*Disclaimer: I am not using WTF or intend to use it in a derogatory way in this post and video.
Over the course of my healing journey, I’ve been educated countless times about how my eating disorder thoughts and behaviors serve to distract me from painful feelings. Other types of coping strategies, like gambling, shopping, isolating, drinking, drugs, and sex, to name a few, function in the same way: these behaviors protect us from what we don't necessarily want to deal with or feel. And quite frankly, there are all kinds of "smaller" but just as stealthy behaviors that we all engage in consciously or not to avoid what hurts. After all, who wants to feel the sting of unhappiness, sadness, disappointment, or anger, right?
I went through a phase of questioning how much of my unhealthy ways actually served to numb pain or were simply habit. Let’s face it, if you do something repetitiously over and over again, it becomes a habitual way of life.
After a few slips and backslides in my recovery, I came to the hard truth that it was dangerous to call my eating disorder a habit. Doing so let me off the hook. It allowed me to disconnect from my feelings and became an easy excuse for restricting or obsessive bodychecking. It also allowed me to settle for a life as a functioning anorexic. But that was not the life I really wanted. Not at all!
The only way to rise above this new habit of thinking of my eating disorder as a habit, was to get back to the feelings. Ugh…the feelings, feelings, feelings! But I needed a new way to decode my eating disorder thoughts and behaviors–one that allowed me to look at my feelings but that didn’t smack of the trillions of times I was asked about my feelings in treatment or therapy.
This is what I came up with: WTF. Or, “What’s the Feeling?” WTF is a catchy acronym (for obvious reasons), so why not put it to work in a very productive and helpful way?
Curious about how? I invite you to watch my video about how I use WTF in my life to stay on top of what's really going on inside. This simple practice has been a game changer for me. It's helped me to stay present to my experiences. By asking myself "WTF" when the urge strikes to rely on my eating disorder symptoms or some other unhealthy coping behavior, I almost always uncover the real problem, which for me is usually around feelings of overwhelm.
Look, I know it’s hard, painful, tiring work, this day in and day out journey called life and the healing we must do to live it fully. But, just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we can’t smile or even chuckle to ourselves once in awhile. So ask yourself this fun acronym: "WTF?." Say it over and over until you feel what you have to feel. Let this other “WTF” become a positive and lasting habit to keep you honest with yourself and more present to your experiences.