So many individuals I work with express feelings of hopelessness. I think that’s why this message from Carolyn Costin stuck out to me so much when I listened to her speak via the EDRDpro Symposium. I immediately thought of Brene Brown and how she teaches us that hope is not an emotion, it’s a thought process. We can work to cultivate hope as a way of thinking and coping.
We live in a time where we are led to believe that everything should be convenient, fun and easy. That’s actually the opposite of what cultivates hope, and actually causes hopelessness. When things take time (which they will if they are worthwhile) we blame ourselves for just not being good at it, since we are taught that we should get what we want when we are want it and results should happen fast. We feel powerless and lack belief that we can truly get where we want to go. That’s not to say that pursuing things that are worthwhile can’t also feel fun and even easy, but more often than not it will require perseverance and determination.
So it’s just so well said to say that patience and hope to together. I can totally attest to that, and I bet you can too. I think about having a baby, infertility treatments, two adoptions, recovering from an eating disorder, owning and growing a business, continuing to learn and grow as a professional, aiming to be more and more effective as a mother…gosh I could go on and on. All of these things are really important to me and have without a doubt required so much patience with myself, the situation and the process. I could only have patience because I chose to hope that it could get better. So often it has been a conscious choice when I could have easily chosen to succumb to feelings of inferiority, doubt, discouragement and hopelessness. And sometimes, actually a lot of times, I did. But then somewhere and somehow I mustered up the courage to dare to hope again. Hope seemed to feel stronger each time I picked myself back up.
So I guess what I’m hoping you get from this is: recovering from disordered eating or negative body image is really worthwhile, but it won’t happen fast or easy and it most likely will not be fun. That doesn’t mean you are bad at it or aren’t doing it right. It means that if you hope for something better, patience is necessary. I see hope manifested in clients by choosing to eat the next meal, unfollowing triggering feeds on social media, buying new clothes that feel comfortable, avoiding body checking, respecting their body cues over external rules, numbers or diets, practicing self-compassion, etc. It’s meeting yourself where you’re at and letting it be OK. It’s one foot in front of the other, one step forward, focus on just the next thing. That IS hope.
I am NOT naturally patient. If you ask me what I struggle with the most I would unequivocally tell you PATIENCE. Gah, it’s the thorn in my flesh. It’s my weakest of weaknesses. But the things I’ve hoped for – food freedom and having children particularly – have been the most meaningful and humbling experiences. I’ve had to be patient because I’ve had no other choice. I see the wisdom in it. The fact that recovery didn’t just happen without a lot of work on my part or that I couldn’t just have what I wanted when I wanted it, allowed me to cultivate patience and hope.
Recovering from an eating disorder – or any of the other hard things I’ve done – didn’t change me. It was the PROCESS of recovering from an eating disorder that changed me. We want things to go away, but honestly what my eating disorder taught me was that life will always include struggle. I’m sure I have struggles ahead and lots of lesson to still learn, but I really wonder if the hardest one is behind me. Recovery taught me how to face struggles instead of running from them (using ED behaviors to numb and distract). It’s really been a gift, although I wouldn’t have said that when I was in the middle of it. But it made me more resilient and brave and I know it will for you too.
Next time you feel hopeless, I hope you’ll be patient with yourself. Let yourself feel hopeless – cry it out, write it down, tell someone about it – and trust that this is part of the process. Bad days will pass, things will get better and YOU have the power to make it so. Remember – hope and patience go together.
Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD