These are the words that keep me grounded throughout the holidays. Every time the last Thursday of November rolls around I feel my eating disorder trying to creep back up from the depths of recovery it’s been buried under for over five years. And I used to be paralyzed by shame because of this. How could I, having been in recovery for so long and now working as an ED counselor, still struggle with Thanksgiving?! But this year I am deciding that there is no room for shame on my dinner plate.
I mean come on, it’s a holiday focused entirely food. OF COURSE, IT IS GOING TO BE DIFFICULT. It is the perfect opportunity for that eating disorder that lingers within even the strongest of recovery superheroes, to rear its ugly head. And there is no shame in that struggle. In fact, acknowledging that struggle and facing it head on is just about the strongest thing one can do this.
Shame thrives in silence, secrecy, and judgment, but cowers in the face of empathy. We can show ourselves empathy this holiday season by letting go of the self-judgments we are often so quick to make. There is no need to judge yourself for feeling fear when preparing your dinner plate or being overcome with anxiety and confusion every time a family member says you finally look “healthy.” Hiding from others or being dishonest about how much you may actually be struggling because you don’t want to let anyone down, will hurt nobody but yourself.
So whether you have been in recovery for five years or five minutes, honesty is key; honesty with yourself and with those that love you. Don’t judge any thoughts or feelings that may arise this Thanksgiving. Simply acknowledge them as they are and remember you need not react to those sensations. Take a breath. Count to 10. Call a friend. Give yourself a hug. And though it may be difficult, surviving (and even enjoying!) Thanksgiving while in recovery is possible! Trust me.