When you feel like the world is passing you by and you are at a standstill, it’s a good time to evaluate your life and ask yourself what you’d like to be doing. When I asked myself this question in my late 20’s I realized I had been living in a never ending nightmare and barely alive, instead of being awake and engaged in life. Yes, I got through college and nursing school, I had reputable jobs, and had some decent friends; however the reality was that the majority of my days were spent engulfed in the eating disorder. I was throwing my life away.
I was the type of person that thought, if only I moved to a new city, got a different job, found a new hobby, or got another degree then I’d be happy and my eating disorder would disappear. Unfortunately, eating disorders and mental health issues don’t work like that. They follow you wherever you go, maybe you get a few days or weeks of reprieve but those issues that were there before, are still there waiting to resurface. I tried my hardest to run, run from myself, from people that hurt me, from situations I didn’t like, and from the painful memories. You can’t outrun or outsmart depression or eating disorders. It’s just not possible.
The way to recovery is working through the most dark thoughts and beliefs about oneself and learning to love the person you are from the inside out. For me, my eating disorder was a way to punish myself, neglect my basic needs, and destroy who I was. My core belief “I am meant to suffer” was etched so deep into my soul that I couldn’t fathom treating myself with kindness, or even uttering a word of praise. I was set on the fact that I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t worthy, and I could never life up to the person my family wanted me to be. Getting to this understanding of myself was extremely painful and the easy way out would have been to ignore it. Has I done that, I wouldn’t be here today, living a recovered life. (more to come)
Replacing my negative core beliefs with neutral or positive beliefs was the first step in working towards recovery. Here are a few of the things I began saying to myself:
Instead of “I am meant to suffer”:
-I have value
-I bring value to this world
-I have good qualities
-I am a kind person
-my life has purpose
-my past doesn’t have to define my future
-I am likable
-I am smart
-I am hardworking
These phrases are not something I believed right away. It takes time to think and believe differently. I encourage you to be kind with yourself and also to be honest with yourself. Real change requires real and truthful work. You deserve it for yourself to honor the dark that is within you, and work towards the light. Change is possible, it just takes dedication and perseverance.
Never give up on yourself or your recovery.
As the positive messages replaced my old negative messages and old story, I realized I became more invested in myself. People always ask, what helped you commit to recovery? The two most important things for me were:
1. Taking ownership over my recovery and my future
2. Living, being, and feeling empowered.
It’s not possible to have lifelong change because someone else wants you to. You have to get to a place of wanting it for yourself, believing it’s possible (even if it starts with one ounce), and igniting the flame of hope within yourself. If you are on the fence about recovering from your eating disorder, it’s helpful to ask yourself a few questions:
Once you make a decision to recover, fight like hell to keep yourself motivated and committed to moving one step closer each day. Take back the control that the eating disorder took from you and gain back your life. I felt so powerful, in a way I hadn’t before and it was with that conviction and drive that I challenged my own thoughts and behaviors and began to live differently.
Written in my eating disorder, before embarking on the recovery journey.
I feel paralyzed.
I’m shaking inside.
I want help, but I’m not doing a good job of letting people help me.
I’m afraid of getting hurt and betrayed again.
My chest is so tight I can’t breathe.
There is so much pain.
Tears well up inside my eyes.
I want to completely shut down and not deal with any of this.
I don’t have anyone to call.
I know I’ll become too much, if I haven’t already.
I feel out of control, desperately clutching to the eating disorder with all of the strength I have left.
I am broken, torn, and in pieces.
How did I get like this?
Why is this my life?
I think I’m panicking.
The world is so big.
I’m just being swallowed up.
Who is looking out for me?
Everyone leaves me at some point.
How am I supposed to trust anyone?
I don’t want to admit it out loud, but I’m terrified. I’m scared.
My heart is racing, just like my thoughts.
Am I going to make it?
Why is it so hard to get better?
What does success look like for you? Is it in the grades you achieve, the amount of money in your bank account, your independence, your job title, the vacations you take, or the relationships you have?
When I was in kindergarten, I dreamed about being older and smarter, getting my first job, and having a lot of fun with friends; when I was in high school I dreamed about being smaller, thinner, eating less than others, not having any body fat, being the fastest on the swim team, and fitting in. How did my life’s successes change so drastically from when I was 6 to when I was 16. It seemed like as I grew older, I was never quite good enough for anyone including myself; not smart enough, not a good enough flute player, not the fastest on the swim team, not the thinnest or smallest, and not in the “in crowd”.
The evolution of my eating disorder crept in slowly, gaining momentum as time went on, and gaining significance as the years went on. I worked hard to eat the right foods, work out and have a fit body, survive off of almost nothing, and suppress my emotions both positive and negative. What I was left with, was nothing but a shell. Everything I once had the possibility of becoming or doing was disappearing, the friends I had were gone, my attention span sharp, but it was used to work myself into the ground, the expectations for myself unrealistic, and I never felt a part of the group, or like I measured up to others around me.
The eating disorder that I attached myself so tightly to took away everything that made me the person I was meant to me, and I became a person I didn’t recognize any longer. In the mirror I saw someone who was ugly, unattractive, and not successful, in reality I was withering away, shrinking inside myself, caving to the external pressures, crumbling to the internal perfectionist I was, and slowly dying. I still don’t understand, how did that life seem so glamorous?
Tonight’s message is simple, probably a bit harder to implement though, food is nourishment for the body, mind, and soul. Have some fun with it, eat with friends, and try new dishes.
Tonight’s dinner at Living Proof MN was baked sweet potatoes, peanut butter, and bananas. Delicious.
The Beyond Rules Recovery blog is written by people who are passionate about mental health and wants to spread the message of hope, resiliency, and recovery.