I used to respond to my struggles with condemnation, hatred, punishment and shame. Lots and lots of shame. If I slipped and engaged in any eating disorder behaviors it was grounds for punishment. I am a failure. I am a screw up. I will NEVER get better. I don't deserve anything, even life. I honestly believed that if I didn't respond this way I would just do it again. I thought this was the answer. I thought that just maybe I could hate myself healthy.
These past few weeks I have had my share of struggles. My recovery has been tested on many occasions and I have given in. But my attitude has changed. Instead of reacting with judgment, I have tried curiosity. Hmm, I wonder what this is about? What's going on here? Instead of jumping down the all too familiar pattern of self hatred, I've taken a deep breath and tried to ground myself in my body and feelings. Am I stressed? sad? overwhelmed? upset? angry? frustrated? confused? anxious? What do I feel in my body right now? tension? tightness? heaviness? What is the tape that is playing in my head? Where did these thoughts come from? In the moment these questions may not stop me from engaging in the destructive behavior but they do allow me to take a step back and figure out what is going on.
The relief that eating disorder behaviors bring is very very temporary. While reacting this was, as opposed to my usual way, I am ending the cycle. Self hatred just breeds more self hatred which then in turn breeds more destructive behaviors. It never leads to freedom.
I struggle a lot with forgiveness when it comes to myself, especially related to my recovery. Allowing myself to stop and see what is going through my mind right before and during the times when I am engaging in behaviors, has really helped in acceptance and forgiveness. All eating disorders have a function and we will continue to use them until their function goes away. Responding with these questions has really allowed me to see the function of my eating disorder and learn the exact instances that I immediately engage in behaviors. Although this awareness doesn't necessarily keep me from engaging in them, I really do believe this is a huge step to getting to that point.
Eating disorders are cruel and painful diseases. We don't need to make it worse or harder on ourselves. Shame and self hatred are two things that eating disorders thrive off of. Curiosity and forgiveness are not. Next time you find yourself in that all too familiar cycle, stop and respond with gentle questioning and fierce kindness. You may not be ready to completely let go of the behavior but you don't need to be in order to change the way you look at it and yourself. Recovery is a series of steps and I truly believe this step is one that will make a huge difference in your life.