Our country celebrated its Independence Day this weekend with spectacular fireworks bursting in the night sky. I was lucky enough to see fireworks on both Saturday and Sunday. I find myself reflecting on the weekend, the symbols, and on Jenni Schaefer’s Declaration of Independence from her eating disorder.
A Declaration of Independence is an important statement. When it was clear that our country needed to determine its own direction, our founding fathers crafted a statement of beliefs that define who we are as a people. Jenni’s Declaration helped define who she was and how she wanted to live her life unencumbered by her eating disorder. A Declaration provides a chance to reflect on what is important in life. It allows us to define who we are and what we want our future to look like. When our country declared its independence from England, we clarified that we didn’t want decisions made about us without our ability to have a say—no taxation without representation. So consider your eating disorder—is ED acting as much if not more of a tyrant than the King of England was to our young country?Does ED push you towards decisions and actions and beliefs about yourself that are not in keeping with how you want to define your life and your future? Does he really represent your true ideals? When I ask clients in my groups whether they would tell their best friends some of the critical statements that they tell themselves, they all respond that they wouldn’t. Why allow ED’s tyranny to define you and determine what you tell yourself? Where is the representation of your true ideals?
The fireworks this weekend reminded me about one element of our country’s revolution which relates to recovery. Fireworks are a bright burst of color. They are fabulously fun to watch. They make us ooh and aah and then they’re gone. But the hard work behind preserving our independence goes on long after the fireworks have died away. When our country declared its independence, it was a burst of determined action which, no doubt, felt decisive and strong as our founders signed their names on that parchment. But then came the long years of the war to truly win our independence. This truth applies to recovery. With a flourish you may craft and sign your Declaration of Independence and that is a fabulous statement. It is decisive; it is a burst of optimism and commitment. But after that initial act, you will need to fight the long war against ED. He will be sneaky and launch stealth missions to try and penetrate your defenses. He may use tricks and seductions; he may pretend to be a friend while he is slowly killing you. He may hold you as his prisoner and try to tear down your morale and stamina by telling you everything bad that he can. That is just another trick. It is another tactic of the war.
Our Country’s fight for its independence was long and hard, but so worthwhile. Your fight for recovery—for your independence from ED—is worthwhile, too. Within the field of combat, people talk about losing a battle, but winning the war. This is an important concept to remember in your recovery. If you experience a slip, that may be a battle lost, but the war is still being fought. The most important thing is to not give up, to not surrender, and to continue to fight for your independence from ED.
Continue your fight for your recovery.
·Write your own Declaration of Independence. You can craft it using the guidelines of our Country’s Declaration. If that helped us gain independence from tyranny, it may be able to help guide you. Or craft your own. If you need to, start by jotting down your thoughts about what will be important to include in this document. You do not need to craft the declaration perfectly—jot down ideas, cross them out, discover you own true thoughts. Even our founders changed their language again and again, crafting it until it more clearly spoke our truest beliefs. You do not have to craft your document perfectly—even our country had to add amendments as we discovered additional truths and further beliefs. So craft the best that you can now and then refine it as often as you need to, but discover your truths—what you believe, not what ED is telling you to believe. Discover the things you would advise your best friend or a young child, not what ED would want you to tell them. Find the truths that will make you and your life stronger and that will burst with the beauty of independence.
·Craft an inspiration journal or collage—collect thoughts, beliefs, pictures anything that inspires you. When you need a burst of energy to keep the war of recovery going, turn to this journal. Include things around you that make you grateful—birdsong, the brilliant color of butterflies, fireworks lighting up a night sky.
·Work to develop your war plan. If ED sneaks in and wins one battle—that doesn’t mean he has won the war. But you’ll need a plan, reinforcements that you can call in. Defenses (i.e. coping strategies) to any of his sneak attacks. You’ll need some offensive techniques—if you know certain situations will trigger ED, then develop a strategy to help stave off the attack. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense, take control of your recovery. Gather the strengths and techniques that you need to face down ED. Take this chance to journal your beliefs and goals and focus on them so that ED can’t keep getting into your way. And if you get into trouble—fire up a flare—ask for help. There are some battles that you don’t need to fight alone.