From Mirasol ED Recovery Guest Blogwriter ~ Faith
Recovery from an eating disorder is complex. It’s full of rollercoasters, intense emotions, radical acceptance, willingness over willfulness, courage, and perseverance. It’s easy to go back to negative behaviors where the eating disorder can calm anxiety and make you feel like you have control. But, in actuality, you are only locking yourself back in the box while the ED destroys your life. Bottom line: Recovery can be very scary. As you continue your recovery journey, you will have to face both old and new fears. By gaining a new perspective of how to conquer those fears, you will build more strength and courage every time you step out of the box and face that fear.
If you have read my other posts, you know that I used to be very athletic triathlete and cyclist. As I move further into my recovery and have begun to work towards reclaiming those passions, I have had to look fear straight in the face. It’s not a perfect road…Some days I can do it; other days I might hang back a little and tip toe outside the box. I have a hard time being patient with myself and remembering that my body is still healing, thus when it comes to biking and swimming, I need to learn to be more forgiving without letting fear take over and quitting completely.
I have recently joined a community center that I can both bike to and swim once I’m there. I felt like a small child holding my mom’s hand when I went to try swimming. Luckily, I chose to face this fear by choosing to go with someone from my support system. It was my first time there actually using the facilities, and I didn’t understand how the locker rooms worked. A swim team was starting, and I hate being cold, which all lap pools are kept at a cooler temperature. I had anxiety just thinking about going. Seeing the swim team was intimidating and brought up old emotions of when I swam on a team. I knew my stamina was definitely not up to par, and fear immediately took over telling me, “You can’t swim, look at those girls, they are in the best shape and can swim forever.” I hovered over the lane edge, knowing the cold rush I would feel as soon as I dove. Half of me was saying, “no, no, no!” The wise mind other half was telling me, “at least jump in, you love swimming and you have to start somewhere.”
With a deep breath I took the dive and immediately began sprinting down the lane trying to warm myself up. I could feel my body maxing out, which was a bit frustrating, but I accomplished a small step towards my larger goal. I may have only done two laps but I didn’t quit, I tried it, and I can prepare myself better the next time. I was a bit discouraged, yet at the same time, I was trying to turn my mind and use it for more motivation.
Now, I could get down on myself and compare doing two laps to two miles. However, the initial goal was breaking the box, and I at least jumped in and tried. The next time, I knew what to expect a little more, and although there is still a bit of anxiety, I try to keep pushing myself and not have any expectations other than getting in the pool and swimming. In time, I hope it becomes therapeutic as it used to be.
Another example of overcoming recovery related fears centers around social situations. After isolating for so long, it’s easy to decline the party invitations, going out for meals, returning to work, etc. This may sound silly, but I was invited to see a movie with my neighbor about a book we’ve been discussing. I tend to experience a panic state going to theatres, so I seldom ever go. I don’t think I’ve been to a movie since Harry Potter. Everything inside of me was screaming no! Then, I took into consideration that this was a social event, very few that I ever have, and I needed to push myself instead of hiding in my apartment or avoiding with other tasks. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face….we must do that which we think we cannot.” I tried using my wise mind, and made the goal that every day I will push myself to face at least one fear, big or small.
Tess Marshall, M.A., who specializes in learning how to live a bold life, has created nine tips to face fear in the face so it no longer rules our lives:
1) GET COMFORTABLE WITH FEAR.
Try and do one thing each day that might cause fear and invite it into your life. Let yourself feel it and breathe through it. Every time you conquer a fear, it builds courage and opens up new doors in your life. Such examples I’ve had this week: actually going to the pool, going to a movie, cycling more and building up a commuter bike, and facing strong anxiety that seems to build in the evening with some yoga.
2) MAKE YOUR DOMINANT THOUGHTS POSITIVE.
Give yourself positive mantras, thoughts, and positive energy that generate success, whereas more fearful thoughts will just attract more fear. I have my apartment posted with random quotes and affirmations. Sometimes they get stuck in my head which helps me turn my negative thoughts around.
3) DON’T GIVE TIME, ATTENTION, OR ENERGY TO FEAR.
Take action towards fear and don’t let opportunities continue to pass you by. This can be difficult, but if you continue to be consistent, prepared, focusing on solutions, that energy will further motivate you to conquer what’s ahead. This is a perfect example of facing my movie theater fear. I could decline and lose the opportunity to get to know my neighbor better (and possibly seeing a good movie), but I’m tired of letting fear and anxiety keep me imprisoned and losing out on opportunities to grow. If I don’t like theatres still after, then I don’t really have to ever go again. (Isn’t that what Redbox is for?)
4) NEVER DWELL ON SCARCITY
“Focus your attention on being ready, willing, and prepared for the beauty, wonder, connections, good fortune and favorable circumstances that are yours if you are willing to work and be open to it.”
5) REVISIT YOUR VICTORIES.
Every time you conquer a fear, don’t brush it under the rug. Celebrate it and use it to continue building courage, motivation, and strength. For example, I rode the community center once, I can ride again. I got in the pool, and even though I didn’t last long, I got in and tried to swim a few more laps as well as tried out their therapeutic pool – which is a bit warmer!
6) LIVE VICARIOUSLY THROUGH THE VICTORIES OF OTHERS.
Read or learn about inspiring people, events, things that have occurred when people have faced fear in the face and overcome all obstacles to achieve their dream. Some examples are Walt Disney, Oprah, Robin Williams, etc. Maybe it’s not a famous person or event; maybe it’s a special person in your life. My mom may not be famous, but she is one of the most perseverant, compassionate, and courageous people I know. Do you have anyone you look up to? Why?
7) ASK YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY FOR SUPPORT.
Use your support team to help you overcome fearful moments. The first time when I just wanted to try the pool (after changing about 10 times because I was letting anxiety take over and not wanting to go), my mom came with me and just said, “Jump in and see how it goes.” It was a small step, but one more step of courage I can build upon to do it again.
8) CREATE A SUPPORT GROUP OF FRIENDS OR COLLEAGUES.
Having a strong support team helps build that foundation of trust and more willingness to overcome the fear. Supporting each other can make tough moments easier, and possibly even more fun.
9) PLAN TO BE GREAT
Create a list of your goals and conquer them. Use the SMART goal setting technique so you can celebrate even the tiniest step. The power is within you to overcome obstacles, and let your dreams and happiness re-enter your life. .
No longer do we have to let doubt, fear, and anxiety dominate our lives. Don’t let the ED or fear steal anymore joy, sleep, dreams, and goals. DO NOT let FEAR define your life. You are all strong and courageous! Sometimes we just need to dust ourselves off and remember that “I CAN” reach my goals and dreams.
A few quotes to fight fear with:
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”
“Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.”
“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”