I’ve never liked Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. And while I’m very grateful to my therapist and think it’s very important to have a therapist when recovering from an eating disorder–especially in the early stages–I don’t believe that therapy was the most helpful tool in my personal recovery.
For today’s post, I just wanted to bop by and share some of the tools which were most helpful for me in my recovery journey.
When I first started recovery, my brain just did not function like normal. In fact, it took me years to overcome the food-obsession brain that happens as a biological response to starvation. I found it almost as hard to concentrate on things like books and movies in the first months of recovery as I’d found it when I still had anorexia.
One of the only things that I found gave me some blessed release from that crazy brain-spin inability to concentrate was swing dance. Dancing was not only fun–and it’s so fun–but it was one of only times during my week that I felt able to be in the moment.
What’s more, it gave me a couple of things people really need when they’re in recovery: friends, goals, and joy. Having friends, goals, and joy outside of eating and exercise are so so important in overcoming an eating disorder.
Grad School and Teaching
I’ve always been a very intellectual person, so being part of an academic community has been a big part of that friends, goals, and joy nexus, if you will.
Also, boredom has always been a trigger for me, especially in wanting to exercise; I often feel guilty “wasting” my time by being inactive if I don’t have a ton of work to do. Have I written about that before? I could do a post on that.
Grad school and teaching probably solved the boredom problem a lot more than needed–geez louise I was a busy woman in grad school–but it did certainly give me a whole lot to think about besides eating and exercise.
My family has always been super-supportive and amazing. But when I first started recovery, I was in a weird place in my life where I’d just graduated college, a lot of my friends had moved away, and my colleagues at work were not in my peer group in terms of age or interests. Even though I didn’t feel isolated at the time, I realize in retrospect that I was actually quite isolated.
Since moving to Colorado, I’ve formed some wonderful relationships. I started dating my boyfriend here, and he has been such a helpful support person in my life. Plus, both of the roommates I’ve had here have been awesome and my colleagues in the English department are super-cool and people that I’ve felt quite connected to.I think having good relationships helps make your life about more than just you, and making my life about more than just me has made a big difference for my mental health. (This is not to say, by the way, that mental illness is caused by selfishness. Just that focusing on things external to myself has been a really useful tool for my specific mental health needs.)
And how can I forget my blogging relationships! Even before I started my own blog, reading about others’ experience with recovery was really helpful to me, and actually getting to know y’all now that I have my own blog has helped strengthen my confidence in my recovery a ton!
Reading about Health at Every Size
In part, I think, because false notions about health were a significant part of my eating disorder, one of the most important things which helped me recover was educating myself about Health at Every Size. In fact, I can’t really imagine being recovered without embracing a Health at Every Size mentality, these things are so closely linked in my mind.
Understanding its principles has given me an enormous freedom around food. Accepting HAES means I trust that my body will find the size that’s best for it and I can really trust my body’s cues: when I’m hungry, when I’m not hungry, when I’m tired, when I’m itching to move. It’s hard for me to imagine trusting those cues if I also believed that BMI is something I’m supposed to have control over.
In case you’re curious, I first started reading about HAES via the Eating Disorders Institute (formerly Your Eatopia), founder and proponent of the controversial MinnieMaud Method. I didn’t follow MinnieMaud, and I don’t know whether or not it would have been better if I had, but the site did open my eyes to a world of folks who believe that the way we talk about health and weight is waaaay too simplistic.
Linking up with Amanda to share these thoughts for Thinking Out Loud Thursday.
What tools have been most helpful for you in your recovery journey?