Image: @jeisblackFor over a decade of my life, I punished my body to account for everything I thought I lacked. Believing a “perfect body” was the key to serenity, I destroyed mine (quite the paradox). I became a prisoner in my own body; a slave to destroying my physical presence in the world.
When trying to manipulate myself on the outside, I died on the inside a little more each time I gave into self-defeating behaviors. This is how I became a prisoner in my own body.
In the dark days of my eating disorder, I sought to cleanse myself of what I thought was the sin of my presence. You see, I imagined that I had irreversible, innate flaws in my being and character. I felt the need to ignore my basic needs because I didn’t even deserve my physical existence. And I confined myself to focusing on weight and food obsessions because it served as a distraction from my perceived unbearable imperfections.
Although I understood on an intellectual level that my behavior had little to do with food and weight and everything to do with my inability to cope with my ultra-sensitivity to life, it did not motivate me to change. To change, I needed to have enough pain. And it took a lot to get me there.
Now, I am thankful for that pain because it allowed me to surrender to my eating disorder and stop fighting what I was blocking with my it: feelings of loneliness, despair, fear, and a feeling of “not ok enough”.
What I have learned is this:
It was only by embracing the painful feelings that ED tried to hide that I could finally say goodbye to it.
Today, I can look at the world in the eye and not have to escape through bodily destruction. Most importantly, I can recognize that if I ever lapse into eating disorder thoughts around food and my weight, there is something my human emotions are trying to tell me. It is not truly about body insecurities.
Eating disorders might make one feel like life is wrapped around their body and how they can control and manipulate it. However, the truth I came to realize is that my eating disorder dissociated my heart and mind from my body. I became so far removed from what my body was telling me that I could not separate fact from fiction.
The importance of emotional needs
To finally step onto the path of recovery, I not only had to honor my body’s basic needs, but also the emotional needs I had ignored for so long. And, because it is through my body that I feel the sensations of intense emotional waves, I need to respect it in conjunction with the mental processes that I used to hide from with my eating disorder.
By riding the ebbs and flows of emotional waves, both good and bad, I do not have to run back to the eating disorder. I no longer need to serve a sentence as a prisoner in my own body.
We do not live life for our bodies, but we must reside in them if we want to live life. And for me, that means making the decision every day to honor my body. This is what I remember when that insidious voice of ED starts creeping back into my mind.
Here are four realizations that help me escape the prison of my own body
1. Body insecurities are deeper than they seem
I turned to eating disordered behaviors to manipulate my body because I wanted to be in control of something. I would see pain, turmoil, anger, etc. all around and I just wanted something tangible to hold on to, to make me feel secure.
When I start nitpicking at parts of my body that I think are imperfect, I must look at what I am experiencing on an emotional level that I am trying to escape from. Today I know that food and weight are not my problem. They were only the way I escaped from life.
2. Your worth is not your weight
I know it is challenging to believe that we are more than our bodies in a society that focuses so much on appearance. But, when recovery began for me, I started to see aspects of myself that I did not recognize in the thick of my eating disorder. Today, I can see parts of myself that I enjoy that have nothing to do with my body, such as my sense of humor, my kindness, how fun I am, how I like a good intellectual challenge, and that I can keep an interesting conversation going.
These qualities are infinitely more important than how much food I eat, what I eat, how much I exercise, what my weight is, what size pants I wear, etc. These are qualities that I focus on today to appreciate my presence in the world.
3. Ride the waves; good and bad
Emotions and feelings are nothing more than energy in our bodies. They are trying to tell us something. When I feel the physical sensations that intense emotions bring in my body, I know that there is something I need to be aware of or learn from. If I choose to stuff them down with unhealthy behaviors, I will only cause them to build up even more until they become so intense that I overreact or cause destruction.
This might look like a tense ball in my stomach when I am anxious or twitching hands when I’m angry. I stop, pay attention and listen to the physical sensations. Then I can figure why they are manifesting in myself.
Today, I honor what my feelings and emotions are instead of running from them. I know that running from them is only a disservice to myself. For, it is in understanding my emotions and deep wounds that healing happens.
4. Keep showing up for your body, no matter how you feel
There are many times when understanding my emotions, eating in tune with my body’s signals, and accepting my body just seems like too much work. It is draining and I believe it is supposed to be. I could not heal from deep emotional wounds if I did not put effort into understanding what they are. This is where the work comes into the recovery process, but also where the promises of recovery and a life free of an eating disorder offer the greatest rewards.
Is freedom worth it?
Sometimes I find myself in a very false thoughts… the eating disorder was easier. But, it was not. It was painful, difficult, and very lonely.
I was ready to be released from the imprisonment of an eating disorder and it has allowed me freedom I can never find in “the perfect body”. Hint: there is no such thing.
I cherish my presence in the world in the same way that I do other people’s. This gives me the gift of space to stay in a recovery-minded place.
Today, I choose not to be a victim of my body, but instead grateful for the life that it gives me. It is home to all the emotions, thoughts, characteristics, that make me who I am.