For a little while now I have been struggling with obsessive thoughts about food and exercise, what feels like a constant running commentary going through my head telling me what I should and shouldn’t eat, what I should weigh and when I should exercise. These repetitive and relentless thought patterns are all too familiar and what I call my eating disorder voice.
After a long period of time with not even a whisper from this belittling and oppressive voice, it somehow now feels louder and more prominent than ever. Maybe this is because I thought I had seen the back of it, I thought it had disappeared and left me alone. I had become accustomed to a happy and more fulfilled life, one in which I would eat to nourish my body rather than starve myself and exercise in moderation rather than to excess and the point of exhaustion. I had also learnt to be more compassionate towards myself and value my existence, something that eating disorders make very difficult to do.
The return of my eating disorder voice was not welcomed. It’s not something I asked for or wanted but I still felt as though I was to blame. I felt as though I had let myself and all the people I care about down by succumbing to this negative force once again. One thing I have learnt about recovery though is that relapses do happen and no one is to blame. They can be scary and provoke a lot of anxiety but as my therapist keeps reminding me they do not mean you have failed. In fact bumps in the road can make us stronger so I am trying to see this as a learning experience rather than a failure.
Following a session with my therapist the other day I got to thinking about ‘letting go’ and asked myself why it is that I find it so hard to let go of my eating disorder? It’s human nature to become attached to things or people. We like what’s familiar and often fear change. Past hurts can have a way of keeping us stuck in our tracks, whether this is a destructive illness such as an eating disorder, a job we should have left or a relationship we know isn’t right. It’s all too easy to get stuck in the darkness and let our past impede forward motion.
My eating disorder is not only an addiction but a habit. I was a slave to anorexia and bulimia for many years, it was all I knew. I would turn to negative and destructive thought patterns and behaviours as a way of coping. It gave me a place to turn to if I felt anxious, alone, hopeless or sad. It gave me what I felt was a sense of meaning. However, restricting, binging or purging is only ever a quick fix and will numb the pain temporarily but ultimately these behaviours bring nothing but distress and hurt.
Many of us suffer with an inner emptiness that we try to fill with previous behaviours or attachments and whilst we know these may be harmful to us we continue to self-sabotage, maybe as a form of punishment or to deal with emotions such as fear of abandonment, loneliness and unworthiness.
In order to let go we have to learn to appreciate ourselves, make a decision to be happy and commit to breaking down our emotional barriers. We should focus on the present, the here, the now and the joy and aim to let go of the past, the hurt and the fear. It is important to always be honest with ourselves and others about how we feel and believe that every experience good or bad makes us stronger.
I want my eating disorder to be a part of my history and not my destiny so I know that with patience, perseverance and support from those around me I will find the strength within me to let go and begin to re-establish behaviours that are healthy and positive in order to live the life I have always imagined, one full of purpose and meaning.