Image: white_ribbonsAs I get undressed to get in the shower, I stand exposed in the bathroom mirror. For a second, I slip into that self-hate, ED brained thinking of I am not good enough as I critique my new body, and my heart pounds a little faster. As I step in the shower, the faucet handle mocks my current mood by distorting my body into an oblong shape. I turn away so its cruel joke will no longer sting. As I get out and put on clothes, the jeans that no longer are a breeze to pull up scream at me to DO SOMETHING. The tears come without warning.
This is recovery, this is reality, this is the battle. But the war can be won.
What my ED brain won’t tell you is what happens after that shower/closet scene. As I am putting on my make-up, my husband now kisses me on the cheek and tells me I look beautiful. My daughter bounds in and wraps her little arms around my legs and digs her head into them for comfort and love. My son comes in rubbing his eyes and nestles himself into my arms as he tells me about his night’s sleep.
You see, when deep in my disorder, I was absent. Gone. Checked out.
I was literally not there. But now, in my recovery, I am present.
What about my body?
Well, let’s just say that I am working on my relationship with it daily. It has been the last piece of the recovery puzzle for me. How do I cope? How do I move past the fears, uncertainties, and hurdles that come with weight restoration and body acceptance? Simple: I sit. Let me explain further…
Sit in the emotion:
Sit. It is something that they made me do in treatment that I continue to use in my recovery practice today. If I look in the mirror and am not comfortable with what I see, I make myself continue to look upon my reflection.
I do this because if I am uncomfortable, it is most likely based in irrational or unjustified fear. In my experience, when I turn away from heightened emotion, I turn away from the truth. Whether it was an actual mirror or a person I love being a mirror, truth was hard for me to swallow. So I often turned and ran. Literally.
Now, I sit. When I challenge the fear by facing it, it no longer has power over me. If I do not turn away from that mirror, I am taking away its negative grip on my heart. One of my fellow treatment peers told me to look straight in the mirror, give my best side wink, finger-point and say,
You are awesome!
As silly as it sounds, I still practice this gesture when I need a reality check. Sitting and feeling my disgust turn to humor and fun can melt the body shaming away faster than masking it temporarily. I urge you to try it – because you, my friend, are awesome.
Sit in comparison:
Comparison within my disordered-self and my healthy-self keeps me on the straight and narrow daily. When I am mourning my old body in the mirror, all I have to do is compare recovery to life in my eating disorder to remind me what really matters.
My eating disorder life revolved around rituals, rules, and regulations. Anxiety, worry, and perfection consumed me. I had to be in 100% control at all times (which is impossible). I was a vampire sucking the joy and fun out of any and every situation for me and those around me.
So, now, when I look in the mirror and think I see physical imperfections, I think of the hell that I lived in mentally in my disorder.
The flat stomach, chiseled legs, and zero body fat are DEFINATELY not worth the ED life.
If I really compare recovery to my disorder, I will choose recovery EVERY time.
Sit in gratitude:
Listen- I am in no way belittling my battle with mental illness or anorexia. But if I am honest with myself, I am blessed. I have my life. My body came through the storm of disorder and is healthy and strong. Even though I abused it for so long, it has blessed me with two beautiful children.
I can choose to dwell on the negative, or I can change my neuropathways to focus on the positive. I may not have abs, but I can hold a conversation without being in a fog or losing my train of thought. Even though I’m not running ultra-marathons, but I am able to run and play with my kids and kiss my husband both goodnight and good morning.. I may not have a rock hard body, but I can laugh and enjoy ice cream and wine with my best friends.
I am grateful. So, so grateful. Reminding myself of the blessings that come with living free shakes my wise mind back into being.
Keep up the quest
Sitting, feeling, comparing, and gratitude are all ways that we can remind ourselves that this battle is worth it. However, I understand that some of you reading this are not quite there yet… when I was not writing for Recovery Warriors, but reading it to gauge my need for help, denial was my best friend. All I can say is that your questioning and searching means something.
Keep up the quest. Each and every human being deserves to live free. So keep fighting for it, Warrior!