Baby Steps: How To Be Gentle To Yourself During Recovery

Baby Steps: How To Be Nice To Yourself During RecoveryLast night I ran a race that was founded by a therapist I had for years who changed my life. She died a few years ago, but the race still lives on. I hadn’t done this race since 2005, but decided at the last minute to do it. Two of the other women I worked with in the recovery center were at the race last night as well.

It was great seeing, catching up, and running with them, and it got me thinking about the journey I have been on for the past 20 years and how much I have learned about how to take care of myself over the past 10 years.

10 years ago, I did not feel confident in my future. I remember sitting in group therapy with 6-8 other girls who were mostly 10-15 years younger than me. I felt like I was the oldest person ever to still have eating and body image issues. I couldn’t imagine a day where I would actually forget to weigh myself or forgive myself for over-eating.

But with all things in my life, baby steps eventually turn me around. And now, years later, I can see a bright future for myself.

I think of recovery as “being gentle with myself after being hard on myself”. This works with all forms of recovery: physical, emotional, abuse, etc. When I do a 20 mile run, I am being hard on my body. I take an ice bath, eat a nutrient dense meal, and run easy or walk the next day. When I eat an entire bag of Newman Os in the afternoon, I forgive myself and eat a giant salad for dinner.

If I have spent years abusing food, alcohol, or myself, I spend years making up for it by taking care of my emotional needs in ways that nourish me. This makes sense to me now, but that wasn’t always the case.

In the past if I over-ate (this is hard on my body), I would under-eat the next meal, day, week (this is STILL hard on my body). In the past if I messed up in my life (this is hard on myself), I would berate and belittle myself (this is ALSO hard on myself). But this used to make sense to me. I couldn’t imagine a day when I was sore so I would take a day off or if I slept through my alarm I could tell myself “you must have needed the sleep”.

Now that I am more open about my past issues, others are more open with me, and I see so many people do what I used to do with themselves day in and day out. It pains me as I can’t imagine still feeling the hopelessness I felt for the better part of my life.

Here is something to think about next time you eat too much or drink too much or work too much or are tired or sore or hurt or abusive to yourself or someone else…

If you broke your foot (hard on yourself), would you jump up and down and shake it all around to heal it (STILL hard on yourself) or would you rest it and elevate it and stay off it to heal it (gentle on yourself)?

When it’s something that obvious, it is so easy to see how silly we are to think it’s a good idea to treat ourselves poorly. But we do!

I remember one of the exercises I learned in therapy is when I binged, to talk to myself like I would talk to my 4 year old daughter after she just binged. After a good cry (since I can’t imagine talking to an innocent, precious blonde-haired, blue-eyed child born from my own body the way I talk to myself), I couldn’t do it. Not even to my imaginary daughter.

Instead, I would tell her she was OK, that she would get through it, and that in the grand scheme of life, a pan of brownies ins’t going to make or break her. I may even give her a high-five for being so ambitious! And then we would talk about what was going on to make her want to eat that much at once and the steps we can take in the future so that we do more things that help us instead of hurt us.

Please consider this next time you “screw up” as I promise you (and me) there will be many more to come.

Love yourself more!

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See you soon!

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