Activating a Spiritual Source of HEALing and Empowerment: Intuition in Eating Disorder Recovery
“You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind.” -Anne Lamott A couple of weeks ago, I was crying on my way to work. All I wanted to do was to be in my bed and take #avoidance naps all afternoon. Eventually, I had to pull over to calm myself down. As I looked across the peaceful, half-iced over reservoir, I let the tears continue without any inhibition. I felt such a deep admiration and appreciation for the unadulterated beauty in front of me. The singular moment seemed effortless and free of fear, in the middle of a larger span of time that has been difficult.
The moment felt…spiritual…I think?
For much of my time in treatment and recovery, various people have encouraged me to try to connect with my spirituality. The trouble is that I can’t remember a time, even before my eating disorder when I could identify or connect with religion and/or spirituality.
So why did this seemingly mundane moment at the reservoir seem spiritual to me?
Well, it felt deeply personal and intensely mine.
It was intimate.
I felt a powerful sense of undeniable trust in myself. Trust that told me I was right where I needed to be.
I felt connection to a more authentic self via the belief that I was experiencing something larger than myself.
I felt a reprieve from the otherwise constant chatter in my mind.
In that moment I experienced intuitive clarity, which to me, is the very essence of my spirituality. Intuition is the very thing that through some sort of uncanny irony resides inside of us, yet is simultaneously larger than us. I think of intuition as my spiritual guide leading me down the path to the people and experiences that will be most fulfilling for me.
Intuition is instinctual. It’s the one thing that feels safe to me despite not having control over it. Intuition is the voice of my truth and empowerment, all coming from a higher place of ultimate trust. Unlike the loud, screaming voice of my eating disorder, my intuition exists as the quiet voice of my higher self. It reminds me that I have everything I need within me and that my higher self is more powerful than the things I fear.
And then there’s intuition’s kryptonite: eating disorders. When my eating disorder’s voice is loud, it silences even the softest of intuitive whispers. Without access to intuition and therefore spirituality, there is no way to become your authentic self with the eating disorder.
Fear is much of what underlies my eating disorder and blocks me from accessing and trusting my intuition. Without access to such an essential part of myself, my eating disorder also prevents me from acting in accordance with my personal values, which often leads to shame and a deep spiritual unworthiness.
So in a [perhaps semi-desperate] attempt, I am working towards invigorating a sense of spirituality in my life, not only for its apparent compatibility with healing, but also because of its protective power. Spirituality can be another coping strategy that is different from those taught by secular treatments like CBT and DBT. While these treatment modalities undoubtedly have value, for me, they lack the inherent ability to provide belief…
Belief in intuition.
Belief in an internalized sense of worth.
Belief in a higher power larger than myself.
Belief that my body is inherently dignified.
You see, eating disorders are all about immediate, short-term gratification, but spirituality encompasses a greater, more profound type of comfort. It provides comfort that is soothing, lasting, consistent, and real. By experiencing moments of spirituality I am guaranteed the profound knowledge that there is something more powerful than myself who/that desires to support me.
During the times when the eating disorder convinces me I’m alone, my spiritual guide, my intuition, is there to remind me that I can in fact, never actually be alone. I just need to listen and believe.
in strength and healing.
About the Author:
OJ is currently experiencing and documenting the ups and downs of eating disorder recovery. She and her partner (CJ) share their dual perspectives on eating disorder recovery through a queer lens on their blog www.thirdwheelED.com. OJ’s writing focuses on the intersectionality of eating disorder recovery as a self-identified queer and lesbian woman. She also documents her eating disorder recovery in conjunction with other mental health illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Jamie volunteers with Project HEAL Boston.