Over the past week I’ve been experiencing greater extremes of emotion.
Feelings and thoughts that for a decade have been pushed aside, blunted & numbed are bubbling up.
This has left me thinking much more about the purpose of our emotions and what happens during an eating disorder and in recovery.
Of course emotions do have an evolutionary purpose in helping us survive.
If we did not experience fear we would not escape or fight danger.
Without love we would not care for each other… mothers would abandon their young and anyone sick or vulnerable would be left to die uncared for.
Without hope we would not strive for more in life.
Without sadness or grief then the meaning of love would be lost and we would never appreciate joy or happiness if we did not have anything else to compare it to.
For every emotion there is an evolutionary purpose.
Mental illnesses though can cause a breakdown in the function of our emotions and they might become extreme or inappropriate.
With an eating disorder this can transpire as perceiving food or weight gain as a threat to our lives.
The brain therefore generates fear & inappropriate emotions to dissuade us from eating more.
We develop intense guilt or shame for eating or being still.
Feelings of self disgust might arise or of wrong doing.
If we eat despite these emotions we can develop inappropriate low self worth.
All of this, coupled with the fact in malnutrition the body has little energy to waste on good emotions, leaves for a miserable existence.
If we stay within the ED rules it can feel more comfortable though as we allow the inappropriate driving emotions to dictate how we live, eat and ultimately it keeps us trapped.
When we attempt recovery we push against the ED rules and so the powerful feelings described above become greater and can feel overwhelming to tolerate.
To recover we need to ride through these misfiring emotions but it can feel distressing & intolerable.
We must remember though, the fear & feelings we are getting in recovery are inappropriate and symptoms of a severe illness.
Persist despite the emotions & we can slowly get through them as the brain learns the threats it perceived as real are groundless.