Holidays Through a Different Lens (The Beauty of E.D Recovery)
One of our Wednesday’s Child community is just back from a holiday spent with extended family. Here she shares three things which sticking with recovery has made possible:
- Flexible, spontaneous eating:
When I started recovery, I honestly thought I would never, ever regain the ability to eat in a relaxed way. Even eating according to a meal plan, or a strict, manageable, ED-appeasing routine threw up so much anxiety and distress that the mere idea of going with the flow around food felt like an impossible pipe dream. But by working my way through the exhausting process of reintroducing regular – if structured – eating, truly committing to providing my body with consistent fuel, and then moving onto more flexible, challenging foods and eating situations, I have now reached a point where eating in any given situation is now possible. And not just possible, but increasingly anxiety & guilt free and often enjoyable.
On holiday this included:
*Eating meals cooked by others, at times chosen by others
*Eating buffet-style meals around a hectic table of grown-ups, children and dogs
*Eating inside, outside, in the car, on a beach, standing up, on a train, in the rain etc.
*Joining in with and even initiating spontaneous cakes, snacks, ice creams, hot chocolates and takeaways
*Eating at restaurants/pubs/cafes without knowing where we’d be going or what might be on the menu
*Eating when other people weren’t
*Eating more than other people
*Allowing others to buy groceries for me
*Fully joining in with birthday celebrations such as a barbecue and birthday tea
- Rest and relaxation:
Overexercise and compulsive movement were huge pieces of my eating disorder, and it has been a monumentally tough process to overcome them. “Holidays” – if they could even be called that – when I was still entrenched in these behaviours were one endless, miserable game of “Just how much movement can I incorporate into the day without my family noticing?”. I’d feel irritated, resentful and anxious when I couldn’t do my usual exercise regime and compulsions, and I’d experience unbearable panic and guilt when the numbers on my Fitbit didn’t match up to their usual levels. Attempts to join in with lazing around, movie afternoons, sunbathing, long family lunches or rainy board game marathons would leave me grumpy, completely detached from those I was with and feeling like my mind or body might literally explode. Not to mention the travelling involved in getting to our destination in the first place. Long car, train or plane journeys would leave me a wound-up coil of anxiety, compensatory behaviours, and ridiculous attempts to fit sneaky steps into what would already be a fairly stressful day.
What did movement and rest look like on this holiday?
*Slow starts to the mornings, with no getting up early to exercise, no refusing to play with my kids in our pjs because I was doing unnecessary chores or trying to avoid sitting down and no having to get steps in to “earn” my holiday breakfasts
*Enjoying some gorgeous coastal wanders with my family, at the pace of my slow-moving toddler, stopping to sit and enjoy snacks, picnics or potter in rockpools
*Choosing to stay at home and watch a film while my husband went for a run
*Going by car to the shop, rather than walking
*Not panicking when a walk we’d planned got cancelled because of rain and we watched Wimbledon with a load of snacks instead
*Messing around on the trampoline and in the paddling pool with my toddler without writing it off as “not proper movement”
*Zero tracking of steps or calories
*Having an afternoon nap when I was tired instead of exercising to distract myself
*Building sandcastles with my boys while my partner and uncle surfed and swam in the waves
*Using much-needed solo time to explore the shops in the local village and stopping for a cuppa and cake instead of going for a run or walk
*Having to turn back from a walk because the path was too muddy and being able to laugh about it
Our holiday was spent catching up with lots of my husband’s relatives who we’ve not seen for a couple of years. It feels like a lot longer since we’ve seen them though, because when I was ill and we’d gather together for special occasions or holidays, I was barely there, barely present, barely able to engage in proper, meaningful conversation. My thoughts would be entirely consumed by food, calories, clock-watching, movement, restriction, routine, overplanning, guilt, anxiety…a fog of eating disorder misery.
What did connection and socialising look like on this trip?
*Laughing. Really laughing. Hearing other people’s stories, sharing funny things our kids had done, playing silly games and enjoying each other’s humour
*Big Chats – you know, the ones where you’re truly connecting with the other person and being with each other in all your and their complexity, messiness, confusion, worries, thoughts and reflections. Supporting each other, caring for each other, nourishing each other
*Eating together. Sharing each other’s creations, connecting through shared tastes and appreciation, sharing memories of previous family occasions, cooking and chatting together and making a mess
*Knowing when I needed time to myself and trusting myself and others to respect those boundaries
*Watching films, the football or tennis together, cheering together, hiding behind our fingers together, being able to fully concentrate on what was going on and chatting about it, joining in with snacks and drinks
*Being able to just BE together. Spending time in other people’s company without feeling on edge, desperate to get up and pace around, irritated with their small talk…just sharing space with other people and not feeling like they were in the way of my eating-disorder-dominated world
My holiday wasn’t free of challenges. Every day there were a host of things which made my eating disorder prick up its ears and stamp its feet, but the difference now I’m fully committed to recovery is that I know I don’t need to listen to it. I don’t need to act on the thoughts. I don’t need to sit on the side lines and watch other people enjoy the holiday I wish I could truly be part of.
- Jul 2021