A gargantuan hill mounts before me, a monster of sidewalk and height. Yes, one mile up, steep enough to land you on your back. It’s 85 degrees, I have sweat running down my calves, and at the moment, I hate running. But my first thought as I face the Hill is: I can do this. I will do this. I’m not an optimist of epic proportions. Trust me, at this point, I’m more likely to strangle myself with my shoelaces than chant a mantra. But I’ve learned to plant pockets of empowering thoughts along my run before I get to the challenge.
Early in my run, when I’m feeling strong and shiny, I coach myself. “When you get the the Hill, what will your first thought be?”
“I can do this.”
“When you’re tired and stupid with heat and you hit a wall, what will your first thought be?”
“I can do this.”
And I can.
This technique works for recovery, too. You can plan ahead. “When I see a skinny, perfect woman and I look down at myself to compare, what will my first thought be?” “When I feel like all I want to die, what will my first thought be?” “When I open the refrigerator, what will my first thought be?”
“I am beautiful.”
“This too will pass.”
“I choose recovery.”
Create your own first thoughts. Something that touches you deep. Something you will respect enough in the heat of the moment to flip your attitude for. Over time, these thoughts become automatic, springing up to meet you whenever a trigger is tripped.
“I can do this,” is simple, but for me, it represents a mountain of effort. I can run three miles. I can mount the hill. So I have no excuse to shirk it. I’ve trained for these moments, I know I have the option to be strong. So how could I choose anything else? A single burst of truth can pierce the negative chatter and give you an open door to a different choice.
Self-help books, blogs, TV shows, and fabulous online magazines (like this one!) have their place, but they can never bring fully healing. An idea may challenge your perspective (Women Food and God by Geneen Roth rocked my world), but if you find yourself obsessively consuming self-help material, it may be because your eating disorder is feeding on it. In recovery, it’s easy to put all the focus on your eating disorder, when recovery is about embracing a big, fat, juicy life – with so many other facets and streaks of rainbow than bulimia/anorexia/compulsive-overeating. You need to shoot cracks in the walls of your eating disorder centered world.
How? Take a hammer. Read Shakespeare. Pick up an interesting novel and voraciously consume it. Put a book of poetry by your bed and read a poem each night before you sleep. Find a blog on something unrelated to your ED: knitting, writing, art, or mothering. Listen to a band unrelated to self-esteem issues.
Disorders are suffocating. What you’re doing is opening a window.
Pick one from each list and request it from your library. Right now. I dare you.
Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
The Light Princess by George MacDonald
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Breathtaking Modern Novels
So B. It by Sarah Weeks
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt