“Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives.”

-Brene Brown

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Post-therapy thoughts // small steps matter

I had therapy today, and I’ve been doing better and growing a lot but I told her how it feels like no matter what progress I make, it always feels like there are more layers underneath. One of those layers is the belief that I don’t deserve to exist. We talked about where it came from, and my parents and childhood. With other beliefs like ‘not good enough’, I can now debunk and ignore, the ‘undeserving‘ belief is so deep rooted. She asked me to apply that to others- what would make someone unworthy of life? I truly believe I cannot determine someone’s worth. It’s not my place to say that a person doesn’t deserve life. She asked me, so why do I do that to myself? I said that my parents treated me like I was unworthy, so I have to be. She asked if I could see that perhaps my parents didn’t meet my emotional needs, not because I was a bad person or ‘not good enough’… probably not even because of any reasons related to me as a person, but rather them and their circumstances. I think, yeah, I can definitely see it because my parents don’t even take care of their own emotional needs so they wouldn’t think of mine. But still, I cannot shake it off, this deep deep wound. I didn’t want to open up too much during the session though, I didn’t feel ready to explore that? Anyway, she said when we have fractured attachments, we often base our worth on how we are treated in our relationships but the truth is, not all our relationships will meet our emotional needs. Also, by trying to protect ourselves, we deny ourselves the full experience of relationships including pain and fear and rejection, and creating distance in a relationship can impact the other person as well. She also got me to recognize that this belief feels very true but it comes from the narrative I’ve had growing up and not having emotional needs met.

It’s very very loud in my brain but it’s a false belief, and she said “you can remind yourself that your brain is repeating this, but it is repeating something false and repeating it more doesn’t make it right”.

I told her how I’ve recently realized the importance of being secure in myself? I know that I can’t ever fully feel safe and secure in relationships if I don’t feel safe in myself first. I have to accept myself first and allow myself to be, to build a home within myself. She agreed that this internal resiliency can be help, and that I actually can cope with uncertainty and pain in relationships/attachment issues. Because I so often feel like I’m putting up a facade, with people, with myself, and the only way to heal that is to heal the dissociation with myself. She also mentioned ways of finding self compassion, and I said what helps is writing to myself at another point in time, regardless of past-me or future-me. I realized, that under the screaming beliefs of unworthy/bad/awful, I do have a lot of love and compassion for myself because I have a lot of love and compassion for others, and a lot of love and compassion in general. So I do have that capacity. I just can’t ever feel it in the moment because the beliefs are so loud. I told her how I can believe others, I can believe they care about me, I can see that maybe my beliefs are false. She mentioned that was a lot of progress for me, even just being able to find compassion, because a few years ago I couldn’t see any way that my negative beliefs might be false.

I feel like I’ve really moved forward in terms of mental and emotional progress but behaviorally I still get really stuck, which is strange because for many people the behavioral aspect of recovery comes first. She said that “the way you’ve learnt to cope with emotions, is through rationalizing it because you’re such an intellectual person. But just because you’re able to rationalize it, doesn’t make it any easier for you. in fact, it can make things harder sometimes. have some of that self compassion for yourself”. Just because I know what recovery ‘should’ be doesn’t make it easier for me. She said “this is going to be really really hard for you and that’s how it is and the more we can accept that, the easier it is for us.” I brought up that mentally I can understand things and fight the thoughts but physically, the anxiety around food gets so intense. Even talking about it makes me anxious and she said she could see that through my body language. She mentioned that “it’s going to take a while for your body to catch up with you mentally” and the hard part is that there’s nothing I can do to control it or help myself, except to accept it and tolerate it and not to make it worst.

“Recovery is not easy, it is hard for you and it is okay that it is hard.”

I told her how I realize humans suck at acknowledging we aren’t in control of much in life, and how we feel the need to be in control. I still find myself constantly wanting to be sick, and I don’t know why. She said there can be a lot of comforts, and with anorexia the ‘pros’ can be very alluring and it’s often a quick fix in the short term. It’s easier to skip a meal or exercise for a few hours to feel better about yourself than to tolerate the uncertainty of not knowing, or the discomfort of feeling. With any dysfunctional coping skill, it’s often efficient and she said it’s really really hard recognizing that your coping skills aren’t helping you, because that means you’re left with nothing for a while. But I do think she believes I can do it. She said that “especially as we grow older, the uncertainty in life only grows and we never really know how well we’re doing, and that’s scary. One of the best and hardest things you can do for yourself, allowing yourself to learn to tolerate uncertainty. Because we’re never really in control anyway, and even if you don’t want to tolerate it, it’s still going to be there.” I said that’s true and I realize if I’m not allowing something to ‘be’, then I’m running away from it and I’m tired of running. I need to accept, to be.

In terms of behavioral changes though, I told her I didn’t know what is the right amount to push myself and my thoughts are still very black & white. She said that for me, she wanted to push me to learn to see the value in small steps and find balance, to do something that makes me uncomfortable but not too uncomfortable, to think of small steps I can take every single day. She mentioned if I think ‘I’m a failure’, or ‘this is so disordered, what’s the point’, or ‘this isn’t good enough’, such sweeping statements are often b/w. She said she can empathize, because she’s an extreme person as well and it’s hard to find balance. She says this a lot- it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon and taking small steps is better than pushing myself to take a huge leap and then getting scared and running back. She said she’s already seen small steps in terms of my behavioral changes, even in things like talking to people. She agreed that I am pretty good at catching my black & white thinking, but the next step would be to not respond to it. I’m going to try to focus on that I think, and push myself to make small changes, steps I can take everyday or consistently.

I need to let go of my perfectionist expectations, and part of black and white thinking is the expectation that recovery should be easy, or smooth, or perfect. I have to let go of ‘shoulds’ as well, and accept that I will feel awful and it will be hard and that’s okay. I have to accept that my best is enough, I am enough, small steps are enough. I do not have to be perfect to be good enough.

believe in the me that believes in you

It’s funny how truly shocked I am when people express positive opinions of me, and how it touches my heart because I never expect anyone to care about me or think of me as anything but awful. My therapist has said multiple times, that I’m a likeable person. She said that I’m kind and compassionate and empathetic, that she knows I said I don’t want to ever be in a relationship because of my trauma but I deserve fulfilling relationships and anyone would be lucky to have me as a partner, that she finds it hard to believe that people would hate me and that I’m smart and intuitive and insightful and I have so much ahead of me if I recover. My art therapist, even though I’ve only known her a few months, said that she really liked working with me because I was perceptive and intuitive, that I simply have a way of understanding and perceiving things, that she likes what I write and the art I create, that my emotions make me who I am.

Not to mention my friends- twinnie has seen me at all of my lowest points and is still here- if I was really such a bad and ugly person, she wouldn’t have stayed. Cal said something that stuck with me, along the lines of ‘I want you to be okay because you matter a lot to me’ and that just hit me, because I never thought of myself as anything but worthless. Cal has been such an important part of my life and stuck by through this entire process of opening up. She said I was a hard person to hate and my friends seconded that. Sara said that I deserved to treat my body well and take care of it, that I deserved better in life, that I was so strong for going through all of this and her classic ‘you’re such a nice person’ line. Cheryl, whom I’ve only met once irl, literally sat down and said that I deserved to be happy, that I was wise for my age, that I was smart and sensitive and had so much ahead of me, that I was so so strong and I truly deserved to recover- it meant so much to me, to have someone ‘new’ in my life say that? Because she has nothing to gain out of it, she didn’t have to say that, she didn’t have to like me, but she did. Jolyn, whom I’ve met in day program, said that I was kind and lovely and strong, that I deserve to be happy, that she was glad to have met me. She didn’t have to like me either but she did. All of my online friends, kelly/amanda/char/eunice have seen the worst, most shameful parts of me and they somehow still care about me. In the eulogies they’ve written, they’ve all had a common thread, they’ve all said that I was kind, compassionate, worthy, a good friend. Actually, all the fake-eulogies I got from people really did touch me and help me.

I have lived my entire life believing with all of my heart that I am bad and unworthy and disgusting and ugly and unloved and worthless and undeserving and stupid and awful and too emotional and too much and too fat and never ever good enough or perfect enough. I have lived my entire life with the internal compass of ‘I am a bad person, I am not good enough, I do not deserve to exist, nobody will ever love me’ and I have lived my entire life trying to fix myself. I have always believed that if people saw the ‘real me’, nobody would like me, nobody would want to be here- after all, who would care about someone so bad and ugly and awful? I’ve always, always felt like a lie and facade. That people don’t see the ‘real me’, people don’t see how awful of a person I am. I thought if people saw just how much pain I carry, if people saw this gaping hole in my soul, the unhealed wounds in my heart and scars on my body, the burdens and demons and darkness I hold- they would see how ugly I truly am. If they saw how intensely I feel everything, how I spill and overflow and how messy I am- they would see how imperfect I truly am. So I hide that.

I hide me, I hide my feelings and pain and dreams and personality. But I have been growing.

Over the years I have grown to be myself a little more, to be more accepting of my quirks and clumsiness and personality. I still have a million walls but it is progress compared to when I was younger. My therapist mentioned that I always have a barrier up, even in therapy. It’s true and I don’t even realise it- I am making efforts to take it down from time to time. This year, I have made leaps and bounds in opening up to people. It was partially forced by circumstance but this was the first time I have ever truly let myself be vulnerable with people, to let them see the real me, the raw pain. This was the first time I expressed my struggle and feelings, the first time I even told people about the eating disorder, this deep and shameful secret. This was the first time I let myself trust and rely on people a little bit. I had to force myself to do it, and I started forcing myself to be vulnerable online too, to be unafraid of vulnerability.

And despite all of this- my friends and therapists are here, they care about me, they don’t think I’m a failure for feeling this way or being this way, they are proud of the progress I’ve made, they don’t hate me. I worked on this for so long in therapy- on opening up to people, but I didn’t do it until February and I was so shocked when reality proved my beliefs wrong. People saw the truth and didn’t hate me or think I was the worst, most disgusting person on earth. And I learnt that even if people didn’t understand, even if people did leave, I can cope with it.

So maybe, just maybe, in all my recovery and growth- I am starting to try to believe them.

I think I possibly could believe that I am not a bad person. I could believe that not everyone hates me. I think, I could believe that the parts of me I used to hide, my feelings and pain don’t make me any less of a person. Even if I don’t believe them (which is most of the time), I trust these people and I can choose to trust them instead of the beliefs and thoughts in my head. I can choose to believe that they are not lying, that they do care, that I am not such a bad or unworthy person after all because like I tell my friends, “I am not obligated to stay or care about you but I want to do that because you matter to me and you deserve my time and emotions”- and I have to trust that my friends do the same for me. They want to spend time with me because I am not an awful person. I’ve made new friends and they choose to befriend me because I am not an awful person. People say that I deserve to get better because maybe I do deserve to get better. Nobody is obligated to say these things, nobody is obligated to care or stay or bother with me, so I have to trust that they do because they want to and they believe it. So why shouldn’t I believe them? The title of this post is from the my friends, ‘believe in the me that believes in you’ and Cal reminds me of that- even if I can’t believe in myself, I can believe in my friends who do believe in me.

Knowing this is such a wonderful first step, being open to it is such a good step. Being open to the idea that maybe these beliefs I have about myself aren’t facts. I know they are not true, I’ve done this is therapy often throughout the years, but feelings are harder than cognition and someday perhaps I will truly believe I am not a bad person after all.

Post-therapy thoughts // on coping with emotions

Therapy today was surprisingly just really chill and it was nice to talk about all the things I’ve been noticing/thinking about in the past week, and yesterday’s blogpost. We brought up the same things, about coping with emotions.

I’m very black and white, when the reality of our emotional experiences is that being ‘mentally healthy’ is not experiencing more positive emotions but how we choose to react to them. Even the most mentally healthy people aren’t more happy, they just react to their feelings better and that actually decreases suffering. while we can react to our feelings in more helpful or unhelpful ways, we fundamentally cannot control our feelings. The difference between wallowing and allowing ourselves to feel is how we react to emotions. Wallowing is feeling the emotions and then reacting to them in such a way that adds to the emotion (like replaying the thoughts over and over and staying in bed mulling over it) while allowing ourselves to feel is simple the emotional experience of it. It’s emotions vs thoughts.

For me, it’s hard to differentiate because I’m so black and white and if I don’t block out the emotions, I get overwhelmed and I wallow. And allowing myself to feel is just allowing it to be, and responding to it the best I can. Reacting to our feelings with anger or judgement often just makes it worse, and ‘tops up’ the negative feeling. Scientifically speaking it’s impossible for a feeling to last forever, it’s often our own thoughts adding fuel to the fire. Also she gave me the analogy that feeling like your feelings are ‘too much’ is like going out into the cold and saying you’re ‘too cold’ and ‘oh I shouldn’t be this cold, my body is wrong’. Like no, you just get an extra sweater.

My idea of ‘coping’ is this perfect idea of not feeling & being high functioning but coping with our feelings is actually feeling the feelings and doing what we can do to the best of our ability.

She made me think of all the times where I did manage to find the ‘gray’ and not act in a black/white way, the times where I could cope with feelings- like doing my schoolwork despite overwhelm and anxiety, emailing Dr Lee despite not wanting to, eating more despite feeling absolutely crap about it. When I have such high expectations of myself and my recovery, then I not just feel like a disappointment all the time but I also feel like I’m making no progress at all (aka me in the past few years) because fundamentally the problem, my emotions, hasn’t changed. But that won’t change!! She pointed out that I will always experience negative affect when I undergo attachment changes, and if I measure ‘how well I cope’ based on how I feel then technically I’m never ‘getting better’? Even though I could be coping in healthier ways. we can’t externally measure progress based on an internal experience. I have made some progress in terms of the small everyday things and when it comes to change, there is no (I quote) ‘magical unicorn’ change, just the small steps.

When I have such high expectations, it feels like the small steps don’t matter and that’s why she made me identify all the times where I did cope, to show that I actually can do it. And when I acknowledge that I can cope, it increases self efficacy.

She said that I actually can cope, I actually do know how, and I’ve done it. I can cope with the emotions. And I told her about the learned helplessness and how when I feel emotions or feel threatened or overwhelmed, my brain defaults to the idea of ‘this is too much I can’t cope’ and I shut down, because of the learned helplessness. But that’s actually not true, and in the example of my anxiety about schoolwork, how I combated that was letting myself vent the feelings, taking breaks when I need and taking small steps and breaking the workload down and reminding myself that I can do it. We have to let the emotions wash over us like waves- waves can be huge and powerful but even tsunamis will pass.

I feel like there is such a huge backlog of emotions that I don’t have the time or energy to deal with emotions right now on top of school but I already am dealing with them right now either way. My emotions are also only so intense right now because of the backlog of emotions and I don’t want to deal with that backlog because it feels too overwhelming but everything I’m doing to avoid it is only adding onto the backlog and there’s really no way around it. In fact by avoiding the feelings and numbing myself, I’m only rendering myself more incapable of dealing with any emotion.

There’s no way around it, the feelings and the food. I already identified this, the control thing- I am choosing to deal with my emotions in a unhelpful way, I am choosing to hold onto the ED, I am choosing to restrict. She said I’m still trying to find a way to do it such that I won’t have to feel the unpleasant feelings and it’s not that I can’t deal with the feelings but I don’t want to deal because it’s so shitty. And everyone chooses to deal in comfortable but unhelpful ways sometimes. I’m trying to recover without the pain of recovery (guilt/anxiety around food and weight gain). And she’s so so right, I am putting recovery off not because I don’t know what to do (I do, I’ve done it before) but because I don’t want to do it, I don’t want to handle the anxiety around food and weight gain.

I can’t recover without eating and I can’t allow myself to be unconditional with feelings without being unconditional with food. I told her about my fears surrounding being ‘too much’ that I will eat everything and eat non-stop and I will feel too much and die from it but she said that she actually thinks it’s highly unlikely that I will ‘go overboard’ with food, same with feelings- she said that knowing me, nothing that ‘bad’ will happen even if I let myself feel. She said that my body is capable of regulating itself, it’s just the idea of giving up control that gives me too much anxiety. And that anxiety is something I have to sit with, because we are never actually in control and she said how the paradox is that the more we try to control, the worse we make it. She also pointed out that with food, it’s ‘easier’ to have control by measuring and using numbers but when it comes to relationships it’s harder to ‘control’ so what I do is shut out. Because I can’t sit with the uncertainty. But she said she already saw the change in me from last week, when I was so shut off- but I was willing to talk to a friend. She said it again, the ‘risk’ that people can always hurt you when you open up and we never know when someone might leave but the relationship is worth it. And ultimately I have to sit with the idea of relinquishing control.

Takeaways from today:

1. Recovery is simply coping with & responding to my emotions better- in more helpful ways. coping also means responding to the emotions in helpful ways and doing what I need to do in spite of the emotion.

2. I can actually cope with emotions & recovery and I do know what to do but I’m choosing not to because I don’t want to deal with the emotions. I’m subconsciously trying to find a way to recover/get better without having to feel the emotions but I can’t avoid the emotions.

3. When I’m doing right now is not working. I already am sad, I already am dealing with shitty emotions, everything already sucks. By pushing away emotions I’m only increasing the backlog of suppressed stuff I’ll have to deal with eventually. Just like by losing weight I’m only increasing the amount of weight I’ll have to gain eventually.

4. I am not going to ‘spin out of control’ if I am unrestricted, the idea of letting go of control just scares me but it’s not going to be too much. My body can regulate itself, I can and will survive all the shitty feelings, I’m not going to eat everything forever.

5. I can act in ways that are not black and white, I can allow myself to feel. I don’t have to hold myself to an impossible standard of recovery (not feeling anything/being perfect)

goldilocks

I’ve just been in such a low place over the past 3 weeks, and today was no exception. I just felt so miserable I decided on a whim to complain to my friends, I ranted about how awful and sad I feel. I look back and for the past 3-4 years I’ve constantly been fighting and telling myself things will get better. It’s always ‘it sucks right now but we have to push through and keep trying‘ but nothing I do helps and I keep going in circles and I’m just so sick of being sick. I’m so sick of always having to hope, because having to hope sucks. I hate the fact that there’s no path I can take to recovery, there’s no formula, it feels like there’s nothing I can do to actually help myself- I’m so tired and nothing ever gets better and I just want to stay in bed until someone solves this because I can’t. The only thing I’m not doing right now is ED recovery but then again, eating doesn’t make anything better (it just makes me fat and feel awful) and besides, I don’t even know how to eat.

I didn’t have the energy to be my usual ‘things are going to get better’ self and it felt like I was in a negative mindset which I dislike, I hate it when my brain gets depressing because I don’t see a point in being negative and I apologized for that. But she pointed out it was okay to be. It was okay to feel feelings. This whole time, I’ve been like ‘yes I know it’s okay to feel feelings and all, but I don’t want to feel them‘ and then that’s when the epiphany hit. 

I think it’s better to just be positive and move forward instead of ‘wallowing’ but maybe that’s a way of stopping myself from feeling feelings- under the guise of ‘positivity’. I want to be better but I’m forcing myself to be better without first allowing it to be.
I feel like we’ve talked about this in therapy many times before, allowing myself to feel, and it’s something I started really learning this year in the hospital- having to break before you rebuild, but it never fully hit me until now. I’ve tried to stop ‘actively’ pushing away my feelings but I’ve never realized how even the smallest things I do, like pushing myself to look forward/get better/be productive, all subconsciously invalidate my feelings and completely ignore them. I don’t know why it was such a lightbulb moment but it was, and I realized I need to just let myself be sad instead of trying to move on. That is a part of recovery, a very important part- recovery is not trying to feel better, it’s letting myself feel the unpleasant feelings in the first place. Without allowing myself to feel all of it first, I can never truly get better, I have to let it get worse before it can get better. Otherwise, all my attempts at ‘getting better’, as I’ve done over the past 3-4 years, are simply various ways of trying to push the feelings down while being as high functioning as possible. My functionality was how I measured recovery and right now, as I write this, I realize that’s not a good way to measure recovery at all. Like I mentioned, feeling bad is an important part of recovery. There cannot be healing without pain, and I feel like I need to learn how to accept pain. It’s a very Buddhist thing too, isn’t it, accepting pain?
I feel like I do have a fear of ‘wallowing‘ and ‘being depressive‘ though, and I don’t know where the line between allowing myself to feel feelings and wallowing is? I’m going to bring this up in therapy tomorrow.
I realize I’m so black and white, what a surprise. In the first few years of being sick, I was completely hopeless and wallowing in my own misery but in the subsequent years, I was constantly trying to get better (being more functional) and be hopeful and avoid my sadness. I made this switch gradually, but I flipped the switch without ever dealing with the issue. Recovery, real recovery, is not a switch after all. That’s why I feel like I’ve never really changed. I feel like I just went from being ‘really sad and submerged in sadness and non-functioning ‘ to ‘really sad and ignoring sadness and trying to function‘. I also feel like a part of me is really scared that allowing myself to be sad and feel everything would mean going back to the way I was- drowning in sadness and not being able to function. I never realized that was a fear, but I think it has been a fear all along. The fear that my feelings are ‘too much’. On a smaller scale, I expressed the same fear lately- that if I don’t protect myself from the attachment trauma with Dr K now, then what happened in February will repeat itself and I will be so overwhelmed by the pain and flashbacks and trauma that I cannot cope. My fears are completely logical, I have experienced my feelings in full force before- I was severely depressed and unstable and in constant aching misery in the first few years of my illness. Same with February this year, I was completely unstable and in unimaginable pain, pain I never want to go through ever again. Of course I’ll be scared of allowing myself to feel. The fear that my feelings are ‘too much’ don’t just come from my beliefs, it comes from experience. I haven’t been able to handle the pain in the past, so naturally I want to avoid the pain now. However, I also recognize that the pain I experienced during those periods was probably more intense and unpredictable because they have been the result of a buildup.
I realize I am scared of feelings and emotions. I cannot fathom allowing myself to feel unconditionally. If I allowed myself to feel everything- I would just be really sad because there is a lot to be sad about.
Ironically, I am so sad right now, so whatever I’m doing to ‘cope’ is not working, and I know that’s what Dr K would say too. My friend pointed out that you never know until you give it a go, and she’s right because I have never tried being unconditional with myself. Yet, I am terrified of being unconditional. Not just in terms of feelings but in terms of everything, I am terrified of being ‘too much‘. If I let myself feel everything it’ll be too much and I won’t be able to handle it, if people saw the ‘real me’ it’ll be too much and everyone will leave, if I let myself eat what I want then I will eat too much and become fat and take up too much space. There is constantly the need to control, to deal with it or manage it somehow, I cannot imagine not having some control. Too much food so you gotta restrict calories, too much feelings so you gotta numb them, too much weight so you gotta lose it- even the good things- too much passion so you gotta calm down, too much dreaming so you gotta be realistic. I am, by nature, ‘too much’. I feel everything incredibly intensely, I’m hypersensitive. I feel so much and I need so much and I hate it. That’s why I have a passionate hatred for needs and hunger, a reminder of that ‘too much’-ness.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way because I hear normal friends/people say such things all the time, I feel like society itself has a stigma against excess. Applying the same logic to other people really made me think about the concept of ‘too much‘ and how ludicrous that is, because what’s so bad about ‘too much‘ anyway? My friend pointed out some really good things here: “Who gets to decide what is ‘too much‘? It’s so subjective. You might feel like you’re ‘too much’ but what if it’ll be just enough for you? Not for your mental illness and disordered behavior. It might seem like too much for your ED but it may be the perfect amount for you.” It made perfect sense, especially when I thought about in the context of others and not myself- I truly believe we are just right for us, whatever intensity you feel and you think, it’s right for you because it’s yours? It’s your feelings and it’s authentically you so how can it be ‘wrong’? I feel like I can apply that logic easily to someone else, but for myself it’s harder because I have that fundamental belief that ‘I am wrong‘ so obviously it makes sense in my head that my authentic feelings and authentic self would wrong too, but I am working on changing that belief because I know it is baseless.
She also pointed out that perhaps everything can seem ‘so much’ and more intense to me because I deprive myself of things– like how restricting food causes the urge to eat more. I do believe there is truth in that emotionally as well, and my past experiences with emotions have been so intense because I bottle them up until they hit an extreme. I feel like framing things this way- comparing emotions to food- makes the solution a lot clearer to me. Because I know if I eat unconditionally, I will be eating ‘too much’ and I will overeat because I have been so deprived. My eating is ‘too much’ compared to others but it makes sense why, and eventually my appetite will taper off to become more ‘normal’ when I keep responding to hunger and I am no longer deprived. So applying that logic, similarly, right now I will feel ‘too much’ and it will be that way for a while because I have deprived myself of feeling anything for so long, and I just need to keep letting myself feel until eventually the ‘excess’ tapers off and I reach a more ‘normal’ intensity of emotions (in this case I mean ‘normal’ for me because my emotional intensity will always be higher than average and that’s ok) when I am more balanced. That’s another small epiphany for me. The more I deprive myself, the more intense everything will be because the balance is thrown off and that adds to the feeling of ‘too much’.
It made me a little sad, realizing that I struggle immensely with allowing myself to just be, with the idea of not controlling and ‘managing’ myself and with being unconditional, because I’ve never ever done it before. I truly can’t remember a time in my life where I ever felt enough, not too much or too little. So I’ve never been unconditional, I’ve always either been trying to be perfect to make up for being too little, or to be less emotional/thinner/smaller/quieter/less messy/less myself to make up for being too much. At every single age, I have been trying to live up to an impossible standard, I am always too much or too little and never ‘just right’. This is why I fundamentally believe I am wrong. I would never ever think any of my friends were ‘wrong’ or ‘too much’ or ‘not enough’. I am unconditional with everyone around me, and yet never with myself, and my friend said I should try to do that. Be unconditional with myself. Because I might have had a shitty childhood but now, I am older and I can give little-me the unconditional acceptance she needs. This is why I called this post Goldilocks- I suppose I do have to be like her and find where it is not too hot or cold, not too big or small, not too hard or soft, but just right.
And you are not too much, not too little- just right, as you are.
I say I don’t know what to do, but what I need to do is to allow myself to be. to not do. This was another small epiphany- when I am sick/use the ED in any way, I am running from myself and my feelings so it makes sense that in recovery I need to just be. Being is the exact opposite of running. Running is too exhausting, I know that, I am miserable. I need to allow myself to be unconditional without letting fear stop me, because I am not too much. I am utterly terrified of being too much but I am not. I need to be unconditional with feelings, with food, with my weight and with my soul. I need to allow my inner child to be who she is because she is just right, as she is. I don’t have to fit into any box. She doesn’t have to fit into any box. I do still feel resistant towards recovery, I don’t want to give up the ED because I feel like eating isn’t going to help, my body image is awful and I hate being fat and I don’t know how to recover when I freak out over cereal. I seriously don’t know how to allow myself to just be, without trying to change myself in some way. Existing is bloody terrifying. But I look back at the past 6-9 years and I am just so tired of being tired and miserable. I don’t know what will help me, but recovery is the only thing I haven’t tried- I haven’t tried being unconditional and I don’t know if it will truly help but what I’m doing isn’t working so what’s the harm in trying something new? I don’t want to deal with the behavioral and physical recovery and the painful side effects of it but I can’t separate emotional/trauma recovery and ED recovery. If I am using the ED, I am automatically numbing myself. It’s not going to feel good but there is no point in holding onto what no longer serves me because I am so, so miserable and sad right now. I’ll never feel sick enough. There is no point in waiting to recover, no point in losing weight then recovering because I’ll have to gain it back and be at my set point eventually. I want recovery in the long term so I have to do it, I can’t rely on external validation. I have to go back to it, and I will. I have to allow myself grace.

Recovery is not a war, it is Homecoming.

Recovery is about being. About softness. About allowing yourself and your body space to heal grow. It is finding compassion for the fractured parts you try to hide, compassion for the little girl inside. It is meeting fear and anxiety with kindness. It is meeting your inner critic with an innate sense of acceptance.

It is chrysalis- coming home to your true self.

Recovery is softening, it is feeling– sometimes falling. It is allowing yourself to feel unconditionally- letting pain, feelings, fear, uncertainty and anxiety exist and simply be, without resistance. You are not ‘too much’. It is bravery and fear at the same time, for true growth will only come from vulnerability. Trusting that you will cope with what comes your way, without the need for hardness or destruction. It is surrender- letting go of control, pain, expectations. It is trusting your innate intuition, trusting yourself and your feelings, trusting your body and the universe- trusting the process of growth and unfolding.

Trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be, your body will be where it is meant to be.

Recovery is the crack of light into the worn stone cage of your heart. It is the destruction of the walls you have built upon starvation and isolation. It is the undoing of years of wired self destruction. It is wearing down the hard edges of self protection and self denial. It is a new understanding of who you are and the acceptance of tides of change and imperfection. Acceptance of the dustiest corners of your soul, acceptance that you will always be a work in progress. It is being. Staying soft.

Recovery is not just about unrestricted food, but unconditional love and acceptance.

Recovery is healing the dissociation between your soul, your body and your feelings. It is allowing your true essence to fill the fissure of emptiness. It is letting go of numbers and allowing yourself to take up space, to allow your body to exist how it is meant to be. It is feeling the energy, love, compassion and pain that flows through every inch of your body and accepting it, letting it be. It is listening to the intuition of your body. It is allowing your body and soul healing, nourishment and pleasure without guilt. It is believing you deserve to exist. You have a fundamental place, a fundamental worth that will never change.

It is reclaiming the space and energy that is your birthright.

Recovery is painful. Pain is an inevitable part of healing. It is meant to be uncomfortable for it is vulnerability and fear. It is standing in the face of discomfort, of raging storms and forest fires in your mind. The disorder will be relentless. It is the destruction of years of wired neural systems, comfortable coping mechanisms. The healing process is not full of light, it is taking the leap and navigating a labyrinth. It is not without risk, but staying where is it comfortable is staying where light will never reach. It is the process of softening and trusting. It is allowing pain. It is being, despite it all. Letting it be.

Recovery is stopping, it is seeing, it is listening to your heart and knowing you are enough.

It is not a battle with yourself, not a war with your mind. Turn inward with kindness, give that inner child what she needs. When you find compassion, acceptance and allow yourself to be, unconditionally, the need to control and punish yourself diminishes. There is more to be gained than there is to be lost in recovery. There is no real safety in illness, the only real control comes when we embrace uncertainty. Breathe. Let go. You are seen, you are enough.

It is gentle energy of morning light. It is the rage of destructive hurricanes. It is the pain of healing and shedding of leaves in the fall, bearing harsh winter. It is the first spring blossom of growth and glimmer of light onto fresh grass.

Recovery is the light of homecoming. You are the only home you need.

a victim mentality

I’m in a bad place lately, restricting, weighing myself, making plans to exercise and lose weight and obsessing over numbers. I’m still choosing not to recover and this morning on the way to school I noticed the passing thought of ‘well there’s nothing I can do about it, even if it sucks I have to live with the illness’. And then I realised that I want to push the blame to the fact that the ED/trauma are illnesses- ‘it’s too loud’ and ‘I just can’t get out of it’ and ‘it’s stopping me from living my life’ and ‘I can’t cope’ are all thoughts I’ve had. I’m adopting a victim mindset, which I now notice myself slipping into over the past 2 weeks? The feeling of overwhelming helplessness and reluctance to change or try or open up. I feel like especially with trauma, being a victim becomes a default mode? When I got triggered by Dr Kelly & my helper leaving, the fear and helplessness and overwhelm of feelings immediately put me in the place of victim because that’s what my brain knows. Learned helplessness. I truly felt like there was no other way, there was nothing I could do but use my illness, there was no way of protecting myself but shutting off. Even when I’m not ‘obviously’ regressing, I feel like getting triggered made the child-self/victim part of me very very strong which explains the acting out and relapse fuelled by helplessness and fear. I’m constantly overwhelmed and anxious. Now I see my Therapists have been trying to get me to do that, take some power back and get out of the victim mentality/child-self/emotional brain and use my healthy adult voice/wise mind.

Yesterday in therapy with AWARE she mentioned how my fear is so huge that I desperately want to be alone because I’m so scared of being alone. It’s so fragmented. The child-self is basically where the victim mindset comes in and then the relapse and destruction and shutting down. It’s completely understandable that I’m feeling this way because current triggers dig into same past unhealed wounds so it feels exactly the same as the past trauma, the same extreme fear and pain. I’m reacting this way because the only way my brain knows to react to this feeling of helplessness/pain is anger and pushing away. It’s what worked in the past and what I’ve done all my life, a survival instinct. Survival instincts are very strong. Emotions are very powerful.

But the truth is that it might not be my fault and it’s an illness but it’s still my responsibility and my choice. Yes it’s hard, but I can try to recover, I can put in the effort to change, I can choose to ask for help, I can choose to allow myself to sit through the painful feelings. I can choose to get better. Nothing but myself is stopping me. I have help and support now, I have resources, I have a choice now even though my child self didn’t. I am loved now, I am not alone even though I want to be alone. Being sick is not an excuse to stay sick. I’m always going to struggle with this, I’m going to feel like crap. I’m going to keep feeling so small and helpless and hurt. I’m going to keep struggling with the fear and anxiety, I’m going to keep struggling with the ED voice and desire for safety and weight loss and comfort. I’m not going to want to eat or gain weight. Yes, previously it was much easier because it was just the ED fear and anxieties I struggled with (and that was hard enough on its own, like a I-struggled-for-months kinda hard) and now I also have to cope with attachment/trauma fear and anxieties? But I cannot recover from these things separately. The trauma fuels a large part of the ED so there’s no point recovering from the ED without being open to feeling the feelings of the past trauma and allowing myself to not suppress.

Ultimately I have to find my healthy, adult voice and choose recovery for myself. Just like I did previously, when I chose ED recovery. I have to surrender control and safety. I have to eat and trust myself/my body/my team to get better. I have to choose to not suppress, I have to choose to allow myself space and grace to be, I have to have grace with my feelings and body and self. I have to be compassionate with my emotional, child self and let her feel and cater to her needs. I have to choose to let myself feel whatever might come, and I have to choose to stand in the face of the overwhelming fear. I have to choose to be okay with uncertainty and the fear of vulnerability and getting hurt. I have to choose to trust those around me and trust myself to support me. I have to choose to acknowledge the pain I’ve been running from for 9 years.

I also have to acknowledge that I’m choosing not to get better right now. I’m choosing my illnesses over my life right now. Restricting is choosing to not recover, engaging in behaviours is choosing to not recover, shutting down is choosing to not recover. That’s my responsibility, I can’t blame it on being sick or on anything else. Right now I’m choosing to stay sick because it’s easier and comfortable. I am choosing the false comfort of being sick, temporary relief and joy of weight loss, a sense of control and easy self-soothing over recovery. I’m choosing it because it’s easier. I’m choosing it because I’m too tired to fight, because I don’t want to fight. I’m choosing it because I don’t feel capable of doing what I need to do to get better. In terms of how good or wise that choice is, I’m going to have to reflect and think about it. But at least I’m acknowledging that it’s my choice and it’s my responsibility. I have to think about it and take ownership.

It is not my fault this hurts and it is not my fault my brain is this way and I am sick. It hurts more than I can describe, it hurts like digging your nails into a fresh bullet wound. Every trigger deepens those bullet wounds that have not healed. It hurts so much I have destroyed myself for 9 years to run from the pain. It hurts so much that drinking/cutting/starving/purging and even suicide hurt less than the pain of the trauma and fragmented child self. I cannot minimise that child self, the pain she is in. I have to validate her and let her act out. But I am not helpless. I am not a victim. I have to choose to get better or not. I am the only one that can do that, nobody is going to help me if I’m not helping myself. I have to choose to let go of the desire to be thin, the desire to protect myself, the desire for safety and control. I already know that being sick sucks and it’s not sustainable. I know that recovery is going to hurt but things aren’t going to get easier and I can’t live the life I want if I stay sick. It’s going to be hard either way. So what am I going to choose? I am running from the pain again, right now, it’s what I do best. It’s understandable but I can’t keep ignoring the problem and pushing away responsibility. It’s exactly why I chose to get the tattoo I’m getting next month. The wand in my hand, the control in my hand, the light is in my hand. I have to cast the spell and create my light.

Burn

they all believe in my ability to get through this.

Dr K said she believes I can work through this separation and learn how to cope with attachment and relationships. she believes I have so much ahead of me in the future. she wants me to have healthy relationships instead of staying in this trauma forever. she thinks I have come far, and this will only help me to grow and I can get through it. she said the process can often be the most beneficial part of recovery because it teaches me that there is nothing special about her and I can and will survive breaking an attachment and form new ones. she urged me to use my wise mind to make my choices.

Dian said I am the one in power and I am choosing who to let in and what to believe, I have the power to cope with this right now. she reminded me that the almost 20-year-old me is the one who wants help, the one who goes to appointments, the one who can soothe the inner child. she reminded me of what my inner child needed, she reminded me to carry a part of everybody that left, with me. she said losing weight and restricting and rejecting help was just the inner child acting out and she urged me to do what the 20-year would do. she said it’s safe to breathe outside without my oxygen mask. I don’t quite believe her.

my friends said it is not worth throwing my progress, my effort, my life and recovery away. Jolyn reminded me that I will always carry a part of her with me, and 5 or 10 years down the road I can look back and say I made it, that how she impacted me and helped me grow will always be a part of me and that’s not taken away. Clarissa has promised to stay and I do believe her. Twinnie is always here. Cal reminded me that if I can’t recover for my Therapist, I have to recover for me. Everyone is still here for me and reminding me that acting out will not solve anything eventually.

They all believe in my ability to get through this. I don’t. I want to set myself aflame.

I’ve gotten glimpses of this pain, during sessions, before blocking it out again. The pain tears me apart. I remember it all too well. I am sad and angry and tired. So very tired. I don’t want to exist right now. Why have I become so quickly suicidal when a week ago I was so motivated in recovery?

This pain hurts so much that I have destroyed my body and soul and life for 9 years just to escape it, so what makes them think I can cope with this now?

It hurts because I know they are right, this isolation is suffocating me. A part of me desperately wants to trust all of them, to let them comfort me, to let myself be lulled into any sort of security, to let myself open up. A part of me wants to let in help. To just let SGH support me and let Dr K support me and let my friends support me. But that is a ledge I cannot jump off. A part of me is tired of hurting and a part of me is tired of fighting. Just let go. Trust. If you fall, you fall. Yet my survival instincts kick in every time to remind me to stay protected and shut off. Something always kicks in and reminds me why trusting anyone or relying on anyone or even feeling safe is a bad, bad idea. I trust that part of my brain. It is keeping me safe. And Dian is right, I don’t think I can cope and I don’t trust myself to cope. But maybe I don’t want to cope. I don’t know. I am tired of being alone, I am tired of fighting alone, but I cannot trust I cannot trust I cannot trust. I trusted Dr K and see what she did? She left. Everyone leaves. I hate this. I hate this existence, this illness, this pain. I hate this loneliness. Dian said that today too, ironically this isolation just makes me even more alone. I talked about this with Dr K so many times in the past, how I self sabotage and push everyone away and how awful it feels. I hate it. I hate hating myself, I hate this body dysmorphia, I hate having to starve. I hate having to fight alone and be alone to protect myself, I hate not knowing any other way. I hate that I can’t trust anyone enough to take that step, not even myself. I hate that this survival, inner child part of my brain is so painfully stubborn. I hate that I cling onto the illness for control. I hate that I finally have an awareness of my triggers and what I am doing and now I cannot do it without knowing how I am just acting out. I hate that I am not being kind with myself. I am tired and sad. I really do need help.

I am close to setting myself aflame.

when we miss our disorder

Remember you can miss something and not go back to it. We might always look at our eating disorder with rose tinted glasses, and we will want to go back to it, because it was home and comfort and safety for so long. But take a moment, take a deep breath and think about it- were you really happy living with your disorder? Genuinely, truly happy? Did you really love yourself and your body? Think about the worst days with your disorder, think about the worst things your disorder has made you do- are you really in control? Did you enjoy restricting, compensating, skipping meals, working out, hiding, isolating, exercising? Did you really feel good doing all of this? What did you really get out of your disorder? Think about all the days you’ve spent ill, do you want to live like that forever? Because you will, if you don’t choose to get better. There is no other way out, and change doesn’t happen by chance.

Can you tolerate and sit through the negative emotions & anxiety & the thoughts that will come up in recovery? Can you tolerate the inevitable side effects & distress & negative body image days that will happen? Can you tolerate the temporary discomfort in order to build a life you want? Choosing to skip a meal, or restrict, or not-gain weight, or giving into the disorder in any way is choosing to not recover. Choosing to prolong recovery is only prolonging your suffering because unless you truly want to live like this forever, there is no point in waiting to recover. You will have to recover eventually, and it will be one of the hardest things you’ve had to do, and it won’t feel good. But you will have to go through it, and the longer you wait, the harder it get. The longer you wait, the more you miss out on life. It’s never going to get easier or be the right time. I say this over and over again but the only way out is through.

Remember body dysmorphia is real, and the more we lose weight the worse the dysmorphia gets. The only way to get over it and build a healthy body image is to keep gaining until our set points, because only then will your brain be healthy enough to start seeing clearly. Remember your thoughts right now about food and weight and your body are all skewed by your illness, and it is not representative of the truth. Remember that your brain is still sick, your brain is malnourished and obsessive and the disorder will get very very loud. It will get better but the only way for it to truly get better is to keep pushing through it and not give into it. Remember this is an illness, and while it’s completely normal and okay to slip, it is not an excuse for relapse. Remember this is an illness but at the end of the day, only you, the real you- has the control to choose what to do. Remember that you will never feel sick enough or thin enough, there comes a point where you just have to sit down and acknowledge the fact that you are suffering. Regardless of anyone else, you are suffering and you are sick, so you need to get better. There is no such thing as ‘not sick enough’ you are either sick or not sick. You don’t need anyone’s validation. The simple thought of ‘not sick enough’ shows how sick you actually are because a normal person never think that. Remember there is no value in sickness or thinness or misery. Remember there is nothing better about being sicker, or thinner.

Remind yourself of all the reasons you wanted recovery in the first place. What kind of life are you going to live if you hold onto your eating disorder? Do you want that life? What’s the worst that could happen if you gain weight and eat? What’s so bad about being recovered, or normal? The disorder makes us think that weight gain is the worst thing that could possibly happen but the truth is we can tolerate it and at some point when your brain is less starved and sick, your weight wouldn’t even matter that much. Is weight loss really worth giving up everything else in your life for? You can’t give into our disorder, you can’t bargain with them or negotiate, you just have to do it and keep doing it and commit to recovery. You are in control. You can recover, you’re just scared, and it’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to not like it, it’s okay to feel awful- you can still do it because it will be worth it in the end.

Braving the Storms

Imagine being washed up on an abandoned island, desolated and dry and absolutely lifeless, surrounded by deep ocean waters and harsh storms. It’s not a pleasant place to live but you make do, you learn to survive, you rely on your island to keep you safe. You have walked up to the edge of the island, looking over the vast ocean, wondering if there is hope of anything better out there. You have dipped your toes into the water, felt the freezing cold and retreated. You build a bonfire in the middle of the island instead and convince yourself you like it here. The island grows increasingly inhabitable. You begin to resent it, so you walk to the edge and wade in the water, only to find that it is still freezing cold and dangerous and you cannot see through the storm or find enough reason to want to leave, so you retreat. It is awful and lonely and resources are scarce, but at least you are safe from the waters.

So it goes, the years fly by and you continue to go back and forth, painfully trapped. Sometimes you catch a glimpse of the sun through the storm clouds and you tell yourself you’ll leave soon to find new land. But it is never safe enough, it is never time to leave. You are lured into the comfort of familiarity and warmth, every single time, and who can blame you? After all, the caged bird remains in it’s cage even when it is free.

You’re stranded and you scream for help but nobody sees you or arrives in lifeboats, but resources arrive- you are given wood and nails and told to build your boat. You look out into the ocean, the very ocean that drowned you and washed you up ashore, the ocean that left you half-dead, and wonder if they know exactly what they’re asking you to do. Most days, you would rather die than leave the island. Besides, you don’t even know how to build a ship. Yet, the pain of being on this island drives you to try to build a boat anyway- except it falls apart every time. You give up for a while and decide to walk back in, only to see the harsh truth. There is nothing left for you here. Your sanctuary infested, island a wasteland, the warmth of your bonfire is now a blazing forest fire. It is no longer protecting you. You look out and all you see are the storms that surround your island. You have two options- die on this god forsaken island, or brave the biggest storm you have even seen in hopes of finding something on the other side.

So you grit your teeth and build the damn boat once and for all. It is unstable and weak but you build it anyway. Stare at it for months until you find the courage to set sail, fight every reason you have to stay. Shaky feet step into the boat and you sail around the island, testing the waters. They don’t understand everything that comes along with freedom– the crippling fear of the unknown, the hopelessness of the vast ocean, the painful waves of emotions, the depth that has drowned you so many times. You capsize and fall over and over in your attempts- they don’t understand how sailing is like learning to write with your left hand, it doesn’t come naturally to you like everyone else. They say you just have to do it, you have to enter the storm to learn how to sail. You bite the bullet and sail forth into the pain and cold weather and unknown. They say there is more beyond the storm, and whatever that is- it has to be better than living this way.

That is what starting recovery feels like. It’s a blind leap of trust, leaving behind the only solid ground you know, the only safety you have from the harsh waves and feeling of drowning.

It’s sailing on nothing but a rocky wooden boat into the eye of the storm, sailing straight into an ocean of your deepest traumas and worst fears. It’s learning how to survive all over again because all those survival mechanisms you’ve mastered on the island are now rendered useless. It’s fighting the storm every single day, looking at it’s ferocity and wondering why you ever left. It’s sailing in the absolute darkness, not knowing if there is an end to the storm, not knowing if you can survive this or get drowned once again. It’s the constant terror of the water, and yet you must let the waves of pain wash over you in order to move on. There is nothing pleasant about trying to sail in this storm, and yet you keep going. Every inch of you despises it, every time you move away from your island, you long for it’s safety. But remember, your bonfire is a now a blaze. So you fight, harder than you ever have. You keep choosing to move forward against the currents, look into the eye of the storm and force yourself to be brave. Reach out and ask for help when you need more materials to mend your boat. Stop and take a rest sometimes.

You are terrified and hopeless and hopeful and sad and oddly liberated all at once.

I’m in the storm now and it’s harder and harsher than I thought it would be, but it’s too late to turn back. I am lost and tired and terrified, there is no shining sun or pot of gold on the other end, only the small hope that somehow, what I find at the end of this journey will be better than what I started with. I do not want to do this, every move forward hurts like hell- they say it’s a good thing, and it might be a good thing but it still hurts like hell. I want to give up, every single day. I don’t.

It’s supposed to hurt. This storm was never going to be easy, it was never going to be smooth sailing, but the only way out is through. The only way out is through. So I sail, I do it. I finally do it, no matter how painful, no matter how tiring, I am starting to sail and I am moving. I choose to trust the voices on the other side, my friends, my Doctors, others who have braved the same storm and survived. I choose to trust the process. I remind myself that it wasn’t my fault I was drowned and washed up onto that island in the first place and that desolation might be all that I know but I deserve better. No lifeboats will ever be enough because I am the only one that can navigate this storm. I didn’t have this once, but I now have a boat strong enough to navigate, and it will only get stronger.

It’s going to be a long, arduous journey. But deep down, I am thankful because this is the hardest thing I’ve put myself through- but it also means there is finally a small hope of freedom and life and happiness for the first time.