Today I want to talk some more about what real, active recovery looks like as recently I have been reflecting on where I am in my recovery journey. This is something I have discussed previously on the blog, but a topic I feel is worthwhile revisiting as this is in line with the need to continually check-in in real life.
Over the last year I have fooled myself into thinking I‘ve been in true recovery countless times, and each time I have uncovered more details of my eating disorder which have invalidated this belief. At the begining of lockdown I decided enough was enough and fully committed to getting my life back and letting go of my sick identity. This is something I feel I have mostly upheld, but as is inevitable, this has been far from easy and there have defintely been ups and downs. Consequently, I have found I am continuing to evolve my relationship with recovery every day.
I have recently reached a point (weight and body image related) which has always triggered a relapse in previous recovery attempts. As a result of this I have been struggling, and so have been discussing with my therapist how I can finally break out of this cycle. The main message that I have taken away from these conversations is one I feel is worth sharing as I have gained a lot more insight and uncovered disordered attitudes I still hold.
Last week we spoke about the validity of my challenges as she has suggested they may not be as effective as I thought. This is because I always look for permission in order to justify them. For example I will face a fear food or resist the temptation to engage in a disordered behaviour, but I will console myself for doing so by looking for evidence to excuse it. This may take the form of comparing my intake to someone elses and allowing myself to eat if what I’m having is lower or equal in calories but no more, or it may be looking back on what I’ve already eaten and saying for example, “I can eat this now becasue I didn’t have a morning snack yesterday”. This mentality is allowing me to consume foods that I have previously been terrified of in volumes I only dreamed of, but it is not actually helping me let go of my disordered ways. This is because whilst it may appear externally that I have more freedom, I am still trapped in my ED, and unable to be as spontaneous as I would like. I don’t want to only ever be able to eat as much as the person next to me or have to restrict in order to eat what I want. I want to heal my relationship with food so that I can trust my hunger queues and eat whatever I want whenever I want it.
In order to overcome this, I am having to look more carefully at my challenges and examine the context in whcih I’m carrying them out. One thing I’ve been doing is to actively avoid any situation which my ED may later use for comfort. For example, despite having recently relaxed my timings and meal plan, I have been making sure I stick to at least 3 meals and 3 snacks each day. I have also been making sure I don’t choose something that is significantly lower calorie than normal on any given day, regardless of whether I feel hungry or not. The reason for this is two fold as firstly it prevents my ED from getting a foot in the door and creating new food rules, and secondly it means that I’m removing a variable that may make a subsequent challenge invalid.
As a result of these changes I have experienced much greater discomfort than I have over the last few weeks, and whilst this has been hard to deal with, it has shown me that I’m making a positive step in my recovery. I think previously, I was still using my ED as a coping mechanism but was blind to it as it didn’t take it’s usual form of restriction. Now that I have identified it however, I am more able to replace it both using midfulness as well as by following my therapist's suggestion and simply saying to my ED “Thanks for sharing” in response to any thoughts it throws at me. This is proving effective for me as I have found that sometimes trying to reason with the disordered voice can only get you so far, as each time you shut it down, it will fight back with another argument. That’s not to say we don’t need to challenge it, just that we can acknowledge it’s presence and tackle it with opposite actions rather than exhausting ourselves by paying it any attention.
I hope this post has inspired you to check in on your recovery,
More from me soon,
Mais// The Recovery Bean <3