I've been thinking a lot recently about guilt in recovery, and as I mentioned in a previous post, this is something I want to explore in more detail. I don't however feel that I have quite pinned down what I have to say on the matter, or even how I feel about it personally, and so for now I want to continue to explore the emotions that surround it.
Fear is something we talk about a lot in recovery. We have "fear foods", fear of change, of weight gain, of comparison... fear of not being worthy of recovery, fear of failing at it, or on the flip side being 'too good' at it. Fear of overeating, of binging, of overshoot... fear of letting people down, fear of relapse. Fear, fear, FEAR! So you get my point... Recovery is scary. What I want to look at today though, is how that fear manifests in real life, and consequently how we can use this to help us identify our disordered behaviours and spot our ED thoughts.
Personally, I feel the most frequent way in which I express fear is through anger. For example, if my mum were to offer me a slice of a cake she'd made, then on a bad day I might shout at her or look at her as if she were stupid, voicing how ignorant and spiteful it was of her to have the audacity to do such a thing. I would think she was the most horrible person ever, and that she wanted to make my life miserable... it wouldn't even cross my mind that she was being, wait for it... nice!?
Okay, so maybe you're now thinking I'm a nasty piece of work, and yes - I'm thinking that too (queue the aforementioned guilt), but the point I'm making here, is that albeit an unpleasant one, this is an expression of fear. I know on reflection, that me acting out like this, is the result of my ED having a complete freak out because it's so scared of this cake. My disordered thoughts are going crazy trying to warn me of the terrors of unknown calories, 'unhealthy' foods, sugar, unplanned snacks, the list goes on. It's all happening at 100mph though, because zoom back out to real life for a second - my mums just offered me cake and she's waiting for a response. My ED knows that given enough time, then at this point in recovery, my rational voice will likely have the strength to take over and let me do what I truly want to do, and accept the cake. Therefore, it needs to act quickly so it uses this fear to enact the defence mechanism of anger.
You're probably wondering what on earth you're supposed to do with this information? This is the key. Information is power when it comes to recovery, as the more we learn about how our ED's choose to express themselves, the easier it is for us to identify them. I mentioned a second ago that it can be time restraints that allow our ED voices to win, because arguing with them is a process, and especially when the disordered thoughts are strong, it can be a confusing and uncertain one that takes a lot of convincing. Therefore, we can arm ourselves to deal with a variety of different situations by coming up with a quick and effective response to a common emotion they provoke.
To explain, I mean that now we know that anger is our ED's shortcut to getting it's way in fearful situations, we can generate a mantra or coping mechanism that we implement every time we start to see red. For example, say that on a subsequent day a friend invited me to go out for a milkshake, then when the thoughts like "Ughh, my friends don't even know me... they don't even try to understand, why would I want to get a milkshake!!" start to hit, we can recognise what is happening. This gives us back some of the power our ED voice has been stealing, as we can then chose to make a recovery decision and implement opposite actions, and then feel the fear and do it anyway, and accept the invitation.
I'm conscious that maybe I'm making that sound too easy. Of course just identifying the ED thought is not the great solution you may be seeking, it is only the first step in the "Identify, Challenge, REPEAT" process I have discussed previously on the blog (https://therecoverybean.wixsite.com/therecoverybean/post/identify-challenge-repeat). You are still going to have to face the anxieties and discomfort that defying your ED brings, but that's what recovery is unfortunately. We just have to deal with it using the usual distractions, mantras, and lists of reasons to recover, and if these prove inadequate, then just wait for the feelings to pass which I promise they will. What this method of connecting key emotions does bring to our recovery though, is the ability to spot our ED's in places they may usually get away with hiding. This is because rather than having to know the ins and outs of everything we fear, which lets face it is a lot, we can identify them by knowing how said fear presents itself for us.
I hope this post can help a few of you along your recovery journey,
Let me know what you think or if you have any further insight on the topic!
More from me soon,
Mais// The Recovery Bean <3