I would binge. I would purge. I would cry. I would promise myself I would change. Then, the next day I would find myself home alone, sneaking downstairs to binge, purge, cry, and promise myself I would change.
I was caught in the cycle, and I wanted so desperately to get out. The issue was that instead of treating the root of my problems, I was trying for so long to put band-aids on them.
The type of food I bought, the access I had to money, the access I had to food, working out in the morning to start off a ‘good day.’
It wasn’t until I started seeing a therapist who most definitely changed my life.
She asked me about my childhood, and about why I was binging. She asked me why I didn’t want to be around anyone. She asked me what triggered the panic attacks, or what my relationship with TJ was giving me.
She was addressing the UNDERLYING PROBLEMS. Talking to me about my emotions and my feelings I had been shoving down with food, then physically riding my body of for so long. The reality is, the events in our lives leave physiological imprints in our bodies, especially when we experience trauma or situations of extreme stress that cause the body to fight, flee, or freeze in order to cope.
We carry our stress, anxiety, and trauma around with us every day, using [choice of addictive behavior and/or self medication here] to help us cope with difficult emotions. The problem with addictive behaviors is that while they provide a short-term solution, you continue to feel the discomfort in your body…until you release it.Most of us don’t know how to release these experiences from ourselves because we don’t even realize they are existing within us, consistently affecting our lives and ourselves. So what are you holding onto that needs releasing? Does your body tense up when you have to ask for help, or does your face get hot when you’re asked to speak in front of a crowd?
These sensations are your body remembering a past experience when you asked for help, or spoke in front of a crowd and it didn’t go well. Whether you were humiliated, embarrassed, or ashamed, your body remembers by expressing itself through physical sensations for the things it does not have words to express.
EMOTIONAL TOOL KIT
The purpose of the kit is to release the emotions and create a more peaceful state of being. It helps regulate your nervous system and soothe your discomfort. So what goes in it?
So you are emotionally triggered, and want to turn to your addictive behavior for comfort…don’t judge this reaction. We want comfort, not discomfort. Because of this, it’s natural to try to find something to soothe the pain. The need to self-soothe doesn’t mean you’re a bad person-it makes you human.
Give yourself permission to feel—you have to feel it to heal it. When we want to numb a feeling, it’s because we aren’t allowing ourselves of that feeling. Giving yourself permission to feel allows you to control your emotions instead of them controlling you.
Your feelings have a natural ebb and flow to them. Something that is initially uncomfortable, will become simpler over time. Witness each emotion without judgement, just observation. By simply observing each, you can respond to them objectively.
Remember that feelings aren’t forever. They come and go-you just have to let them.
3. Ways to Release
These are examples of ways to give your emotion a voice and move it from your body. There will be times when moving your body helps, and other times singing or writing will feel more effective. Choose the method that feels best to you in the moment.
- Gently shake it out. Starting with your feet, and work your way up till you’re shaking your hair.
- Turn on a song that mirrors the way you’re feeling and sing, dance, or cry until you feel physically and emotionally satisfied.
- Grab a journal and write. No filter, no editing. Tear the page. Burn the page. A symbolic release can sometimes be just as fulfilling as a release of movement.
This is the most important tool. Forgiving yourself. Beating yourself up isn’t productive, and only makes you feel worse. No matter what situation led you to self-soothe, you did the best you could in that very moment, given your physical, mental, and emotional level. As cheesy as it is, hindsight really is 20/20, but looking back on a situation with shame only causes us to continue in the never-ending spiral of guilt.
When you’re uncomfortable, you don’t always have the capacity to think logically or rationally. Your brain and body respond to discomfort based on what makes you comforted in the moment-the quick fix. It’s not thinking about the long term. So we must remember to forgive ourselves for the moments we struggle to zoom out of our space, and see the larger picture. Take each of these as a learning experience to use for knowledge and additional tools to recognize these moments, and be able to react differently next time.
5. Finally: time
Give yourself time to fill your kit and know that healing is a journey. It doesn’t happen overnight. Of course, the longer you are on the road to healing, the journey may get easier BUT THERE IS NO PERFECTION. There are rocks, and bumps, and surprises along the way, but each time you fall back into old patterns or behaviors; remember that you are equipped. You can do this.
I am here to tell you, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is a way to get out of the spiral. Use the tool kit. Use it every day, remembering that you didn’t get here in one day, so you will not heal in one day. Forgive yourself. Love yourself. Care for yourself.
Before you know it…you will be thinking of the addictive behavior less and less as a way to cope.