As I sat at my dining room table, staring down a plate of pasta, the same thought echoed in my head. “I can’t believe I am here again. I should be past this by now.” I had been in recovery from anorexia and bulimia for over four years. And still- at that moment, simply eating my lunch felt like a battle. And I was tired of fighting.
One bite at a time
My therapist has a saying she reminds me of often.
Gentleness and baby steps.
It is easy to become overwhelmed by the task of recovering from an eating disorder that has been a part of your life for years. Maybe even decades. Struggling is also a normal part of the journey.
Next time you feel yourself thinking, “I should be past this by now,” remind yourself of these 3 things:
1. Be Kind to Yourself
It is a truth that as human beings, we are often way too hard on ourselves. In our achievement oriented culture of “tough love” we are taught that berating ourselves when we “mess up” will boost us further ahead. This could not be more incorrect.
Research on Mindful Self Compassion actually supports the opposite. When we increase compassion towards ourselves, we actually improve motivation, life satisfaction, and happiness. Participants in studies who have learned Mindful Self Compassion have also been less depressed, less anxious, and less stressed.
Being kind to ourselves is ALWAYS more helpful in the end, than criticizing ourselves will ever be.
2. We all have a wise mind inside of us
I can’t remember the first time I heard the term “wise mind” but I do know I was skeptical that I actually one. The eating disorder voice had become so strong when I was at my sickest, that I denied the simple existence of anything else. I had lost all trust in myself. But the further into recovery I got, the more I understood that within myself there are multiple parts.
I strongly believe we each have a wise mind within ourselves. Your wise mind is what led you to read this article. It is the quiet knowing deep within that understands you were meant to be here for a reason.
Your wise mind understands that your purpose is bigger than just shrinking your body.
It knows that at the end of your life, how much you weighed will be the least important part of your legacy. And that you are here for more. Every tiny step you take in recovery brings you closer to freedom.
As I have pushed through recovery, my wise mind has gained strength. But the disordered voice still lingers in the shadows of my mind. It seems to come out whenever I am feeling stressed, overwhelmed, afraid, or sad. Sometimes it happens so quickly I do not even realize it is there. Until I am sitting in front of a plate of pasta, at war with myself. Silently screaming to myself, “I thought I was past this.”
Resisting where I actually am, only increases my struggle. Accepting where I am (which sometimes is in a battle with my lunch) allows me to take a step back, dig deep within myself, and reach for my wise mind.
3. Recovery is not linear
I grew up believing that if I worked hard, I would achieve results. And I will admit, I am not the most patient person. A recovering perfectionst, I still have to remind myself constantly to let go of my expectations. Recovery, and life, are complicated, multi-faceted processes. They do not go in a straight line.
No matter how hard I try to do everything “right” in recovery, it is still a process with ups and downs.
The truth is- every day in recovery is part of a journey. Some of these days will feel amazing, like you are sprinting to the top of a mountain. While other days will feel like you are barely clinging to the side of the same mountain. On the worst of days, you may find yourself flat on your face and thinking, “I should be past this by now.” And all of these are a normal part of the journey.
The key to recovery is taking each tiny moment one at a time.
And step by step, with compassion and courage, picking yourself up and trying again. I wish recovery was about meeting one huge challenge, conquering it, and getting on with your life. Unfortunately it has not worked that way for me.
So the next time you catch yourself thinking “I should be past this by now…”
Remind yourself that recovery is a process. Give yourself compassion for where you are. And dig deep and reach for the wise mind within. Know that you are not alone, and that you CAN recover from your eating disorder.