Existentialism and Recovery, Part 3

Modern life does not often force us to rethink our basic philosophy years into adulthood. There are certain circumstances--such as illness or tragedy--that do so, but many of the comforts of the western world mean basic necessities are a given.

Granted, it is easy to be lulled into a deep sense of complacency and live out our days, and many of us do live that way. However, the process of eating disorder recovery mandates a profound inward exploration.

Meaning for someone with an eating disorder always revolves around food and weight. Whether positive or negative, food and weight are the primary aspects of life that matter. Everything else is secondary.

It often takes years to realize that prioritizing food and weight pushes everything else down the list. There is no room for meaningful life changes in these circumstances. That realization is usually very painful because it begs the question of what is lost by ignoring so much of life for the disorder. It's often a triumph of the mind to even engage in this conversation.  

At this point any discussion of recovery has to avoid the discussion of regret, bitterness or unfairness. These feelings or thoughts may have a role in the long run but threaten the real discussion of life right now. An existential discussion must focus on what is important at the moment, how to start down a path that will make those things possible and how the eating disorder limits living one's life fully. 

But the discussion has no clear guidelines. There is no specific type of therapy or plan that makes a conversation about the human condition any easier. I, like any other therapist or any other person, am just another human engaged in this challenging and scary topic.

But an honest, heartfelt, genuine experience discussing these issues can make several things clear. Life cannot move forward without changes in priorities. This is our chance to live. Decisions we make now matter more than anything. 

The final aspect of existentialism lies in living in the present moment. Eating disorder thoughts co-opt one's mind to spend the present focused only on food and weight. Any other thoughts are relegated to the future, which is put off indefinitely.

All we have is now, and blind pursuit to remake the past or focus on the future clears the way to ignore the present. In recovery, eating sufficiently means facing the thoughts of the illness now in order to live in a new way. It's a leap of faith to trust that this new direction will create true, deeper meaning in life.

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