Acts without kindness of heart are empty, and often incredibly challenging.
In the early days of my treatment and recovery from an eating disorder, I struggled. A lot!
Only in retrospect can I see how much fear, anger, and rage I held within. This is what, I believe, made recovery so difficult for me.
You see, from the heart, actions flow. But I didn’t know it at the time. I had separated emotion and behavior. I hadn’t understood that they were part of a chain reaction and that one was tied to the other.
My eating disorder behaviors were a result of the fear and anger inside me but, in the early stages of treatment and recovery, I was attempting behavior change without total agreement from my heart.
What I found was that I could actually behave in ways that I thought I should, without really wanting to do so. And that’s what I had been doing in recovery. I was, essentially, fighting myself. I thought I should recover and give up the behaviors, but part of me was afraid to let them go.
It went on like this for some time. I was determined to “recover”, but I started to feel like it was futile. It began to feel like I was white-knuckling my way through recovery. Was it really supposed to be this hard? And, if it was, I began to question whether or not I could do it, or if I even wanted to.
What became apparent to me after a while was my definition of recovery and how I thought it should look.
My vision of recovery was probably as unrealistic and unattainable as it could get. My perfectionist tendencies had traveled with me into recovery. The game had changed but the goal had remained the same: Perfection! And, anything else, was unacceptable.
I was failing at recovery because I couldn’t meet my standards for it. And the anger within me, that seemed to be directed at myself as well, was still very much alive in my heart.
It wasn’t until I began to really acknowledge the anger, to allow it without judgment, that the grips of the eating disorder started to release.
I was willing, and ready, to look at the anger.
It was incredibly scary to look at that much darkness in me, and it did not feel good at all. It was shocking, really. I was perhaps even ashamed that there was so much darkness inside me.
So much so that I didn’t want to look. But, once I started to, I realized that my acknowledgement of it was the beginning of being able to let it go. After all, how can you let go of something if you won’t admit to holding it?
I couldn’t ignore the anger any longer. Ignorance only left it in the darkness, forcing it to make an appearance in my physical reality in the guise of an eating disorder.
The day I started to admit, “I AM ANGRY!”, and accept all my once-believed-to-be-sinful feelings, without admonishing myself for having them, was the day that light began to shine in the dark spots of my heart.
When I first started admitting it, that I was angry, I would whisper it with one eye closed, expecting to be shot down by a bolt of lightning at any moment. But, repeated practice only showed me that it wasn’t going to happen. It was okay to be angry. I was okay.
And, the more I said it, the less angry I seemed to feel. I also found that new behaviors seemed easier to adopt and implement when my heart wasn’t so heavy.
I stopped feeling like recovery was an uphill battle that I couldn’t ever win. I started to realize that one of my greatest strategies in recovery was to bring light to the darkness, no matter how scary.
Now, when I find myself wanting to behave in ways that aren’t helpful for me, I look for the dark spot in my heart because, as I now know, from the heart actions flow. I don’t try and distract myself from it, I go into it, and feel it. I allow it to flow through me, neither rejecting it, nor accepting it, but acknowledging its existence and presence.
Because recovery is a true work of heart!
If you would like to read more about my journey 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, please feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.