Thoughts…thinking. Such a benign, yet terrifying activity. Thinking can feel like a very dangerous act for those of us with ED’s or anxiety whose thoughts often feel as if they are controlled by a separate voice. Furthermore, when we feel like our thoughts are becoming out of control, we often isolate ourselves from the world, believing that if we are alone, our ‘true’ voice or our ‘true self’ can overpower the scary thoughts. In reality, this rarely works.
At the beginning of my recovery, this is what I did. I would feel the thoughts swirling frantically around in my head, feel the panic rise up, and retreat up to my room alone in the hope that I could ‘sort it out on my own.’ WRONG. The panic would escalate 99% of the time. After attempting this tactic for about 2 months, I realized this did not work. I know, it took me a little while, but I was so determined to ‘not be dependent on anyone else,’ and ‘recover on my own,’ that I was insistent on making it work. However, I learned that, 1) Just because you ask for help, does not mean you are dependent on someone, and 2) Recovery requires a LOT of support- this does NOT mean I am weak. Thus, I came up with a sort of motto: “If I don’t like my thoughts, I don’t spend time alone with them.” It seems so simple, but it took me a while to believe it. I thought that I needed to let the ‘bad thoughts’ (aka, ED/anxiety voice) speak, hear what it had to say clearly, and then refute it. This gave the ‘bad thoughts’ wayyy too much power. I was giving them a voice, and they do not deserve any voice. They say nothing helpful or truthful to me whatsoever.
Now, whenever the ‘unhelpful voice’ starts to become louder (which usually happens after I have challenged my ED or anxiety #classic), I now seek people out, instead of retreating somewhere to be alone with my thoughts. Now, I want to be very clear, however- This does NOT mean that I am advocating blocking, repressing or avoiding thoughts, oh no. This definitely does NOT work and always winds up backfiring in the end. What I am saying is that when you are having completely irrational, anxious or obsessive thoughts, do NOT isolate your self to ‘deal with them on your own.’ Go out into the world. Go to the living room and hang out with your family or roommates, take a walk outside with a sibling or friend, or call someone if no one is around. A real, live person or people are best, but calling someone up to chat, not about your ridiculous irrational thoughts, but about random stuff works well too. Just don’t be alone. It’s pretty simple. If you didn’t like someone or something, you wouldn’t go and spend hours alone with them, so why do you do that with these thoughts? You don’t want to give them any power or strength- they deserve NOTHING.
Lastly, do not go out for a run/exercise vigorously in order to ‘clear your mind,’ or rid yourself of these thoughts. This is a trap– if you are TRULY honest with yourself, this is ED winning in some twisted, messed up way. You need to start being very truthful with your self when it comes to your motive for exercising. If ED is somehow driving it at all under the guise of some rational, socially accepted reason (ex. “Exercise decreases stress”), don’t go. ED can’t trick you… You’re too smart for that.
Much love and health,