For most, Thanksgiving is encompassed with utter warmth—from comfort food to relaxing with the family to seeing the best in all life has to offer, this holiday exudes a sense of wholehearted happiness. However, for someone in recovery from an eating disorder, Thanksgiving is associated not with an utter warmth, but with a broken warmth. Yes, we are grateful for what we have and happy to spend time with our loved ones like everyone else, but often underlying feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety over the impending feast overwhelm us. To me, Thanksgiving has often represented a test to see how far I have truly walked down the road of recovery. And the thought of failing, the thought of my shortcoming blatantly coming to light in a sky of darkness, is irrevocably terrifying.
Thankfully, there are steps we can take to help us cope with the fear surrounding our “test.” Like any other important exam we would take for school, we can prepare. Don’t feel ashamed if you are not at a place in your recovery yet to spontaneously and freely eat. The best thing you can do for yourself is to accept not only how far you have yet to go, but how far you have come. The best thing you can do to alleviate your stress, to ensure future progress, is to meal plan ahead of time. However, with that being said, if you feel up for the challenge of celebrating fully in the present, dive right in.
In addition, don’t be afraid to share your fears and ask for help from your loved ones….being scared doesn’t make you any less grateful for all that you have. Asking for help instead of giving it is not being selfish. Merely, it means that you are treating yourself kindly, that in a way, you are treating your mind selflessly. Being vulnerable with those who you love shows them that you trust them enough to put your heart in their hands. What is a better gift, a better “thank-you” present than opening up your heart and soul, your emotions, the good and the bad, to someone? I can’t think of anything.
Finally, realize what Thanksgiving is truly about. Although the delicious scents of freshly baked pumpkin pie and turkey fresh out of the oven are definitely added bonuses, the true essence of Thanksgiving lies within the spiritual experience of living every moment with love, compassion, and most importantly, gratitude. Thanksgiving is a day where we come together, bonded by love and friendship and our shared humanity, to express why we cherish life, why even the mere thought of death is harrowing. Thanksgiving is a day where we come together, bonded by our triumphs and failures and trials and tribulations, to remind ourselves that we are thankful for the chaotic, crazy, yet beautiful mess that is life. Thanksgiving is a day where we focus on not what we have yet to attain, but praise ourselves for our inner strength and fortitude, for ceaselessly beating against the current.
During Thanksgiving and the days leading up to it, live by the mantra that recovery is worth it, because there is so much to be grateful for, that the blessing of love, of life, of home can never be measured by any inanimate scale. Remember why you started recovery to begin with, because there is so much worth fighting for, there are so many reasons to hold on just a little longer. And remember to live life like everyday is Thanksgiving, because the more you celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate. Because gratitude is the key that unlocks the door to future happiness, wisdom, and the wonder in each and every moment in time.