Self-care can feel like torture.

Don’t get me wrong, self-care is crucial to our overall wellness. Our minds, bodies, and souls all require conscious actions that rejuvenate us, that refill our batteries to take on each day’s tasks and challenges.

The struggle with self-care is when it’s the last thing we feel like doing. Why should taking care of yourself turn into a civil war in your mind? Well, that’s all thanks to a little friend many know as Ed. In clinical terms, Ed can any variance of an eating disorder. And “disorder” doesn’t even begin to cover the havoc they can wreak.

I remember first meeting Ed back before middle school. Picture a stereotypical image of a small ballet studio: creaky barres nailed onto the walls, a giant mirror gleaming on another wall, and a room full of little girls in dancing garb. As one of those said little girls, noticing how others’ leotards didn’t bunch up, how others’ pink tights didn’t get chafed between the legs...let’s just say I was in for many years of self-harm and loathing.

What’s normal for some feels completely alien to me, including acts of self-care. Even since considering myself in constant recovery, I fear that my idea of “normal” won’t ever be up to par. 

I still have nonexistent or odd hunger cues I struggle to follow.

I still don’t know how to eat until truly satisfied, not by makeshift portion sizes. 

I still feel uncomfortable in restaurants and dining with other people.

I still automatically think of burned calories during any exercise. 

I still look in the mirror and lovingly accept what I see.

While I’m leaps and bounds ahead of where I used to be, these simple acts of self-care still make me anxious. Frustration creeps up in this anxiety, wishing that I could innately know and practice balance. How much easier life and self-care would be not having an inkling to restrict or exercise or define the world by numbers…

Self-care isn’t necessarily meant to be easy. In fact, if a self-care act is challenging, it likely proves how impactful it is to your overall well-being. We assume self-care always looks like face masks and bubble baths, and it feels like zenned-out spa vacation. 

However, self-care usually embodies what our minds fear the most. It’s eating in front of someone else when you’re internally screaming for them to leave. It’s resting even though you know how many calories you just ate. It’s going to a restaurant without memorizing the nutritional facts of every item. It’s actually eating when your stomach growls. It’s buying the correct pants size, even if it’s bigger than you used to wear. 

Our comfort zone can seem like a beautiful place. It can feel like your garden of Eden to play God and control every detail. 

Alas, that search for perfection and control is only an illusion. We’re human, and we aren’t meant to live within strict boundaries. Nothing will ever grow in your comfort zone. You’ll never evolve. You’ll stifle your potential to be truly healthy and balanced. 

Acts of self-care challenge our disordered expectations. Even if, in the moment, they feel like torture, I know that they are molding me into someone free from Ed’s whims. I might not be completely cleared of that influence, but I can move forward despite it. 

Self-care is a decision to make every day. Ask yourself, “What do I value? Who is the person I want to embody?” Self-care is incorporated and necessary every step of the way. 

Yes, it’s difficult, but boy, is it worth it.

Learn more about Allie’s story here:

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