I’m sitting in the same coffee shop where I spent hours upon hours staring at my computer screen, often stuck on a sentence or a concept. It’s a cold snowy winter morning, the chill hitting my face each time the door opens and closes. I’m right back where I was in late 2018, staring at my computer screen, mind hijacked. I check social media, I check email, I do anything possible to not pick up my pencil.
I haven’t done much writing since hitting the ‘submit’ button on the manuscript to my book The Clinical Guide to Fertility, Motherhood and Eating Disorders: From Shame to Self-Acceptance.
To be honest, I’ve avoided it at all costs.
Each time I think of blogging or journaling my brain shuts down or wants to distract me to do something else (I cannot tell you how many levels of Tetris I’ve mastered in the past few months!). A friend said to me the other day: “well, that’s a trauma response for ya.”
While writing a book fits into a minor form of trauma, my brain may register the idea of picking up my pen and paper the same way as it would returning to the scene of a traumatic experience such as an assault or a car accident. The neurons in my brain are firing in an idential way: danger, alert, potential harm!
My experience writing and then publishing my book in 2019 delved deep into vulnerable and insecure territory at times. My perfectionist reared her forceful head quite a bit and I felt like completing the manuscript incurred comparable pain and patience as being in labor and giving birth to my daughter did 🙂
However, I’m back here over a year later revisiting my old friend: the written word.
I can’t help but think about how this feels similar to re-engaging in eating disorder recovery after some time away from it or after a lapse.
A plethora of shame, guilt, embarrassment and negative self talk can surface during the recovery process. The eating disorder voice may notice that you are struggling and try to pull you back into its deep, dark grip.
I recently had a client tearfully share “I’m so afraid of acknowledging that I’ve made progress because I fear the ED raging up and trying to get me back to the miserable place I was.”
I assured her that there is no way she could go all the way back in the trenches, as she has developed a well of self-awareness and strength that can never dry up.
Perhaps you can relate? Maybe you have felt yourself slip in your recovery and are too ashamed to call your therapist or admit this to your partner. Significant life transitions such as moving to a new house or state, getting married, having a child, relationship changes such as divorce, or a losing a pet or family member are times when one is more vulnerable to the age-old coping mechanism of disordered eating to resurface.
Just as I have sat down to write this because I know deep down that writing is a part of my being that I do not want to abandon, I am certain that you can take one step to coming back to your recovery.
- Calling your therapist or searching for a therapist
- Telling your partner, mother, daughter or friend that you are struggling
- Acknowledging that recovery is HARD and that lapses are normal
- Re-engaging in a recovery-focused activity such as writing, reading or mindful walks
- Throwing out anything that reminds you of your ED: the scale, your “eating disorder clothes”, magazines or images that trigger you
- ……what do you have to add?
I’m not going to promise that I’m fully ready to write regularly again. Writing this was a mixture of pleasure and resistance. However, I can assure you that as I remind myself that my mind always (always!) tells me that vulnerable experiences will be harder than they truly are, I will gradually invite myself to come back to my writing. With ZERO expectations, contracts, timelines, or deadlines 🙂
Your recovery is your own. Try giving yourself the same grace to go about it at your pace and style as we all know that it won’t be sustainable unless it’s born of your well of resiliency.