How do you learn to feel and express your feelings when you haven’t effectively experienced and expressed them before? How do you withstand using eating disordered behaviors when the feelings bubble up and become too intense or scary?
Feelings are bits of “information” from your inner self. They provide you with a window into your inner world. Similar to how your eyes provide you with information about your outer world, feelings do the same about your inner well-being. For instance, when you feel sad, you must pay attention to why you feel that way, and perhaps determine if there is any way you can remedy it or if you just need to continue to endure the feeling until it goes away by itself. Feelings are either labeled “good” and “positive”, or “bad” and “negative”, depending on whether feeling them is agonizing and disruptive to your happiness or you “like” them and they enhance your happiness. All feelings, positive and negative, are transient. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end. If you allow yourself to express them, they will healthfully run their course. If you stop them or bury them by using an eating disorder behavior, they will come back again and again, disproportionally stronger and stronger, and you will never learn how to “ride them out”.
What are some ways you can express your feelings without using an eating disordered behavior to numb yourself?
Many people like to express themselves through artistic endeavors. Drawing or painting is a great medium for feelings expression. You don’t have to be “good” at drawing to do this. You simply want to use the paper and paint as a way of expressing and releasing the feelings. Try finger painting.
When you are angry, expressing yourself may be scary. Try punching a pillow, or doing another “physical” means of expression (as long as you don’t hurt yourself or another). Yell and scream, by yourself. Break bubble wrap.
When you are sad, cry. Crying is a normal, healthy means of expressing sadness. Crying is cathartic. Once you have had a “good cry”, you will feel better. Have yourself a mini “pity party”, and then do something good for yourself!
When you are scared, seek comfort from a safe person, or try to comfort yourself with reassuring words, as if you were your own best friend or parent. Wrap yourself up in a comfortable blanket, play some soothing music, and make yourself a comforting cup of tea.
Over time, you will find that there are your own special and unique ways to express each emotion. The methods mentioned above only scratch the surface of ways to “feel”. Some of them may seem obvious and others may sound strangely new. Sometimes you have to experiment with different methods. Sometimes you will choose something and it won’t work. Keep trying.
Journal writing is a way that many people find helpful to access and express all sorts of inner thoughts and feelings. It doesn’t have to have any particular format or length or topic.
Journal writing is a representation of your innermost experiences, so treat the process with great love and respect. Remember that no one else has to read what you write, you won’t be graded on content or grammar, and you don’t have to explain yourself. In your journal, you can be honest without being afraid. Try to write often, if possible, even if you are only going to write one sentence or word. Additionally, keep an open mind regarding various ways to journal. You can journal on paper or on your computer. You can cut out magazine pictures and words instead of writing sentences. You can use poster board, scrap book materials, stickers, and other types of supplies. If you don’t like writing, try to find another journal technique to express yourself.
Below are some journaling ideas to help you get started. These are not prompts to express the feelings you may be experiencing, however. They are topics related to your eating disorder that may simply get your journal writing started, or prompt some of your inner feelings.
Write the story of your life, with particular emphasis on events that are related to your eating disorder, such as the first time you became self-conscious of your body. How did these events make you feel? When did the disorder begin? Perhaps draw a time line marking important events, or plot a family tree. Are there others in your family who have problems with food and weight, or related problems like depression, alcoholism, or social avoidance?
By writing your story, can you accept that your eating disorder was a reasonable response to your experiences? In other words, do you think your eating disorder has taken care of you in some way? If so, how? If not, what has it done for you?
Why are you pursuing recovery? What are your short term (for this day or this week), medium term (for the next few months or the next year), and long term (for the next few years) goals?
List ways you can fill up your life instead of with food, such as: nurturing relationships, self-respect, a new skill, a spiritual pursuit, etc. Pick one and go for it!
Write a non-judgmental, physical description of yourself. Next, write a non-judgmental description of your character. How do these differ from your usual, opinionated views of yourself?
Write a letter to someone significant in your life to which you would like to be totally honest. This does not have to be about your eating disorder, nor do you have to send this letter. Just express yourself.
How would your life be different if you changed your goal from thin to healthy? Also, explore what the word “healthy” means to you, mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Eating disordered behaviors act as a “substitute” for feeling, coping, and expressing yourself. When you continue to use them in place of experiencing these life skills genuinely and effectively, you get further away from leading a rewarding, healthy, honest life. Each time you express yourself through your feelings and your words however, you take one step closer to being free.Share on Facebook