Into the Unknown

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” -C.S. Lewis 

This time of year always reminds me of life transition. Equal parts promise and terror, change doesn’t allow for much comfort. Whether wished for or not, change shakes things up, causing us to question ourselves and our circumstances. Take, for example, the transition to college for which many of my clients are in preparation. We spend time in session discussing what they hope to study, how they will cope with roommate issues, and how they can find emotional supports, yet much of the time it is evident they have no idea the magnitude of change heading their way. There is simply no way to fully prepare for something you have never experienced. All the planning in the world does not negate the moment when the reality of the change hits. I vividly recall, and sometimes share with my clients, the sheer panic that hit me when my parents’ minivan approached the exit for Notre Dame on move-in day my freshman year of college. Up until that point, I had been overflowing with excitement and not at all hesitant about being hours away from the familiarity of home. And yet, when the familiar was pulled out from under me, I desperately wanted to drive as far from that campus as I could. In the midst of transition, hope and excitement coexist with, and sometimes even feel overshadowed by, anxiety and uncertainty. 

Life is filled with endless changes big and small. Be it going off to college, getting married, having children, losing loved ones, building a career, ending a marriage, kids leaving the nest, illness in ourselves and those we love, and so on. Some changes we know are coming and some are unexpected, but none can be perfectly planned for. Our ability to sit in the midst of deep discomfort without either running back toward familiarity or hiding determines much of how a transition plays out. Welcoming uncertainty with all of its inherent opportunities and risks is one of the biggest tasks in a life well lived. Feeling uncertain, anxious, or unsettled does not mean we are coping poorly or making the wrong move. Rather, in the midst of life transition, these emotions signal growth and transformation on the horizon. Beautiful, gut-wrenching, courage-inspired growth. 

So the next time a wrecking ball crashes into life as you know it, breathe deeply. Expect intensely mixed emotions and trust that the inner turmoil of change is there to facilitate growth. Life often doesn’t look or feel quite how we thought it would. But if we are courageous enough to allow for change and have faith in ourselves to evolve, life might just turn out to be more fulfilling than we could ever have imagined.

Wishing for A Quick Fix? The Realities of Eating Disorder Recovery

 

No quick fixes in Eating Disorder Recovery

Frequently, when we are ready to acknowledge that something in our lives needs to be changed, we decide it needs to be changed NOW! Urgency related to eating disorder recovery seems to be a common denominator among my clients – after all, who would want to remain in pain for even a second longer than they have to? And yet, wanting something to change quickly, especially an issue that may have been around for years, does not mean that the recovery process can occur quickly.

Where does this urgency come from? Often, I find that the urgency to “get (eating disorder recovery) over with” comes not only from wanting to be out of pain quickly, but also from our society’s marketing of quick fixes for weight-related issues. Unfortunately, this also means that many people lose all hope when change does not occur in fast, dramatic fashion. They fear that if change is not swift, this way (therapy) of dealing with food/weight issues won’t work for them either. Yet, nothing is further from the truth. When we are walking alongside a client on the bumpy, indirect route of recovery, we regularly witness that small, deliberate steps create long-lasting change. In fact, in my experience, the hardest part of eating disorder recovery is not taking the steps, but developing patience and faith in the process.

If you are having a hard time tolerating the pace of your recovery, ask yourself these questions and consider whether you might be on the right – albeit slow and steady – track.

1) Do you feel different than before? Typically, even before any behavioral change occurs with food, changes are noticeable in our emotional state. Maybe we don’t feel so anxious about food or we are more aware of the emotional triggers for eating disorder behaviors than we have been in the past?

2) Are there changes happening in how you engage with food or your body? Small changes are the key here. For example, are you bingeing less frequently? Or, are you considering stopping a behavior even if you are not yet effective in preventing it?

3) Are you thinking about your body or food differently? Eating disorder recovery gives us the rare gift of developing self-compassion for our physical self and physical needs. Finally learning to listen to what your wise body has been trying to tell you all along is a big step for someone who has been imprisoned by their eating disorder.

If you can see your perspective, your feelings, or behaviors starting to shift, give yourself the gift of time. It takes time to rebuild a relationship, especially if that relationship is with yourself. Take the next step, however small, and you will be rewarded.