“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”
~Louise L. Hay
These are all questions I’ve been asked during my recovery process, and found helpful at some point (you aren’t always ready for a question and that’s ok). I wanted to pull them together so other people can use them as journal prompts or whatever. They may or may not be helpful and certainly not helpful to everyone all of the time.
Do you want to recover?
It’s ok if the answer is no, well, ok might not be the right word but unfortunately I really think you have to want to recover. Which is infuriating for the people around you who care and who hate seeing you in pain.
If your answer is no, I’d still urge you to keep reading or at least consider why not.
What purpose does your eating disorder serve?
I don’t think many eating disorders are really about eating or appearances when you get to the heart of them. Mine was about numbing my emotions big style, it was about control, it was about low self worth, it was about shame.
My eating disorder was a way of coping when I was suicidal. In a twisted way, anorexia saved my life. But it also tried to kill me.
Do you know what is you and what is your eating disorder?
Example, a 10k run went past my flat recently. Anorexia responded by saying oh, we could do that, let’s look up couch to 5k online and get out there. I genuinely got as far as opening Google before I kicked back in and reminded myself I can’t walk or use a manual wheelchair. Running is out the question. That’s how powerful an eating disorder can be. And if I hadn’t done a lot of work separating the eating disorder from me, I think it’d have taken longer for the rational part of me to kick back in.
Why does recovery scare you?
No, not because you might gain weight etc. Really, what’s the real reason? The emotional reason.
Mine was a fear of feeling emotions. A fear of having to face the hellish depression which had preceded the eating disorder. It was also a fear of feeling out of control.
What does recovered look like for you?
I was asked this numerous times. And the answer changed depending on where in my recovery I was/am.
For me, recovering meant not having to constantly think about food.
It meant reclaiming my brain and my identity.
It meant not being a hypocrite ; I strongly feel people shouldn’t diet and that looks don’t matter, I don’t care what other people look like.
Recovery meant not lying to my friends: are you OK? Yes. Are you hungry? No. Have you lost weight? No.
And although I’m don’t feel I’m fully recovered, I now have space in my head for thoughts which aren’t about food and I’m being a million times more honest with my friends now than I’ve ever been.
If you want to recover, what are you doing which works against that?
I would think oh, I can recover whilst still doing x, or without doing y. Somehow I was special, my body was different to everyone else who has an eating disorder. So what everyone else has to eat regularly as part of recovery, I’m special, my body doesn’t like/need/want to do that… (I’m 99% sure that’ll be the eating disorder talking, trying to keep its claws in you cos recovery terrifies it, if you recover, it dies.)
What is your eating disorder robbing you of?
For me, it was the ability to think, relationships with friends, being able to go out for a drink, enjoyment of food, very nearly my job…
My health – you probably already know all the shit health impacts and are probably thinking somehow they won’t affect you, that’s what everyone thinks…
Who are you with the eating disorder? and Who are you without the eating disorder?
This can be tough to answer even if you’ve not had an eating disorder for very long. The nature of it means you lose touch with who you are and you can’t see who you could be or who you want to be. You forget what interests you.
All of your energy goes into the disorder, how else could you use this?
What did you used to enjoy, be interested in, do with your time?
What makes you come alive?
What might it feel like to love yourself?
I’m not asking you to love yourself, but what might it feel like it you did?
What stories do you tell of yourself? What language do you use to talk of yourself?
It’s so easy to believe our thoughts and take our feelings as fact. They aren’t always, especially not if you have an eating disorder. The words we use (internally and externally) to describe ourselves, our experiences etc, those words stick.
“Unloveable, fat, ugly, stupid, idiot, bitch” are words which run through my head. They run through my head a lot less now because I’ve done some tough work challenging them. But think about it, if you hear all day that you’re a stupid bitch, you start to believe it.
So, try and do yourself a favour, learn to notice and then learn to challenge your head messages and think about the words you choose when you’re speaking about yourself to others.
I hope there’s something here which you’ve found useful. I strongly encourage you to go away and journal about these questions or other similar prompts – writing can help you breakthrough things in a way that thinking often doesn’t.
Recovery is hard work, but it’s so much better that the eating disorder and I hope you choose to fight.