A blog on how you can grant yourself compassion and determine your life, in fact, the way you want it to be.
Nobody wants to live with an eating disorder. But right now, we know many people are considering treatment and sitting in that tense place of knowing that recovery may mean a change to how they’ve been living their life.
There can be so many questions that come up in this time. What if I’d done something differently? Am I doing the right thing?
All the Would’s, Should’s, Could’s that might be going through your mind are our theme for October. We’re meeting you where you are in that place of tension.
‘Everything starts as emptiness, and that existence invites our creative contribution to discern how we define it. Success and failure, viewed from the same perspective, are the same: it is our reaction to them that makes them either negative or positive.’ Elizabeth Day, ‘How to Fail’
Whilst reflection can be helpful in your eating disorder recovery journey, it is important to differentiate reflection from rumination.
Reflection can be a pause for thought – a collecting of personal wisdom – whereas rumination can be a constant ‘chewing over’ of something. Often it’s in this state that a critical voice can arise – it’s the thought process that can often keep us awake at night. Fun fact: rumination actually comes from the process by which cows continuously chew over their food. They’ve been known to do it for hours!
Back to the blog. In essence, you may have expectations in your life that have not been met, yet, but that doesn’t mean they never will be. As we often say, there is not “one way” to do recovery and that also applied for university, for your thirties, and for life.
If this resonated, we have some thoughts on how to work with the feelings that arise from expectations not being met.
Clock your expectation intention
Expectations and goals can be important motivating factors in recovery, but the moment they become be-all-and-end-all, we can put ourselves in a space where we’re adding extra pressure and extra stress.
For example, it may be that you expected to start university this term, though you have decided to put your recovery first and defer your year. Let’s firstly commend you on making this important and strong decision. The frustration you may feel right now is valid, and you can use this as your motivational factor to recover. It is important here to recognise your choice and to grant yourself compassion along the journey. Expectations in recovery, therefore, have to be held very gently.
When they are motivating and encouraging positive and constructive actions, they can really support our recovery journey. But the moment the expectation is combined with the self-critic – the part of us that says we’re ‘never doing or achieving enough’ – we tend to engage in self-sabotage and undermine our healing journey of recovery.
We explore more on expectations in eating disorder recovery, here.
When things “should” be happy!
We can thank social media for this one! According to a 2019 Mental Health Foundation study, ‘social media has complicated things even further. Researchers have found that more time spent on social media related to higher body dissatisfaction and disordered eating, more attention to the physical appearance of others and more comparisons.’
On social media platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook, we tend to upload the “good stuff”, meaning our connections only see a saturated portrayal of who we are, what we do and what we look like. This may resonate if your family friend has just had a baby and has uploaded photos or videos of the family seeming “happy”. Perhaps, your experience of having a baby is different and not happy, and that is ok. Your experience is not determined by anybody else’s – as there is no handbook to being a parent, there is no handbook to how life should feel.
As a result of this, when we’re comparing ourselves to someone on social media, we’re comparing ourselves to information that isn’t fact.
To help navigate this perspective, we have shared in a previous blog on comparison and social media, to consider the below:
- Reconsider your social feeds
- Look after your trigger points
- Remember, your perspective is your power!
Strive to be present
We heard a great phrase once: if you’re one foot in the past, and one foot in the future, you’re [insert toilet-activity word!] in the present. Essentially, when we’re elsewhere – we’re not in the present.
Mindfulness is a state of awareness, where you observe what you are thinking and feeling without judgement.
The practice brings you into the present, whilst the non-judgemental approach helps you to accept the thoughts and emotions that you witness arising within you.
As soon as the critical voice starts to take you away to a future or past place, bring your awareness back to where you are right now: making an important and courageous decision that will directly and positively impact your future.
‘… we can conclude there is no uncomplicatedly happy end point. There are a series of points – some happy, some sad,, some simply quietly contented – and each one will be different from how we imagined it. Not better or worse; just different.’ Elizabeth Day, ‘How to Fail’