I recently took a trip that held much significance for me. It occurred around the same time I typically celebrate a particular anniversary in my life. This year, however, marked a milestone I had been looking forward to celebrating in a special way, which this trip did for me. It symbolized health, growth, strength, the love for life, the payoff of perseverance, vulnerability, hard work, many tears, and so much more.
Perhaps, celebrating recovery seems weird to some. I think when you come out on the other side of something that rocks your world in a way you never expected, when life beyond it seemed unimaginable and dim, a celebration of that journey can be a beautiful thing! Every now and then I am reminded that my experience is not special. Its a humbling reminder. Many individuals struggle with mental health issues and daily go through the ups and downs it brings. My experience isn't special, but it is unique... and it is meaningful. And that is enough to take note of it! If that's true for me, isn't it also true for you?
Those with eating disorders are often perfectionists and are particularly hard on themselves. There's a tendency to engage in all or none thinking, mixed with some black and white thoughts, topped off with devaluing or catastrophizing. Am I describing you? This type of thinking makes going through a day without purging no big deal. These thoughts tell you that you should feel underserving and unworthy when you eat your whole meal plan after months of binge eating or restricting from it. Is using your distraction and emotional regulation skills just something you 'should' be doing even though its taking months to get to this point? Why not take some time to recognize your progress... why not recognize the attempt and effort instead of looking at it as a success or failure.
When I talk about celebrating the efforts and attempt you put into your journey, I'm not saying you should walk around with a chip on your shoulder, inflating yourself into thinking your are the bees knees. Remember, your experience does not make you special... What I am talking about is changing the voice in your head... You know, the one that says you are underserving and worthless. Celebrate through saying something like, "nice effort. I did the best I could and I can do better... but I'm going to celebrate I tried something that was difficult." Pat yourself on the back when you tried using your skills when it was probably easier and quicker to go back to the familiar pattern of your eating disorder or other unhealthy coping mechanisms. Take the time to recognize how far you've come (regardless of how far it is) as I'm sure you never thought you would even get there in the first place! Throw a party for making it a year of being binge free. Plant a tree to and watch it grow alongside you. Do something meaningful to you... big or small... just take the time to do something in a way that celebrates you, life, health, recovery, growth, effort while giving validation to the tears and effort you put to getting there! Everyone's recovery is going to look different and thus so will how and what the celebrations are for. Don't get caught up in definitions or a sense of 'result', but celebrate things the things that are meaningful to you... Remember, recovery is not a linear process. It is going to have its ups and downs... any step towards health is important! So... what you are going to celebrate?