During college, March means several things: midterms, green beer, March Madness and spring break. Weeks leading up to spring break the refrain during therapy sessions with my college-aged client’s in recovery sounds like this, “Everyone, literally everyone around me is on a diet and losing weight to ‘prepare’ for spring break. And guess what I’m losing? My f’ing mind! How am I supposed to gain, or even maintain my weight in a world where it’s ok for everyone else to lose weight?”
The frustration is palpable and it’s real. Spring break while you are recovering from an eating disorder, is the equivalent to a recovering alcoholic walking down Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. “It so sucks,” I say, “I get it; it’s messed up and unfair. I wish I could make it go away for you, but I can’t. So, let’s find a way to survive it.”
A few tried and true tips:
1. Personal responsibility
I learned in my own recovery that no one, I mean NO ONE can protect the sacred space of your recovery like you can. Of course, it’s hurtful when people you are close to continue to talk about their weight loss strategies even after they know you have an eating disorder. However, the reality is we are 100% responsible for our recovery. Period. Once that really sinks in it can be liberating (after you finish freaking out about it). Of course, you need tons of support along the way, but ultimately it’s up to you! And what I know about you, just like me, is that once our minds are made up, you better move out of the way.
2. Get in alignment
Purposefully staying in alignment with your recovery goals is huge, especially during high-stress situations! Here are a few suggestions to lighten the load. Meet with your treatment team a little more frequently until things settle down a bit. Listen to podcasts on recovery. Read daily affirmations that resonate with you. Follow blogs that are recovery oriented. Adopt a mantra to carry you through the next couple of weeks.
3. A visualization
Close your eyes and imagine being lovingly wrapped in a ball of golden light. This light gently warms your skin; it protects you. Your body, illuminated by the light, is a sacred space, a sanctuary where you are healing. The light creates a protective bubble around you that cannot be penetrated by the noise that once was so triggering. The noise never goes away; nor is it your responsibility to make it go away.
Honor the light by remembering that you have the ability to protect what you’ve worked so passionately for - Your Recovery.
4. Surround yourself with positivity
Choose the company you keep wisely. We don’t have the ability to change other people and what they focus on. We can, however, decide which relationships we invest our energy in. Consciously surround yourself with people who aren’t caught up in perfecting their body. (Believe it or not, they do exist; I promise). Love yourself enough to walk away from anything that makes you question your recovery. Your recovery tribe will believe in and encourage you. They will lift you up and nourish you. Be so grateful for them!
5. Be an observer
Notice that this flurry of activity around you is short lived. Sit back as though you’re a writer planning to tell the story of the “Spring Break Freak-out.” An observer story from a former client: “It’s starting again! All of my sorority sisters are ‘preparing’ for spring break by doing a Brazilian butt workout.” Years into her recovery she was able to see the absurdity of these trends and also recognized the sadness of feeling inadequate. She found it interesting to notice that as soon as spring break was over, so were those silly butt workouts.
When the volume is too loud around you and your brain feels cluttered with the competing agendas of recovery or commitment to your eating disorder, step outside. Notice that spring is here; which is truly a time of renewal. You are preparing for something a hell of a lot more important than spring break, you are preparing to Bloom!
Know that I’m thinking of you and am confident that you can ride the waves as they rise and fall. Be gentle with yourself. I’m so very proud of you!