Thoughts on the Validity of Emotions in Recovery

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Human existence is full of deep and complex emotions. There are hundreds of English words for these feelings and some feelings that don’t have any English words at all! From despair, shame, fear, shock, anger and loathing to joy, serenity, amusement, trust, adoration and gratefulness the spectrum of possible emotions is almost endless.

I have been told multiple times by various professionals that eating disorders are an incredible coping mechanism for dealing with difficult emotions. Starving, purging, exercising and obsessing about food weight and shape is an excellent way to distract from negative emotions. You don’t realize exactly how numb you are to emotions while enveloped in an eating disorder until you start down the road to recovery.

One of the things that makes recovery so HARD is that you are forced to deal with the emotions of everyday life except that for months, years or decades you have been numb to those emotions which makes everything incredibly raw and painful. Things like disappointment and embarrassment shake you to the core, sadness is deep and anger is explosive but the positive emotions are amplified as well. I know how cliché it sounds but the sun shines brighter, a smile creeps across your whole being instead of just being in your lips, you are capable of calm and happiness that was never even an option for you before.

One of the things I had to learn in recovery was that you can’t stuff these emotions down or they will get stronger. You have to persist through the negative and positive emotions even if they threaten to rip you apart – they won’t, you will survive and you will be SO much stronger for facing them. Accepting these emotions and letting them flow through you is the best way to lessen the rawness that emotions can have during the early phases of recovery.

For me, I really struggled with accepting my emotions as valid and useful – to me they were annoying, in the way and unpredictable. I had to learn that they were trying to tell me something about what was happening in my body or my mind. I had to learn to listen carefully to how each emotion manifested in my body and how to cope with each one individually.

Your emotions, as troubling and intrusive as they may be, ARE valid. You are upset, angry, ashamed, disgusted, happy and anxious for very good reasons. Identify the roots and triggers of these emotions and work through them. Talk to someone about how best to get in touch with your feelings and the messages they are trying to send you. I often still have feelings and have no idea where they come from or what they really are, and that’s ok! Give your feelings the attention and time that they deserve. If you need to cry, or scream or laugh hysterically let that happen. It won’t last forever and you will feel better for not trying to bottle it all up.

So, what do you think ?