Recovery Revision Cards

I had an eating disorder for 12 years and however motivated and determined to recover I was, changing such long standing habits was (and still is) hard work. A lot of people with eating disorders find that they start out with very good intentions, but when things get hard they kind of forget what they are doing and why and go back to the eating disorder almost on automatic pilot. So I hit upon the idea of writing down the reasons that I want to recover and some useful coping skills on some revision flash cards. Yes, I admit it, I am a nerd 😛 but I have found this very helpful. I used to carry them around with me in my bag and read them every day, and more often when I am having a tough day, but I don’t need them very often anymore now. I would definitely recommend doing this if you have a hard time keeping in mind why you want to get better 🙂

The first card reads:
REMEMBER:
* Recovery is my choice. I could relapse again if I wanted to, but I choose not to
* I cannot have half an eating disorder, I will end up in crisis. I do not want to just be a functional anorexic
* I don’t want to get stuck in a cycle of partial recovery and relapse forever – chronic anorexia is no life
* Any feelings of powerlessness, helplessness and fear are symptoms of the eating disorder. Genuine power comes with recovery
* The control and safety that anorexia promises are illusions
* I have so much potential and life ahead of me. Anorexia gets me nowhere but stuck
* The eating disorder doesn’t genuinely help me cope with depression and anxiety – it makes them worse in the long term
* Losing weight doesn’t solve the real problems, so the goal posts always move – it’s never enough, like a drug
* Being at my lowest weight was hell. I was just as suicidal, terrified and chaotic as I was before I was admitted to hospital two years ago, so it really didn’t work as a way to keep me numb and safe
* People DO recover, from all depths of the disorder.
* My recovery is dependent on no one but me
* Recovery doesn’t guarantee me health and happiness, but anorexia DOES guarantee me illness, disability and misery
* Thoughts about restricting and losing weight are symptoms, nothing to do with my desires or values. I do not want what anorexia wants for me.
* Separate, disagree and disobey (from ‘Life Without Ed’)

Card #2
I want…
to trust myself, to feel safe, to feel stable, to be happy, to have confidence, to feel real, to participate rather than observe, to be able to lose myself in things, to communicate and connect, to make people proud of me, to be genuinely strong, resilientand powerful, to life before I die, to run the London marathon, to travel, to have a career, to help people, to have a fulfilling social life, to be free around food
I don’t want…
to be stuck in a cycle of relapse and recovery forever, to have osteoporosis to add to the list of illnesses I already have, to make my digestive problems even worse, to have the immune system of a cancer patient (that hit me harder than anything else my GP told me when I came home from York – my white cell count was terrible), to be a hermit and do my only socialising online, to be weak, exhausted, out of control and powerless, to be incapable of thinking about anything but food, to lose my personality and feel like a zombie again, to be controlled and dictated to by an illness, to waste my life chasing after lies and illusions, to keep dropping out of life, to do irreversible damage or even die

Card #3 (random affirmations, mostly written down after last week’s problems with anxiety)
* Don’t feel helpless – I am not. Fight back.
* I am in control of my mind and my body
* I am not going to get physically ill again – a lot of my physical symptoms are caused by anxiety
* The anorexia wants me to find eating difficult, but now I know this I will find it easy again
* I am ok. Support is useful but this is MY recovery, and I can do this.

Card #4
Five truths about fear (from ‘Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway’ – a bit corny but helpful to remember!)
1. The fear will never go away as long as I continue to challenge myself
2. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out there and do it
3. The only way to feel better about myself is to go out there and do it
4. Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I am on unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else
5. Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness

Card #5
DBT coping strategies
* Observe-describe-participate. Non judgmentally-one mindfully-effectively
* Distract using activities, contributing, comparisons, opposite to emotion action, pushing away, other thoughts and sensations
* Self soothe, using vision, touch, taste (or maybe not 😛 ), smell, hearing
* Improve the moment using imagery, meaning, prayer, relaxation, focusing on one thing, taking a brief vacation from life, cheerleading and encouragement
* Write down pros and cons of tolerating emotions vs not
* Other coping ideas: worry stone, go for a walk, get my poi out, remember when I felt differently, focus on breathing

Card #6 (kind of adapted to suit my situation from a book on addiction)
* Take decisive action – don’t doubt that I am doing the right thing
* Remember there is nothing to ‘give up’ – I don’t want or need it
* Never say ‘I can’t’ – I COULD relapse, but I choose not to
* Don’t go out of my way to avoid situations/triggers – I will have to deal with them at some point
* Don’t envy others and never think the grass is greener
* Get busy living!

8 responses to “Recovery Revision Cards

  1. THANK YOU for sharing these, and your story.

  2. i love this.thankyou:)

    thank you so much for sharing this, im going to make some vcards up to carry around with me today:)

    vics x

  3. Thank you for sharing these. I just found your blog, and I am at the beginning stages in my recovery. I found card 1 and 2 particularly helpful and wrote down a few so that I can remember these when I need them

  4. Love this idea. Might steal it for myself! 😉

  5. sanabituranima

    “My recovery is dependent on no one but me” – I’m glad you found that helpful, and I can see why it would protect you from thinking external circumstances or other people being nasty mean that you “have to” relapse, but I’m not sure it’s true. I don’t think people can recover without any external support.

    • I wasn’t implying any of that, although I see how bullet point form might mislead 😉 I just meant that no one was going to force me to get better, which was both terrifying and liberating all at once. I kept hoping someone was going to rescue me while I was ill, whereas the reality was that I was even told no one would/could stop me committing suicide while IP in a psychiatric ward. That attitude from the professionals made me feel hopeless and desperate for years, but eventually I decided I’d had enough and was going to throw everything I could into recovery. It wasn’t as if I had anything left to lose.

      That particular bullet point was to remind me that the EDU weren’t going to do a thing to help other than potentially feed me up by a few pounds if I dropped a couple more, so it was entirely my choice whether I stayed sick, regained the bare minimum of weight or recovered fully. I’ve known one or two people to recovery completely without support though…

      • I can relate to the hoping to be rescued. In the early days I very much thought like that (I was terribly naive, thought Mummy and Daddy/ counselors could solve aaall my problems…

        From what I’ve gathered, the EDU here basically just get you up to a reasonable weight and then leave you to it. It’s kind of sad there’s little in the way of support for adults with EDs but that’s the way it is. (I always get annoyed when people tell me to ‘see a Doctor’, I point out I have, there are just long waiting lists, the local EDU only takes emergencies and a Doctor isn’t going to magic me better anyway. They just throw prozac at you and say ‘why don’t you eat? You’ll feel so much better!’ *sigh*) I’m getting to the realistic stage where I realise I’m going to have to cure my own disorder. No one’s going to make me do it!

        But yeah, thanks for sharing your experience. It’s been really useful and encouraging reading. I feel more confident I can do it alone and recovery isn’t scary (my alternative is to be a paranoid, starving nervous wreck whose previous ‘recovery’ attempts just lapse into restrict/ reactive eat cycles right back into relapse…)

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