The best gift to give yourself this holiday season is opportunity. Opportunity to challenge the inner critic and to allow family or your chosen family to support. And opportunity to create a life without an eating disorder. I am aware in the depths and trenches of darkness this idea is a huge eye roll.
Let’s imagine for a second that we were to give ourselves a piece of the gift. Because honestly, who doesn’t like presents? I’m not referring to the itchy sweater you were forced to open in front of your family graciously smiling and saying thank you. (Or maybe this was just my experience).
The inner critic
It’s often difficult to get in this mindset, especially when the inner critic tends to be louder during this time of year. What is the inner critic that I speak of? The inner critic is judgemental, mean, and negative. Bottom line it doesn’t feel good and isn’t helpful. If you answered, no, that’s just me as some of my clients respond.
I want to highlight that perhaps some assistance in identifying and separating this inner critic would be helpful. This allows for more compassion and grace. I had a client who really struggled to identify this compassion and with some work was able to identify a very nurturing character from their favorite movie. When the inner critic was present she practiced this nurturing character coming in and helping. This allowed to decrease the inner critic and the thoughts associated with it.
The eating disorder thrives in secrecy and isolation. Allowing family or your chosen family to support is challenging. I recall a client who really didn’t want anyone including her spouse to know about her eating disorder. This was something we had been working on for a few sessions, she was receptive and engaged in therapy as well as group therapy. One of the goals she set for herself was expanding her support system in the home. She indicated that she felt a sense of shame regarding the whole idea of struggling with food.
I listened empathetically and asked, what would you really lose if you were to disclose this to your spouse? She burst into tears and laughed at the same time. She admitted if she disclosed the truth to her spouse, her eating disorder wouldn’t be a secret anymore. And she’d have to face it head on as well as being more accountable. Together we took some sessions unpacking the layers and she was able to share her secret. Sometimes it’s not the disclosure that we fear it’s what we feel we need to do once it’s said out loud.
Give yourself a gift a life without an eating disorder
Depending on where someone is in their recovery, this still isn’t an easy task. The reality is: this is a process that isn’t linear. Something that is helpful is to start off by simply imaging words associated with a life without an eating disorder. Don’t think too hard about it! I often get similar answers that include freedom, peace, and mindfulness. Next, imagine the feeling associated with that word. This can be the beginning of a wonderful opportunity ahead.