to crawl forward day by day in a more healthy and authentic way. I don’t want to be that anxious crab or hypocritically “healthy” person that sneaks around to find peace through “doing” and not “being.” Props to you for finding this as well.

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