Blast from the Past: How do you self-soothe?

In the process of creating my new website, I stumbled upon lots of recovery articles that I had written years ago. So, I decided to start an article series on this blog called "Blast from the Past." And here is the first one! I wrote "The Amateur" back in 2005. Today, so much has changed in my life. Here are just a few examples:

1. I am engaged to be married: I was wrong with my words below that "no descent man existed on the entire planet." Eric is amazing.

2. My bones are no longer weak and brittle. By following my doctors orders and taking care of myself (eating appropriately), my bones are now back within the normal range.

3. Today, long baths are one of the most common ways I relax. Epsom salt baths are one of my favorites.

What techniques do you use to self-soothe? Please share here. I always need to learn more!

All the best,

Jenni

The Amateur: Bubble baths vs. Bingeing

Crying uncontrollably over a broken relationship, I finally decided
to pick up the phone and call a friend. Relatively new in recovery from
an eating disorder, one thing I knew for sure was that support for our
problems is always just a phone call away. So I dialed seven digits that
night to reach Sarah, a friend who, unfortunately for her, but
fortunately for me, has a lot of knowledge in the area of heartaches.

I
told Sarah I felt absolutely horrible. I knew I would never feel any
better my entire life, vowed to stay single forever, and continued to
explain that no decent man existed on the entire planet. (Looking back, I
see just a little bit of all-or-none thinking in my thought process
that evening.)

Sarah listened and simply said, “Well, Jenni, what do you normally do to comfort yourself when you feel bad?”

I
immediately thought, “Duh? Of course, I normally binge, purge, and
starve. But now that I have jumped into this whole recovery thing, my
eating disorder is not an option.”

My 12-step sponsor’s favorite
phrase kept ringing in my ears, ‘not an option’…’not an option’…’not an
option.’ So I sighed and simply responded to Sarah with the standard way
to get out of answering a question, “I don’t know.”

Aside from my
eating disorder, I did not know how to survive my feelings that night.
Sarah is one of the ‘normal’ folks out there who does not turn to an
addiction as a source of relief for anxiety, stress, sorrow, a bad hair
day, or for whatever other excuse needed in order to use the abusive
substance. So I did not even want to bother to go into details with her
of how I would have dealt with my current overflow of emotions in the
past. The fact is that I never would have even called Sarah, but instead
I quickly would have turned to my eating disordered behaviors to ease
all of my pain in the moment. Of course, this temporary fix would have
inevitably ended in misery.

I eventually worked up the nerve to
ask Sarah what she normally does to comfort herself when she feels
upset. I reluctantly awaited the answer.

She said, “Well,
sometimes I take a long bubble bath. Or I light a scented candle and
curl up with a really good novel. Other times I just relax on the couch
and completely zone out in front of the television.”

“Amateur,” I
think to myself. Sarah is such an amateur. During all of the years that I
was torturing my body by overeating, restricting, and purging, Sarah
was just lying in her bathtub with bubbles! While I was digging around
in trashcans desperate to find a morsel of food during a binge, she was
flipping through the pages of a romance novel. Sarah was sniffing
fruited candles and stretching out across the couch while I was counting
how long I could go without eating. What an amateur! I actually felt a
sense of pride that I was much rougher and tougher than this princess.

But
then I thought about it all a little bit more. Today I have extremely
weak and brittle bones caused by malnutrition while Sarah is just really
clean from all of the bubble baths. Tests from my last doctor visit
indicate that my eating disorder might have even damaged my kidney
function. I guess I am not so rough and tough after all. The fact is
that I have known people who were acting out just like I did who are now
dead today. I was playing a game with my life day by day; I was not
being tough. And I was not being smart.

The fact is that after all
of my bingeing, purging, and starving episodes, I always felt guilty,
ashamed, and completely depressed and isolated from the rest of the
world. My choice of relief from overwhelming emotions forced me into a
cold and lonely dungeon filled only with despair. On the opposite side
of the fence, Sarah was actually feeling really calm and peaceful
following her evenings of various personal relaxation techniques. I have
since learned that other people use mediation and prayer in times of
need. Apparently there are all kinds of ways to deal with life instead
of food! Maybe Sarah — the amateur — really is on to something.

Bubble
baths instead of bingeing was a whole new ballgame for me. I am still
gaining experience in the bubble department. But in that moment with
Sarah, I had to hang up the phone and deal with my emotions — like an
amateur.

Eric Jenni Fun Pic
Reenactment of Eric's proposal in January!

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24 Comments

  1. Robyn said:

    GREAT PHOTO!! I do yoga breathing in shivasana pose to self soothe- also giving myself a manicure always feels good 🙂

    August 2, 2013
    Reply
  2. Thanks so much, Robyn! Yoga is wonderful. Pedicures and manicures are super relaxing as well. And let’s not forget about massage!

    August 5, 2013
    Reply
  3. PTC said:

    Congrats Jenni,
    I am about 20 pages away from finishing “Almost Anorexic.” I’ve enjoyed reading it. I’ve always thought, “I don’t have a real ED,” since I’ve never been hospitalized or anything, and I think the book might have reinforced that thought, I don’t know. I do know that I think the book is great. I could definitely relate to a lot. Sometimes I do read parts and think that I could probably benefit from more than just therapy, but I’m not willing to go there, so it is what it is. I’m going to see if my T wants to borrow it when I’m done. I know she loves you and your books.

    August 11, 2013
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