Getting Through Obstacles to Eating Disorder Recovery
- Category: Psychotherapy and Recovery Work
My blog post about obstacles to eating disorder recovery is bringing in some wonderful and thoughtful comments that are taking the form of a conversation. It's heartwarming to see you supporting each other through the nitty gritty of eating disorder recovery work.
Your genuine caring and generous sharings are very welcome here. Your conversations help each other and others who need support and a place to speak their truth and be heard. You help make this site a place where people can hear and learn how others cope with the challenges in recovery.
Please let me add something to the conversation. As you share stories of your lives with each other here, on Facebook, other websites and in person, you share your feelings. Sometimes you criticize yourself for what you feel. Sometimes you rush to help someone or yourself soothe your feelings away.
It's important to know that eating disorders take you away from feelings and awareness. That's their function. They remove you from experience you believe you cannot cope with. And, it may well be true that you cannot cope with certain feelings or certain intensities of feeling.
So recovery is about gradually developing your inner strength to bear feelings you couldn't bear before. It's not about having good or bad feelings. It's about having any feeling. So feeling mad, bad, glad, sad are all wins in recovery work. You are feeling rather than acting out your eating disorder.
Many people don't understand this and get caught in thinking about good feelings or bad feelings, pleasant or unpleasant, painful or happy. Recovery is about feeling any feeling at all.
Support is about helping a person stay with their feelings. It's like working out. You gradually increase your strength so you can tolerate more.
Rescuing and soothing, as much as you want them and as much as you want to give them, actually can reinforce your illness because you are doing whatever you can to get away from your feelings.
On the other hand, a balance is necessary so you don't overdo, traumatize yourself and set off eating disorder triggers. That balance between bearing feelings and yet not pushing yourself to bear more than you can may well be the core of eating disorder treatment. It requires sensitive artistry based on knowledge, caring, empathy and commitment in the work between patient and psychotherapist.
This is why kindness and compassion are important in recovery work. You learn your limits, even if you are disappointed in what those limits may be. You stay on your recovery path and are kind to yourself as you do what you can and feel what you can -- no more but also no less.
Do you "rescue" yourself too soon? Do you push yourself too far? How do you recognize your emotional limits and care for yourself with respect and kindness?