To start, I’d like to share three truths about the early days in eating disorder recovery:
- There are days that are going to be difficult.
- Along with the hope, and willingness to change, comes the realization that this journey is going to be about more than checking off a to-do list.
- If living in recovery is going to happen, real-life solutions for change must be part of the equation.
So how can we do this?
To get through early recovery, I believe that it helps us to understand and absorb three cornerstone concepts:
1) You are not your eating disorder.
I needed to learn how to separate myself from my eating disorder. I had become entangled with my eating disorder for so many years that I had to discover who I was without it.
2) Your body is not the enemy.
I needed to learn how to not see my body as the enemy. It was no longer something to be abused. I needed to start listening to it.
3) Perfection is not real.
I had to change the way I defined success and meaning in my life. The pursuit of perfection was killing me
, and I so longed for the contentment and peace in knowing I was loved without achieving or impressing anyone.
The concepts I list above seemed to loom large – for me at least — so I needed some practical ways to bring these important cornerstones to my recovery in a more manageable way. I discovered three simple, yet compelling, objects that became so helpful to me in effectively making important changes in my behavior and thinking. I list those helpful things below:
Tools that helped me deepen my eating disorder recovery
I had a difficult time of tuning into my body, relaxing, and slowing my mind down. One thing I stumbled upon was to sit with ear plugs in. Not only was the outside world quieted, I could hear myself breathe and feel my heart beating. I could focus on my breath; I could thank God for my body and all the wonderful things He created it to be. This slowed me down, helped me connect with my body
, and begin to see the goodness in it.
Empty magazine rack:
As I began recovery I realized that I was defining my worth and ability by so many things from our culture that I had let influence what I considered success. I stopped reading magazines that promised happiness in a perfect body, the perfectly decorated home, or the surefire running routine to shave off minutes in my next marathon race. I stopped looking at web sites that perpetuated my eating disorder thinking, and became very selective regarding what aspects of social media I would engage in. I was then able to start to determine the markers that I wanted to define meaning in my life: connection with others, contentment, peace, happiness and joy.
I’ve always loved to write, and I have many journals filled with my thoughts and feelings. The shame in my life while struggling with my eating disorder seldom allowed me to speak or voice out loud those thoughts and feelings. While in early recovery, I learned that I was going to have to find a way to let those around me know what I was holding inside. The thought of that was terrifying to me. Finding my voice was a slow tenuous process. One of the things I did in early recovery was to write the things I wanted to tell someone close to me. I would hand my written thoughts to him/her to read. As the shame started to fade
, I was then able to read out loud what I had written to that person. As I continued in my recovery journey I then came to the place where I could speak out loud from my heart, not reading my written thoughts and feelings. Now I can even look the person I am talking to in the eye while sharing with them. No longer is my head hung low.
The wisdom and tools I share above are some of the things that I personally found to be helpful in getting me through those early days of recovery.
Yes, early recovery can be difficult, but you do not have to travel on this journey alone. Lean on your recovery team, be willing to try new things and find what helps you the most. Most of all…. never give up! Living in recovery is possible and oh, so very nice!
Kelli Evans is an alum of Eating Recovery Center, Denver and serves on the Recovery Ambassador Council. She enjoys hiking, reading and spending time with her husband and two children. Kelli’s passion is to offer hope and encouragement to those seeking recovery from eating disorders.