Recognize The Small Victories (it's a process, after all)
I was at a launch party last Thursday night for an event I'm participating in this holiday season, and on the way home, I found myself evaluating my progress in terms of my recovery.
What I want people to know about eating disorders is that they shift and evolve all the time. Initially, years ago, I began restricting my food intake to lose weight and get "healthy". Now, if I find myself restricting, it is more of a means to control my anxiety than anything else. Sometimes I am focused on body image and obsessed with the way I see myself in the mirror, and at other times I am more tormented by the number I see on the scale than the way my body looks.
My "fear foods" change all the time, too. What scared me ten years ago doesn't necessarily scare me now, and what I find challenging today was somewhat "easier" in the past, too. I used to exercise twice a day to lose weight and burn calories, and now I don't exercise at all. The point I am trying to make is that eating disorders, and the recovery process, is in a constant state of fluctuation, which makes it all the more difficult to overcome.
Back to the event.
I am still not ready to try certain things. There was a lot of delicious-looking food on display at the gallery, but I wasn't able to partake in sampling it. I still felt this overwhelming sense of discomfort and preferred to wait until I got home to prepare my dinner and eat something "safer". It's a little frustrating to me, though, that I am still at a point in my life where things related to food and eating are not easy for me. It has been ten long years of this eating disorder and sometimes I feel like screaming: "enough already!".
But then I took a step back.
Although I was not able to pick and choose from any of the appetizers, I WAS able to pick up a glass of wine to celebrate the launch. Drinking is something that is totally "normal" for a twenty-something year old, but the calories in alcohol often prevent me from enjoying myself at social events. Without hesitation, though, I took a glass of wine, "cheers-ed" my good friend, and ENJOYED the moment.
And then there was the fact that I actually WENT to the event. A huge part of my eating disorder involves isolation; retreating to the comfort of my home so I can engage in any sort of eating behaviour or ritual that I want. Avoiding social situations for fear that I might eat or drink something out of my comfort zone and God forbid, gain weight. But after work, I put myself in an Uber, and made an appearance. I didn't stay for that long, because the whole thing was still a little "unknown", but I couldn't help but think that even two years ago, I would not have gone at all.
I showed up. I had a glass of wine. I socialized. I call that a success... wouldn't you?
For those of you in the process of eating disorder recovery, or in the midst of healing, or simply committed to making a positive change in your life, take your time. Change doesn't come easy, and it doesn't come fast. Appreciate and celebrate your small little victories, and any steps you take in the right direction. Don't expect perfection - it doesn't exist! Recognize that life is always changing and fluctuating, which makes any process a lot more complicated.
This holiday season, don't put too much pressure on yourself. Recognize where you are, and where you want to be, but take your time in getting there. You WILL get there. As I am writing this, I am speaking to myself, too. I am not recovered from anorexia. I am not even close. But, I do notice that I am achieving success in certain realms of my life, and I think I need to start celebrating those victories a little bit more. See if you can do the same.