Why I Need to Accept My Past so I Can Move Forward in Eating Disorder Recovery


I spent years telling myself it was overwhelmingly difficult — maybe impossible — to overwrite the dialogue of my childhood. That whatever key messages I received in those early years became so embedded they are effectively an intrinsic and immovable part of who I have become.

I said this to my psychiatrist at my first appointment and he said no, I don’t need to overwrite the dialogue of my childhood, I simply need to accept it. Just like that!

It was a rude shock, to be honest. Initially, I rebelled on the inside. I thought he must be wrong. Despite more than a decade of training and two decades of experience as a psychiatrist, I foolishly assumed he was wrong and I was right — because I’d been telling myself the same story for so long.

Over time, I have come to accept he was right. By hanging on to my perceptions, I am impeding my recovery. I’m allowing the mistakes of others to hold me back. In order to fully recover, I need to accept my past shaped me, but does not define me. I need to accept the power for change lies with me and not with blaming others. I need to accept my past is both good and bad and along with all the negatives resulting in stunted emotional growth, I was also blessed with great strength, determination and resilience.

Despite almost a year of solid work on recovery, I am still a long way from being psychologically healthy. I’m much improved from this time last year but the long and tiring journey is not yet over. I am currently stuck in a phase where I’m firmly and steadfastly attached to my identity as a person with bulimia. I am finding it hard to let go of for quite a few reasons. Every time I start to make a little headway, I sabotage my success and return to the hamster wheel of binge, purge, restrict.

Here’s a moment of analysis regarding the importance of acceptance in my life.

I must accept my mother made terrible mistakes, but did the best she could. I must accept the past shaped me, but I shape the future. I must accept I am not the eating disorder. I must accept recovery will lead me to a happier place than mental illness ever has. I must accept I am enough — on any day, at any weight, in every way. I must accept life is precious, valuable, worth living and worth fighting for.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

So many more acceptances to be made I have no doubt, but for this evening, I need to accept I am physically exhausted and sleep will be a welcome reprieve.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock photo via Pimonova.

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