Be thankful. Write down what you’re grateful for. Start a gratitude journal.
All well-meaning advice, for sure, but these are just actions. Actions are empty without feeling, and while I believe everyone contains the potential to feel, and feel very deeply, not everyone has such easy access to the warm and fuzzies that actions of gratitude are expected to bring. This eventually leads to a practice in futility and frustration.
While in the very early stages of eating disorder recovery, I couldn’t feel gratitude. I could think it and I knew what I should be grateful for. I also knew, in theory, what I was grateful for. But, I could not connect with the feeling of gratitude, and this was the deepest and darkest place to be in. It felt empty and cold, like I was a million miles away from the rest of the world.
Today, things are different. I am able to connect to feelings behind thoughts and it is an incredible place to be in. But, when I think about where I was compared to where I am now, I ask myself how I got here.
That’s what I wanted to share today.
Why? Because I am sure there are many people who understand what I’m talking about, especially anyone who has, or is in recovery from, an eating disorder and who also suffers with depression or any other mood disorder.
Being unable to connect to a feeling of gratitude, I have found, can lead to more frustration…which can lead to further feelings of self-condemnation…which can perpetuate the very behaviors that you’re trying so hard not to engage in. It’s frustrating.
But, it’s also not impossible to connect to. Though, for some, it may take far more time than it will for others. So, leave comparisons out of it please.
So, where did I start? I didn’t start from a place of gratitude. I started with acceptance.
I held a great deal of anger in me which started to surface as I began to recover, and trying to feel grateful at that point was like trying to put out a raging fire with a small watering can. It was exhausting. It was also extremely ineffectual.
Instead, I began to acknowledge the anger. And, I won’t lie, it was frightening. There was a powerful storm cloud of anger within me and it shocked me to see it.
I thought anger was bad. So, I had stopped myself from feeling it. And, in so doing, what I had also done, albeit subconsciously, was to block myself from feeling anything at all.
I had to first feel the anger in order to reconnect to my ability to feel gratitude. To feel anything at all.
What I came to understand is that feeling isn’t a process that allows you to feel only the so-called good stuff. The ability to feel is a human characteristic that allows you to feel everything. You don’t get to pick and choose.
So, in order to feel the gratitude, I first had to turn on feeling. Period. However, the feeling that sat at the top of the faucet, the feeling that would come out first when I turned the feeling source back on, was anger. A LOT OF IT!
I had to let the anger flow first in order to get to the gratitude.
And, please don’t misunderstand. I didn’t just let the anger flow and it all came out at once. Although, that might have been a faster process, it would have drowned me. I had to let the anger out in small, tolerable drips. One teeny, tiny drip at a time.
Eventually, over time, and I’m talking years (not days or months), the backlog of anger began to drain away and, what lay behind it, was the gratitude.
Gratitude wasn’t something I had to make. It was something that was already in me. But, I had to allow the anger first. Acceptance of my anger was the seed to the growth of my gratitude.
The moral, start feeling what you’re feeling, exactly where you are, one small, teeny, tiny drip at a time.
If you would like to read more about some of the things I learned through eating disorder treatment and recovery, please download a free copy of my e-book, available here.
And, if you have any questions or comments, you can always send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.