Triggers in Recovery – Building Sanctuary Within

One roadblock I seem to keep hitting in recovery is when other people talk about what they eat. I’ve learned about selective attention and other psychological phenomena in my studies but its funny to feel it in action where it almost seems like when someone says something that threatens my eating disorder, they’re saying it in CAPSLOCK, UNDERLINED AND BOLDED, just so I really don’t miss it. Necessarily, my competitive urges flare up and Ed rears it’s ugly head. I worry that it’s going to completely derail me and that it will be the only thing I can think about for weeks. A very short while back this would have been exactly the case – I would ruminate for ages over one thing someone mentioned in passing and use it as a reason to keep engaging in my sick behaviours. Now, for whatever reason, it seems to be slightly less damaging yet I understandably still feel shaken up and still worry.

Even in noticing this tiny change, things seem a bit less hopeless. A month or so ago, if I was exposed to any kind of trigger at all, I would take it as an excuse to tumble over the edge I was so carefully teetering on between relapse and recovery. I just wasn’t quite invested enough in myself or my health to stay standing. I used to interpret these triggers as a sign that I was destined to be overly-sensitive forever and that I would never be able to function in normal society (what with it being flooded with diet culture and all). I though this meant I just shouldn’t bother trying, but giving up is what my eating disorder wants. Isolation is where it thrives.

I realize that as I slowly build confidence (although still fragile) in the foundation of my recovery and keep reinforcing why I’m doing it, it helps me brace myself against these triggers. The stronger I build my foundation and the more I focus on why I’m doing what I’m doing, the “easier” it is to stay pointed towards recovery. The longer I spend working towards it, the more invested I feel. I’m trying to be patient – time really does help.

Part of the challenge in building the foundation for my recovery is that it often feels like it sticks out like a sore thumb from the rest of society and diet culture. It’s one thing to be fighting with eating disorder voices, but it’s another thing to see people engaging in similar behaviours you’re trying to avoid but that society often condones. I’m working on solidifying my beliefs. I don’t believe in fad diets. I believe in eating a variety, enjoying all aspects of food, and having freedom. I believe that there are others things I’d rather invest my time and money in. In strengthening these beliefs I think there will be opportunities for me to voice them, and some occasions where I likely should express my feelings on the matter. People might speak in triggering ways and for my own sake I need to set boundaries from diet culture and respect them.

What someone else eats has nothing to do with me.

It’s not my responsibility to change the way they eat.

Things they say aren’t an attack on me or my eating disorder. The disease in me feels threatened but the reason I feel this way is because I am sick and that’s the reason I’m not going to allow someone else’s actions influence my own. I’m taking control back from my disorder for myself, not to hand it over to someone else. Recovery is for me and me alone.

It’s hard when society condones behaviours we are actively fighting against. It feels futile sometimes, and frustrating most of the time and occasionally invalidating. But I think I’m starting to consider that even if I didn’t have an illness, there are better things I’d want to be focusing on. Maybe in going through this I can reach a level of peace that others don’t. Maybe I will sooner come to a realization of what’s truly important to me. Maybe what’s important to me doesn’t match what’s important to the majority (or what we’re told should be important). Maybe it’s just not what makes cosmetic companies money. But in the end I guess it doesn’t matter, because it should be what makes me happy. Maybe rejecting diet culture isn’t for everyone. Maybe living a more internal, deliberate, and reflective life isn’t what’s best for most. Ultimately I don’t think it should influence my decision in deciding what’s best for me.

I want to be able to be surrounded by diet culture (aka just exist) and not feel the overwhelming need to eradicate it all entirely, to help others see my point of view, or collapse in on myself. I want to exist without my recovery or my sick identity being threatened. Instead of worrying about fighting (or avoiding) these outward triggers I’m focusing on strengthening my inner beliefs.

I think part of me feeling obligated to try and turn others away from these external pursuits is an attempt to justify what I’m doing in going “against” them. It’s a natural reaction to feeling discomfort But if I’m learning anything on this journey – it’s that discomfort doesn’t necessarily require an action. It would be nice not to feel like my choices make me, in some small way, an “outcast” of society but I think this parallels the time-honoured journey of discovering your own identity outside of society’s expectations of you and cultivating safety within yourself. (I will also acknowledge my privilege in existing as a thin, cis-gendered, white female in an abled-body who faces little other societal discrimination.)

I used to think that it was an accomplishment to eat less than the person sitting beside me (out of insecurity, self hate & disease) but It’s an even bigger accomplishment to go against what your disorder is telling you to do, and do the opposite. To recognize, accept and sit with the discomfort. To pursue a path that aligns with what you believe, even if you don’t know where it will lead. To trust in yourself, even if you don’t know exactly who that is yet. To resist enculturation in the face of triggers despite it all.

I am capable of sitting with the discomfort.

I need only to focus on my own journey.

I don’t need to feel responsible for anyone besides myself.

I am not a slave to my disorders urges or thoughts.

I am taking it one step at a time.

I will be okay.


Nutrition. Sanctuary. Horizon.

8 thoughts on “Triggers in Recovery – Building Sanctuary Within

  1. I loved this part “Instead of worrying about fighting (or avoiding) these outward triggers I’m focusing on strengthening my inner beliefs.” It has been the struggle of the decade for me, and I am finally at a point in my life where I have begun to let go of the outer and focusing significantly on the inner –what a difference that has made! I feel empowered, I feel whole, I feel at home.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice! Of course it is hard to go against the dictates of our culture but I believe it is often essential to do so, particularly when these make or keep us sick. There are elements in our culture that would have us starve ourselves and do all sorts of other unskillful and arguably in moral things. To me, it is an act of personal and political resistance to stick to what we know is right in our own hearts in the face of such pressures. This is not only an individual matter; I believe that the survival of much of the remaining life on earth depends on it. We need to stop doing what we are taught we should do and start acting from the dictates of our hearts. Then we will act out of love and take much better care of ourselves, others, and this dear planet we get to call home.

    Liked by 1 person

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