Your Recovery Toolbox:
Recovery is not just about learning to eat in a healthy way. It is not just about gaining or losing the required amount of weight. While for some patients it may be important to get medically stable first, somewhere along the path of recovery everyone will need to fill their Recovery Toolbox with many items not included on the dietician's menu of what to eat.
What needs to be in the toolbox:
The Issues & Feelings Viewfinder:
Eating Disorders are not about weight and food. They may seem to be, but these are just symptoms of something much deeper going on, triggered by your own feelings and issues. Feelings such as low self-worth, depression, sadness, anger, confusion, frustration, fear and insecurities -- Issues like low self-esteem, dysfunctional relationships, lack of boundaries, perfectionism, being a "yes" person, social self-judgment, phobia or isolation -- are just some simple examples.
You need to be willing to find and explore what those issues are. You need to be willing to heal from the pain and/or anger. You will have to learn to express and talk about what you feel, and to address what your issues may be. You will need to learn to identify your own negative emotions and what triggers negative thinking. Ultimately, you need to learn to identify and cope with the stress in your life and the emotions that you feel.
Therapy is a great way to help you discover what's going on inside. Support groups are helpful. Journaling about how you feel, buying self-help books and workbooks, going to self-esteem seminars, thinking about how your relationships and pivotal people in your life have effected you, thinking about choices you've made, exploring what you have (had) and do not (did not) have control over, visiting with past major events of your life -- these are all important parts of getting to your issues and feelings.
The True-Voice Megaphone:
It's common to hear in the recovery community -- "use your voice". As part of recovery you need to learn to use your voice... to express what it is that you are feeling, to be able to communicate effectively with others what it is you need, what it is you lack, what they can do to help. You have to be able to tell someone you are feeling insecure. You need to learn to say "I'm feeling sad today, I could use a hug." Using your voice is about the benefit you get in doing so.
There are many ways to learn to express yourself through recovery. Sometimes it will be by taking risks to just say how you feel to someone you trust. Sometimes it will be to write a letter to someone, expressing your emotions. A good place to start is in a journal, in therapy or a support group, or even in an online support forum.
The important part to remember -- this is your TRUE-voice megaphone. When you talk about nothing but what you weigh, or losing weight, or food, you are censoring your true voice and what it is you really are feeling and going through. You may have spent many years translating your problems and emotions into concentrated discussion on weight and food... you must learn to find your TRUE voice beneath the symptoms of your Eating Disorder.
A Coping Bank:
Suffering with Anorexia, Bulimia or Compulsive Overeating/Binge Eating, as said above, isn't about food... but you use your food behaviors to comfort, numb, isolate, "purge", self-punish, etc -- to COPE with whatever is eating you up inside.
It's essential on the recovery path to find new coping skills. Once you learn to identify your feelings and issues, you then need to be able to cope with them. It is a difficult slow process, but without the process of learning healthier coping skills, you're left with nothing as a healthy replacement for a set of really unhealthy behaviors.
We take the money we earn and put it in the bank for when we need it... A Coping Bank is essentially the same thing. We take what we learn about coping alternatives and put them away, in the backs of our minds, for when we need them. Click here Read more about making your own coping bank.
A Glass That's Half-Full:
Constantly thinking "I can't do it" will set you up for something called "self-fulfilled prophecy", which means you predict and carry out your own future. You do have the ability to create your own success. If you are constantly thinking negatively about yourself and what you need to do, you only make it all the harder a task... and it becomes all the easier to just give in to your negative thinking. Being a negative thinker may seem "natural", but learning to give yourself credit, to look for the positives in yourself, and to say "I can do this" is an essential part of recovery.
Affirmations can help. Motivational exercises/games can help. Doing a gratitude list each day ("Today I'm thankful for [fill in the blanks]" -- it can be as simple as "I'm thankful I made it through today" or "I'm thankful for supportive friends"). Asking those you love and trust to give you a different (healthier) perspective can help. Surrounding yourself with supportive people can help. Something as simple as a bumper sticker on the ceiling above your bed that says "I CAN DO IT" can help. Find creative ways to be your own cheerleader, and to ask for reassurance when you're having a hard time.
Is it impossible to recover all on your own? Probably not. Is it more helpful to have supportive people around you? Absolutely.
It is important to surround yourself with people who will encourage your recovery; Who will provide you with some accountability while you're learning to be accountable to yourself; Who will listen to what you are going through and what you are feeling. A therapist, a support group, a close friend, a spouse or partner, a family member, or even an online bulletin board... they can all be supportive in your fight for self discovery and recovery.
Ask friends to make you accountable. Ask family members to ask you how you really feel when you start harping on weight and food. Ask your spouse to listen to your insecurities. Ask anyone willing to support you to listen, and ask them for what you need.
Personal Responsibility Checklist:
Ultimately, you are responsible for your own recovery. Your checklist is the way you learn to be accountable to yourself.
- Am I doing my best to keep myself safe?
- Am I surrounding myself with supportive people?
- Am I trying to listen to healthy advice from supportive people?
- Am I asking for what I need?
- Am I getting what I really need by restricting/purging/binging?
- Am I expressing how I really feel?
- Am I doing the best I can right now?
- Am I being honest with the support people in my life?
- Am I being honest with my therapist?
- Am I being honest with myself?
- Am I asking for more help if I need it?
It is up to you to get what you need to recover. It is up to you to ask for help to get what you need to recover. It is up to you if you take your meds (if necessary) and it is up to you to say they aren't working if they're not. It is up to you to show up for your therapy appointments, and it's up to you to be honest with your therapist and other support people in your life. AND if you are having a seriously hard time doing any of these things, it is up to you to say "I need more help here."
Everyone has the ability within themselves to recover. Regardless of co-existing psychological illness, regardless of life circumstance, everyone can improve their life by eliminating the part of them that says "I hate me" and by getting rid of an unhealthy coping mechanism such as an Eating Disorder. Fill up your recovery toolbox, reach out and ask for help, and I know you can do it!
Beyond the Mirror Counseling
1031 Robertson Street
Fort Collins, CO 80524
Phone: (970) 413-2264
Fax: (970) 493-9113