Submitted by Kristine Strangis
What do you think of when you hear the word mindfulness? Does your mind immediately go to peace, tranquility, being one with the world around you? Well, for me personally, I know that mindfulness has always been an important key in my recovery, one that unlocked the doors to many possibilities. Existing in the present moment allows me to focus on who I am now and create memories that will last. The past is in the past and the future will come when it comes, but now is the time to start living.
When I was deep within my eating disorder, I could not focus on anything. I was constantly thinking, deep thoughts grounded in rigid rules. It was as if my mind was always going at one hundred miles per hour with thoughts about food, body image, weight, exercise, my eating disorder, my recovery, whether I am doing things right or not. The thoughts were so loud that there was never enough room for me to focus on my passions, my goals, my dreams, and overall who I am. I was spending all of my time and energy on desperately trying to meet an impossible perfectionistic ideal in everything that I did, whether it be school, volunteering, work, recovery, basically anything and everything, I had to meet the highest standard. Therefore, I never had the time or energy to focus on the present moment because I was always so busy either ruminating in the past, or being anxious about the future.
Over time, I realized that I did not want to live this way, under the tyranny of an eating disorder coupled with perfectionism, anxiety, and depression; it was all just too much. I needed to slow down, take a deep breath, and notice life happening around me in the moment, and this is where recovery came in. Now, I want to be clear here, recovery was not a linear progression, it is a long process that takes time, dedication, resilience, courage, and most of all hope. I have had my eating disorder for nearly a decade, or for as long as I can remember, but my recovery really began about six years ago. I am still in recovery right now, and I am not ashamed of this because I understand and accept that there are still things that I need to work on.
One of the messages that has stuck with me throughout my recovery is: “meet yourself where you are at now.” This statement sums up the key to recovery, and that is self-acceptance. When I was able to accept myself for who I am in the moment, the fact that I struggle with this mental illness, and got the help that I needed instead of rushing the process which is when I truly started to recover.
Eating disorders are all about control; being the perfectionistic and obsessive-compulsive person that I am, I tried to set a schedule for my recovery. I tried to put everything on a neat little to-do list where I could check off the steps as I went on, but, like life, recovery does not work that way. In order to recover, or live life to your fullest, you have to learn to trust the process, trust your treatment team, trust those who care about you, and have faith that, no matter how messy the path seems, things will fall into place.
When I finally started to take my recovery slowly and go along with the process, that is when I started seeing results. You do not want to dive right into the unknown, but rather take life a moment at a time. For example, take things by the hour, or even the minute, do what you need to do in order to get yourself through the day. But, also accept that there will be both good and bad days, and that this is all part of the process. Recovery, like life, is messy, but that is what makes it worth living. A life that is rigid, predictable, structured, and centered around rules is not living. No matter how safe or in control you feel living this way, this is just an illusion. Think about it, are you really happy living life with an eating disorder? Does that false sense of control and safety really make up for all of the intense anxiety, miserable depression, lonely isolation, and numbing nothingness that the eating disorder has put you through? I cannot answer this question for you, but I am sure that you know the answer deep down. You are so much more than just an eating disorder or a mental illness, you just have to reach out and find yourself.
Life happens outside of your comfort zone, so do not be afraid to explore the unknown. Live your life in the moment because that is where you are going to find yourself.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” –Lao-Tzu
And, you are on the path. Never give up on yourself.
This blog post was sponsored by: Frank and Janelle Schlick