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When the Familiarity of Your Eating Disorder Comes Calling

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It’s easy to feel lost and out of control during this period of uncertainty. Like you’re stranded at sea and suddenly your eating disorder comes calling to you like a siren, desperately trying to reel you back in. Although I’ve had nearly a decade of practice living with an eating disorder and a bit of recovery under my belt, I find myself looking to past negative coping mechanisms to grasp some sense of control. In my recovery journey I’ve had to look at my thoughts, feelings and actions and try to find the connection between the three. What causes me to have horrible thoughts of my body? What am I feeling when the thought of restricting or purging surges into my mind? Am I going to act on these urges or work through the discomfort of the emotions I’m experiencing?

In early recovery it seemed impossible to track the connections. It was just a constant nagging in my mind telling me the only way to calm the internal chaos was to allow my eating disorder to take control. I spent years in recovery trying everything to quiet the thoughts, but almost always found myself slipping into destructive behaviors. However, upon looking deep within myself and tracking these thoughts, feelings and behaviors, I was able to comprehend the true connection between all of the above. The thing I long for and strive for was a sense of control over my life and through my eating disorder this morphed into a need to find control through my body.

When I made the connection and it finally clicked in my head that my eating disorder thrived when I felt most lost and out of control, I was able to truly begin the journey of healing. I was able to search for other, more constructive, ways to feel in control. I forced myself to feel my feelings instead of blocking them with the thoughts of hunger. Finding purpose within each day and setting small attainable goals helped me build a healthy type of control. I had a schedule that no longer revolved around food, but how do you cope when suddenly that sense of order and control is ripped away by a world-halting virus?

The answer to this question did not come quickly for me. I found myself with no reason to wake up, no reason to do the things that make me feel better, no reason to do anything at all. It felt like I fell back into a pit of nothingness, like the depression was back in full swing. It seemed natural to avoid food, I was too empty to be hungry anyway. It felt like the perfect environment to fall back on old behaviors, to let the thoughts seep in until they completely took hold of my mind once again. If I’m being honest, I did let it creep back in for a while, I let myself fall for the comfort and familiarity of my eating disorder. But my story does not end with a full blown relapse. My story continues with my strength, courage, resilience and desire to continue on the path of recovery.

I had to start with small decisions, making myself eat even when my depression convinced me I wasn’t hungry. It was getting out of bed and walking through nature. It was reaching out to my support system and talking about the thoughts, feelings and actions. It was just one decision, followed by another, and another, and another. Recovery is constantly making hard decisions. Recovery is not a linear journey; it is a path with unexpected twists, turns and falls. In difficult times it is easy to look back on old behaviors and miss their familiarity, their comfort and the sense of control they carry.

Start your day with the mindful decision to choose recovery and continue to choose recovery with each step you take. With time recovery can give you the same sense of control that you searched for through your eating disorder. Remember you are worthy no matter what the scale says; no number can truly express your love, light and value.

Photo by Alex Suprun on Unsplash

Originally published: May 12, 2020
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