In stressful situations, it’s super easy to fall back into your old habits. It’s way more challenging to keep going and stick to your commitments, resolutions, and goals when going through some tough time.
When I was in primary school and later on in high school, I used to do everything in advance, so I had plenty of time to study, do my homework and finish my projects. The feeling of responsibility, duty, and pressure kept me going and do everything ASAP to get rid of that feeling. Later on, as I switched to university, I became a terribly procrastinating person with no intention to do things on time (or do them at all) and zero responsibility. I believe that my desire to be perfect, setting up unrealistic goals and expectations lead to this, but I also believe that my eating disorder is the one that affected me to become this miserable person.
I excel at writing everything down, planning anything from how many hours to sleep to a pee time, however, I suck at actually doing it. And by suck at it, I mean it all starts and end with the planning.
Each time I’m under pressure, I get this alert voice in my head Run, run, run!!! I have this terrible urge to escape from everything, quit anything that makes me feel like this and never do things like that again. It’s so coward-like it is. But it’s understandable. Nobody wants to expose themselves to things that are so uncomfortable.
But as I can’t run from things (or I can, but I’d probably be on the other side of the world by now…), I searched for comfort in food. It was always there, it was something my security and it brought comfort to things constantly changing the world. My friend (yes, I have just one) and family members didn’t have that much time to listen to my constant wailing, so I used food to shut down my emotions and feelings instead. Maybe they wouldn’t understand it anyway because I didn’t either. I didn’t understand why I use food just to avoid my responsibility and to make everything ten times worse. It was my excuse for everything. I can’t study anymore because it may trigger my depression and anxiety and I might want to binge. I can’t go out with your friends because I am so fat from all that food and I’m disgusted and they wouldn’t like me.
As you can guess, the food didn’t make the situation any better. It wasn’t like I ate for one hour and that was able to study for three more. After a binge/purge, all I could think was how f***d up my life (and me) is and how disgusting person I am. I felt like a loser with no willpower, desire and no reason to live.
As a stepped up on the recovery path, these stressful, challenging and tense moments were usually when I slipped up and fell back into my old bad habits, deeper than before. I believe that’s one of the main reasons why I started to hate my school so much, because I constantly felt under pressure and binging, purging and starving were my only way to cope with feeling overwhelmed. No matter how hard I tried not to, I always fell back into the pattern. I remember at the end of my first year at the university, I was binging every day, tears were falling on my papers, books, and keypad and I felt like this is it, I don’t want to do this anymore.
I went to my exam and I had to run to the bathroom as I started crying when I saw all my classmates, chatting and looking so happy and relaxed. My eating disorder was so isolating that I made no friends and I never joined any university party. During the tears, I stuffed my face with the last piece of binge food I had and then went on the exam. Next year I skipped all of the difficult subjects and switched to distance education because my eating disorder got worse and I couldn’t cope with that stress anymore. Or at least, that was my excuse to give up. During my third, final year, I wanted to kill myself. That’s how bad it was, and pretty much no one knew about it.
If you’re going through stressful situations (who am I kidding, we all go through them) while going through an eating disorder recovery, be persistent and don’t fall back into the old patterns. Actually, dealing with the sources of your stress can make the recovery process easier as you focus your mind and thoughts on other things than food, weight, throwing up, starving and self-image. As you keep yourself busy, you learn to think about other things and trust me, all of us that have any problems with food know how difficult it is.
Don’t set yourself unrealistic goals. Take your time, figure out what you can do. Your health and recovery is a priority, and no job, school, project, relationship etc. is worth your health. You need to heal yourself first in order to become strong enough to fight other battles.
I liked to put myself in situations with unrealistic goals and expectations. I ordered myself to study 12 hours a day, with no break for exercise or socializing, not binge eating, eating 5 “healthy” meals a day with no carbs and then I was even more depressed and anxious as I failed completely on the day one. You can’t expect miracles to happen overnight.
Do everything to make it easier for yourself. If you know that you easily fall back into the pattern when you’re alone, surround yourself with people. Move-in with your partner for a few days, ask friends to come over or go study in the public library. Make enough space for yourself to exercise, cook something healthy and nutritious (avoid the conviction that you can’t spend time cooking because you should study just to grab some junk food; honestly, if you have time to check Facebook, you have time to cook yourself a healthy meal). Take time to just be and to think, meditate, go for a walk. Don’t shut yourself down, that’s what eating disorder loves. Meet with your friends
Motivate yourself with other things than food. You’re not a dog, in the first place. But food is the trigger to screw things up. Rather, try to motivate yourself with other treats, such as meeting with your friend, buying a new piece of clothes, going to a concert, buying a new book, taking some time off.
Turn stress into a positive experience. As you can consider a glass half full or half empty, you can look at the pressure and stress as an opportunity to test yourself and make yourself stronger. Each day you stick to your recovery and successfully pass is a chance
Forgive yourself. You may f**k things up the couple more times before you find a way that works for you. If it’s a feeling that comes and goes with that one particular problem, maybe you just need to admit yourself that you have a problem in the first place. Maybe you need to fight with the eating disorder in order to deal with other problems. Maybe you just need to organize yourself and your time a little more. Maybe you need to find the right motivation.