Okay I’ll admit it, eating disorder recovery maintenance doesn’t always feel natural or easy and it’s not always a pretty picture. I’ve been getting a lot of questions from people wanting to know if I find that eating disorder recovery gets easier with time. I also get asked if I still feel discouraged in maintaining eating disorder recovery.
Yes, sometimes, I feel overwhelmed, or down on myself for a number of reasons. Since mental health is a spectrum, on one day you might feel great, while on another you feel challenged. I am no exception to that reality.
I’m not talking here about times when you are trying to avoid an eating disorder relapse as best you can, and need to reach out for help. I’m talking about the more subtle feeling of experiencing boredom (perhaps similar to the recent writings of my co-author on this blog, Jess on feeling bored in recovery), or maybe even feeling stuck in the journey to eating disorder recovery.
Here’s What I Suggest When You Feel Stuck in Eating Disorder Recovery
1-Claim Your Feelings
I’m a big believer in the importance of naming and acknowledging my feelings as a first step towards understanding and processing what is at the core of my discomfort. Once the root cause of is uncovered, it’s much easier to deal with it and ultimately move on. Am I upset with something or someone? Am I bored at the moment? Am I simply tired and need down time? Sometimes, asking these simple questions and giving myself permission to answer them, helps me achieve my ultimate goal of being “unstuck.” So I urge you to try, even though it might feel lame or a waste of time perhaps, to name your feelings. I find this to be the best way to uncover the ‘deeper’ thoughts or feelings which I feel challenged by.
2-Journal for Yourself
Writing, drawing, scrapbooking and even recording your thoughts while you process them out loud is an immensely useful tool in acknowledging them. See the triggers and patterns, and move on! You might even surprise yourself with what comes out of this non-judgemental and very automatic process of letting it all pour out in a private journal. I’ve been amazed at times when looking at what I wrote or when listening to what I recorded. Often times, I’ve thought,”Oh, okay, now I see what the problem is!” After doing this a few times, I realized it paralleled therapy, allowing me to see the link between feeling triggered by certain events and the echoes of traumatic situations from my past. Without the “map” of seeing these thoughts on paper or hearing them from a recording, I may have missed them, now that I haven’t been in therapy for quite a while.
3-Make an Eating Disorder Recovery Map
Once you’ve done the hard work, you can focus on the fun part. At this stage, you get to think, plan, and get ready for the next phase, which is, “How do I get better, stop feeling stuck and persevere in my journey?” Again, don’t be in denial, but rather, own what you feel. If I feel tired and stressed because I have wanted to skip meals or blow off a work out, I now know I need is to cut back on staying up late and my social calendar. Yes, I might feel guilty in cutting back, but it’s worth the benefit of my well being.
To get there, I visualize either in my mind, through writing or maybe on a vision board, what and where I want to be in my eating disorder recovery. In this process, I also set small goals like being well for an event I have to attend or being strong enough to manage my obligations. As I get a few small wins, then I try for even bigger goals, like mentoring to someone who’s going through what I’ve been through.
On some days, I’ll give myself permission to think recovery maintenance sucks, and where I question the importance of doing the hard work and talking about recovery. Inevitably though, I come back to the starting point: I can’t be smug about recovery because staying healthy is an everyday choice, even though sometimes we forget that. But that’s only a feeling, and like most feelings, they fade over time.