Coping Mechanism

Image via rational.org

Food and I are not getting along very well these days.  But for the time being, I’m not going to sound the alarm.

For the past few days, my ED voice has been waging a tireless campaign of negative self talk.  ”Your pants are too tight because you’re fat!…You’d better not eat that, you’ve already gained weight!…You could really afford to skip this meal…Ew, your arms are so flabby, and your tummy is just disgusting…Why don’t you look more like the pictures in magazines?”  It’s the usual stuff, nothing new or creative.  But it’s never easy to hear, and it’s certainly never easy to battle.  In a matter of hours it can feel like all the hard work you’ve put into your recovery over the past year (or however long you have been in recovery) is for naught.  It’s scary, it’s overwhelming, and it can also be a blessing.

I spent most of the day today thinking about what it meant to be hearing (and to a certain extent indulging) this voice so strongly, and at one point a friend of mine (without even knowing that this had been on my mind) articulated it perfectly: “It’s a coping mechanism, and everyone has their own, for better or for worse.  At this point, I think of it as a gift, because I’ve gotten to a point where I can recognize that when I start having these thoughts, it means I need to take a step back and look at what’s really going on, at the real issues that need to be addressed.” [Now, just so that there’s absolutely no ambiguity here, this is not to say that eating disorders are great because they give you clearer perspective or greater insight into what’s bothering you.  It’s very much the opposite.]  I couldn’t have summed it up any better.
Several months ago, I might not have been able to come to this conclusion, but today I can realize that the things my eating disorder voice is telling me are not reflections of the truth, but reflections of the fact that I’m stressed out and I’m not taking very good care of myself.  Last week was a good week, this one is turning out to be harder, and I’ve finally reached a point where that can be okay.  It’s just the ebb and flow of life–things aren’t going to be good all the time, and things aren’t going to be bad all the time either.  When I’m just picking up whatever food is around because I know I have to eat something, when I’m feeling cranky and tired all the time for no real reason, and when I’m having a hard time motivating myself to go running or engage in some other care-taking activity, I know that this isn’t the way things are always going to be.  Moreover, I can see that it would probably be to my benefit to go running anyway, make an effort to do some other care-taking sorts of things for myself, and be open with the people close to me about how I’m feeling so that they can be aware and supportive.
Framing things this way is so much more productive than hearing the ED voice and letting myself feel like I’m losing the fight, or that I haven’t made as much progress as I originally thought I had.  After all, like I mentioned the other day, recovery is a lifelong process and something that requires vigilance and conscious effort.  This is all part of the process.
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One comment

  1. I’ve been coming to the same conclusion… at least I am able to recognize the voice and try to use tools I’ve learned to counter that. Previously it wasn’t even anything that was separate from ME… it was just the way my mind was. And I felt a small amount of triumph at recognizing that I was able to recognize the ED voice and separate it from myself.

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