Conquering Fears in ED Recovery
Recovering from an eating disorder is a complex process. Individuals often experience ups and downs throughout treatment. Treatment does not end when the body heals, rather this is often when some of the more difficult work begins.
My clients express many fears along the journey to recovery. At times, experiencing fear later in treatment can cause people to feel like they have done something wrong. It is helpful to normalize this process during treatment.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life; I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
Both facing and conquering your fears throughout recovery will make you a stronger person. Each challenge will reinforce that you can succeed. The times that fear becomes too much does not indicate failure, rather an opportunity to learn. From my experience, I think “fear of the unknown” is one of the most commonly expressed fears. For most individuals, the eating disorder has served a purpose, fulfilled an unmet need, numbed pain, or provided comfort.
An old Chinese Proverb says that the temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed.
Fear may settle in when you are doing really well in recovery. It is very common to wonder what life will be like when the eating disorder is no longer an option.
How will these needs be met?
What will my life look like without an eating disorder?
How will I cope without it?
What if I recover and…?
The fear is often about the unknown, the uncharted territory, and giving up something that has provided comfort. This fear really is about the unknown. We may not know exactly what recovery will look like, but it most certainly will be better than life with an eating disorder.
Fear is essentially a liar trying to keep you stuck in the eating disorder.
Zach Williams sings a beautiful song titled Fear is a liar. I often either encourage my clients to listen to this song or will play it during a session.
Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
'Cause fear he is a liar
I offer faith-based counseling in my practice for clients that want to include this into their treatment plan. I think one of the ways we can face fears it to celebrate success along the journey and to maintain our focus. You may not know what life on the other side looks like, but you most likely realize that things are not working out the way they are.
Can you envision what you may want your life to look like? If not, find small goals to work toward, things to focus your attention and efforts toward. Most people have heard the Bible Story about Jesus calling Peter to walk on water. When we dig deeper into this passage in we learn about Peter’s fear.
Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
Matthew 14: 28-30
I think this is one of the best passage in the Bible that is so relatable to many things we experience in life today. Can you imagine this scene where experienced fishermen were caught in a storm and surrounded by turbulent winds? I would certainly be scared had I been on that boat!
Peter loved Jesus and was willing to do anything for Him. Peter wanted to demonstrate his courage to Jesus saying, “Lord, if it is you Command me to come to you on the water”. While Peter had his eyes fixed on Jesus, he was able to remain calm, collected, and had the courage to step onto the rough sea. His faith drove out all fear. He was literally walking on the water until one thing happened. He lost his focus. Once he took his eyes off Jesus and he began to sink (Matthew 14:30).
Peter’s courage turned to fear once he took his eyes off Jesus and saw the storm. Think of the many ways we can apply this story to our lives today, especially for those facing fears in recovery. It can be easy to lose focus on recovery when things are going well. It may seem like you have moved past the rough patch but still have that remaining fear of the unknown.
When you experience this fear, it is time to hunker down, focus on what you really want, and conquer that fear. After all, remember that fear is a liar.
About The Author: Amy Helms
Amy Helms, MS/MSW, RD, LD has a private practice in Columbia, SC, New Hope Counseling and Wellness Center. She is passionate about helping others recover from their eating disorder. She provides both nutrition and therapy services in South Carolina and provides virtual meal support services. She is licensed to provide nutrition counseling in SC, GA, and NC. She can be found at www.nutritionandtherapy.com. She loves playing tennis, with her two children, and their chocolate lab, Hope who is in training to be a therapy dog—stay tuned! Her absolute favorite thing to eat is nachos.