One of the most important influences to the beginning path of recovery is what I call the connection to compassion link from the outside. This is often someone, or something that influences you in a big way and causes you to begin to wonder, have some hope, and be curious about what may be next. Many women in my research stated that for them this was a statement made by someone who truly expressed care, concern and/or love for them as a person, and not just concern about their disorder. Rather, it was genuine concern from people who really wanted to know who they were, rather than just about “getting better.” Other women felt their link, or spark from something they read, such as a self-help book or scripture. Others felt a connection each time they went to a yoga class, a retreat, or something else that touched them spiritually, or from a compassionate and understanding therapist. The point is, they all felt that there was a point in the beginning of their recovery when genuine care, concern, motivation, and hope came from the outside and made a difference within. Many felt this difference was the beginning of the journey of their own awakening to self-compassion. The genuine concern and/or connection offered a reflection of what was lying beneath the surface waiting to be seen.
The point is, you never know when the outside influence will hit or what it will be. Therefore, the most important thing you can do on your path to recovery is to stay connected to life and others around you in some way. Eating disorders, by their nature, create isolation. There is often isolation from others, from everyday life, and from oneself. Staying connected to the things and people you enjoy, in as many ways as you can, is primary to the ongoing path of recovery.
Often it is believed that reconnection will come when the behavior stops. Reconnection needs to take place despite the behaviors. I once had a client who went for her yoga teacher training and told me she could not start teaching until she stopped her behavior. This is the divisive or dualistic thinking that can easily lead to isolation, loneliness, and more feelings of emptiness and disconnection from life. Trust that if you stay connected to life, especially to the people and things that you derive energy and care from, that healing will come and the spark of compassion from within will build. Having a connection to someone and/or something that you identify with, separate from the disorder, is of utmost importance in reestablishing hope, a desire to heal, and a wish to become engaged in life and yourself again.
The following questions may be helpful in discovering your connection to compassion link:
- Where do I feel most alive and free? With whom?
- What or who moves my heart?
- Is there something I do or used to do that brought me joy?
- Is there something I do or used to do that still brings me joy?
- Where do I feel most safe? With whom?
- What or whom makes me feel most taken care of?
Ask these questions daily as reminders of what connections you still have present and which ones you need to get back to or have more of in your life. Start simple and small, as you never know when the moment that lights the fire in your own heart toward life again will hit you.