This week was always going to be a more challenging one for me, with situations to face that the eating disordered side of my brain finds very hard to cope with.
And so, perhaps it was inevitable that the very persuasive and convincing eating disorder generated anxieties, thoughts and beliefs that I experienced would be louder and stronger this week.
Yesterday and today, I have had strong thoughts and impulses that deep down I know were not coming from a place entirely free from the eating disorder. However, in the moment that they arise, they are incredibly persuasive and believable and it is easy to convince myself that they are not the illness – they are the ‘true me’…. And the brain can also then cook up all the reasons why responding to these impulses or thoughts would actually be beneficial.
Several times over this week, I have had to stop and really dig deep when these thoughts surface. When I do there is usually a glimmer of doubt (sometimes deeply buried so I have to search hard for it) about following through on the urge that has arisen, because that glimmer of doubt knows that acting on this seemingly innocent urge now could be the start of a snowballing one way ticket back to the illness.
In recovery, I am learning that it takes extreme vigilance and honesty in detecting thoughts that are coming from a place that is eating disordered.
Sometimes too, it can be that the impulses arising might actually have potential positives to them if acted upon, making identifying them as even partially eating disordered and therefore dangerous much more difficult.
But the past two days I have had to really work hard at detecting these stronger, manipulative and cunning thoughts and urges that are coming up.
And then, once I have recognised them as the illness, I have had to reject them which is also never easy! But I know that rejecting them and ‘acting opposite’ to the thoughts and urges will ensure that the rewiring, that is the key to recovery but feels so clunky, actually does continue to happen.
In all honesty though, a lot of the urges and thoughts I am getting now are following old patterns of times when I have attempted recovery in the past and decided I was ready to return to activities or start eating more ‘intuitively’ and all those times never ended well (if they had, I would not be here now writing this!!).
I might be further along the recovery road in so many ways and have approached recovery very differently this time around to any previous attempt, but deep down I know that does not mean that the same old patterns are no longer a risk.
If the past has taught me anything, it is that taking care in recovery and treating recovery like the precious life-giving gem it is are vital things to do. I never want to slip back and I know that is a really strong risk. I never want to repeat the past few months and I have not come this far to go back now or to stay at this point of half (quasi) recovery that so many people get stuck at.
So today, as the unhelpful thoughts and urges came up and as the anxieties became a little stronger than they have been lately, I had to take time to be honest with myself.
Where were these thoughts and urges really coming from? I asked myself….
And when I answered that honestly, I knew it was still the disordered anxieties and that good old fear of weight gain and fear of further gains from the point I am at now….
Yes, the reasons behind these urges were multiple and some were genuine and non-ED generated, but a big reason was the desire to influence my body shape and weight and I know if I start down that road, it will not end and the compulsions I have been working so hard to break will re-enter my life with a force that could destroy me.
At the end of the day, I had to make myself ask the question.. what is the worse that could happen if I don’t follow through on these urges and if I don’t believe these thoughts??
More weight gain, being deemed ‘lazy’, more anxiety, tomorrow being even harder to tolerate than today was??
But then what is the worse that could happen if I do respond to these urges and thoughts today…. ??
I know that road too well and if I go down it again, I could not be sure what the outcome would be this time.
So, I decided, no.
No matter how persuasive these thoughts and urges, no matter how much anxiety arises and no matter what my body does, I have to stick to the recovery program for a lot longer before I can re-assess!
To even start to engage with the thoughts I have been getting this week is dangerous and I think in truth, only when I am not getting these urges will it be safe to consider engaging in them!!!
At the moment my focus has to remain continuing to resist urges to partake in unnecessary movement (no matter how ‘innocent’ it can look on paper!), continuing to eat high, high, high recovery amounts and making myself face up to ongoing weight gain….
Never risking negative energy through eating less or moving more is going be a lifetime consequence of having an eating disorder and remaining vigilant to anything that could lead down that path will be critical…. But that is ok – that is a small price to pay for eventual health and mental freedom!
And at the end of the day, the true me, the person I was before this illness ever started… she is my role model. She was relaxed, did not compulsively move, was in a healthy body (at my then set point weight) and loved her food and she is who I dream of being once more (well ok, perhaps an older version!!)… And to get her back, I know I need to start being her again – and that does not involve responding to the urges and thoughts that were arising today!