One of the first steps in recovery for me was asking questions. My ED thoughts and behaviors so cleverly disguise the underlying issues that are the cause. When I start to obsess about food, body image, or unhealthy exercise, I stop and remind myself of the sentence — the mantra — it’s not about the food.
The issues are hidden, silenced, and important. We have developed a way of coping that is so effective in distracting us from those issues. We use ED (a very powerful coping skill) to project those issues onto something tangible, material, and malleable. We make our bodies into battlefields where we constantly try to gain/maintain the illusion of control over our feelings, memories, and desires.
We must be gentle with ourselves in all stages of recovery. This felt uncomfortable to me for a long time because ED is self-destructive, and self-care is the opposite of that. It was, and is, often necessary for me to be so compassionate with myself that it almost seems unnatural. That’s just because I am used to self annihilation as “normal.” But I am becoming more and more comfortable with treating myself with respect, and I’m now in a healthy space where I can even enjoy it.
It’s not about the food. So what’s it about?
The first insights I gained about what purpose ED is fulfilling for me came by answering the question:
What am I afraid of when I think about letting go of ED?
Just the very question was unbearable for me to ask (let alone answer) in the beginning of my recovery. I couldn’t find an answer; I was not ready to have one. I continually came back to this question when I felt I could, and I had to keep reminding myself that it’s just a question, that it has no agenda, no wrong answers, and there is no pressure to actually let go of ED. I was afraid that by answering that question, I would be forced to let go of ED, and I was not ready.
I had to trust that no answer would come to me that I wasn’t ready to know. I know that I am good at keeping things hidden. I trust that ability of mine. So I can trust that I will not let myself find an answer unless I am ready to receive it.
Maybe thoughts come, maybe feelings; maybe memories, sounds, colors, images, or sensations. Maybe you feel something and you have no idea what it is. That’s okay. The willingness to search for clues, wisdom, ideas about what it’s really about is the first thing. Then the journey begins.
My journey, from this question, has led me to places that I’ve never been, places I’ve never dreamed of, places that I always wanted to experience and places that I never wanted to go.
The answers that come may be so vast and complicated that you are left with more confusion than clarity. It’s alright. It is in the act of asking that our recovery lies.