Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Having an Ego Can Help in Eating Disorder Recovery

As of late, I’ve felt redundant in my blog.  I’ve written about a lot of topics and I’ve pretty much said everything I want to say.  But, I recognize that I need to be reminded over and over and over again in order to stay on the straight and narrow.  So, I’m thinking that maybe you will continue reading as well, even though I am repeating myself, because you need to be reminded too.

Healing from mental illness takes a lot of time.  Continuing to learn and re-learn information will set you up for success.  I think the statistic goes you have to read or hear something seven times before you actually learn it (???).  That is why I take time every day to work on my mental health; whether it’s reading helpful information, implementing new skills, or practicing healthy habits.  Ev. Er. Y. Day.

I recently read a good critique about maintaining eating disorder recovery during the holidays.  In the article, the author writes about how making progress toward mental health is counter-cultural:

“Recovering from an eating disorder while living in such an environment can be a maddeningly frustrating experience. A clinician I know explains it this way: ‘A person recovering from an eating disorder is recovering into a very disturbed world.’ To recover means to land above and beyond where the vast majority of people are in terms of food and body.”

As an eating disorder survivor, one needs to recognize this reality.  The sociological standards and cultural norms will not help you live a life of recovery.  This phenomenon is similar to a recovering alcoholic living his whole life in one gigantic bar.  There is no escape from the constant temptation to relapse.

The author goes on to say:

“Although it can be satisfying to have such an evolved perspective, it also can be challenging. It's hard to feel forced out of all the bonding that happens over discussions about exercise routines, and it can be daunting to try to practice "normal eating" when you are surrounded by people eating diet foods.”

In order to say true to the mission of recovery, personally, I must view my relationship with food as superior to others’ perspectives.  For me, I have to believe that what I am doing is the right thing for me and what you are doing is the wrong thing.  I know it sounds egotistical, but it is essential that I believe my eating habits are more advanced than yours.  If not, if I don’t believe my way is the right way, then I will cave in my convictions and fall into an eating disorder relapse.

It is a tricky thing to live, let alone to write about.  Bottom line: if you want to recover from an eating disorder, you’ve got to have some sort of an ego.  More often than not, those who struggle with E.D.’s have no ego at all and very low self-esteem to boot.  I grapple with feelings of worthlessness on a day to day basis; so, needless to say, this part of recovery is very difficult for me.

I can very much relate to the authors words when she talks about living it out, “Even though I know I should be proud of myself for doing what is healthy and supportive of a life in recovery, I sometimes experience shame around not complying with the prevailing cultural expectations.”  Shame.  It keeps me from making new friends, it causes me extreme anxiety before social events, and it keeps me from being who I am meant to be.  Shame plays the biggest role in keeping me from full recovery.

Carry on my wayward son...  Why do I take time everyday to intentionally get better?  Because if I don’t, then I will forget where I’ve come from and what it took to get to where I am today.  I don’t want to go back to the way I was before.

In conclusion (from the article), “In those moments when I feel like I will scream if one more person comments on how she supposes she can afford to eat dessert because she worked out that morning, I have to dig deep and remind myself that I actually don't want to fit into that cultural norm--I've worked too hard to raise myself above it.”

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