The other day, a client said to me “It feels like everywhere I turn I keep getting told that in order to recover I have to learn Self-Care. If I am being honest, I just don’t really get what a bath has to do with me getting well, nor does it feel that helpful in the moment.”
Oh my goodness could I ever appreciate what they were saying. Self-care is a really popular term right now in the wellness world and it feels like everywhere we turn we keep getting told that it’s the solution to most things. In reality, I stand behind self-care being a critical part of recovery. Not because a bath (or any other form of self-care) is the answer to your struggles, rather because learning to engage in a respectful and kind way towards yourself is what turns your relationship with yourself from destructive to healthy.
When someone struggles with an eating disorder, they are basically living with an abuser inside of their head. Given the nature of these disorders, individuals develop a really neglectful relationship with themselves. Hunger and fullness cues get denied, they often push their bodies to unhealthy limits, and that voice in their head is extremely cruel and judgmental. Naturally, we can’t keep treating ourselves this way and learn to have a loving relationship with ourselves. Essentially, I have never met anyone who has hated themselves into wellness.
So what role does self-care play? Self-care is learning to engage with yourself differently. Some of those things will be simply about doing something fun/nice/relaxing like taking a bath, listening to music, or connecting with a friend. Other times it’s about doing what you know you need to do to feel and be well. For example, saying no to things that don’t work for you, taking the time to meal plan and prep, and intentionally scheduling downtime into your week. At some point in our recovery we have to commit to doing things differently, to going against our eating disorder’s wishes. Self-care is a component of this and, arguably, a requirement to wellness. So the next time you hear take a bath, try to not hear the bath as the solution to your recovery. Instead, hear the bath as an example of you committing to having a healthier, more compassionate relationship with yourself.