At a certain stage in eating disorder recovery you discover new feelings that you don't act out over but don't understand. You have energy you don't know what to do with because you're not using it to binge or obsess. Old obsessive patterns that filled your time have fallen away, and you don't know what to do with yourself. You get little or no satisfaction from your job or school or social exchanges. Now what?

This is a critical time of healing and life building. The foundation of your life based on the eating disorder and all it blocked from your awareness is gone. It's time to build anew, and you are not sure how to begin.

Instead of going back to the old familiar eating disorder for comfort and prison, you want to move into the unknown but you don't know how.

Here's something I often offer patients in my psychotherapy practice when they are transitioning from one way of living to another and don't know what to do.

My basic premise is that deep inside you know what you care about, but may not recognize it yet or be able to articulate it. Everything you've done in the past (including believe it or not, your eating disorder) gives you rich resources and a solid background for that which is yet unknown to you.

You may have something vague in mind like, you want to make a difference, or you want to be with stimulating and kind people or you want to live a creative life.

When I was at this stage in my recovery my goal was to wake up in the morning when I was in my forties, feeling good about myself and happy about what I was going to do that day. That's all I had, but it was enough to start my new life in recovery.

So what I offer patients at this stage, and follow it myself too, is this: Get a quality school extension catalog - I'm fortunate in Los Angeles to be able to use the huge and vast UCLA extension catalog. If you don't have access to that, get, other catalogs, big ones, that offer a wide range of classes. If you are in an area where this is not available, go to school catalogs online.

Then, sit down with them in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea and turn pages or scroll screens. Don't scan or flip through sections you think don't apply to you. Go to every page and read descriptions of all the classes that offered.

Each class represents the career path of many people and an avocational interest of many others. Classes on topics that never entered your imagination will present themselves.

Make a note of what appeals to you, challenges you, interests you. Make a note of what you discount fast because it's too hard and involves too much - whatever - money, time, youth, age, body type, health, courage, talent, courage, experience.

Sometimes those quickly discounted topics are the very areas that are the most meaningful to you and that you have kept out of your reach for some reason that no longer or never did apply.

After you do this, and it can take weeks, pick one or two of these classes and take them. Put yourself in an environment where something that appeals to you surrounds you. You don't have to be able to articulate the reason. Your finding the class or topic appealing is all you need to justify your enrolling.

Meet the people who are attracted to this topic. They'll be in your class and teaching these classes.

Each class you take, based on this kind of selection, will add to your skills and knowledge (i.e. look good on a resume). Each will bring you closer to discovering how you can discover your new way of living that encompasses your deeply held values that the eating disorder buried.

You are coming alive now in a new and authentic way. At this stage you are learning to trust your own authenticity

Of course, you can tweak this suggestion however way you wish. It might be tempting to take online classes. If that's your only option because you are in an isolated area, okay. But the best course is to take classes that are in face to face real time. This allows you to you interact with the real people associated with the areas you choose to explore.

This is a grand adventure, especially since you are qualified in ways you may not recognize and open now to learn and discover way and means to honor your authentic self.

Please let me know how you progress, and how you answer your question, "What next?"

A few suggestions to get you started:
UCLA Extension
Harvard University
Ohio State University Extension
University of Missouri Extension

Tip: search on your town, state and cities in your area.
Add terms like: extension programs, public classes, educational opportunities, classes.

Play with terms like: school, university, adult education, museum, arboretum.

Add words that relate to something you are curious about. You'll find amazing things that intrigue you and that are available to you if you reach out and "go for it"!

Author's Bio: 

My name is Joanna and I have thought of myself as a writer since I was eight years old. When I was 13 I developed an eating disorder, bulimia, and suffered for many years. In high school I wrote a newspaper column for the local paper and worked on the school paper in high school and college. When I found recovery for my bulimia I was already a psychotherapist and dedicated my private practice to eating disorder recovery. Now I find that I am writing about eating disorder recovery as part my commitment to not only heal but prevent eating disorders. Conari Press gave me a contract to write a self help book on eating disorder recovery for adult women. I love how my long held passions and commitments are coming together. I have a private practice in Los Angeles, where I specialize in working with people who want eating disorder recovery and who want a satisfying and successful life beyond recovery.

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