It’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week. I did this guest post last year discussing my recovery journey from anorexia and bulimia. After it was published, I started volunteering for Looking Glass Foundation as a facilitator on their online support chat. If you are looking for peer support in recovery, it’s a great option to explore.
The relationship status on my Facebook profile would most accurately read “in a relationship with recovery, and it’s complicated”. At a certain point fifteen years ago, I made a commitment to myself that I would live, because in those darker times, that seemed the very best I could hope for. Since then, I have learned living is just the beginning, that there is also room to blossom and thrive. I lost important pieces of me, and recovery is the ongoing, difficult, but ultimately necessary process of setting intentions to reclaim them. After losing Mia and Ana, I needed to find me (Allie).
Finding my why was the first step. I attended a workshop on care planning for people with disabilities, and the message was that if you want to support someone to do something that is important for them, they need to be able to connect it to why it is important to them. It was important for me to get better. To do so, I had to remind myself regularly why it is important to me. That reason changed over time. In the beginning, it was about going to college and falling in love one day. Later, it was about maintaining my career and participating in my marriage. These days, it’s about being a healthy single parent and setting a good example for my young son about loving oneself. Visual reminders can be helpful, like a photograph in a prominent location, a word on a whiteboard, whatever cue that is meaningful to keep that reason handy if you need to shine a light on your path. When setting out on a journey, it is easier to plan how you will get there if you have an understanding of why you are going in the first place.
Something that fuelled me on my journey was the creation of new rituals. Self-destructive behaviour can be habitual, finding new things to replace those patterns of behaviour was important in order to develop a sustainable plan. Reclaiming my life was a big undertaking, but building these rituals were the baby steps I needed to be able to run one day. A cup of herbal tea and a bubble bath before bed every night might not seem like much to the casual observer, but in recovery, they are part of a strategy to manage stress in a healthy way and new rituals that form the foundation of a new life.
Learning to self-soothe is a big part of stress management. I remember thinking “How do I make myself feel better now?” Eating disorders can be mal-adaptive coping strategies. Change can bring unpleasant feelings or even numbness. Feeling good can seem a long way off. Consider it part of the mission to find the things that make the body feel good. Maybe it’s the peace of yoga, the power of strength training, sand between toes at the beach, the creativity and beauty of dance or the healing touch of massage. I had to find the things that make my heart sing and add them to my “feeling better” toolkit to be well equipped for the rainiest of days.
I found my why, lovingly selected rituals to adorn my new life, and discovered ways to make my body feel good again. These are key strategies to support my recovery that I re-evaluate on a regular basis. My relationship with recovery might be complicated, and it is not an easy road, but it is what I need to blossom, thrive and live. It is through this commitment that I have been able to lose Mia and Ana, and find me (Allie).