- Dina Cohen
5 Things To Do When The Going Gets Tough
Some days in recovery are going to be tough.
Ok, who are we kidding - recovery itself is tough. But yes, some days will be harder than others. Some days the obsessive thinking, shame, and hopelessness might get the better of you, and it's alright. Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.
That being said, there are ways to help you hang on even on really hard days. Here are a few:
1. Broaden your vision
Yes, you are in recovery from an eating disorder, but you are also a multifaceted person who was born with many qualities unrelated to your eating. What are your interests aside from food and body? What gets you excited? What do others appreciate about you? What gifts to you have to share with the world? What makes you laugh or makes you feel happy? Do something today to respect a part of you that has nothing to do with your eating disorder.
2. Let others in
Other people can be your secret (or not-so-secret) weapon in recovery. Supportive people can make a world of difference. They can remind you of your past achievements, help you remember why you are worth it, and encourage you when you're down. But even people who don't know anything about your eating disorder can be really important players in your recovery. They can act as a distraction, remind you that there's life outside an eating disorder, and maybe even serve as role models for a healthy relationship with food. (Please note that when you're having a hard time, you want to be careful to stick with people who won't trigger you or bring you down.) Say yes when positive people want to hang out with you. Try and initiate time together with others. It can really help turn things around.
3. Prepare yourself for challenging emotions
When you're working to move past an eating disorder, it's highly likely that you'll start feeling negative feelings. I know this doesn't sound worth it, but bear with me - it is. An eating disorder can function to numb you from feeling your emotions, and when you start to break free from the disorder, those yucky emotions may start creeping back in. It's ok because you will learn healthier ways to handle these emotions, but it can be really unpleasant. If you're prepared for this, it'll be easier to manage because you won't be taken by surprise. Working with a therapist is a super-helpful way to learn to navigate challenging emotions (and is especially important if you have a history of trauma) but there are also things you can do on your own, such as journaling, using apps that help with emotion regulation, getting enough sleep, being out in nature, and using healthy distractions.
4. Get some perspective
This may be the first time you are dealing with the specific challenge of eating disorder recovery, but you've likely experienced challenges before. Maybe they were smaller, maybe they were larger - but you can probably find a time in your life when you encountered a difficulty that seemed really overwhelming. How did you manage then? What skills did you use? What have you learned about yourself? Yes, this may be tough right now, but I bet you're tough too. You've gotten yourself through hard times before. The eating disorder won't get the better of you. Even if today is really hard, tomorrow may dawn brighter. You'll get through this.
5. See the silver lining
Nobody chooses suffering. I imagine that if you could delete this chapter of your life, you probably would. Unfortunately, we don't get to edit our lives that way. What we can do is look out for how challenging experiences help make us better people. I would venture to say that the average suffering person is not on the level of Helen Keller, who said, "“I thank God for my handicaps. For through them, I have found myself, my work and my God.”
Wow!! But even if you don't feel, well, thankful, it might be worthwhile to get curious about what you might be able to find in your recovery process that has brought meaning to your life in some way. Maybe you are more compassionate, humble, or appreciative of the good. I called it a silver lining because nobody chooses the cloud. I know you wouldn't wish the challenges of an eating disorder on anyone you cared about. But if the cloud's already sitting there, perhaps there is a lining. On a day when you can't seem to find the energy or hopefulness to move forward, looking out for the silver lining might be the most positive thing you can do, and sometimes, that's more than enough.
Remember - world is full of brave people fighting battles you cannot see. You are not alone, and you are an inspiration!