Choose Compassion in Recovery

amy-klimekBy Amy M. Klimek, MA. LCPC
Director of Program Development, Eating Disorder Program Coordinator, Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

People are often their own worst critics. In a culture that breeds competition to be the best, we live to measure up to those around us, often feeling less-than, judgmental, and blind to our own accomplishments.

We compare ourselves to others from how many “friends” we have on Facebook or followers on Twitter, to our career choices and incomes; from the size of our house (while not mentioning the cost), to the size of our pants.

These comparisons usually leave us feeling shame from our inability to reach this “unachievable” status in this world and self-conscious to share our successes with others fearing it will not measure up.

Shame is a powerful self-conscious emotion, making us think we are inherently flawed. Our conversations have moved away from listening, engaging or celebrating ourselves and others, to an internal self-dialogue noting the messages of the “should haves”, “not good enough”, and “I need to change” talk. This self shaming is an all too familiar, and strangely comforting feeling to an individual suffering from an eating disorder.

Self-criticism and shame during periods of illness and recovery have a similar tone. The process of recovery is long and challenging, leaving the individual to believe recovery is impossible. Set-backs, lapses, and relapses are the harsh reminders of the suffering an individual experiences when struggling with an eating disorder.

From the self-hatred messages about their bodies, to the questions of how many calories can I have or how many calories did I just have, to the internal agony of wanting to be invisible, damaging, and lost to the eating disorder thoughts. The ever-present societal message that no matter ones physical, mental, or emotional state, they are not good enough becomes even more pronounced as individuals struggle through recovery. These social cues often drive an internal message board of criticism and shaming which perpetuate the illness.

Now is the time to respond with compassion to our internal struggles, with our bodies, and our overall internal well-being. Recovery comes with choices, choices to return to old behaviors and unfamiliar choices that leave individuals feeling vulnerable to something and everything different. Choices are made every minute of every day in eating disorder recovery. Sometimes it’s living one minute at a time, inviting the choice to be mindful and accepting of our present moment.

Choose appreciation instead of indifference. Choose connection in place of isolation. Choose honesty when faced with uncertainty. Lastly, choose compassion to practice kindness to yourself and your journey.

Mistakes will be made. Uncertainty is unsettling. Listen generously to your healing in both mind and body, hearing the truth within yourself. Practice presence to the life around you and within you. When you are truly present, you are already experiencing compassion.

Begin to learn to love, care for yourself again. We live in a culture driving messages of inadequacy, but we also live in a culture of resiliency with individuals on the road to recovery fighting every day for their life back. Show up to your life, learn to live again and share with the world around you, who you truly are, resilient, present, and compassionate.

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