Throughout recovery one of the most annoying things people said to me was “It’ll get easier”. I would spit horrible words and thoughts back at them; how did they know, I’d been at this for so long and it was only getting harder, that was easy for them to say, maybe for other people it did but I was different, when will it get easier!? I would actually get really angry at this tiny little phrase and all the people that said it to me.
Well, not only has it gotten easier but I have figured out a few ways to know when it’s going to get easier so I thought I’d share them with you!
After you SURRENDER to the process. I spent years in “recovery” but not fully committed to the process. I wasn’t playing an active role in my own recovery and honestly didn’t actually want to let go of my disorder regardless of what I said or did to try to prove to those around me that I wanted recovery. I had to find my own motivation and pull myself out of the pit – I had to realize that this is not how I wanted to live my life and find the strength within myself to come up out of the fog. Only after you have surrendered to the process and allowed recovery to happen will anything get easier.
After each RELAPSE. If you are doing really well in recovery and things start getting easier, don’t think that if you relapse you can just pick back up where you left off – you have to start all over again. This isn’t true for slipups but if there is a full relapse, you start back at square one – one of the things holding me firmly in this recovery.
After each GAP in time. I found this to be especially true with eating fear foods which is why I try to keep the fear foods incorporated in my diet. If you are afraid of a certain food, potatoes for instance, and work really hard on taking it off the fear food list then it will get easier each time you eat that food. If you decide it’s not a fear food anymore and move onto the next one but take potatoes out of your diet for a few weeks the next time you have them will be harder. When you make progress it’s important to not just move onto the next hurtle but to keep your previous accomplishments in the mix.
After every time you BACK OFF. If you come across one of these first and let it “win”, the next time will be harder. If you come up to a weight threshold for instance and decide to back off (even just a little bit) this “first” won and the next time you come across this threshold it will be not only harder to cross but will take longer to get easier. Attack the “firsts” head on and sit with the discomfort. If you back off you are just prolonging the torture.
After every FIRST. The first time you do anything will be the hardest time you do it whether you are learning to crochet, play an instrument, drive standard or get into a new yoga pose. The first time you do something is often clumsy, embarrassing and slow but as you practice your movements get more fluid and there are less mistakes. The thing about “firsts” in eating disorder recovery is that they are EVERYWHERE and each one will be just as painful as the last. Each time you come across one of these things it will be accompanied by fear, anxiety, urges and a surge of eating disorder thoughts. These “firsts” will keep coming up years into your recovery but know that the first time you face one will be your worst experience of it.
Here are a few of the “firsts” I encountered that you are likely to come across in your recovery. The first time…
- Eating fear foods: this one still happens on a bi-weekly basis for me
- Challenging food habits: eating the same foods for breakfast or snacks, any dish or silverware habits, rigidity with time, calorie counting (the list goes on and on)
- Meeting people who have never known you as thin: this one was really hard for me because I spent so many years with my eating disorder.
- Meeting old friends: this happened recently with my friend’s wedding, I ran into a bunch of people from high school which was incredibly difficult.
- Crossing weight thresholds: I found this one almost impossible but it’s SO important to just keep moving through them. We all have certain numbers that terrify us, you will likely pass 2 or 3 of these if you have to weight restore but after being there for a few days or weeks it DOES get easier.
- Changing rituals or routines: recognizing and changing my weigh-day routines, changing up my exercise habits, purposely messing with any routines to see if it elicits a response.
- Letting go of body control: letting your body control itself is incredibly difficult. Letting it decide when your period comes (going off of BCP was a good choice for me), letting it deal with its weight and fluid shifts, leaving it alone and treating it with kindness can present itself in many different ways – each of these ways is considered its own “first”.
- Experiencing new emotions: Feelings suck, and if you have been living with an eating disorder these feelings have likely been dulled by your illness. Feelings will come back and at first they will hurt. You will feel anger, happiness, sadness, loss, joy and life very differently – embrace these emotions and learn from them.
Hopefully these have helped prepare you a bit for some of the “firsts” you might encounter. Keep in mind that they WILL be painful, this is unavoidable, but what you CAN avoid is re-experiencing the pain of “firsts” by facing them often and not avoiding them. When you are experiencing a “first” it will be hell and you will want to turn around but this is the time you need to keep going, this is the time that you must sit with the discomfort. The pain will dissipate and the next time WILL get easier.