Despite the amazing benefits that recovery brings, it can be a very difficult process due to the fact that the sufferer has to learn how to befriend themselves whilst simultaneously unfriending their eating disorder. In order to this, they need to come face to face with the pain which in many cases was a contributing factor to them becoming ill whilst finding new and healthier ways to relate to these raw feelings.To ensure that the person in recovery feels as safe and grounded as possible, it is really important that they become comfortable with caring for themselves and putting themselves first, even if it’s not easy at first.
Admittedly, the whole self-care thing took me a while to get my head around. Initially, when self- care techniques were mentioned in therapy, my thoughts included ‘How are scented candles, let alone painting my nails, going to counteract the childhood trauma that I experienced?’ I didn’t see how a foot massage was going to do the trick either. In my mind, self-care techniques were never going to work and looking after myself meant that I was selfish and unproductive. To say that I didn’t understand the concept of making myself a priority was an understatement. This mind-set was due to a multitude of reasons, ranging from low- self-esteem to the fact that we live in a society in which we are constantly told to always be on the go and not to stop. We’re made to believe that work should come before our health and that there is something noble in putting ourselves last. Having gone to a very pushy private all- girl’s school, I certainly had become indoctrinated with this belief. I thought that no sleep was very much worth it if it meant I got an A*; studying 8 hours with ten minute breaks showed strength; working myself to physical and emotional exhaustion showed how hard-working I was.
However, after exploring these self- deprecating beliefs in therapy (and coming to terms with the fact that this mind-set greatly contributed to myself getting ill), I started to realise that these beliefs weren’t true. They also meant I was never going to be able to recover, let alone enjoy life. This is because, one of the foundations for recovery is a sense of safety and if our bodies feel like they aren’t being listened to, this sense of grounding will be very hard to achieve and sustain. Secondly, to fully enjoy life, it is vital that we have a good relationship with ourselves and this cannot be achieved if we are constantly pushing ourselves to extremes. In addition, even though treating myself will never change the past, it makes the present more bearable which means it’s more than worth it.
As recovery can be a very emotional time, it is even more important that you take extra care to look after yourself during this time. The bottom line is that you deserve to put yourself and your health first. Self-care certainly isn’t a treat and doesn’t have to be earned. It’s a basic human right which can make life a lot easier, help you to recover and sustain your recovery long term.