In the process of creating my new website, I stumbled upon lots of recovery articles that I had written years ago. So, I decided to start an article series on this blog called "Blast from the Past." And here is the first one! I wrote "The Amateur" back in 2005. Today, so much has changed in my life. Here are just a few examples:
1. I am engaged to be married: I was wrong with my words below that "no descent man existed on the entire planet." Eric is amazing.
2. My bones are no longer weak and brittle. By following my doctors orders and taking care of myself (eating appropriately), my bones are now back within the normal range.
3. Today, long baths are one of the most common ways I relax. Epsom salt baths are one of my favorites.
What techniques do you use to self-soothe? Please share here. I always need to learn more!
All the best,
The Amateur: Bubble baths vs. Bingeing
Crying uncontrollably over a broken relationship, I finally decided to pick up the phone and call a friend. Relatively new in recovery from an eating disorder, one thing I knew for sure was that support for our problems is always just a phone call away. So I dialed seven digits that night to reach Sarah, a friend who, unfortunately for her, but fortunately for me, has a lot of knowledge in the area of heartaches.
I told Sarah I felt absolutely horrible. I knew I would never feel any better my entire life, vowed to stay single forever, and continued to explain that no decent man existed on the entire planet. (Looking back, I see just a little bit of all-or-none thinking in my thought process that evening.)
Sarah listened and simply said, “Well, Jenni, what do you normally do to comfort yourself when you feel bad?”
I immediately thought, “Duh? Of course, I normally binge, purge, and starve. But now that I have jumped into this whole recovery thing, my eating disorder is not an option.”
My 12-step sponsor’s favorite phrase kept ringing in my ears, ‘not an option’…’not an option’…’not an option.’ So I sighed and simply responded to Sarah with the standard way to get out of answering a question, “I don’t know.”
Aside from my eating disorder, I did not know how to survive my feelings that night. Sarah is one of the ‘normal’ folks out there who does not turn to an addiction as a source of relief for anxiety, stress, sorrow, a bad hair day, or for whatever other excuse needed in order to use the abusive substance. So I did not even want to bother to go into details with her of how I would have dealt with my current overflow of emotions in the past. The fact is that I never would have even called Sarah, but instead I quickly would have turned to my eating disordered behaviors to ease all of my pain in the moment. Of course, this temporary fix would have inevitably ended in misery.
I eventually worked up the nerve to ask Sarah what she normally does to comfort herself when she feels upset. I reluctantly awaited the answer.
She said, “Well, sometimes I take a long bubble bath. Or I light a scented candle and curl up with a really good novel. Other times I just relax on the couch and completely zone out in front of the television.”
“Amateur,” I think to myself. Sarah is such an amateur. During all of the years that I was torturing my body by overeating, restricting, and purging, Sarah was just lying in her bathtub with bubbles! While I was digging around in trashcans desperate to find a morsel of food during a binge, she was flipping through the pages of a romance novel. Sarah was sniffing fruited candles and stretching out across the couch while I was counting how long I could go without eating. What an amateur! I actually felt a sense of pride that I was much rougher and tougher than this princess.
But then I thought about it all a little bit more. Today I have extremely weak and brittle bones caused by malnutrition while Sarah is just really clean from all of the bubble baths. Tests from my last doctor visit indicate that my eating disorder might have even damaged my kidney function. I guess I am not so rough and tough after all. The fact is that I have known people who were acting out just like I did who are now dead today. I was playing a game with my life day by day; I was not being tough. And I was not being smart.
The fact is that after all of my bingeing, purging, and starving episodes, I always felt guilty, ashamed, and completely depressed and isolated from the rest of the world. My choice of relief from overwhelming emotions forced me into a cold and lonely dungeon filled only with despair. On the opposite side of the fence, Sarah was actually feeling really calm and peaceful following her evenings of various personal relaxation techniques. I have since learned that other people use mediation and prayer in times of need. Apparently there are all kinds of ways to deal with life instead of food! Maybe Sarah --- the amateur --- really is on to something.
Bubble baths instead of bingeing was a whole new ballgame for me. I am still gaining experience in the bubble department. But in that moment with Sarah, I had to hang up the phone and deal with my emotions --- like an amateur.