When I first developed an eating disorder back in 1981 (35 years ago – wow!), there was no internet.
I mean, there probably was an internet somewhere, hidden in some super-secret programmers-only closet.
But I sure as heck didn’t know about it.
So I got much sicker, and then I got much better, without ever once realizing there might be such a thing as a “recovery community” I could participate in to find support.
In 2009, finally having achieved full recovery myself, I founded MentorCONNECT, or “MC,” the first global nonprofit eating disorders recovery community. MC was my “baby” for sure, but it was also the first recovery community I had ever belonged to.
As well, it represented my first exposure to recovery concepts like “triggers” – which were explained to me as “painful or scary experiences that might weaken my desire for recovery and send me running back to the eating disorder behaviors for safe haven”. As it was explained to me, triggers were something to avoid at all costs.
But I never really did manage to internalize the concept of triggers as dangerous.
To me, triggers were GOOD.
Triggers felt like mentors. And in fact, at first, triggers were the only mentors I had. They helped me heal by pointing out where I needed healing.
Every time I found another thing that brought up my fear, my anger, my sadness, my anxiety, my instinct to run back to the eating disorder behaviors to hide in them, instead I would stop myself and take a deep breath.
Then I would turn around, note the precise place where the “ow!” was coming from, and get right to work on whatever-it-was, trying to understand how it had formed, what I might be doing to perpetuate it, and how to stop doing that and begin to do something new and healthier instead.
Slowly but surely, by identifying each and every last little trigger I could find, I overcame my dependence on the eating disorder thoughts and behaviors for good.
In other words, I used the awareness of what was hurting within me to help myself heal.
Now, in this I realize there are many ways to relate to words like “hurt,” “trigger” and “healing.” There are also many possible definitions, each of which is equally valuable and valid.
But perhaps, to someone who is reading this now or someday, learning more about what worked for me may provide some illumination into new possibilities for their recovery journey as well.
This is my hope.
Back then, so many years ago, when I didn’t have a recovery community, medical team or support circle to lean on, triggers were my only true friends. They told me the truth. They wanted the best for me – badly enough to temporarily cause me more pain in order to help me heal.
For their help, I will always be grateful.
Today’s Takeaways: Has anyone ever told you that something you were experiencing as helpful or good was really harmful or bad, or vice versa? If yes, did you try the idea on for size? Was it helpful for you to look at the issue from a different perspective, why or why not?
p.s. This post is excerpted from my free monthly e-zine, “Good News for Recovery + Life.”