RATHER THAN YOUR EATING DISORDER
You may or may not recognize how you use your eating disorder, rather than relationships, to obtain comfort, deal with feelings, or just get through the day. In order to recover and leave your eating disorder behaviors behind, you will need to learn to reach out to people instead.
A quote from a client
Over time, reaching out to others becomes more natural than using behaviors. Sometimes it was very hard. Those were the times it was most important, because how hard it was indicated how strong my eating disorder was in those moments.
Each time I reached out, though, I pushed against the myths my eating disorder was telling me. The more I exercised my Healthy Self by reaching out, the stronger it became. I started to see that, even at times that were easier and I could do it on my own, I didn’t always have to. Sometimes, I reached out because I needed to know I wasn’t alone in the fight. It became apparent that asking for help wasn’t a sign of weakness, but rather one of strength. Reaching out shows vulnerability and a willingness to do what’s hard, even when it feels wrong, because engaging in life is more important than hiding in fear.
Our Need for Connection to Others
Connection is something we all need and are wired to seek. It is an innate driving force in our lives.
In Key 3 we discussed many risk factors for the development of an eating disorder, but we believe that an eating disorder can more easily take root where there is a feeling of disconnection. Furthermore, research by Michael Strober and others shows that supportive relationships, whether with friends, family, helping professionals, or mentors, are key to recovery. Whether we realize it or not, when we do not feel truly connected to people, we will search for a substitute to fill that need. The substitutes can come in many forms alcohol, drugs, sex, or an eating disorder. Accepting your human need for authentic connection, and learning how to get it in a healthy way, will help resolve or lessen your urges to engage in eating disorder behaviors and bring healing and contentment to your life. Maybe you had a very good reason to disconnect from the people around you, or maybe you lost those connections another way, but regardless of how or why you stopped using the people around you for emotional support and connection, the result is the same. Learning to reach out to people will help you begin to change your current dynamic, and you will soon discover how connecting with others can help you break old patterns, feel your feelings, challenge your thoughts, heal underlying issues, and change the current course of your life. Think about it, the more entrenched you became in your behaviors, the less you connected with others, so it makes sense that you need to reverse that pattern to get well.
GETTING BETTER FEELS BAD (AT LEAST AT FIRST)
With almost any other illness, when people start to recover, they feel better. Getting over an eating disorder does not feel good at least not for a while. When you start improving, for example, restoring weight, stopping a binge, eliminating laxatives, or resisting urges to purge, chances are you will feel worse. Those behaviors are there because, at this point, you feel better engaging in them than not doing so, even if it is because they are habitual or even if you think you want to stop. Also, feelings are apt to arise that those behaviors keep at bay. Feeling those feelings, challenging your thoughts, and changing your behaviors is all hard work. You are bound to feel uncomfortable and overwhelmed. Interrupting a behavior, trying a new food, or getting rid of your scale can make you so uncomfortable that you might wonder if it is even worth it! When getting better makes you feel bad, it is hard to keep going, and you might feel like stopping altogether. Help will come from reaching out to others.
Your first step in reaching out to others might be with a professional, counselor, or other support person, but eventually you need to learn how to reach out to and connect to relationships like friends, family, spouses, and other loved ones.
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