It took me years to let go of my disordered eating, compulsive exercising, and self-harm. In part, I was scared that I couldn’t get better. Which is a valid fear, I mean when you spend years caught up in the same cyclical patterns, it feels like it’s just destined to be your life.
However, this was not the only thing stopping me from healing; it was the fact that there was always a reason not to. For example, when I wanted to let go of dieting, I couldn’t yet because I put on some weight already and didn’t want to become “out of control” with my eating. Or, if I planned to stop self-harming, there was always a stressful event that came up and justified doing it “one last time.”
No matter what I needed to heal from, there was always a reason not to. Until finally I realized that they weren’t reasons, they were excuses. The reality is these things helped me to some extent. And whatever you may be trying to heal from, I am sure this holds some truth for you, too.
We don’t engage with things if they don’t serve us in some way. Sure, I now recognize that self-harm and dieting are self-destructive, but dieting gave me a sense of control when I lost all sense of routine and normalcy, and self-harm gave me a physical release from all the pain and stopped me from doing anything too drastic. In those moments, they truly felt lifesaving.
We continue to engage in any maladaptive behaviors because, to some degree, they provide some sense of comfort or relief. And while this is something I had to make peace with and mourn, I had to explore the idea that, just because I am letting go of these things, it does not mean I need to let go of the relief and comfort they provide. At the end of the day, it was not the action I was scared to lose, but the end result.
When we can identify the feeling, we are after, we can determine other ways to achieve it. With dieting, I desired to feel control, predictability, and success. Part of healing meant creating a routine. By planning my days throughout the week, I felt like I had some sense of control over the things I engaged in, and when I engaged in them. This also allowed me to predict and become familiar with how each day would look. Most importantly, though, I made a checklist for each day of two to three things to do that felt manageable. Checking these things off made me feel accomplished and like I was working towards something.
There is nothing wrong with needing a sense of comfort. There is nothing wrong if, in the past, or even now, finding it has meant engaging in unsupportive behaviors. This usually means that you are doing the best you can with what you have. But we evolve and change.
Instead of focusing on letting go this week, I encourage you to explore what it is you are hoping to feel. Maybe you are a workaholic. Get curious with what this may be providing you with or distracting you from. Maybe you are drinking a bit too much. Is there something you need to escape from or something you’re scared to sit with? I hope this week we can become a little more curious and a little less judgmental.