As an adult, I’ve learned that stress is a part of life.
I have had to accept that stress will come, whether or not I am ready for it.
But it can be especially tricky to handle stress in recovery when it’s amplified by disappointment, pain, hurt, sadness, etc. Or when something unexpected crosses your path. This isn’t to say that it’s not hard for people who aren’t in recovery. It’s something everyone goes through.
However, when you consider the amount of mental energy it takes to battle eating disorder demons, it can be exceptionally hard to stay afloat when tragedy strikes.
When I feel stress, should I just give in?
So, what do I do when I’m hit with something that causes extra stress and pain?
Well, I continue to use the tools that I have gathered in my “tool box” over the last 30 years. But when that pain hits, all the self care in the world won’t help.
My challenge becomes more difficult: Do I give in to the pain and run to the “comforts” of ED? Or do I keep fighting and clinging to the hope of recovery? At that moment, the hurt is real and all I want is some relief from the overwhelming anxiety.
The reality of dealing with stress can sometimes be so much harder than running from it.
It’s a decision to face the cause of your pain and stress.
One that I have no desire to make. In this state of stress, I know that ED will “take care of me.” If I give in I’ll feel a sense of relief and safety from the pain – if only for a brief moment.
The safe zone
For me, dealing head-on with anxiety and overwhelming feelings triggers my desire to stay safe. Without the safety of my behaviors, I have a hard time dealing with feelings.
Even though I’m dedicated to my recovery, unexpected challenges tend to make ED behaviors seem even more tempting than usual. I feel like I’m grasping to find a safe zone. And for so long, my eating disorder was my safe zone.
Then I remember that after work I have to go pick up Mason (my son), take him to his next activity, make him dinner and snuggle with him before bed. THAT is my safe zone now. HE is my safe zone now. My therapist my family and friends are my safe zone.
Then I realize how many second chances I have been given. And how blessed I am to have built such a support community around me. They lift me up when I am too weak to stand.
And I remember that often, the most painful situations lead to brighter and stronger outcomes.
My eating disorder has been the most difficult battle I have ever faced. It’s been 30 years of choices, 30 years of failures, 30 years of pain, and most importantly: 30 years of learning that I am stronger than ED.
Life is full of pain, battles, and confusion.
However, if I can choose to fight ED and choose to fight for my son, I know I can choose to fight any stress or disappointment that may come.