Sometimes in recovery, it can feel that life is “continuing” without you, that your friends are moving onto the next steps in their lives, and your eating disorder is holding you back– we hear this frustration, and we get it.
Today, we offer a different perspective; to see the ‘hold’ in recovery as a pause to regain the strength you need to live the life you deserve. We explore more in this blog.
Pausing is power.
It takes guts to press pause. To allow time and space to collect ourselves and consider what step we want to take next. This can be conflicting when everyone around you is seemingly ‘cracking on’ and you’re left in that limbo space.
It’s ever more complicated when we think about how people with eating disorders can struggle to rest and take time out. For many, the need to be productive, moving forward, can serve to channel a sense of anxiety or ‘itching’ that is the felt experience underneath.
As we’ve mentioned in a previous blog, keeping busy and productive is a form of coping. These coping behaviours develop to keep an individual feeling safe and in control of their world, when something or someone has previously taught them that they aren’t as safe as they once thought they were.
As we’ve said time and again, coping behaviours develop with seemingly good intentions, but are a false sense of security and safety (maladaptive coping mechanisms) and develop at the expense of joy, freedom, creativity and exploration.
If you’re reading this and seeing yourself in our words, know that you don’t need to judge yourself for this impulse. You’re working hard to look after yourself, and that has protective roots. But it’s also important to give yourself the time you need to focus in on yourself to ultimately get where you want to be.
Accepting a stillness is crucial for recovery; it’s a demonstration of your willingness to love yourself, look after yourself, and listen to yourself. It will most likely require small steps, but that is okay.
There is power in being still. Taking the time to pause and breathe is an incredibly difficult and vulnerable thing to do. And if you’re working your way through that, that’s a strength.
We hear too often from our clients that their eating disorder has put their lives on ‘pause’, that perhaps they can fully “begin” living once more when they are recovered and well. Whilst it is helpful to have aspirations and goals as your recovered self, this projection to the future can take you away from the progress you are making in the present, in today.
You’re still living, in this moment, even if attention is diverted towards recovery and not to other external things.
We must accept that recovery will unfold in its own time, but in the meantime, we can reinforce our progress by honouring the incremental changes we see along the way.
Small steps, no matter how small, still count.
Perspective is key.
Recovery is a choice and it is important to acknowledge the pressure that we put on ourselves to “get better”, and ask whether the weight of this pressure is helping or in fact hindering our progress. Whilst it can be useful to set goals and future aspirations, when this takes us too much away from the steps we take in the present, in the today, then it can be hard to appreciate all that has brought you to this stage.
When we look at the expectations we can set for ourselves, it’s interesting to look at our locus of evaluation.
What is locus of evaluation? This is basically how we make our judgements based on ourselves, others and the world, interchanging from an internal locus or an external.
Internal Locus of evaluation = How much we trust and value our view of self
External Locus of evaluation = How much we trust and value how others view us
For example, when an individual has an external locus of evaluation, this is when their values, decisions and ideals are based from external influence – such as from parents/families; friends; society. What can be harmful in recovery here is when others’ views influence your actions and thoughts that may not align with your recovery needs.
In a therapeutic setting, individuals can process and explore their inner values and beliefs, to further bring them to a place of self-actualising. The more this is practised, the more likely they begin to trust in themselves – meaning they can begin to shift to an internal locus of evaluation.
In essence – your recovery is so much more than a recovery from an eating disorder. It’s a whole life, whole body experience.
Recovery is yours.
“Recovery” is an ambiguous word as it is and will be different for everyone. With this in mind, try not to compete with others – your experience along the way is unique to you.
You define your story and can put as much time into creating your life as you want. To help nurture compassion and reconnect to yourself again, these activities may help:
- Journaling – by journaling our feelings, we can begin to understand our thoughts processes. What’s helpful is to begin from a place of non-judgement, put pen to paper, and to see where our words take us. All feelings are welcome in a journal, by the way!
- Write a self-compassion letter – is there an internal place that needs a little more self-compassion right now? If so, honour it and explore your compassionate voice by following our 4-step guide
- Mindfulness – this practice brings us into the present, whilst the non-judgemental approach helps us to accept thoughts and emotions. What is great about mindful activities is that they can be simple – like going for a walk in a local park, soaking up bubbles in a bath, or even by enjoying our favourite cup of tea
We leave you with the words of Brené Brown. For you are integral in your life, no matter what happens in your recovery or how long it takes.
“Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.”