Post-therapy thoughts // small steps matter

I had therapy today, and I’ve been doing better and growing a lot but I told her how it feels like no matter what progress I make, it always feels like there are more layers underneath. One of those layers is the belief that I don’t deserve to exist. We talked about where it came from, and my parents and childhood. With other beliefs like ‘not good enough’, I can now debunk and ignore, the ‘undeserving‘ belief is so deep rooted. She asked me to apply that to others- what would make someone unworthy of life? I truly believe I cannot determine someone’s worth. It’s not my place to say that a person doesn’t deserve life. She asked me, so why do I do that to myself? I said that my parents treated me like I was unworthy, so I have to be. She asked if I could see that perhaps my parents didn’t meet my emotional needs, not because I was a bad person or ‘not good enough’… probably not even because of any reasons related to me as a person, but rather them and their circumstances. I think, yeah, I can definitely see it because my parents don’t even take care of their own emotional needs so they wouldn’t think of mine. But still, I cannot shake it off, this deep deep wound. I didn’t want to open up too much during the session though, I didn’t feel ready to explore that? Anyway, she said when we have fractured attachments, we often base our worth on how we are treated in our relationships but the truth is, not all our relationships will meet our emotional needs. Also, by trying to protect ourselves, we deny ourselves the full experience of relationships including pain and fear and rejection, and creating distance in a relationship can impact the other person as well. She also got me to recognize that this belief feels very true but it comes from the narrative I’ve had growing up and not having emotional needs met.

It’s very very loud in my brain but it’s a false belief, and she said “you can remind yourself that your brain is repeating this, but it is repeating something false and repeating it more doesn’t make it right”.

I told her how I’ve recently realized the importance of being secure in myself? I know that I can’t ever fully feel safe and secure in relationships if I don’t feel safe in myself first. I have to accept myself first and allow myself to be, to build a home within myself. She agreed that this internal resiliency can be help, and that I actually can cope with uncertainty and pain in relationships/attachment issues. Because I so often feel like I’m putting up a facade, with people, with myself, and the only way to heal that is to heal the dissociation with myself. She also mentioned ways of finding self compassion, and I said what helps is writing to myself at another point in time, regardless of past-me or future-me. I realized, that under the screaming beliefs of unworthy/bad/awful, I do have a lot of love and compassion for myself because I have a lot of love and compassion for others, and a lot of love and compassion in general. So I do have that capacity. I just can’t ever feel it in the moment because the beliefs are so loud. I told her how I can believe others, I can believe they care about me, I can see that maybe my beliefs are false. She mentioned that was a lot of progress for me, even just being able to find compassion, because a few years ago I couldn’t see any way that my negative beliefs might be false.

I feel like I’ve really moved forward in terms of mental and emotional progress but behaviorally I still get really stuck, which is strange because for many people the behavioral aspect of recovery comes first. She said that “the way you’ve learnt to cope with emotions, is through rationalizing it because you’re such an intellectual person. But just because you’re able to rationalize it, doesn’t make it any easier for you. in fact, it can make things harder sometimes. have some of that self compassion for yourself”. Just because I know what recovery ‘should’ be doesn’t make it easier for me. She said “this is going to be really really hard for you and that’s how it is and the more we can accept that, the easier it is for us.” I brought up that mentally I can understand things and fight the thoughts but physically, the anxiety around food gets so intense. Even talking about it makes me anxious and she said she could see that through my body language. She mentioned that “it’s going to take a while for your body to catch up with you mentally” and the hard part is that there’s nothing I can do to control it or help myself, except to accept it and tolerate it and not to make it worst.

“Recovery is not easy, it is hard for you and it is okay that it is hard.”

I told her how I realize humans suck at acknowledging we aren’t in control of much in life, and how we feel the need to be in control. I still find myself constantly wanting to be sick, and I don’t know why. She said there can be a lot of comforts, and with anorexia the ‘pros’ can be very alluring and it’s often a quick fix in the short term. It’s easier to skip a meal or exercise for a few hours to feel better about yourself than to tolerate the uncertainty of not knowing, or the discomfort of feeling. With any dysfunctional coping skill, it’s often efficient and she said it’s really really hard recognizing that your coping skills aren’t helping you, because that means you’re left with nothing for a while. But I do think she believes I can do it. She said that “especially as we grow older, the uncertainty in life only grows and we never really know how well we’re doing, and that’s scary. One of the best and hardest things you can do for yourself, allowing yourself to learn to tolerate uncertainty. Because we’re never really in control anyway, and even if you don’t want to tolerate it, it’s still going to be there.” I said that’s true and I realize if I’m not allowing something to ‘be’, then I’m running away from it and I’m tired of running. I need to accept, to be.

In terms of behavioral changes though, I told her I didn’t know what is the right amount to push myself and my thoughts are still very black & white. She said that for me, she wanted to push me to learn to see the value in small steps and find balance, to do something that makes me uncomfortable but not too uncomfortable, to think of small steps I can take every single day. She mentioned if I think ‘I’m a failure’, or ‘this is so disordered, what’s the point’, or ‘this isn’t good enough’, such sweeping statements are often b/w. She said she can empathize, because she’s an extreme person as well and it’s hard to find balance. She says this a lot- it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon and taking small steps is better than pushing myself to take a huge leap and then getting scared and running back. She said she’s already seen small steps in terms of my behavioral changes, even in things like talking to people. She agreed that I am pretty good at catching my black & white thinking, but the next step would be to not respond to it. I’m going to try to focus on that I think, and push myself to make small changes, steps I can take everyday or consistently.

I need to let go of my perfectionist expectations, and part of black and white thinking is the expectation that recovery should be easy, or smooth, or perfect. I have to let go of ‘shoulds’ as well, and accept that I will feel awful and it will be hard and that’s okay. I have to accept that my best is enough, I am enough, small steps are enough. I do not have to be perfect to be good enough.

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believe in the me that believes in you

It’s funny how truly shocked I am when people express positive opinions of me, and how it touches my heart because I never expect anyone to care about me or think of me as anything but awful. My therapist has said multiple times, that I’m a likeable person. She said that I’m kind and compassionate and empathetic, that she knows I said I don’t want to ever be in a relationship because of my trauma but I deserve fulfilling relationships and anyone would be lucky to have me as a partner, that she finds it hard to believe that people would hate me and that I’m smart and intuitive and insightful and I have so much ahead of me if I recover. My art therapist, even though I’ve only known her a few months, said that she really liked working with me because I was perceptive and intuitive, that I simply have a way of understanding and perceiving things, that she likes what I write and the art I create, that my emotions make me who I am.

Not to mention my friends- twinnie has seen me at all of my lowest points and is still here- if I was really such a bad and ugly person, she wouldn’t have stayed. Cal said something that stuck with me, along the lines of ‘I want you to be okay because you matter a lot to me’ and that just hit me, because I never thought of myself as anything but worthless. Cal has been such an important part of my life and stuck by through this entire process of opening up. She said I was a hard person to hate and my friends seconded that. Sara said that I deserved to treat my body well and take care of it, that I deserved better in life, that I was so strong for going through all of this and her classic ‘you’re such a nice person’ line. Cheryl, whom I’ve only met once irl, literally sat down and said that I deserved to be happy, that I was wise for my age, that I was smart and sensitive and had so much ahead of me, that I was so so strong and I truly deserved to recover- it meant so much to me, to have someone ‘new’ in my life say that? Because she has nothing to gain out of it, she didn’t have to say that, she didn’t have to like me, but she did. Jolyn, whom I’ve met in day program, said that I was kind and lovely and strong, that I deserve to be happy, that she was glad to have met me. She didn’t have to like me either but she did. All of my online friends, kelly/amanda/char/eunice have seen the worst, most shameful parts of me and they somehow still care about me. In the eulogies they’ve written, they’ve all had a common thread, they’ve all said that I was kind, compassionate, worthy, a good friend. Actually, all the fake-eulogies I got from people really did touch me and help me.

I have lived my entire life believing with all of my heart that I am bad and unworthy and disgusting and ugly and unloved and worthless and undeserving and stupid and awful and too emotional and too much and too fat and never ever good enough or perfect enough. I have lived my entire life with the internal compass of ‘I am a bad person, I am not good enough, I do not deserve to exist, nobody will ever love me’ and I have lived my entire life trying to fix myself. I have always believed that if people saw the ‘real me’, nobody would like me, nobody would want to be here- after all, who would care about someone so bad and ugly and awful? I’ve always, always felt like a lie and facade. That people don’t see the ‘real me’, people don’t see how awful of a person I am. I thought if people saw just how much pain I carry, if people saw this gaping hole in my soul, the unhealed wounds in my heart and scars on my body, the burdens and demons and darkness I hold- they would see how ugly I truly am. If they saw how intensely I feel everything, how I spill and overflow and how messy I am- they would see how imperfect I truly am. So I hide that.

I hide me, I hide my feelings and pain and dreams and personality. But I have been growing.

Over the years I have grown to be myself a little more, to be more accepting of my quirks and clumsiness and personality. I still have a million walls but it is progress compared to when I was younger. My therapist mentioned that I always have a barrier up, even in therapy. It’s true and I don’t even realise it- I am making efforts to take it down from time to time. This year, I have made leaps and bounds in opening up to people. It was partially forced by circumstance but this was the first time I have ever truly let myself be vulnerable with people, to let them see the real me, the raw pain. This was the first time I expressed my struggle and feelings, the first time I even told people about the eating disorder, this deep and shameful secret. This was the first time I let myself trust and rely on people a little bit. I had to force myself to do it, and I started forcing myself to be vulnerable online too, to be unafraid of vulnerability.

And despite all of this- my friends and therapists are here, they care about me, they don’t think I’m a failure for feeling this way or being this way, they are proud of the progress I’ve made, they don’t hate me. I worked on this for so long in therapy- on opening up to people, but I didn’t do it until February and I was so shocked when reality proved my beliefs wrong. People saw the truth and didn’t hate me or think I was the worst, most disgusting person on earth. And I learnt that even if people didn’t understand, even if people did leave, I can cope with it.

So maybe, just maybe, in all my recovery and growth- I am starting to try to believe them.

I think I possibly could believe that I am not a bad person. I could believe that not everyone hates me. I think, I could believe that the parts of me I used to hide, my feelings and pain don’t make me any less of a person. Even if I don’t believe them (which is most of the time), I trust these people and I can choose to trust them instead of the beliefs and thoughts in my head. I can choose to believe that they are not lying, that they do care, that I am not such a bad or unworthy person after all because like I tell my friends, “I am not obligated to stay or care about you but I want to do that because you matter to me and you deserve my time and emotions”- and I have to trust that my friends do the same for me. They want to spend time with me because I am not an awful person. I’ve made new friends and they choose to befriend me because I am not an awful person. People say that I deserve to get better because maybe I do deserve to get better. Nobody is obligated to say these things, nobody is obligated to care or stay or bother with me, so I have to trust that they do because they want to and they believe it. So why shouldn’t I believe them? The title of this post is from the my friends, ‘believe in the me that believes in you’ and Cal reminds me of that- even if I can’t believe in myself, I can believe in my friends who do believe in me.

Knowing this is such a wonderful first step, being open to it is such a good step. Being open to the idea that maybe these beliefs I have about myself aren’t facts. I know they are not true, I’ve done this is therapy often throughout the years, but feelings are harder than cognition and someday perhaps I will truly believe I am not a bad person after all.

goldilocks

I’ve just been in such a low place over the past 3 weeks, and today was no exception. I just felt so miserable I decided on a whim to complain to my friends, I ranted about how awful and sad I feel. I look back and for the past 3-4 years I’ve constantly been fighting and telling myself things will get better. It’s always ‘it sucks right now but we have to push through and keep trying‘ but nothing I do helps and I keep going in circles and I’m just so sick of being sick. I’m so sick of always having to hope, because having to hope sucks. I hate the fact that there’s no path I can take to recovery, there’s no formula, it feels like there’s nothing I can do to actually help myself- I’m so tired and nothing ever gets better and I just want to stay in bed until someone solves this because I can’t. The only thing I’m not doing right now is ED recovery but then again, eating doesn’t make anything better (it just makes me fat and feel awful) and besides, I don’t even know how to eat.

I didn’t have the energy to be my usual ‘things are going to get better’ self and it felt like I was in a negative mindset which I dislike, I hate it when my brain gets depressing because I don’t see a point in being negative and I apologized for that. But she pointed out it was okay to be. It was okay to feel feelings. This whole time, I’ve been like ‘yes I know it’s okay to feel feelings and all, but I don’t want to feel them‘ and then that’s when the epiphany hit. 

I think it’s better to just be positive and move forward instead of ‘wallowing’ but maybe that’s a way of stopping myself from feeling feelings- under the guise of ‘positivity’. I want to be better but I’m forcing myself to be better without first allowing it to be.
I feel like we’ve talked about this in therapy many times before, allowing myself to feel, and it’s something I started really learning this year in the hospital- having to break before you rebuild, but it never fully hit me until now. I’ve tried to stop ‘actively’ pushing away my feelings but I’ve never realized how even the smallest things I do, like pushing myself to look forward/get better/be productive, all subconsciously invalidate my feelings and completely ignore them. I don’t know why it was such a lightbulb moment but it was, and I realized I need to just let myself be sad instead of trying to move on. That is a part of recovery, a very important part- recovery is not trying to feel better, it’s letting myself feel the unpleasant feelings in the first place. Without allowing myself to feel all of it first, I can never truly get better, I have to let it get worse before it can get better. Otherwise, all my attempts at ‘getting better’, as I’ve done over the past 3-4 years, are simply various ways of trying to push the feelings down while being as high functioning as possible. My functionality was how I measured recovery and right now, as I write this, I realize that’s not a good way to measure recovery at all. Like I mentioned, feeling bad is an important part of recovery. There cannot be healing without pain, and I feel like I need to learn how to accept pain. It’s a very Buddhist thing too, isn’t it, accepting pain?
I feel like I do have a fear of ‘wallowing‘ and ‘being depressive‘ though, and I don’t know where the line between allowing myself to feel feelings and wallowing is? I’m going to bring this up in therapy tomorrow.
I realize I’m so black and white, what a surprise. In the first few years of being sick, I was completely hopeless and wallowing in my own misery but in the subsequent years, I was constantly trying to get better (being more functional) and be hopeful and avoid my sadness. I made this switch gradually, but I flipped the switch without ever dealing with the issue. Recovery, real recovery, is not a switch after all. That’s why I feel like I’ve never really changed. I feel like I just went from being ‘really sad and submerged in sadness and non-functioning ‘ to ‘really sad and ignoring sadness and trying to function‘. I also feel like a part of me is really scared that allowing myself to be sad and feel everything would mean going back to the way I was- drowning in sadness and not being able to function. I never realized that was a fear, but I think it has been a fear all along. The fear that my feelings are ‘too much’. On a smaller scale, I expressed the same fear lately- that if I don’t protect myself from the attachment trauma with Dr K now, then what happened in February will repeat itself and I will be so overwhelmed by the pain and flashbacks and trauma that I cannot cope. My fears are completely logical, I have experienced my feelings in full force before- I was severely depressed and unstable and in constant aching misery in the first few years of my illness. Same with February this year, I was completely unstable and in unimaginable pain, pain I never want to go through ever again. Of course I’ll be scared of allowing myself to feel. The fear that my feelings are ‘too much’ don’t just come from my beliefs, it comes from experience. I haven’t been able to handle the pain in the past, so naturally I want to avoid the pain now. However, I also recognize that the pain I experienced during those periods was probably more intense and unpredictable because they have been the result of a buildup.
I realize I am scared of feelings and emotions. I cannot fathom allowing myself to feel unconditionally. If I allowed myself to feel everything- I would just be really sad because there is a lot to be sad about.
Ironically, I am so sad right now, so whatever I’m doing to ‘cope’ is not working, and I know that’s what Dr K would say too. My friend pointed out that you never know until you give it a go, and she’s right because I have never tried being unconditional with myself. Yet, I am terrified of being unconditional. Not just in terms of feelings but in terms of everything, I am terrified of being ‘too much‘. If I let myself feel everything it’ll be too much and I won’t be able to handle it, if people saw the ‘real me’ it’ll be too much and everyone will leave, if I let myself eat what I want then I will eat too much and become fat and take up too much space. There is constantly the need to control, to deal with it or manage it somehow, I cannot imagine not having some control. Too much food so you gotta restrict calories, too much feelings so you gotta numb them, too much weight so you gotta lose it- even the good things- too much passion so you gotta calm down, too much dreaming so you gotta be realistic. I am, by nature, ‘too much’. I feel everything incredibly intensely, I’m hypersensitive. I feel so much and I need so much and I hate it. That’s why I have a passionate hatred for needs and hunger, a reminder of that ‘too much’-ness.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way because I hear normal friends/people say such things all the time, I feel like society itself has a stigma against excess. Applying the same logic to other people really made me think about the concept of ‘too much‘ and how ludicrous that is, because what’s so bad about ‘too much‘ anyway? My friend pointed out some really good things here: “Who gets to decide what is ‘too much‘? It’s so subjective. You might feel like you’re ‘too much’ but what if it’ll be just enough for you? Not for your mental illness and disordered behavior. It might seem like too much for your ED but it may be the perfect amount for you.” It made perfect sense, especially when I thought about in the context of others and not myself- I truly believe we are just right for us, whatever intensity you feel and you think, it’s right for you because it’s yours? It’s your feelings and it’s authentically you so how can it be ‘wrong’? I feel like I can apply that logic easily to someone else, but for myself it’s harder because I have that fundamental belief that ‘I am wrong‘ so obviously it makes sense in my head that my authentic feelings and authentic self would wrong too, but I am working on changing that belief because I know it is baseless.
She also pointed out that perhaps everything can seem ‘so much’ and more intense to me because I deprive myself of things– like how restricting food causes the urge to eat more. I do believe there is truth in that emotionally as well, and my past experiences with emotions have been so intense because I bottle them up until they hit an extreme. I feel like framing things this way- comparing emotions to food- makes the solution a lot clearer to me. Because I know if I eat unconditionally, I will be eating ‘too much’ and I will overeat because I have been so deprived. My eating is ‘too much’ compared to others but it makes sense why, and eventually my appetite will taper off to become more ‘normal’ when I keep responding to hunger and I am no longer deprived. So applying that logic, similarly, right now I will feel ‘too much’ and it will be that way for a while because I have deprived myself of feeling anything for so long, and I just need to keep letting myself feel until eventually the ‘excess’ tapers off and I reach a more ‘normal’ intensity of emotions (in this case I mean ‘normal’ for me because my emotional intensity will always be higher than average and that’s ok) when I am more balanced. That’s another small epiphany for me. The more I deprive myself, the more intense everything will be because the balance is thrown off and that adds to the feeling of ‘too much’.
It made me a little sad, realizing that I struggle immensely with allowing myself to just be, with the idea of not controlling and ‘managing’ myself and with being unconditional, because I’ve never ever done it before. I truly can’t remember a time in my life where I ever felt enough, not too much or too little. So I’ve never been unconditional, I’ve always either been trying to be perfect to make up for being too little, or to be less emotional/thinner/smaller/quieter/less messy/less myself to make up for being too much. At every single age, I have been trying to live up to an impossible standard, I am always too much or too little and never ‘just right’. This is why I fundamentally believe I am wrong. I would never ever think any of my friends were ‘wrong’ or ‘too much’ or ‘not enough’. I am unconditional with everyone around me, and yet never with myself, and my friend said I should try to do that. Be unconditional with myself. Because I might have had a shitty childhood but now, I am older and I can give little-me the unconditional acceptance she needs. This is why I called this post Goldilocks- I suppose I do have to be like her and find where it is not too hot or cold, not too big or small, not too hard or soft, but just right.
And you are not too much, not too little- just right, as you are.
I say I don’t know what to do, but what I need to do is to allow myself to be. to not do. This was another small epiphany- when I am sick/use the ED in any way, I am running from myself and my feelings so it makes sense that in recovery I need to just be. Being is the exact opposite of running. Running is too exhausting, I know that, I am miserable. I need to allow myself to be unconditional without letting fear stop me, because I am not too much. I am utterly terrified of being too much but I am not. I need to be unconditional with feelings, with food, with my weight and with my soul. I need to allow my inner child to be who she is because she is just right, as she is. I don’t have to fit into any box. She doesn’t have to fit into any box. I do still feel resistant towards recovery, I don’t want to give up the ED because I feel like eating isn’t going to help, my body image is awful and I hate being fat and I don’t know how to recover when I freak out over cereal. I seriously don’t know how to allow myself to just be, without trying to change myself in some way. Existing is bloody terrifying. But I look back at the past 6-9 years and I am just so tired of being tired and miserable. I don’t know what will help me, but recovery is the only thing I haven’t tried- I haven’t tried being unconditional and I don’t know if it will truly help but what I’m doing isn’t working so what’s the harm in trying something new? I don’t want to deal with the behavioral and physical recovery and the painful side effects of it but I can’t separate emotional/trauma recovery and ED recovery. If I am using the ED, I am automatically numbing myself. It’s not going to feel good but there is no point in holding onto what no longer serves me because I am so, so miserable and sad right now. I’ll never feel sick enough. There is no point in waiting to recover, no point in losing weight then recovering because I’ll have to gain it back and be at my set point eventually. I want recovery in the long term so I have to do it, I can’t rely on external validation. I have to go back to it, and I will. I have to allow myself grace.

don’t give up on yourself.

I’ve lost a lot of motivation for recovery lately, and I think one big reason that pushed me to do it immediately back then was my therapist and wanting to make her proud/make the best use of our remaining sessions. But now without that immediate motivation, my brain thinks ‘I’ll do it eventually’. I do have reasons to recover, but it doesn’t feel enough to push me to want to do it now. Also, the classic ‘you have to get worse before you can get better’, the same mindset I’ve always had: I’ll do it when someone sees that I’m sick enough. I still feel like maybe if I lose weight then my doctors/friends/family will see that I’m sick then I would actually get care and help that I need- and after that happens then I can get better.  I just don’t feel validated, or helped, but I also know that’s probably just me blocking out the help/care from people and no amount of validation will be enough. I wrote this back in a recovery post: “Remember that you will never feel sick enough or thin enough, there comes a point where you just have to sit down and acknowledge the fact that you are suffering. You don’t need anyone’s validation. Remember there is no value in sickness or thinness or misery. Remember there is nothing better about being sicker, or thinner.” I feel like that was a good reminder.

I wrote this too: “that little girl still lives inside me, she is the pain & fear I feel, and taking care of her is also taking care of myself. It makes me feel better knowing I am not alone, knowing I am seen and validated and cared for- even if it’s from myself. Perhaps that’s the best kind of care, self-care.” I don’t feel cared for, because I am not caring for myself, I am not allowing care into my life, I am shutting out. I don’t feel secure enough to recover because I am not taking care of that little girl. When I shut people out, when I ignore my body and when I shut myself out- I am shutting her out. I need to go back to that little girl, I need to tell her it’s going to be okay, that she’s unconditionally loved.

My therapist pointed out that I have high standards for recovery and I’m slipping there again. I feel like I’m disappointing everyone no matter what- I’m disappointing my doctors and my friends if I’m not ‘good enough’ at recovery. I feel like a disappointment right now, because I know I’m not ‘actively’ choosing to recover in terms of making sure I eat enough/following a meal plan but I want to want to recover. I also think I’m really just disappointing myself because nobody else has high standards of my recovery like me. Kelly pointed out that the ED is also trying to make me believe that since I “can’t recover” then I might as well go back to the ED which is, in her words, SNEAKY AS SHIT. She’s so right because I think that I can’t recover and I don’t know how to eat so I’m not even going to try. The disorder is literally so loud 24/7 and most times I’m like ‘ok I’m not gonna fight you’ because I don’t have the energy to be fighting the ED all the time like I did previously and I literally don’t know how to eat normally anyway. But I need to remind myself that waiting to feel better and then eat more is not gonna work!!!!!!! You have to eat more to feel better!!!! Progress is still progress- even being at a standstill is better then going back.

Here’s my reminder for today: Recovery is not black and white, it is not a grand thing. Choosing recovery doesn’t mean going out to eat buffets or burgers, it doesn’t mean eating 3000 calories everyday straight away, it doesn’t mean not struggling. It doesn’t have to be huge- baby steps. Committing to recovery is a good start. Reminding yourself why you want recovery is a good start. Eating more is a good start. Allowing yourself to eat is a good start. Recovery is not perfect, trying your best is enough. Also- you’re not going to always want it but you have to do it and keep doing it. Find compassion for yourself.

Lastly, I also wrote this back in another blogpost: “I cannot live the life I want if I am sick, no matter how many times my brain says I can do it, I cannot. My illness no longer gives me anything. I don’t need it’s control, I will survive without it, I will survive at a healthy weight, I will survive the fear and uncertainty and tidal waves of emotions. Feeling everything is better than feeling nothing.” Right now I feel like I need the illness, but at one point I identified that I wanted recovery, that I didn’t need the disorder, and I trust myself. I fought for recovery at one point. I’ve come so far, even though I’ve slipped back, I am not who I was even a month ago. I fought so hard for recovery all this time, I didn’t want to relapse because I didn’t want to let myself down. I didn’t want to relapse because I knew little-ericia deserves better. Yet now I find myself here, relapsing. What do I do? Do I give into the disorder or do I make the choice to go back and do what is right? I just need to do it, choosing to give into the feelings and thoughts and behaviors and choosing to control my weight is choosing to not recover. I cannot recover without doing these things. I need to let go of ED beliefs.

Seriously. I wrote this: “I deserve self compassion, I deserve to eat, I deserve to exist. That little girl inside deserves better than this eating disorder. I cannot keep doing this to myself, I cannot keep putting myself through this suffering. I want a life where I can live according to my values- love and compassion and adventure and authenticity and courage, not a life where I am led by fear and consumed by self-hatred. I’m never going to be sick enough or good enough for my disorder’s unrelenting standards- being ‘sicker’ doesn’t have real worth and ‘control’ is an illusion.” So I need to trust my past self. I literally wrote this, and all the quotes in this post. I wrote all of that and I can’t give up now, I can’t give up on her now. I hate myself but I love little-ericia and I have so much compassion for her.

I need to choose recovery again.

Here’s a message for myself because I find that often helps: Please, I know you want to want recovery- that’s such a good start. I know you want recovery but you feel so lost and scared and alone, I know it’s easier to stay in the disorder, I know the temptation of weight loss, I know it’s easier to stay than to fight, I know it’s easier to numb than to feel. But you’ve fought so hard and you deserve so much better, you really do. Nobody else can choose this but you, your friends can be the most loving and supportive (and they are) and your therapists can talk their mouths dry but I know you- nobody can convince you but yourself. So here’s a message for yourself. You deserve recovery, the real you is buried deep underneath the disorder right now and you can’t see or hear her but I promise you she wants recovery. She fought for this, don’t give up on her. I got your back, you’re going to be okay. It’s scary but you got this, you’re cared for and loved no matter what. Not just by friends and family and your team, but by me. Yes, I’m going to care for you and accept you unconditionally. You deserve to nourish yourself, to enjoy food. No, enjoying food doesn’t make you greedy. Food is not bad. You would never treat anyone else the way you treated yourself. Starving yourself and numbing yourself might work short term but that is not taking care of yourself or helping yourself. If you truly want to help yourself, recover, one step at a time. I’m not expecting you to be perfect or to recover immediately, but at least try. You’ll be okay. You can do this, you’re scared and it’s okay. Do it for future you, for past you. You deserve it. You are sick enough, you are good enough. Don’t wait, I know it’s tempting to wait but you have waited 6 years. You deserve it. Now, yes, right now. You don’t have to be at any weight to be sick enough because I see you, I see your pain, I am the one person you cannot numb yourself from or run away from, even though you’re running from the entire world right now, I am here. I see you pain. I see you. You are sick enough. Stop running, you deserve to enjoy food, you deserve to exist, you deserve to be. Do it. Recovery is not black and white.

Recovery is not a war, it is Homecoming.

Recovery is about being. About softness. About allowing yourself and your body space to heal grow. It is finding compassion for the fractured parts you try to hide, compassion for the little girl inside. It is meeting fear and anxiety with kindness. It is meeting your inner critic with an innate sense of acceptance.

It is chrysalis- coming home to your true self.

Recovery is softening, it is feeling– sometimes falling. It is allowing yourself to feel unconditionally- letting pain, feelings, fear, uncertainty and anxiety exist and simply be, without resistance. You are not ‘too much’. It is bravery and fear at the same time, for true growth will only come from vulnerability. Trusting that you will cope with what comes your way, without the need for hardness or destruction. It is surrender- letting go of control, pain, expectations. It is trusting your innate intuition, trusting yourself and your feelings, trusting your body and the universe- trusting the process of growth and unfolding.

Trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be, your body will be where it is meant to be.

Recovery is the crack of light into the worn stone cage of your heart. It is the destruction of the walls you have built upon starvation and isolation. It is the undoing of years of wired self destruction. It is wearing down the hard edges of self protection and self denial. It is a new understanding of who you are and the acceptance of tides of change and imperfection. Acceptance of the dustiest corners of your soul, acceptance that you will always be a work in progress. It is being. Staying soft.

Recovery is not just about unrestricted food, but unconditional love and acceptance.

Recovery is healing the dissociation between your soul, your body and your feelings. It is allowing your true essence to fill the fissure of emptiness. It is letting go of numbers and allowing yourself to take up space, to allow your body to exist how it is meant to be. It is feeling the energy, love, compassion and pain that flows through every inch of your body and accepting it, letting it be. It is listening to the intuition of your body. It is allowing your body and soul healing, nourishment and pleasure without guilt. It is believing you deserve to exist. You have a fundamental place, a fundamental worth that will never change.

It is reclaiming the space and energy that is your birthright.

Recovery is painful. Pain is an inevitable part of healing. It is meant to be uncomfortable for it is vulnerability and fear. It is standing in the face of discomfort, of raging storms and forest fires in your mind. The disorder will be relentless. It is the destruction of years of wired neural systems, comfortable coping mechanisms. The healing process is not full of light, it is taking the leap and navigating a labyrinth. It is not without risk, but staying where is it comfortable is staying where light will never reach. It is the process of softening and trusting. It is allowing pain. It is being, despite it all. Letting it be.

Recovery is stopping, it is seeing, it is listening to your heart and knowing you are enough.

It is not a battle with yourself, not a war with your mind. Turn inward with kindness, give that inner child what she needs. When you find compassion, acceptance and allow yourself to be, unconditionally, the need to control and punish yourself diminishes. There is more to be gained than there is to be lost in recovery. There is no real safety in illness, the only real control comes when we embrace uncertainty. Breathe. Let go. You are seen, you are enough.

It is gentle energy of morning light. It is the rage of destructive hurricanes. It is the pain of healing and shedding of leaves in the fall, bearing harsh winter. It is the first spring blossom of growth and glimmer of light onto fresh grass.

Recovery is the light of homecoming. You are the only home you need.

Guilt and negative thoughts/feelings are inevitable side effects of not-restricting and not-compensating and going against the eating disorder. Restricting or compensating to cope with those side effects is like a recovering alcoholic drinking more to cope with the unpleasant side effects of not-drinking.

~an analogy i came up with while talking to a friend

when we miss our disorder

Remember you can miss something and not go back to it. We might always look at our eating disorder with rose tinted glasses, and we will want to go back to it, because it was home and comfort and safety for so long. But take a moment, take a deep breath and think about it- were you really happy living with your disorder? Genuinely, truly happy? Did you really love yourself and your body? Think about the worst days with your disorder, think about the worst things your disorder has made you do- are you really in control? Did you enjoy restricting, compensating, skipping meals, working out, hiding, isolating, exercising? Did you really feel good doing all of this? What did you really get out of your disorder? Think about all the days you’ve spent ill, do you want to live like that forever? Because you will, if you don’t choose to get better. There is no other way out, and change doesn’t happen by chance.

Can you tolerate and sit through the negative emotions & anxiety & the thoughts that will come up in recovery? Can you tolerate the inevitable side effects & distress & negative body image days that will happen? Can you tolerate the temporary discomfort in order to build a life you want? Choosing to skip a meal, or restrict, or not-gain weight, or giving into the disorder in any way is choosing to not recover. Choosing to prolong recovery is only prolonging your suffering because unless you truly want to live like this forever, there is no point in waiting to recover. You will have to recover eventually, and it will be one of the hardest things you’ve had to do, and it won’t feel good. But you will have to go through it, and the longer you wait, the harder it get. The longer you wait, the more you miss out on life. It’s never going to get easier or be the right time. I say this over and over again but the only way out is through.

Remember body dysmorphia is real, and the more we lose weight the worse the dysmorphia gets. The only way to get over it and build a healthy body image is to keep gaining until our set points, because only then will your brain be healthy enough to start seeing clearly. Remember your thoughts right now about food and weight and your body are all skewed by your illness, and it is not representative of the truth. Remember that your brain is still sick, your brain is malnourished and obsessive and the disorder will get very very loud. It will get better but the only way for it to truly get better is to keep pushing through it and not give into it. Remember this is an illness, and while it’s completely normal and okay to slip, it is not an excuse for relapse. Remember this is an illness but at the end of the day, only you, the real you- has the control to choose what to do. Remember that you will never feel sick enough or thin enough, there comes a point where you just have to sit down and acknowledge the fact that you are suffering. Regardless of anyone else, you are suffering and you are sick, so you need to get better. There is no such thing as ‘not sick enough’ you are either sick or not sick. You don’t need anyone’s validation. The simple thought of ‘not sick enough’ shows how sick you actually are because a normal person never think that. Remember there is no value in sickness or thinness or misery. Remember there is nothing better about being sicker, or thinner.

Remind yourself of all the reasons you wanted recovery in the first place. What kind of life are you going to live if you hold onto your eating disorder? Do you want that life? What’s the worst that could happen if you gain weight and eat? What’s so bad about being recovered, or normal? The disorder makes us think that weight gain is the worst thing that could possibly happen but the truth is we can tolerate it and at some point when your brain is less starved and sick, your weight wouldn’t even matter that much. Is weight loss really worth giving up everything else in your life for? You can’t give into our disorder, you can’t bargain with them or negotiate, you just have to do it and keep doing it and commit to recovery. You are in control. You can recover, you’re just scared, and it’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to not like it, it’s okay to feel awful- you can still do it because it will be worth it in the end.