It’s already August 8th! Children, teenagers, and families are gearing up for back to school, football season is in the air, and before you know it we will be singing christmas carols! Okay…I may be getting ahead of myself, but you get it! With back to school, moving into dorms, end of summer vacations, upcoming long weekends and fall holidays comes so many wonderful things… new friends, cooler and crisper weather, giving love and thanks, and celebrating your loved ones! The onset of back to school, and fall bring about so many amazing things, joy, happiness, laughter, new memories….but certain anxieties, stressors and triggers are brought upon as well. Does this ring any bells?
Whether you are heading back to college, grabbing a meal with an old friend, going to a weekend on the lake, seeing your long distance significant other, or just going to a family party, the realities of re-entry will always be there. Re-entry is incredibly anxiety provoking, and therefore quite triggering for anyone , especially those within ED Recovery. These get togethers are usually centered around food and conversation surrounding high stakes and anxiety provoking questions.(Therefore, incredibly triggering with Eating Disorder Recovery, or really, for anyone)! “What are you majoring in?” “Have you landed a job yet?” “Where are the kids going to school?” or sometimes the loaded and fabricated question of just, “How are things?”….because we all know, that most people don’t REALLY want to know how things are. This is completely in the absence of cynicism and negativity, instead it is in the presence of the realities behind re-entry.
For instance, think about that time you came home from college, or visited your family from across the country…. there is this pressure to be the “adult you”, to be “the new professional you”, but there is also the expectation to fall into that old role of the daughter, sister, brother, son….not to mention the expectation to have “the best family weekend ever,” to “make amends with someone”, to “have it be like old times”….but in reality you are somewhat of a changed person. The “old you” is great, and beautiful, but also riddled with memories of living with your eating disorder, and using unhealthy behaviors. Therefore, this “simple” re-entry quickly turns into an overwhelming situation filled with toxic memories and unrealistic expectations…. because no matter how hard you try, you will not be the “old you,” and that’s how life is meant to work! It goes the same for going back to school or leaving home, in that re-entry is riddled with expectations and loaded questions.
One thing that is learned within recovery, is that recovery is sacred….health comes first….because without health there is no opportunity for life, for friends, for family, for fun! This is incredibly difficult for family members, and loved ones to understand…. because once you are away and gone, and once you “look” like you are “recovered” from you Eating Disorder, they EXPECT you to be “the old you,” have fun, without any worries or second thoughts! But when in recovery, especially during times of stress and vulnerability, your recovery comes first, your health comes first…because again, what do you have if you don’t have your health….if you don’t have a sense of care for yourself? Again, this is in the absence of cynicism, and negativity, there is no blame, fault or shame put on those that may struggle to understand! Instead, this is to shed light on the truths within recovery.
When in recovery, re-entry is all about managing these expectations, vulnerabilities and triggers first by acknowledgement, then by setting up a safe plan when in times of a triggering state. Therefore when you “re-enter” into any possible vulnerable situation it is important to have a few tips and tricks on hand to protect your recovery and maintain self-care…
This upcoming week my family will be taking one big lovely vacation! This is the first time EVER, that all five of us Mattingly’s will be together on a vacation with all of our significant others! This will be a wonderful, relaxing and MUCH needed trip but no matter what, re-entry is somewhat anxiety provoking…therefore, these tips and tricks always come in handy!
Five Steps For Re-entry!
- Be aware and Realistic: With re-entry comes so many false and unrealistic expectations, so be honest with yourself…. ask yourself a few questions…
Q: What are your personal expectations of this situation and re-entry as a whole?
Q: Are you worried about other people’s expectations?
Q: What are the reasons behind your personal expectations, as well as, the assumed expectations of others?
Q: Are any of those expectations unrealistic?
Q: What will happen if you do not meet any of those expectations?
Q: Are any of those expectations harmful to your recovery?
Once you answer these questions, I ask you to bring some light to your newfound reality, take some breaths and give yourself sometime to manage these expectations.
- Manage your expectations: Once you bring some reality and awareness to your expectations take some time to create some realistic, healthy and recovery safe expectations. Again you can ask yourself a few questions…
Q: How much reality can you bring to this re-entry?
Q: What expectations can you create for myself that are safe for my recovery?
Q: What anxieties arise when you create these expectations?
Q: What can you do to make these expectations safe and realistic?
- Have a support system on hand: This is incredibly important, especially when in the beginning stages of recovery. Many people will not understand the delicate nature of your recovery, therefore it is crucial to have someone to go to, lean on, and talk to, within re-entry/a vulnerable situation. This can be someone in person, or on the phone.
- Pack a travel sized comfort box: I have touched on the miracles of the “comfort box” within my self-care pages and posts. This is something that you go to whenever you feel vulnerable, after using behaviors, in place of using behaviors, and finding safety within your recovery. Therefore when in re-entry, bring along a travel comfort box. For instance, I used to bring nail polish, a travel journal, and headphones to listen to my music, and bath salts for stressful times. Self-Care, Self-Care, Self-Care!!!
- Be kind and gentle with yourself: It is only possible to manage your own personal expectations…. therefore, if for some reason you do not meet other people’s expectations IT IS OK!!! Remember, your recovery and health comes first…. and this may mean that you disappoint others; this may mean that you let others down, and that is okay! You have to be kind to yourself, and be okay with disappointing others, you have to be okay with failing other’s expectations, because in then end…. your recovery comes first! So be gentle with yourself, it will be okay!
So as we move into this season filled with cheer, vacations, and holiday breaks….bring some reality into the situation to control and manage your expectations, and care for yourself during re-entry by practicing self care!
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And as always, #SelfCareItOut!