BALANCE blog intern Roxannah Hunter shares the importance of feeling emotions and empowering ourselves to do the exact things we fear. In eating disorder recovery or not, learning to embrace and conquer fear is a powerful lesson for all.
by: Roxannah Hunter
I sit in front of my computer screen afraid. Afraid that I don’t have anything good enough to say. Afraid that I can’t do what I actually want. Afraid that I will fail.
I’ve taken a bath and a two hour nap. I’ve tidied my room, folded laundry, and paid a few overdue bills. I’ve even lit a candle and launched a relentless searched for my glasses.
When I started organizing all the folders on my Google drive, I knew I was procrastinating.
You see. I want comfort. I want to curl up in bed with my soft, fleece blanket and sip tea. I want to scroll through Instagram fantasizing about perfect wardrobes and lux vacations. I want to turn on Netflix and get lost in worlds not my own.
But chasing after and looking for this ease doesn’t get me where I want to go. It gets me far from it.
That’s why, on a Saturday afternoon, I sit in front of my computer screen and do the very thing that scares me. I write. I write for you and I write for me about one of the hardest battles I have ever faced in my life- my battle with an eating disorder. And while it has been over a decade since I received treatment and used anorexia as a way to cope, I still struggle.
Like my reclusive desires, I want to stick my head in the sand and deny the fact that my eating disorder is something that is still with me. It seems as if it is a part of my DNA and the fabric of my life. Not in the way it used to be where it ruled me, but like a ugly mole that I want remove or at least cover up.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic pill that will take this struggle away and there is no doctor that can surgically remove this part of me. My recovery is dependent on me.
When I was in rehab, there was a portion of my treatment that I never really understood until years later. Known as exposure therapy, the technique involves exposing a person to the very thing that causes them anxiety, fear or unwanted emotion within a safe context that eliminates harm. For me, that “thing” was eating food and this “exposure therapy” just seemed plain cruel.
The choices for breakfast, lunch, and dinner were anxiety goldmines that included the fear foods I had sworn off since I started restricting. The amount of anxiety I had over these fear foods was intense. I questioned the integrity of my treatment program and challenged the philosophy behind the prescribed diet.
But a funny thing happened.
My body didn’t morph into the horrific monster I thought it would. In fact, I found that I had color in my cheeks and a brightness behind my eyes. I had energy to play a game of soccer, to share a joke with a friend, and put together a 1000 piece puzzle.
The anxiety I once had started to lessen, and the fear- changed.
In treatment, I learned a valuable lesson about the importance of emotions. We need to recognize them, identify them, and deal with them.
Our work with emotions, however, goes one step further. There are times when we must do the opposite of what we feel because our emotions are not always reliable. They are temporary. Here one moment and gone the next. They are only real if we decide to entertain them.
As was the case with eating food, I had fear. It was important for me to recognize this, identify this, and deal with it. In dealing with it, I had to do the opposite of what I felt. I had to do the very thing I was afraid of.
When we face our fears a powerful thing happens. We transform them from a place of bondage to a place of empowerment.
That’s why I am here, at my computer screen, writing. I feel the fear, but I do it anyway knowing that this fear is already shaping and shifting into something different than what is was when I typed my first words.
It is important to note that fear is a healthy emotion- one that keeps us safe and out of trouble. The fear I am talking about here is not the same one that protects a child when they go to touch a hot burner. The fear I am talking about is the fear that is unfounded, rooted in lies, and simply not true. At times, it is hard to tell one from the other and in those cases we need the help from others who know which is which.
But we all know at least one fear in our life that needs to be challenged. For me, it was my fear with food and today it my fear with writing. I know that to be free from both I have to move towards it and not shrink away.
And so I lean in and watch how the fear changes, transforms...then completely passes away.
This post was written by BALANCE blog intern Roxannah Hunter.
Roxannah is a teacher, collegiate athlete, and writer who feels passionately about creating space for people to be seen in their human experience and a place to support them to craft a vision beyond their current situation. She loves yoga, pizza, and her cat Bodhi. She is excited to share insights from her recovery journey as a contributing writer at Balance.