Monday, May 21, 2012

Those three words

I. Love. You.  What’s the big deal about that sentence?  Why is expression of love so difficult for people?  I might not say it often but it’s a reality for me.  It’s a constant state.  I love and I do so unconditionally when it comes to people.  That’s not hard for me.  Sometimes verbally expressing it can be challenging and a bit awkward and so, more often than not, I choose to show my love and I hope the message is conveyed.  I love to different degrees and I do struggle with telling people but it really is just a fact about who I am. 
What’s so much bigger for me is:  I need you.
I made it “policy” in my head when I was a teenager that I did not need.  Especially not people but it ended up extending to everything which is a simple explanation of my eating disorder.  I certainly didn’t want to need food.  I wanted to be superhuman.  But when it comes to people, I remember the time in my life where I decided that I would be okay alone, that in fact, I was meant to be alone and that was just going to have to be okay.  Now, I need.  I need people, I need things, I need food.
That’s so much more frightening to me than loving.  I can love people and they can choose not to love me back, that’s okay.  I can love people and they can leave me, that’s also okay.  Love for me never has to be reciprocated or necessarily provided.  Perhaps it does need to be provided and it’s just been inescapable for me.  I have no experience of actually not being loved by absolutely anyone and I would venture to say that is a common human experience.  Someone somewhere loves you, loves me.  Need on the other hand for me…if I need you and you leave, I am broken.  If I need you and you cannot provide or choose not to be there for me, I am lost.  And that is something I’m really coming to terms with.
I’ve created my own monster by disallowing myself to even recognize need so by the time I realize that’s what I’m experiencing and I finally ask/reach out, I’m getting closer to a desperate place.  I’m working on that, actively, everyday.
I have the right to need and to have my needs provided for.  I have the right to reach out and ask for help and to need someone to know better, to reassure, to comfort, etc.  Above the right, again, is the need.  I need to reach out.  I need people to be there for me.  I need support.
I. Need.
And I’m scared of needing still but I will always and so, I must accept.  I must try to have my needs filled.  I know I am worthy and I know now that it takes a lot more courage to tell people, to tell the world, that I cannot do this, life, on my own.  I will keep asking for help and reaching out as much as it goes against what I have instructed myself for the greater part of my life.  And one day, I will be okay with it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


My days right now are confusing.  They say I’m experiencing yet another “pendulum swing.”  I’m becoming more and more aware of when the shifts are going to happen.  I gear up to changes in my thinking these days with less excitement than before when I referred to the changes as “cascades” (picture:  beautiful water fall refreshing my world).  Now, I am tense, I feel resistant, and I get scared.  The changes that occur now are usually about things I thought I knew that have become untrue. 
All through this process this has been the case but on different levels.  From day one, I had to recognize that what I understood throughout my childhood (my interpretation of my experiences) up until the point of manifesting in self-destructive behaviours was wrong and I had to relearn it.  Then, I started getting treatment for an eating disorder and since then, everything that has been beaten into me (such as terms like “in recovery” and “relapse” and developing “tools to cope”) about overcoming an eating disorder has become wrong because it’s not consistent with truly becoming well.  This part has been a joyous experience as my understanding of recovery until this program has basically been that I am doomed to struggle through life and inevitably relapse from time to time and hopefully never sink as low as I did – it’s very different now.  Then, I thought I had been getting to know my true self (after the painful experience of becoming completely blank and undefined) and that was kind of neat.  Now, even those things are changing.  So what I thought I knew - was wrong.  What I was taught and chose to believe –was wrong.  What I thought I had come to know – is also not always true.
Above the learning and relearning, came the unlearning and that is not easy.  However, it is possible.  It really is about creating new pathways.  I know this because I have revisited and evaluated messages I received as a child, recognized the fault in my interpretation, chose to learn how to see it differently, and now, with many memories, I actually don’t know how I believed what I did.  It is so completely different and comfortably so, it feels natural but the process did not feel natural.
I think this might be the most difficult thing I’m dealing with right now.  Just when I thought I knew something…it’s ripped out from under my feet and has to change to fit with the true me that continues to emerge.
One day at a time, I still relish the moments of calm and peace.  I appreciated the good times greatly.  But the rough times….they’re still present in quite the capacity.  It’s still a practice of getting up, walking a few steps, and being slammed to the ground.  And then, it’s about getting up again and taking the next few steps with my new knowledge.  Like I said before, I don’t live a life braced for difficult times, for panic and fear and anxiety and sadness, I just live and with that comes all of those things.  I cannot let those low times overshadow the goodness in my life which is beyond plentiful.  I am now driving, which is amazing.  I have 2 regular squash partners and I’m getting a lot better.  I laugh so hard my face and stomach hurt at least once a week.  I played ping pong until 3am on Saturday night.  It’s 28 degrees right now and 11:30pm.  I stared up at a 400 year old church today and then walked along the Atlantic Ocean while the sunset.  Life is good, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt still.  I’m still learning, unlearning, relearning and it’s hard but gosh, 99% of the time, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The way I see it, today

The days seem to be getting better.  By that I mean the hours are more often enjoyable than merely bearable.  There are still the beautiful breakdowns but I think they have gone from three/day, to two, and today, none.  There is still a couple of waking hours in my day, however, and I need not jump the gun and pronounce to day panic free yet.  On that thought, I have found a place in my mind where I do not remain braced for the panic or in a constantly expectant state.  I know it might happen.  I know that I can’t, thus far, predict what might set me off, but I cannot waste my time anticipating it.  I have found my voice in a relatively short time and, as painful as it is to use at times, I am working so hard at reaching out in the moment.
Tonight I find myself worrying ever so slightly about the concept of relapse again.  I’ve spent the greater part of the evening researching ideas of what I might like to do with my “real” life when I leave Portugal and it’s been fun.  I got excited about my future for the first time in a long time.  Then along came this hint of doubt.  Like a whisper into a huge cave that echoes and echoes but without much strength.  What if?  Is it possible that this can be real, the changes I’ve made?  I know I’ve learned a lot over the past year, beyond what I had ever imagined!  I have made so much progress in so many ways but has it changed the core of me that I tried to extinguish for so long?  It’s not the big ball of blackness that I used to visualize it as but what if, at the end of the day, I really just don’t like myself?  Why would I not go back to silencing myself through my eating disorder?  It kept me down.  Through my disease, I lost myself but what was a Self that drove me nuts, that I hated, that annoyed me.  Now I’ve been brought back in all aspects.  I recognize my goodness and absolute lack of malice and hate that I believed existed for so long.  I see my potential, I look forward to giving back but there’s still something that’s just not right.  I can’t quite put my finger on it.  Is it perhaps like meeting a new person who is to become a friend?  It’s rarely been my experience that - from day one - a person drops into the bosom buddy category.  Maybe I’m just so new to me that I’m still feeling myself out, getting to know me, assessing and deciding if the good is worth the weaknesses.  I have to hope that it is and that when I do truly befriend myself, I will let the good shine brighter and outweigh the downfalls.  It’s no longer a matter of being perfect.  In fact, I noticed just the other day how rarely that word perfect enters my expression regarding all things about me.  It’s about being the best I can be and hoping that whatever that is, is valuable enough to sustain.
The picture I created in my mind regarding my situation now is this:  Throughout my eating disorder and associated symptoms, I was walking – quite briskly at times – towards a cliff edge.  Just over a year ago I did my best to leap from that cliff but managed to hold on to the edge with my finger nails.  When I came to Portugal, I started strengthening my grip on that edge and ever so slowly pulled myself up.  This was with so much encouragement and belief from those around me but near the edge of this cliff, the ground is so fragile no one could join me and extend their physical hand to me lest the whole thing crumble.  Before my trip to Canada, I’d pulled myself up and maybe even gotten to my feet and I could see safety clearly but I was exhausted from the effort.  My legs hadn’t been used in so long.  That said, my legs are strong and their muscle memory intense and they know what to do.  For a moment, I just stood and looked back/down with fear and ahead with relief but also with a little fear as if I knew the ground beneath me was not solid and if I lost my footing, I would be back holding on with my fingertips.  Since then, I have started the walk towards the world again one baby step at a time.  Any great movements could shatter what holds me up and leave me clinging to the edge of a newly formed cliff.  So regardless of how eager I am to get to the people who cheered me on, to get as far away from the danger that I just overcame, I have to tread gently and slowly.
I hadn’t actually thought that whole image through until I started writing about it and it makes so much sense to me now.  The only reason I might go back is if I rush the work I have to do right now.  It’s easier work (given the strength of my “legs” and their capacity to follow instructions largely from the subconscious).  I can really see what I’m going towards and it’s wonderful!  If I take my time, the distance between me and the cliff’s edge will be so great that I won’t even think to go back.  Maybe now, because I realize I got through it, I survived, it doesn’t seem so bad.  But have you ever done something crazy and adrenaline seeking at one time without fear and then you think you could do it again or might even want to do it again and you realize as you approach the activity that you just can’t do it in that moment?  Perhaps that will happen with me with the eating disorder.  If I tend in the direction of that self-defeating yet adrenaline seeking behaviour again I will hopefully experience a psychological presentation of that funny feeling in my stomach that is a loud indicator that there is something worth avoiding.
This is the image I will head to bed with tonight.  I’m over the edge, I’m on my feet, and I’m moving away from danger but the ground is not solid yet.
Here’s to another night of a number of consecutive, restful, hours of sleep and hoping I rouse refreshed in the morning to see another day with great potential to be panic free.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


What a ride this is!  There is so much going on in my head these days.  I’m battling my familiar demon, anxiety.  I’ve even been reacquainted with panic attacks.  Over the weeks, some members of the team thought that this was caused by my body physically regulating and I’m sure that is a part of all this but in conversation with my main counsellor yesterday, she suggested that perhaps I’m “just” having emotions that I’ve shoved down for too long.  This idea fits for me.  As unpleasant as it is, I realize that for years I’ve numbed myself out in numerous ways.  Going on and coming off medication is an ongoing saga.  I have good drugs available to me if I need them and I have used them, lately, as indicated.  It’s not the first thing I jump to like I used to.  I use all my skills for relaxation and distraction and if I really can’t get a handle on things, then I take medication.  The last time, however, they didn’t help which shows me that there’s more going on than an imbalance that can be regulated with western medicine.  I’ve often fallen back on the pattern of:  identify symptomàdiagnoseàmedicate/treat.  Maybe, just maybe, the distress I’m feeling now isn’t actually diagnosable.  Perhaps it would be if I was back home.  Someone would be keen to help me experience immediate relief and would likely give me whatever I felt I needed to find that.  Here, I’m challenged to realize that I’m having feelings and the more likely perhaps is that my distracting techniques have actually become stuffing. 
Right now, I seem to feel in extremes and it’s scary.  I go from feeling all right to feeling like a failure at life to feeling like I’m on top of the world.  It feels as bipolar as it sounds.  It’s uncomfortable and I want to moderate it but what I’m realizing now is yet another lesson in patience.  If I haven’t felt much in a very long time due to medication, self-harming behaviours, and full on dissociation, how can I expect to feel?  Do I think that overnight, because I’ve decided, my mind is going to switch and offer me tolerable emotions?  You know, I did think that!  I’m stubborn as an ox in a lot of ways.  Usually that’s all right and in this process it has helped quicken my progress and disenabled any chance of giving up.  In that respect, my stubbornness could be referred to as determination.  With this, I need frequent reminding that my emotional self isn’t used to this.  It’s almost like adolescence in my head.  Growing and feeling…and don’t we all remember how adolescence felt?!
The bigger lesson for me today is the importance of being gentle with myself.  I still feel sometimes that if someone would just smack me, I’d get on with things and more often than that, I want to smack myself and get on with things!  I know that sometimes I need a stern approach.  I need to be told to help myself and do what I know helps even if it doesn’t feel good and it’s exhausting and I don’t want to.  I’m usually able to be that stern voice for myself (sometimes far too harsh!).  Here, I have surprised myself by being responsive to gentility.  It’s quite foreign to me.   I respond to the gentle prodding and encouragement of my team.   I have to figure out how to be gentle with myself now.  The approach I take with myself usually is leaving me chasing my tail.  It’s a bitter cycle.  An example was a few days ago I was feeling annoyed over something very little, then I started getting annoyed that I was feeling annoyed.  I saw the snowball I was creating but didn’t know how to interrupt it.  I don’t like feeling annoyed because I associate that feeling (only as it pertains to me) with being bratty, impatient, spoiled, inconsiderate, etc.  So I stopped feeling that towards the external stimulus that had initiated that and became annoyed with myself for having that feeling.  For some reason, that was more acceptable to be annoyed with myself than let myself be annoyed with something that concerned someone else.  In the end when I let myself talk about it, it turned out that my original feeling was justifiable and many people would have felt a bit ticked-off by what I had experienced.  Somehow, though, I made it negative towards myself and chastised myself for having the feeling.  Now that I’m aware of this, I can try next time to just let myself feel the feeling and realize that I’m doing no harm by having a feeling.  I realize now that my feelings don’t always necessitate action and that’s extremely important for me to be aware of.  It’s now finding the balance between what does and what doesn’t because I know if I ignore what does or brush it off, I will land myself back overwhelmed and entering panic mode.
I thought of some little hokey phrase that I can use for myself.  Instead of “Feel the fear and do it anyway”, for me it’s “Feel the fear and feel it anyway!”  It doesn’t feel good!  But I can do it and the more practice I get of having feelings and letting myself have feelings, including those that don’t feel good, the better I can become at moderating and I hope to be free of panic and free of drugs!