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

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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.

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.

Originally published: April 13, 2017
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