I've never blogged before. The first thing I do when I'm asked to write something is to research, so I looked at others' blogs to get information and ideas. The second thing I do when preparing to write is to become overwhelmed by everyone else's work – "Wow, that's great information/insight – how can I add to that? I'm not so prolific. I can't do it right". But then a little voice, that has grown louder along my journey to recovery, says, "There's no right and wrong," everyone has his/her own experience and way of sharing it. We learn and grow by taking risks.
My eating disorder was fed (if you pardon the pun), by a strong belief in doing things "right". I had to eat the right foods, exercise right, get the right education, support myself right, say the right things, enjoy the right things (everyone is supposed to love going to parties), even do my recovery right! I tried treatment program after treatment program, trying to learn the right way to think, talk, feel, and eat. The problem with this is, the "I" was still lost. It was my ED vs. health care providers – I wasn't part of the team. I was looking to everyone else for answers.
I read so many self-help books and recovery stories, hoping for a formula to a cure. But there were so many differing perspectives and theories – so many ideas that worked for some, but not for others. I finally realized that in so much of life there is no "right" and "wrong" – that, especially when it comes to recovery, there are many shades of grey. I started to take more heed in my experience, what worked and didn't work for me. That meant being open, trying new things, even if I thought at first they were silly or irrelevant – why not? I discovered that some things I thought wouldn't work at first, did over time. And, yes, for me, some modalities were definitely over rated. However, I would never know what fit until I tried it on.
Of course, this meant developing a sense of confidence in myself. It's like trying on a pair of jeans and being angry with yourself because you don't fit into them instead of searching for a pair of jeans that fit you. I was actually told by the director of one treatment program that I wasn't the failure in treatment – it was the treatment that failed me. Building a strong support system of family, friends, and respectful professionals was important to developing that sense of confidence, but it also took risk, time, and perseverance.
It was most helpful to take the perspective that "there are no mistakes, just learning experiences". It's not easy, but I have to ask myself, when I start beating myself up, "What could I learn from this?" Mindfulness has also been a key factor.
I've been battling my eating disorder for 30 years – even 10 years ago I wouldn't have thought I'd be in this place. I've begun to respect myself as a whole – mind, body, and spirit. I'm still on my journey, but I have such great supports, and there is a kind of freedom in this new openness. My years of being ill are not wasted – maybe I'm a slow learner and/or had specific learning to do to become who I am today.
Sounds a bit cornball/new age-y, but I agree with Peggy Claude-Pierre when she stated that those with an ED "are not failures at life, [but] merely at understanding your own value."Karen Cox is a social worker, health educator, and peer supporter in Toronto. She is also in recovery.