In the midst of your efforts to heal from your eating disorder I ask you to take a few moments and answer this question: What is happiness to you?
Years ago I worked with a woman in my practice, 38 years old, struggling with binge eating and purging, married to an emotionally abusive man, mother of two small children. After a year of being in psychotherapy with me she said, since she had stopped purging she intended to stop her therapy. She wasn't in pain anymore.
I asked her, "Is absence of pain enough?" Three years later she came back. She said, "I remember what you asked me. I thought absence of pain was enough. And then the pain came back, and now it's worse than ever."
Ending your eating disorder behavior is only the beginning of your healing journey. The goal is not simply to put an end to your bulimia or anorexia or binge eating or compulsive eating. The goal is to honor and develop yourself as a full human being so you can recognize and go for what happiness means to you.
In the throes of an eating disorder, happiness might be getting through a day without acting out your eating disorder behaviors. Happiness might be having a few weeks or months of abstinence. These are joyous times of accomplishment that give you a sense of what freedom could be like.
With freedom comes space and the ability to make choices. With health comes energy that you can direct toward what honors your authentic desires.
Happiness is not absence of pain. Happiness is its own special state that is created differently by each of us. It's not a duplication of someone else's happiness. It's yours.
As part of your recovery work I invite you to explore what happiness means to you. My client learned that absence of abuse was good, but it was a milestone on her way to what happiness was for her. Happiness, when I last saw her, was sending her children off to school with a light heart and seeing them free of anxiety and eager to get into their day. It was doing some light gardening before she left for a job she enjoyed. It was sharing week ends with friends she liked. It was earning her own money and spending it as she chose. She was happy being her own woman.
What might happiness look like for you?