How Constructing an Eating Disorder Pie Chart Has Benefitted My Recovery
Interestingly enough, I did this "pie exercise" two days in a row with two separate therapists. It was SO needed. The way this works is that you draw two circles: filling in the first with the way you value yourself now or what the eating disorder says your values need to be. The second circle is filled in with your wise mind leading the way, or the way that you want to evaluate yourself. The point of this exercise is to determine where you are currently--what you value when you're in the depths of an eating disorder/trying to recover, and what you truly value and want to make time and use emotional energy for. A big thing that has come up in my sessions is the idea of achievement, because I often over-evaluate achievement and it makes me miserable. I constantly set the bar higher than I need to, or put pressure on myself to achieve things that can't be achieved (i.e. perfection, control, unrealistic achievements with weight/shape). This contributes to lower self-esteem, more negative talk, and an increased importance on appearance. This then strengthens the eating disorder thoughts, and the cycle continues.
An important note about achievement is that it depends on the context and the values that you're trying to achieve. For me, if I'm trying to achieve something that takes up a lot of space in the ED pie, I'm probably using my eating disorder mind. If I'm trying to achieve something in the wise mind pie that I can actually achieve and that's meaningful to me, that's totally okay and very normal. It's about checking the facts. The main fact is that you cannot achieve everything BUT that doesn't mean that you've achieved nothing. This is a reminder that I desperately need to continue to tell myself, because it's so easy to get into my head about how I'm not doing "enough" or achieving "enough", when in actuality that's just the ED pie taking over for the day.
Right now, I'm living in that weird venn diagram you could draw between these two pies. I'm in recovery, but I'm not recovered. Today, my therapist had me color in one of the parts of the ED pie, and asked me which part I saw. I colored in the "everything else" section, and saw only the white (weight, control, achievement). She told me that it's all about perspective. Some days I'll wake up and I'll see the black, my values, everything else that's important to me. And some days I'll wake up and all I can do is be in that ED pie. That's why I'm living in this overlap right now, and that's totally okay.
It's all about perspective and being mindful of my intentions, values, and which part of the pie/circle I'm in that day.
It's also worth noting that even in the wise mind pie, ED is still there. It's taking up much less space, but it's still there, because eating disorders are chronic and there will always be some sort of maintenance being done to stay in wise and healthy mind. And I'm radically accepting that as okay right now.
I really enjoyed reflecting on what my values are, because it helps me step outside of my emotional eating disorder mind and see where I really truly want to be. And it reminds me that with a little perspective, I can focus on whichever part of the pie that I want to, even when it's hard. Recovery is really, really, hard but it's not impossible, and this was a really great tool to remind me that.
About the Author: You can find Charlotte at www.livingfreec.com