A reader asks,
"There are still things that I struggle with that I do not blog about, such as how my eating disorder is related to my fears of growing up and regression issues. I think a lot of people with EDs struggle with fears of growing up and regression- especially adolescents. I feel like a lot of people know that they struggle with this, but they're not very open about it. I would love to see you post something about eating disorders and fears of growing up. I've done my research and my therapist also tells me it is very common."
It is quite common. You're not alone. My hardest time within my own eating disorder was when I went away to college. I was turning 18 and everything seemed like a huge transition for me. I was becoming an adult, I was adapting to living on my own, I was figuring out who I was and what I wanted. I was making new kinds of friends. I was becoming more and more independent. It was very strange and made me very anxious.
I remember a time, as an older adolescent, that being dependent on my parents just seemed safer to me. It felt more natural and more comforting. I felt like growing up was completely out of my comfort zone.
And I think that's really what's at the heart of this issue: growing up feels unnatural. Why? Because you are so used to being young. You aren't used to being an adult because you've never been one yet. So how can you like it? Understand it? Be okay with it?
Some people are just better at adapting than others. I wasn't one of those people. I was anxious and I was looking for a way to make myself feel better about the whole thing. Cue eating disorder. I don't mean to say that my eating disorder stemmed completely from the fear of growing up, but that fear certainly played a part in my anxiety, in my transitional thinking, and in my eating disorder development.
I think being a kid is (normally) associated with feeling safe. So NOT being a kid often feels like the opposite.
The question then becomes, my friends, WHAT can you do to make you feel safer as you embark upon the journey of growing up? What's going to make you feel better about the whole strange thing?
A few suggestions:
1) Don't let go of childhood completely. Keep something with you/near you that represents comfort to you, whether it be a blanket, a picture, a stuffed animal, a book, a doll, etc. You'd be surprised how the memories and the feelings that go along with that object sink into your subconscious when you look at it/hold it while you're feeling anxious.
2) Talk to someone (or more than one someone!) who represents great adulthood to you. Someone you admire. Someone who is not very far from your own age. For example, if you're 18, maybe someone in their mid to late 20s would be able to make you realize that growing up can be just as good as staying a kid. Seek someone out who embodies positivity... someone who can be a role model... someone you like to be around. Let those encounters/talks/discussions be a guide into the future.
3) Remember that you're not alone. Everyone grows up sometimes. It's not necessarily a fun process, but it doesn't have to be terrible. Ask yourself why you're really afraid. What is it specifically about growing up that makes you so anxious that you want to regress?