One of the hardest things for me to adjust to in recovery was all of the spare time and energy I had. Finding my passion was a challenge for me. When I was in the depths of ED, I spent all my awake time perseverating about how much I ate, how much I exercised, what I weighed, and how much I hated life. I could distract myself for brief periods–maybe for a few pages of an unusually good book or during a movie scene–but the ED always intruded. This dragged me back to going over and over these things in my head. Literally, these thoughts were my life.
As they receded, I often felt my brainpan was going to collapse without the constant pressure of those thoughts zinging around. The obsessive thoughts lessened somewhat as I reached a healthy weight, but they still occupied freaky amounts of my time. I didn’t enjoy obsessing about every little thing, but I didn’t know what else to do. One of the things that left me so vulnerable to relapse was the fact that I didn’t have anything to take the place of the ED that had occupied my thoughts for so long.
I found writing to be so helpful not just because it helped me sort through my thoughts, but because it provided me with something to do. For the first time, I had something much more interesting, enticing and absorbing than the ED crap to think about.
I slowly began to find things that were not only more interesting to think about but could also be totally absorbing when I actually did them. That’s what I loved about mountain biking – I literally could not think of anything besides not crashing. I hated the constant threat of danger, but I loved the challenge and the total mind-absorbing nature of it. It’s one of the main reasons I fell in love with cycling- I could daydream but the task at hand still demanded almost all of my attention.
I still struggle to clear my head while writing at times. I’m aware that this is pretty normal, but I get a little more peeved when it’s ED stuff creeping in rather than more normal, I-need-to-run-the-dishwasher kind of stuff. And if writing doesn’t do the trick (and I have some free time, which is becoming an increasingly rare phenomenon!), I can get involved in a good book as reading is another major passion of mine.
Finding my passion for writing didn’t enable me to recover–there was a lot of hard work and therapy and facing my fears about food one at a time and meal after meal after meal. But it’s one of the best motivations to stay recovered. Then I can actually get absorbed into books and projects and bike rides. When I’m malnourished, all I can think about is food. Now that my brain and body are (mostly) healthy again, I can focus on bigger and better things.