How to Deal with other’s Expectations in Recovery

by Anne-Sophie

in Blog

I have been feeling quite overwhelmed in the last few weeks. I have taken on a lot of work, have been blogging more than ever, trying to keep my inbox as clean as possible and preparing for a speech that I will have to give tomorrow.

All of this has resulted in some sleepless nights, feelings of anxiety and the fear that I won’t live up to everybody’s expectations. After all, I want to make my employers and my readers as happy as possible, right? I want to answer your emails as thoughtfully and as detailed as I can and I don’t want you to wait too long for my response. I want to give an amazing speech about all the possibilities and help that Internet forums can offer those who are affected by an eating disorder. I want to do research, rehearse my speech over and over again until I know it by heart. I want to write brilliant blog posts drafting them carefully and going over them repeatedly in order to see if the flow is just like I want it to be.

But at the same time, I only  have so many hours in the day and even though I’d like to change that fact, I can’t. I know that people are probably much more forgiving than I give them credit for and that they won’t put as much thought as I do into the fact that they wait a week or two for my reply.

Yet, despite me trying to rationalize these thoughts, I still have this overpowering feeling of constant failure, of not doing and being enough and of disappointing everybody around me.

What does this have to do with recovery? Well, I think that we often put way too much pressure on ourselves during our way too health. We need to heal fast, without hiccups, going strong from the very first day until we have arrived at the ultimate goal. Our family and loved ones expect us to let go of our destructive behaviors immediately and they expect our minds to stop being under the influence of Ed.

So, we pressure ourselves into pretending that we’re doing better than we actually are and we continue to play a role. This can add up to immense feelings of anxiety and doesn’t do anything but harm our recovery.

Believe me when I tell you that I have been there. For months into my recovery, I wasn’t able to leave my abuse of laxatives behind, nor did I make a lot of changes when it came to nutrition. But I lied about it. I lied to my husband, I lied to my parents and I lied to my therapists. What was the result? I felt horrible and helpless and I believed that I would never be able to recover and live a happy and healthy life. I thought that freedom was a state reserved for others, those who were stronger and better people altogether.

I bawled my eyes out for weeks and months despising myself and feeling like this was a mountain too big to climb for tiny little Anne-Sophie. When I decided to leave the program at the treatment facility, I was faced with the fact that I hadn’t really made much progress. I thought a lot about how to move on from here. Would I give up and continue on the way towards my grave or would I work harder on myself and fight for my life?

I went back and forth in my head, feeling too weak to make changes, too exhausted to fight even more, but at the same my longing for mental freedom was not diminished. I wanted out even if I had to make uncomfortable, drastic changes in my life and my body, even if I’d have to give up everything I ever knew, even if it meant to walk into a completely new and scary direction.

The first turn I took was to tell my therapist and then my husband the truth for the very first time. It was a painful step to take, I am not going to lie. I felt uneasy and hesitated quite a bit. However, the relief that washed over me was more than I could have hoped for and it took away a lot of pressure.

For the very first time I realized that I didn’t have to be perfect, that my recovery did not have to be smooth, that it was more than OK to be weak and to fall back into old habits.

As long as I tried, did my best and was serious about recovery, I was moving in the right direction. Nobody expected me to check into a treatment facility, eat and come back home after 3 months completely healthy and ready to attack life in ways that I have never been able to do before.

All these expectations came from myself. Had I been perfectly honest with those who cheered for me form the very beginning, they’d have known how hard it is and I wouldn’t have felt so alone and so completely overwhelmed and hopeless. However, by pretending I was doing great, their expectations were altered. Once I stopped doing that, they had a better idea of what they were dealing with and we could work on my recovery together.

I would lie if I told you that the feelings of being overwhelmed completely vanished. But they were drastically reduced because I knew I was not fighting alone anymore.

Recovery is rocky and there will be many ups and downs along the way. By keeping vital information from your loved ones and by lying to them, you will put even more unnecessary pressure on yourself on this already so difficult path. Be open, be real, be authentic. Talk to your loved ones regularly, explain what it feels like to be at this stage in recovery, be honest about setbacks and never be ashamed.

Regaining your life often takes a team effort and teams only function with trust, honesty and openness.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Eileen Murphy March 7, 2012 at 10:41 am

Lovely writing Anne-Sophie…so great to read such truth expressed so well about such an important issue which is not addressed often enough. I will tweet and FB this….all love and strength to you.

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Anne-Sophie March 8, 2012 at 8:10 am

Thanks so much for your comment, Eileen and for spreading the word about this message. I agree with you, it’s not being talked about enough, but we can change that right? :)

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Sarah March 7, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Wow, this is such a powerful article and spoke really strongly to me. It is so true that all the pressure we feel comes from ourselves “We need to heal fast, without hiccups, going strong from the very first day until we have arrived at the ultimate goal. Our family and loved ones expect us to let go of our destructive behaviors immediately and they expect our minds to stop being under the influence of Ed”
This is exactly how I used to think but I then realised that I was again setting myself unrealistic expectations. It is all to easy to put on a negative filter and berate yourself for having a stumble in recovery “I missed a snack” “I exercised longer than I should” ” I wasn’t powerful enough to disobey Ed” What about rather than dwelling on those things, flip your mindset to focus on what you HAVE achieved? ” Every day is a fight and recognising the positives in each day will keep you strong and keep you fighting.
As ever, such an inspirational post, thanks Anne-Sophie x

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Anne-Sophie March 8, 2012 at 8:14 am

Thank you for stopping by, Sarah.

It’s true, we often stand in our own way and make our recovery even more miserable than it already is. I am all for having a positive mindset and I think it makes a huge difference in recovery. Everybody struggles from time to time, but when we focus on what we have already achieved (just like you said), you feel empowered and you can be proud of that. It’s so easy to focus on the bad stuff though, isn’t it? It takes a lot of willpower and determination to solely focus on the positive, but once you do, everything changes.

xoxo

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