Four years ago on the 11th of April, I was admitted voluntarily to the eating disorders inpatient program at a psychiatric hospital in Melbourne. Each year, I find myself commemorating that day with some form of reflection on my progress. Over the past year, I’ve learnt some important lessons which have furthered my recovery journey enormously. These have been:
- Recovery is not linear.
- I am an adult with an adult body.
- I am my best friend.
- My recovery is my business.
- Things make more sense in macro.
- My recovery will last as long as I do.
- Normal is an individual metric.
Today’s post concerns the lesson that I am my best friend.
In the past, I relied on external validation in order to feel worthy. This meant that rejection, criticism, failure, and mistakes frightened me so much that I rarely tried anything remotely risky. They frightened me because I knew in the absence of external validation, I would feel inadequate and ashamed.
However, over the past year I have challenged the idea that I need external validation to be a worthwhile person, as well as growing a greater sense of self-worth and self-love. The challenges I have faced (having job applications rejected, receiving a lower mark than hoped on an essay and so on) have proved that I don’t stop being a worthwhile person when I am rejected, criticised, fail or make mistakes.
In these scenarios, I have learnt to care for myself and to treat myself as I would treat my best friend. This means giving myself the time and space to feel my sadness, disappointment or frustration, and reminding myself of all the positive, valuable qualities I have. We are programmed to focus on the negatives, so it requires intentional effort to shift the emphasis back to the positives. However, this is do-able and worth doing. Shifting the focus is the strategy our loved ones use to cheer us up when we feel sad, disappointed and frustrated. There’s no reason why we can’t ourselves adopt the same technique in order to bolster our sense of self-worth in the face of challenges.
If you’re looking for more information about eating disorders, or indeed any other mental health issues, the Australian Government’s mindhealthconnect website is a really useful tool which collects all the relevant resources from organisations such as beyondblue and The Butterfly Foundation into one place.
Tomorrow, I will discuss the lesson that my recovery is my business.
Love, hope and peace from Emma.