“You need to feel safe as much as possible right now. Your eating disorder wants you to feel unsafe.”
I’ve just admitted to my dietitian that starting some days off running alone in the dark isn’t something I enjoy. In fact, I spend much of the time in a heightened state of anxiety waiting for the worst-case scenario to play itself out.
On Thursday morning as soon as I sat down in the lobby of my therapist’s office, the overwhelming need to cry flooded my body. I spent most of the following hour grounded on the floor letting tears come. I spent the rest of the day feeling absolutely exhausted and sad. But then, something amazing happened: I actually felt a release. I always expect to feel better after crying–like I’ve heard is supposed to happen–but that almost never immediately happens for me. Possibly because I don’t let myself get all the way to end of crying. I shut it down too quickly. But this time, I left in a state of crying (which felt absolutely horrible), continued crying in my car, went home and continued to feel so sad. But by the end of the day, I felt like that need was gone. It wasn’t lingering, fighting to come out while I fought to hold it back. It simply didn’t exist at all which is a major change.
I’ve done this before. I’ve spent an hour crying in that room before. But I simultaneously feel embarrassed and have a very high self-imposed need to wrap it completely up before I walk out the door to return my normal life. I don’t allow myself any time to process what just took place. Instead, I was spending time trying to figure out why I couldn’t stop crying and how I could stop it from happening again.
That is literally the very last thing I need. In the words of my therapist; “Please cry. And then cry more. And then cry some more.”
My dietitian is spot on. I need to seek safety. I need to spend as much time as possible in the spaces where I feel safe because that is when my body can heal. Waking up and jump-starting my nervous system by doing something (running in the dark alone) that brings fear feeds my eating disorder and inhibits my recovery process. Because eating disorders thrive on fear and anxiety. If I start my day like that, of course, it’s going to be difficult to challenge.
I (still) frequently become frustrated that I spend 3-4 hours weekly in recovery-related appointments and sometimes even 5 hours. But why? Those are the times I feel safe. It might be helpful to flip this script to; it’s only 3-5 hours a week where I feel fully safe. Emotionally, physically, spiritually. 3 hours a week is hardly enough time. It’s ok to need that time. I do, very very much, need that time. It took a lot of consistency, effort, trust, and baby steps, from both myself and my team, to simply come to the space of safety. I had to get there before I could get anywhere else. I had to get there on my own time and through my own process. I’m sure some people get there faster. And some people get there slower.
I need to be here. I won’t always need to be here. But right now, it’s ok to depend on those hours, those people, those spaces where I am able to experience safety. Wanting to run away from this is my eating disorder trying to rip me away from what is tearing it down. I am 100% sure each person placed in my life on my team is for a reason.
And I am 100% sure the little girl in me needs those spaces, hugs, and tears. It’s ok that I need other people. I don’t have to do things on my own. My process is acceptable. It’s not shameful, it just is.