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A key step in my recovery.
“I’m in eating disorder recovery.“
It paints such a clear image in the minds of most people.
Recovery= eating more, challenging foods, gaining weight, getting healthier, etc. While that’s not necessarily a wrong assumption, it is most definitely an incomplete assumption. One piece of recovery that I was not expecting to hit me so hard was the feeling. It felt like I started nourishing myself more and my mind decided to slap me in the face with every single hurt feeling I had ever experienced.
Hey, Del. Remember when your crayons got stolen in Kindergarten? Feel that betrayal.
Remember that time your sister accidentally scuffed your combat boots in 6th grade? Oh, the devastation.
Your fish that died 4 years ago? You better mourn him right now. (RIP, Jose… May he rest peacefully.)
Okay, no, but seriously. I found myself thinking about things from my past that I had either 1) forgotten about entirely or 2) thought I didn’t really care about that much at the time.
The reality was, I did care about these things and I did have strong emotions surrounding them… I just never let myself feel them. Instead, I coped using disordered behaviors and numbed the pain with food restriction, self-deprecation, and relentless exercise routines. Heartache/emotional pain and eating disorder behaviors may sound somewhat distant from each other but, from my experience, they really go hand-in-hand.
I feel like I’m talking in circles here so let’s put it this way…
Imagine you fell down and scraped your knee. That scrape probably actually stings like a B-Word. But if you also broke your arm when you fell, that likely is drawing most of your attention. Forget the bloody knee, your arm gets all the focus here.
My eating disorder was my broken arm.
The attention that I gave my disorder helped to numb out all other pain. It was easier to ignore hurt feeling when I was even more miserable in other areas of my life.
As I started recovering, I found myself crying randomly over things that happened months or even years ago.
(WTF brain?! You told me I was over this stuff.)
But feeling this pain (and I mean REALLY feeling it— the driving-listening-to-Sam-Smith-and-bawling-your-eyes-out kind of feeling it) was a key step in recovering.
I underestimated the power of feeling in the process of healing. I could no longer pretend I wasn’t hurt by the people that left my life, words that once stung, or relationships I lost. When I was honest with myself, these things did hurt me.
They hurt me a lot.
What I’m getting at here is just because your arm is broken, doesn’t mean your scraped knee doesn’t hurt. But once your arm starts to heal, maybe you’ll look down at your knee and see a scar left behind. A scar that you never dealt with. A scar that you never took the time to feel. And now that your arm is slowly getting better (ie. as you recover), you have the time to think about that scar and the pain it caused you. Maybe now you have time, energy, and focus to give your damaged knee.
After all, it deserved to be felt all along, you just had other things that got in the way.
Okay, so maybe that’s not the BEST analogy, but you get my point.
The things I went through while in my disordered mindset did not receive the emotion that they warranted so now, months or years later, here I am feeling these things like they’re happening all over again. The wound feels fresh because I never dealt with them and let them heal at the time.
(Okay, I promise I’m done with my scraped knee comparisons now.)
There’s only one thing I’ve found that has actually helped this…
I’ve had to go through it.
I’ve had to feel.
I had to mourn the betrayal and loss of my relationship with my high school best friend. I had to feel the anger of being cheated on and mistreated multiple times. On the other hand, I also had to sit with the discomfort of acknowledging my mistakes… the relationships that I am at fault for ending and the people I am responsible for hurting. I had to relive body-shaming, name-calling, rumors, and unkind comments that have been made to and about me.
All of this hurt.
Some of it still does.
There were times where I was so uncomfortable that all I wanted to do was run to disordered behaviors to cope.
There were times that I did.
But acknowledging that was the first (and biggest) step in fixing it.
The things that I brushed off while simultaneously self-destructing couldn’t be ignored any longer when those toxic habits were no longer an option for coping.
I had no choice but to face it and feel it.
All of it.
I am not weak for hurting, I am not fragile for feeling, I am not pathetic for being caught up on things from my past.
Neither are you.
I am healing, step-by-step. This is simply another piece of that journey.
Please don’t ever be afraid to let yourself feel sad. We all do. I am right there with you.