Things that will change when you realize you are worthy
One of the biggest struggles that people with eating disorders face is accepting that worth comes from within, not from their body, their actions, or their accomplishments. When I was in the depths of my disorder, I made myself sick trying to please others; I always took care of myself last. I put all my worth in what I could do right, what I could eat right, and how I could look right. It was exhausting, and the only person left unfulfilled was me. In recovery, I have discovered that this is one of the hardest habits to break; I have struggled with guilt of putting myself and my feelings first to live the best possible life for me. But somewhere deep down, my wise mind is applauding my attempts to have a voice, to have an opinion, and to enjoy myself without measuring up to other’s feelings or standards. Here are a few areas that you can expect to feel guilty about when in recovery, yet no one should feel guilty for these things. Ever.
1. It is okay to enjoy food!
As I sat down at an event planning meeting with fellow ED advocates, I saw an item on the menu that I had never tried before because of my prior strict food rules: fried pickles! I attended Mississippi State University for my undergrad, and anyone who has graced the beautiful town of Starkville will tell you, it is a crime to never have had Little Dewey’s fried pickles! As I ate the delectable, perfectly salty and crisp pickles, I wanted to cry- they were SO GOOD! And then, I wanted to cry from guilt… I heard the ED voice say, “You should not like these! ” and then my wise mind fought back… Why not? You see, when someone who looked at food as the enemy for so long realizes that food can be pleasurable and can be enjoyed, it is a conflict of interest between the ED mind and the wise mind. This is a normal part of recovery, but it is not easy. As I drove home from the experience, the left over fried pickles next to me, I realized that it was okay for me to like a food that use to be off limits. Not only is it okay, it is pretty damn cool. I had won over my ED brain, ate the delicious new food, and enjoyed a meal with friends. I shoved the guilt into the “ED file” in my brain and drove home feeling satisfied and proud.
2. It is okay to feel angry
When I was deep in my disorder, most of my anger was centered around my ED being displeased. If I could not go on a run, I was ill. If I did not have a choice of a safe food to eat, I was irritated. If I could not make it to the bathroom to get rid of the food I just consumed, I was annoyed. The ones I loved connected all my anger to my eating disorder, so it made me invalid most of the time in my emotions to the people around me. Now that eating disordered behavior is not in the picture, I am learning that my anger, disappointment, and sadness actually may have value and merit when they felt so dismissed before. Now, when my husband comes home late and misses our Valentine’s dinner- I have a right to be mad! I am not mad because his tardiness made me miss my run, or his missing the meal made me skip dinner; I am simply disappointed because he hurt my feelings. Me. Brooke. A person who is allowed to feel real feelings now that ED is not numbing them out or redirecting them towards a disorder. This can be confusing to navigate at first, but talking out your feelings with the ones you love can help you sort them out more clearly each and every time.
3. You have a voice and it matters!
When in the talons of the beast of an eating disorder, one does not have a voice. Eating disordered beliefs think for and speak for a person a majority of the time. There is an alternative reality that becomes real for the sufferer of the disease, and it is incredibly hard to see truth from ED lies. I lost who I was when ED had me in his grasp, and I most definately lost my voice. My eating disorder mind convinced me that I was not good enough to have an opinion, not smart enough to speak, and not worthy enough to feel. Instead of speaking up for myself I would go with whatever the opinions were of those around me, and it left me feeling empty and not important. If someone hurt my feelings, I felt like I deserved it. If a friend blew me off, I just knew it was my fault somehow. Everything always boiled down to me not being good enough. In recovery, I realize that is not true. I am good enough; I am important, and my opinions do matter! The guilty feelings that accompany this new discovery can be debilitating at times, but I combat them by remembering that sad, stifled woman I use to be. I was not doing anyone any favors by being pleasing; I was merely depriving them of knowing the real me.
Don’t let the guilty emotions and feelings of shame seep into the ever fragile cracks of your recovery. Fill yourself with love of self and hope for a better future because it is out there for the taking. All you have to do is keep moving forward!