Good morning! I write this post as I get ready to fly to Chicago for my cousin’s wedding this weekend, which will be filled with chaos and family festivities, no doubt. Fortunately, our flight is not until later this afternoon and I am able to jot down a few ideas to share with you on this Thinking Out Loud Thursday!
I tend to have my most random thoughts when I am walking, and I was struck by an analogy that had not occurred to me while headed to the library the other day.
When I initially began physical therapy for my back/hip problems, there were many things that my physical therapist told me that I should avoid during the healing process, including sitting and bending over. He used the analogy of healing a cut on the back of your knuckle. As long as you keep bending your finger, the cut will struggle to heal. Although sitting and bending did not cause my back injury, they sabotage my body’s attempts to heal. And, although bending your finger does not cause a cut on the back of the knuckle (unless you’re The Incredible Hulk), continuing the behavior will postpone healing. The cut may still heal eventually even if you bend your finger, but the healing process will be longer and more complicated than if you had temporarily stopped bending your finger altogether.
Healing an eating disorder can be seen in the same light as healing a cut on your knuckle or a back injury. It can be tempting to knowingly choose recovery-sabotaging behaviors because they are the temporarily easier choice. It is far too simple to justify them, saying that you will order something other than salad next time, or you will exercise less tomorrow.
Just as a cut on your knuckle doesn’t occur because you bent your finger, eating disorders don’t start with one skipped meal or one overzealous jog. Yet, these are the behaviors that can keep us from getting well. There will be a time when running is an option again (if you like it, that is), when you can order a salad without wondering if it’s a disordered choice, and when you can scrape something off of your food simply because it is not an ingredient that you like, rather than as a means of cutting calories. Until then, we all need to be aware of the (often quite small) ways in which we sabotage our own recovery.
Recovery is not perfect. We are bound to make choices that harm us during the process, and we can give ourselves grace while maintaining the awareness that we could have made a healthier choice. If your knuckle is healing and you bend it a few times, there’s no reason to call it a loss and cut your finger off. If you give in to a disordered idea, you always have the opportunity to pick yourself up, dust your weary self off, and acknowledge what could have better supported recovery.
Just as the disorder continues to hold the reins each time that we give in to a recovery-sabotaging behavior, our recovery efforts gain strength each time that we have the courage to make a recovery-building choice instead. It takes time, patience, and effort to teach our brains to stop connecting behaviors and emotions in a disordered way, but each and every day provides a multitude of chances to do so. Healing anything is a process, but we can make the process worlds easier when we choose to strengthen our healthy selves rather than concede to disordered behaviors.
With sustained efforts to support the healing of a cut on your knuckle, the skin will eventually develop scar tissue that is more durable than the skin that was there before. And, with sustained efforts at recovery, we are able to heal and become stronger individuals than we could have ever imagined.