Growing up in my childhood home, pain or negative emotions were immediately soothed by my mother. This sounds nice right? But what happens when we don’t learn how to process or tolerate discomfort as children?
In the real world, discomfort is a part of life. So how does this tie in with eating disorders?
For me, I developed restriction as a coping mechanism for dealing with distressing emotions. I never learned to identify what I was feeling – let alone analyze the situations and context of those emotions.
Many people with eating disorders experience alexithymia. This is a big word for a relatively straightforward phenomenon: you know you’re feeling something but can’t name it.
In my own recovery and in other areas of my life, awareness is a crucial first step to growth. How do we “fix” something if we don’t know it’s an issue to begin with? This is where your treatment team comes into play. They can help you clarify or name the emotions you might be experiencing.
Use your psychotherapy sessions to practice being uncomfortable. Be vulnerable with your therapist in your pain. Therapy is practice for the outside world.
The more you “train” your distress tolerance in sessions, the more likely you are to take those skills into your daily life. Change is possible, but it’s going to be uncomfortable.
So get comfortable being uncomfortable.