Resting & relaxing can be the hardest & most exhausting thing in the world!
In eating disorder recovery, we are always told we must rest, relax & heal.
To most people, this probably sounds wonderful & peaceful – creating images of lolling about on a sofa, taking naps, reading books, watching Netflix & generally just being calm while gently recuperating.
But when you have an eating disorder, resting & relaxing can be the hardest thing ever.
Anyone who has compulsive movement as part of an ED can find just sitting & resting a terrifying, incomprehensible & alien concept.
With an eating disorder we very often have years worth of ingrained habits like standing for no reason, fidgeting, moving & even if we do sit – a need to be doing.
For it is not just physically, with an ED, it can be impossible to rest but mentally too.
I find my brain is always busy, racing away – constantly buzzing with new ideas, thoughts, things I must do in that moment, no matter how menial or unimportant!
I am sure this is partly due to a need to ignore hunger & deny how miserable our lives really are, but it’s also a key way our starved brain tries to keep us alert, on the go & hunting for food – it thinks food is scarce so why would we rest?
After years of not resting these active brain pathways are truly hardwired.
Not having rested for over a decade means it is a skill that I need to re-learn.
Sitting & doing little feels unnatural & produces guilt, anxiety & distress.
Or, ok I’ll sit, I might negotiate, but give me my laptop or phone so I can keep my brain busy, keep distracted and be productive – but this leads to a body that remains tense and hyper-alert which in turn keeps anxiety raised.
Ask me to sit and just watch a film, read a book or close my eyes… Most would love an afternoon like this and I would too in theory but in practice it’s the most stressful way to spend time!
Properly relaxing is a skill that needs relearning and like learning any new skill it feels clunky, wrong & mentally draining!
I do need to eat and rest: yes- recovery depends on this and I want a future in which I can sit and rest without anxiety but it’s something that at the moment is far from relaxing!