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Learning from Challenges in Recovery

By August 24, 2020June 24th, 2022No Comments


Written by Aoife

When you are living with an Eating Distress/Disorder your vision is very restrictive and distorted. The Recovery process reminds me of when I underwent laser eye surgery years ago. I remember the initial excitement after the surgery when I could see clearly- It was amazing and the most simple things brought me joy, like recognising the person walking towards me or being able to read the small text on the TV 😉 Likewise, the process of recovery has given me enhanced vision and I now see the world in a whole new light. (Interestingly enough and on a side note the initial enthusiasm & appreciation for my vision decreased as the years went by – I simply adjusted to my new sense of sight and forgot about the previous struggle. Likewise, my motivation at the start of recovery was so strong and as I have adjusted to my new Free-ish lifestyle I have a tendency to forget how far I have come. A reminder for constant Credit and Self Appreciation!)

I spent a weekend break with some family members and it has been pivotal in my recovery. In the past I have spent many weekends with the same crew but this time it was different. My Recovery lens is starting to become stronger than my ED distorted vision. I saw the people I was with in a whole new light. I realise that I used to place them on a pedestal and my Condition used to constantly put pressure on me to perform and to impress. I was constantly looking for their approval. While it was an enjoyable weekend with some personal free moments, it was also quiet challenging and draining, yet enlightening and full of learning.

What I am most proud of is my awareness and my strength. There was a lot of big personalities and a lot of noise but I found myself observing more so than performing. I didn’t feel the need to compete and to prove to everyone how successful/intelligent/funny/organised (the list used to be endless) I was! It was really freeing to just be myself without looking for approval. I also appreciated that these people are not “perfect” and that everyone has their own quirks, insecurities, challenges, behaviours and vulnerabilities. Becoming aware of this and removing the pedestals was a huge opportunity for me to grow and learn.

Sadly everyone in the group is very influenced by society’s warped version of being “healthy” and I found the constant conditioned dialogue about good food/bad food/ body shaming/ bla bla bla disheartening and a bit frustrating. But I also found it very motivating and rewarding to realise that I was also a bit bored by the conversation. I chose not to engage which was very new to me especially when we were seated at a small table in a restaurant and I had nowhere to “hide” from it. It is interesting that no- one even noticed that I wasn’t involved, I just sat there observing and it wasn’t hugely uncomfortable, surprisingly enough. I was genuinely shocked by some of the harsh conditioned comments and so relieved that I no longer behave this way.

It reminded me of when I was in the office at work and all my colleagues spent hours discussing and analysing the GAA matches from the weekend and my mind naturally drifted because I wasn’t very interested (Even when I tried to get involved my mind couldn’t hang onto the details😉). I finally experienced an element of this for the first time in relation to food/diet talk etc and that was always a big aim for me- to become uninterested in Condition and all its Bullshit. I am acknowledging this and giving myself loads of Credit because when I was deep in Condition the goal posts always moved & I was never content.

The real magic was that I wasn’t super concerned with challenging my families warped beliefs and trying to teach them the alternative language of Recovery/ Freedom and proving them wrong. Admittedly I did make a few challenging statements but no one was interested so I chose to disengage which wasn’t very easy but it is possible and I am sure with practice I will master it! 😉

In the past I was the ring- leader of these discussions, so loud and opinionated and I never imagined that I would change or if I even wanted to. I am so proud of the time I have invested in my recovery over the past 4/5 years and the constant chipping away at these deeply rooted distorted values and beliefs. Of course it can be frustrating when you are with a gang of close family whose values are so different to yours and can potentially threaten your recovery. I am actually realising that these obstacles/challenges have been necessary and they have helped me grow and learn (I know Jacqueline’s podcast promotes this but it took me time to actually practice and believe it). This experience has highlighted how far I have come in my journey towards Freedom and I want to magnify it.

The people I was with do not know about my Recovery journey (except my Mother) and they don’t understand the language of Freedom I am studying and that is Okay. I am practicing letting go of the anger, the frustration and the judgment (They should know better! Don’t they know what I am going through? It is not fair! The whole world is conditioned! I don’t know any Free people in my family bla  bla bla). Flirting with these thoughts are a complete waste of energy and not beneficial. I cannot change or control how they think but I can control how I think and how I behave. I can own my decisions and values without pushing them on others. I will be the change I want to see in the world!

There was so much condition around me this weekend. I could have used that to self- sabotage my recovery by engaging in destructive behaviours, but I didn’t. I know I am worth more than this. I deserve more and so does My Petal 😉 My body and mind are healing and I want to protect that relationship. I enjoyed the weekend and the company wasn’t always challenging. We had lots of great laughs and nice experiences but I am not rushing to organise another weekend break together any time soon! I am so grateful for the tools I have learned and the progress I have made. I know this has been a shift for me after struggling for the past few months in my recovery. I wanted to share this story to give others Hope to keep going when you notice condition knocking on your door. Recovery is not linear – it’s true that the challenges we experience can lead to growth if you practice being an observer and letting go of the desire to get it perfect all the time. Progress Not Perfection!