Maintaining Eating Disorder Recovery: 3 Things No One Told Me
I recently found myself doing quite a bit of traveling for work and being sleep deprived due to layovers, long flights and work related events. Inevitably, when it seems like my life is going too fast, I start feeling nervous about my food intake.
When I got back home, I started reflecting on my identity and how it shapes my choices in maintaining eating disorder recovery. Because I’ve spent time exploring and becoming an expert on my own feelings, I’ve reached a point where I don’t always need to rely on professional help to cope. Rather I’ve built mechanisms, whether talking to loved ones or writing in a journal, which both let me face the fast paced life and stress that in the past would lead to self-harm. I realized over time that the epiphany that I am strong enough to stand on my own also came with some additional lessons.
How I Do Anything Is How I Do Everything
Everything I do in my life is inter-related. That voice in my mind, the internal mind bully that tortured me over the years, was always present whether in good or bad times. Bulimia recovery, post-therapy, meant that I had to stand up to the bully all the time and that I was strong enough to win...all the time! It also meant that I had to equally be proud of the person I am both in private and in public. This empowers me to face stress no matter if issues arise in my career, relationships, or even with strangers. As a result, I accepted that I’m someone who doesn't beat around the bush, is quite blunt, and tenacious. It took me a while to be comfortable with these adjectives describing my personality, but now, this is how others know me, and it is a relief to know I am the same person whether I'm in a room with someone else or alone.
The Fact That Something Feels How It Does to Me, Is Enough
This took me a long time to truly accept. As a caring person, I would always try to understand why someone said something that hurt me, even though for them, and perhaps others, it was benign. I would then torture myself asking if it was normal to feel this way, when perhaps others in recovery would not. With time, I’ve learned that how I feel is okay, and that even though it's important to have an open mind and question what the nature of a comment or an experience, I don't need validation from others to know how something or someone makes me feel, regardless of the motivation behind it. Once that becomes clear, then so does the choice of deciding what I want to do with it. I can choose to just let it go. I have to say that this is an empowering process because it allows me to reframe the situation and decide whether I want to turn it into a positive experience, or not.
At times, recovery maintenance feels like a giant puzzle I find myself in the middle of; yet, I'm confident I can connect all the pieces together in order to make it last.
Check-Ins With Myself Are Important
Every now and then, I ask myself if I'm being honest with myself in terms of my thoughts concerning food, exercise and even writing this blog. As long as I’m authentic, then no choices end up being ‘wrong’. For example, sometimes, this means I will purposely not go to the gym, or will avoid certain foods or conversations with people because I feel it would be easy to slip into certain habits I don't want to get caught up in. The big difference now that I'm recovered is that I’m comfortable in pressing the pause button sometimes on ‘things I should do’ until I process my feelings, good or bad. This allows me to only do activities when the motivations behind them are positive and support recovery maintenance.
I wanted to share these lessons learned with you, because in recent times, these came to me as a gift, as I’m embarking on my 6th year of recovery in 2014. What about you? What are some of the big lessons your eating disorder recovery has taught you?
Lemoine, P. (2013, December 31). Maintaining Eating Disorder Recovery: 3 Things No One Told Me, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, August 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2013/12/3-things-no-one-told-me-about-recovery-maintenance
Author: Patricia Lemoine
Recovery from eating disorders taught me a lot about gray areas. In addition to battling eating disorders in the past, I am diagnosed with a mood cycling condition, and with mood cycling, there's very little black and white. Things are up and down, good and bad, happy and sad. I found the same with my eating disorders - things were good for me, bad for me, it was a "good eating day" or a binging day. This mentality took over my thinking about everything in life. As I recovered, I learned that there is a lot in between.... the gray areas. I can have one cookie, and it doesn't mean I've eaten unhealthy all day, or that I might as well binge all weekend. I can go out to eat, yet still find a way to eat mostly healthy. Now I'm much more comfortable with my eating. I don't have to count every calorie or measure every serving down to the ounce. I've learned to trust myself, and to be a little flexible with myself, and it's been a marvelous lesson.
Hi Maya! Thank you for your message!
You are right in saying that it is important to trust ourselves and perhaps that comes with allowing/giving ourselves permission to color outside of the lines a bit. The important thing is to color within the page, and the page to me, is maintaining recovery.
I agree with you that this is a marvelous lesson; learning to be ok with & accept gray areas! Sending you my best for 2014!