As humans (yep, that includes you), eating disorder or not, in recovery or not, we all experience pain … trauma history, abuse, loss, rejection, mental illness, tragedy, broken hearts…the list is infinite. No matter what makes up our past, there is pain there. And oftentimes, we are told to “never look back”, to “keep what’s passed, past”, and to “be strong and move on”…
Because it’s uncomfortable. It hurts. And we adapt to that by avoiding, running,and suppressing the painful yesterdays.
It’s natural to do so, and maybe you were taught or modeled that as a child. Taught not to complain, not to talk about your feelings, and to push things under the rug to save face. But the truth is, we can never really, successfully, run and hide from it… because our past is part of our story, not the end of our story, but the painful parts are a big chunk of it… and actually where the most growth is and where the greatest stories come from!
Yup, your past…even the most painful chapters that you’ve “forgotten” about, are parts of you — and while the past does not have to define you, it has helped to shape and form your path to right now.
I believe in the importance of owning and honoring every single part of yourself … even the parts you hate…mistakes you’ve made, wrong-doings done to you, shame, regret, anger…
Disowning those parts of yourself impede on the ability to truly move forward, and to ultimately feel and be whole.
This is especially relevant in the recovery process. I can speak to that from a personal and clinical perspective…
For example, my “eating disorder self” (the unhealthy, insecure, depressed, controlling, pessimistic, obsessive, fearful…etc. self) is in my past. The days both in my eating disorder and in the trenches of recovery and treatment are behind me. That’s part of my past. A lot of it I’m not proud of and I’d really rather forget. But through my continued recovery and now being recovered, I have learned to integrate that part of myself, the past, with my healthy self, the self I am in my heart and soul, the person I am today. It’s not who I am…It does not define me…but it’s part of me as a whole person, and that’s okay!
3 ways your past may be affecting you now in your eating disorder or your recovery:
- Harboring anger about what others have done to you in the past. The sad reality is that people hurt people, and sometimes, unresolved feelings about being mistreated turns to resentment, self-inflicted hatred, harm, and sabotage. Are you still holding onto your pain and anger towards others? How is that affecting your eating disorder or other destructive behaviors and beliefs about yourself?
- Lack of self-awareness and insight about your past and how it has impacted you, probably means there is a lack of self-awareness around the present (ie. your current choices, behaviors, and relationships) and how it will affect your future. It’s all a ripple effect, but the good news is, awareness and acknowledgment lead to empowerment towards choices and change!
- Attachment patterns are significant factors in eating disorder manifestation. Sometimes food restriction can be indicative of pushing others away, or parallel self-restriction of love, belonging, and connection. Bingeing behaviors can oftentimes represent a desperate need to fulfill that void. For some, purging serves as the only way to either escape from or to feel emotion or connection with the self. And guess what? Attachment begins in the womb…so the history of your attachment relationships with caregivers and others is full of information related to your illness and recovery!
By running away, you give more power to the past that hurts you and take power away from your ability to grow.
I would love to hear your thoughts and experience with this… Please leave a comment and share your experience with integrating your past, present, and future, and how you’ve learned from it!
Artwork by ©2016 defectivebarbie