The Things I Get 'Stuck' On in Eating Disorder Recovery
I write a lot about the things I struggle with and where I continue to get stuck, and that definitely feels important to continue doing, but after a conversation I had with my dietician yesterday, I decided I also wanted to take some time to think and write about what’s helped me to follow through in the moments where I’ve been able to make different decisions. I feel like I’ve been able to make some significant progress in getting “unstuck” over the last few days, and I’m hoping I can use this as a reminder for myself of what to hold onto as I try to continue moving forward.
My dietician asked me yesterday what I generally am telling myself in the instances when I’m able to follow through, and I think so much of the time it comes down to just knowing that if I want things to be different, I have to make different decisions. I know that making the familiar decisions will only get me what I know, and while recovery still holds a fair amount of uncertainty/I don’t have any guarantees that doing it will be “worth it,” I know I want something different from what I’ve known up until now.
I also try to remind myself of how frustrated and discouraged I feel when I do give into the eating disorder, how in-congruent those old behaviors feel with my life now and what I want to be working towards. I know I’ve written about this before, but I so often find myself clinging to the belief that the eating disorder behaviors will “make me feel better.” This is often being what keeps me stuck, and that’s such an ingrained way of thinking for me that it’s difficult to always remind myself there’s also pain associated with giving in (to the eating disorder). When we’ve talked about this, my dietician has often asked me, “which pain is better?” and I’ve tried to bring myself back to that question more often. I know that ultimately, I’m going to feel discomfort/distress either way, so why not choose the pain that could lead me towards something different?
Another thing I try to hold onto is the knowledge that so many other things have gotten easier for me with time. There were so many things that felt so difficult and overwhelming leaving treatment that have become “normal” now, and while sometimes it scares me to think about that, it’s also kind of cool and gives me hope that with enough time, the changes I’m struggling so much to make now could also just feel normal too.
I’ve also been trying to pay attention to the things outside of the eating disorder that have gotten easier for me with time (that also initially felt terrifying), reminding myself there’s really no reason to believe this would be any different. I was thinking about this the other day as I was driving into the mountains. It’s always still pitch dark at 4 a.m. and given that the roads are unlit and very winding and narrow, this used to really freak me out, so much so that the first time I went hiking pre-dawn, I vowed I was never going to do it again — that lasted about a day. It continued to feel kind of nerve-wracking for a while, but it doesn’t phase me anymore at this point, and that comparison feels helpful to draw.
Something else my dietician and I were talking about yesterday was just how much more present I’m able to be in my life when not as stuck in the eating disorder. And I think this is probably one of the biggest driving factors for me. I definitely feel a million times more present and “in” my life now than I did a year or six months ago, but I still get so frustrated by the amount of time and mental energy I spend fighting with myself over all of this, and feel like it continues to act as a barrier for my being as present and connected as I ultimately want to be.
In my last post, I wrote about the internal struggle I was having over whether or not to eat a snack while hiking, and it’s moments like that reinforce for me that I want so much more than this. I don’t want to be standing on top of a mountain fighting with myself over a Cliff bar, thinking about what I ate for breakfast. I want to really be there. And I know that ultimately, the only way to get more space from the struggle is to just do it consistently until the option of not doesn’t feel like something to debate with myself over or to give so much space to.
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 bruniewska.