An Exercise in Letting Go of Fear in Eating Disorder Recovery
Tuesday, July 1 2014 Patricia Lemoine
Two years ago this fall, I took a yoga workshop which dealt with inverted positions, such as headstands. There was a point in the workshop when we were asked to do an exercise which addressed our fears. This was not at all related to eating disorders, and it wasn’t therapy, but it was a profound experience for me.
I thought I'd share it with you today because it opened up my eyes and helped me deal with deep emotions which were holding me back at the time.
The Letting Go of Your Fear Exercise
Early on in the workshop, our teacher asked us to take small strips of paper and write down on them our fears. It didn’t matter if the fear seemed big to us or not; we had to write down what came to mind without judging ourselves.
What’s still interesting to me today when I look back on this experience, is that what I automatically wrote down as one of my fears, was the fear that people would find out I had been bulimic in the past. Back then, almost five years in recovery, my fear was not of having a relapse, but rather the perception people might have of me if they knew about my past struggles with an eating disorder.
We were then asked in the workshop to do a headstand, but the tricky part was that we had to do it while holding the piece of paper with our fear written on it, folded in half in the palm of our hands. Of course trying to do a headstand with that added difficulty didn’t work so well because we were so focused on holding onto the paper, or fear, that we couldn’t position our hands properly for the headstand on our yoga mats.
Very simply, we were learning about the importance of letting go of our fears. If you try it yourself, regardless of what your fear is, and regardless of what you try to do while holding it, you will see for yourself how impossible it is to do simple things when your attention is partly focused on your fear.
Holding On To My Eating Disorder Fear Won't Serve Me
I dare you to drive to work, pick up your kids from the floor, cook dinner, have a meaningful conversation with someone, or give a presentation at work while you hold on to the fear of getting old, being late, being broke, being single, not measuring up, being fat, not being pretty enough, experiencing a relapse, or never recovering from your eating disorder.
What this simple exercise taught me is that if I held onto my fear of people finding out I'd suffered from bulimia, I'd never be able to do some of the things I wanted to do and truly believe I was meant to experience in life; be it a headstand or even continue to maintain my recovery.
In the weeks following that workshop, I seriously questioned what I wanted to experience in life and realized I had to let go and confront this fear head-on. Eventually, I made the decision to start talking on social media about my lived experience with bulimia.
This quickly lead to writing on this blog, and soon after to speaking publicly about my experience with bulimia to students and Members of Parliament alike, in the hope that seeing someone like me confronting the stigma associated with eating disorders and mental illness will help others who suffer in silence.
I invite you to try the exercise yourself and simply question what is holding you back every morning. I'm not telling you to confront every single fear you have or even not have a fear or two left, since it's healthy to have a self-preservation instinct; but I'm suggesting that if you name your fear and acknowledge it, it'll be easier to let go of the emotions behind the fear which tend to impact our everyday life and recovery.
In my case, If I hadn't let go of my fear back then, I would not have experienced all the wonderful things I've welcomed in my life since. And when I look back, that is a scary thought I do not choose to hold on to today.