One of the ways ED ‘work’ are by repressing feelings and thoughts that feel very threatening. A big part of recovery is therefore not just regaining weight, but finding healthy ways of dealing with and expressing these emotions.
Recovery is also about getting in touch with who you are or who you want to be. For many of us, that’s the problem! We have no idea. But with practice and prayer, we can move forward. Not towards who we think we should be, or who others say we are. But to who He has created us to be. And whatever we may feel, that’s someone who is full of strength and grace and peace and joy.
Here’s a few practical ideas on how to do this. They’re not the solution. But if you’re determined to get better, they might help;
Keep a diary. (NB: If you’re like me, you’ll struggle with writing and feeling like it’s ‘not good enough’. But that’s the point. You’re not allowed to rewrite! You don’t even have to read over what you put down – one of the biggest bits of the exercise is just getting out how you feel). Try writing down how you feel emotionally and physically. Think about your goals. You may not have a clue who you are, but this is a good starting point – it might feel hard, but don’t give up. What would your dream day look like? What are you afraid of? What makes you happy? If you can’t think of a life outside your eating disorder, can you remember a time before it? What were you like then? If not, who would you like to be? Don’t focus on the physical. Write a few goals – short-term, medium-term, long-term.
Write a list of things you enjoy (not to do with your ED so not exercise or food-related). It could be really simple: a bath, crunching leaves, organising your CDs (!), stroking a cat, a book, a fire. Add to it every day. Thank God for those things and practise them.
If a diary feels like it might be too much, then get some paper and pens and try drawing. Again, this might feel a bit weird, but people with ED are often cerebral – we get stuck in our own heads and surprised when we can’t think our way out of situations, (even though our brains are as fallen as our bodies!) Anyway, drawing bypasses the part of your brain that tries to think its way out – like a short-cut to your emotions. Again, no perfectionism here. Draw how you see yourself now. Where would you like to be? What would help?
One minute at a time. This will seem too slow – and sometimes too fast. But the Lord has got you. He will direct your steps and He can be trusted. There’s a reason Jesus tells us to pray for daily bread – if we look ahead we will get swamped and panic. But baby steps are big steps.
Stick to a Schedule. Set times of day for each meal and snack. This way if you have a tendency to skip or forget meals, you won’t. Try and plan little activities that don’t involve food or exercise. For me, jigsaws, crosswords, DVDs are good. Other friends buy travel cards and sit on the tube for hours, reading or at the library. One makes sock monkeys, another knits, another makes cards.
Make a list of “easy” foods. Anything pre-made and ready-to-eat will help you meet your eating schedule without the stress of mixing, chopping, beating, and cooking.
Put off purging longer each day. To say you’ll just stop ‘cold turkey’ probably isn’t reasonable to most people- granted, it would be much better to just stop, but if it were that easy, nobody would have long term eating disorders. Similarly, if you’re abusing laxatives, cut down more each day.
If you’re struggling with exercise addiction, can you ask a friend to help you? Go to one class – something low-impact, like stretching and see if you can get a friend to help you leave.
Give yourself permission to not ‘do recovery’ perfectly. There will be ups and downs, and times when you don’t feel you’re getting better. Some days you will go backwards. That’ll feel like failure – but this black and white thinking is a big part of the problem. You might lose some battles, but by God’s grace you can win the war. When you have a bad day, draw a line under it. His mercies are new every morning.
Get involved with others – especially helping. Can you volunteer: at church or at a local charity shop? Can you write to people in prison?
Get rid of all your small clothes. You are not that person. You don’t want to be. You are moving to life and fullness and joy and colour. If your weight is going up, don’t panic – this is part of recovery. It is getting you stronger. It is healing your bones and your organs. It means no more cold skin and dry hair and eyes and chest pains and bruised fingers and acid mouth and all the other horrible signs your body is destroying itself.
Go to your GP for a check up and see if you can get support. I know it’s terrifying. But some of them are really nice. They don’t want to lock you up or control you. But they can help you – and you need all the help you can get. Take a friend.
Put your ED in a God-box. A God-box is where you write down your problems, people and issues that you’re bitter about, whatever is on your heart, and put them in a box (seal it if you want). Give those things to God to deal with.
Don’t trust your feelings. Often they lie. This is not going to be easy. But it will be absolutely worth it.
Work out your weaknesses:Ask yourself when you are most tempted to eat, binge, purge. Is there a particular day of week, time of day? Where am I most tempted? Work, home? Who is with me when I’m tempted? Ask, “How do I usually feel when I’m most tempted”. Is it when I’m lonely, depressed, bored, or under stress? Identify your patterns. And get some people to help and pray with you. Seek fellowship~support from others, either from a church support group, eating disorders support group, counsellor, vicar.
Don’t Give Up: You are not on your own. Recovery – full recovery, body, mind, soul, emotions – is hard but by God’s grace, you can do it. And it is worth it.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. — 2 Cor 4:7-12 (NIV)