Christmas Meal Experience

Charlie article 1

Christmas Meal Experience

So, I am a lived experience volunteer. I have been in recovery 7/8 years and the last part of the recovery I have found hardest is eating out. I was recently invited to work Christmas meal.

I'd never met any staff apart from online, but I thought in order to be further on my journey I need to push myself and go.

I was nervous ever since I said yes. I did all the right things before going from my toolbox (strategies to help myself). Over the day I was distracting myself with little jobs. Made sure I had breakfast and snacks throughout the day. Calming breathing and when driving a playlist of my favourite songs.

When I arrived to a new place I hadn't been before I realised I was with strangers. Don't get me wrong everyone was super friendly and lovely but I got in my own head that I had to eat in front of people I didn't know. I found I seat I felt happy in and the route to the exit/toilets. 2 things I like to check on my strategies.

I was hot and it was loud. I realised I'd made a mistake sitting in the corner although leaning against the fireplace was cooling. I thought I can always switch seats but was too nervous to move. Everyone was super friendly introducing themselves and very kind, but I'd got into my own head.

I decided I couldn't do it and as I said to the table I was sat on, I also burst into tears. I felt like such an idiot.

As I left the restaurant, someone took me aside. They were amazing and immediately calmed me down with distraction and reassurance. I said I think I felt myself getting overwhelmed and found this first bit the worst.

I went back and sat near two people I trusted. I felt reassurance and ate the meal I'd ordered.

Overall, apart from that one moment I enjoyed the whole evening. After getting in the car I rang my husband and he said I was brave. This can be hard to hear as it often doesn't feel brave.

My advice is that no recovery is linear. It’s a wobbly line. You will have times when you think wow I've come so far and times when things seem such a struggle.

Just roll with it. I felt like an idiot but also aware that with an eating disorder even with so long in recovery, these feelings are our normal.

Time with your ED brain and recovery will help your acceptance and knowledge. I have been, over the years, eating out with my husband and family and before going to a new place with strangers, we go there first. We just didn't this year. I've come far.

What I should have done differently:

I hadn't been there first to check it out. I didn't share with someone how I felt or helped myself to get a buddy, so I found it overwhelming.

I think that we should remember that by doing some simple things like talking to a trusted person it can make the difference to a fun and enjoyable evening.

Important My WINS:

-I ordered a main and ate it. This started with just a starter or pudding years ago but I had a main.

-I pushed myself and went regardless of the blip.

-I relaxed and put my trust into someone safe. This was pivotal in enjoying the evening.

-I stayed.