The 3C's of Eating Disorder Recovery
No-one ever chooses to have an eating disorder; however, there are choices still available to you. For me, recovery is about empowering yourself, rather than empowering your eating disorder. The first stage of this empowerment involves separating your voice from the voice of Ed. Many of you will experience this via the internal argument that goes on between your voice and the voice of Ed.
The internal dialogue between you ('I want to eat regularly and get better so I get a job; have a family; finish my education; start a business; travel the work [insert your own goals]) and Ed ('If you don't eat that meal you will feel better about yourself; if you purge you will get rid of those horrible emotions; hey you, exercise 5 minutes more and don't be so lazy [insert what your eating disorder voice says to you]).
You have the choice of whether to listen to your voice or to the voice of Ed. This is easier said than done; I know that because I have been there myself and understand how difficult this is. However, I chose to start listening to my own voice a little more each day. I made this voice a bit more 'real' and significant by writing down the thoughts, feelings, opinions, sentences etc that my voice expressed to me. I even got a Dictaphone and used my physical voice too by speaking into the Dictaphone. This gave 'realness' and physicality to my voice and, in so doing, my voice began to become separate from that of Ed's. This helped to empower my voice and give it more strength and importance. Listening back to my voice on the Dictaphone also helped me to see things differently. Things seemed different when I heard them out aloud in my own voice. I could then challenge the eating disorder thoughts and behaviours that I had been engaging in for such a long time and that were ruining my life and putting my life at risk.
Following on from challenging the Ed voice and the eating disorder thoughts and behaviours that had become so entrenched, a gap opened in the vicious cycle. A little gap, yes, but a gap nonetheless: a space in which to experiment with change; to embark upon making changes: small changes that would further help me to challenge Ed and empower me, thus weakening Ed. Change is difficult, scary, frightening, anxiety-provoking, dark, and often unknown; however, change is like that for most people, not just those of us who have or have had eating disorders. So I was not alone in my apprehension towards change. Change can be exciting and fun too and it doesn't have to be all at the same time. The key is to take small, manageable, realistic steps. For those of you who know my story, I had anorexia and an exercise addiction for over 14 years, with an episode of bulimia, orthorexia and various episodes of chew and spit disorder. It wasn't realistic to think I could change everything just like that. Anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong. Having an eating disorder becomes a way of life: you become locked in a cage; trapped in a bubble; ensnared in a spider's web.
No-one can just get out of it 'just like that'. It takes lots and lots of small, realistic steps over a long period of time. Steps and goals that you want to do, not that others want for you. Steps and goals that are small enough to manage and can realistically be done within a specified time (determined by you) but which are also challenging: not challenging in a way that they scare you off or provoke a huge amount of anxiety that become overwhelming and difficult to deal with; but producing enough anxiety that you become a little uncomfortable but not too uncomfortable that you can't actually take on and complete the goal or step. A little anxiety is ok - it can actually motivate us to do things. Each small goal should be challenging but not so challenging that you become so frightened that you can't even think about it. It makes lots of sense, doesn't it?
This worked for me . I still do this today with lots of other things in life even though t I have now recovered from my eating disorder. Recovery for me is: Choice: Challenge: Change
Remember these three steps and you can empower yourself towards recovery. I call them The 3C's. Why not start working on your 3C's today? Empower yourself! Let your voice speak!
(by Alexandra O'Brien (2014), Founder and Director of No Bodies Perfect, Scotland's Charity for Eating Disorders)
your voice counts:recovery exists
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