A large part of my recovery was learning to sit with negative feelings and not try to starve, binge, purge or cut them away. It took a whole lot of practice and trust and failure and more practice to learn to do it, but I did get there. Not perfectly of course, my default to something going wrong is still to want to lose weight or do something harmful to stop feeling bad, but I can manage it. I make better choices. I can have a cry and get on with things. I can get myself out for a walk or a swim. I can phone a friend. Admittedly a lot of the time I just hide in bed and nap it out, but that’s still better than past me.
The problem is with ‘sitting with the feelings’ is that you actually have to feel them. In everyday life, when things are going pretty well, I can do this. I also had the protection of medication, which was definitely a buffer of the bad feelings for me. Last year though I came off my medication, with the help of my doctor, as my partner (yeah, there’s a partner now!) wanted to try for a baby. At first I was really okay. My GP was dubious of my choice of timing, what with a global pandemic going on and all, but I did okay. I made sure I did all the other stuff I know helped, I exercised (in moderation), I talked with friends, I even downloaded a mediation app (still not used, just have never got on board with meditation, but I had all the good intentions!). And I got pregnant. And suddenly the body I felt had always disappointed me was doing this wonderful thing.
Until it wasn’t. We lost the pregnancy, despite months of severe nausea and vomiting and everyone telling me that was ‘a good sign’. There were a lot of feelings to have to feel. Honestly, I tried purging them away at first. I figured I’d been throwing up for months anyway what harm was there in keeping going. I eventually figured out that wasn’t going to help and I got back on track and threw everything I had at keeping myself well enough physically and mentally so I could be ready for another pregnancy.
So we tried again, and tried some more, and then some more. And there were more feelings to feel. More hate for this stupid body that won’t ever just be what I want it to be. Rationally I knew other people try far longer than we were, but as the months rolled by and my original due date passed the feelings grew and grew and sitting with them felt impossible. I realised that while I had recovered from my eating disorder, I hadn’t yet really learnt to manage this bit. What do you do with all the feelings when you can’t hide them with your ED? I felt that I had fallen for this great trick of ‘get better and you’ll feel great’ without anyone showing me how to live when I don’t feel great, and now I’m also in this version of a body that right now I’m hating like I’ve never hated it before.
I don’t have the answer for this. I got pregnant again, and basically hoped that would be my answer. Until it wasn’t. We lost the pregnancy. There are more feelings to feel. I am trying my hardest to be optimistic, and I genuinely do believe it will happen for us, and I know I just need to be patient. But the feelings are hard. And no matter what I do they keep bubbling up. Because I guess that’s the thing about feelings, their job is to be felt. So I can hide from them all I like, but there they are.
So now, I’m just here, feeling the feelings, and still learning how to do that. And hoping that if I ever do figure it out, maybe I’ll be able to teach my children about it one day.