I have no idea what direction this might take but I have the desire to write. I have about three potential posts half written but can't seem to complete them. So with no clear purpose at this moment, I may as well embark on a discussion my world.
I've been back in Portugal for nearly two weeks. I've been enjoying some wonderful company; making plans for the future as best I can from such a distance; continuing to consider what my next while after leaving Portugal with more permanency looks like; and appreciating the amount of time I have now for introspection.
I had a number of days in a row where I noticed my anxiety climbing. I fought it in all the ways I know how and found myself exhausted at the end of each day. It has passed but I am still recuperating emotionally from it. It is not that surprising that I would have some anxiety at this time. Although I could not specify what was directly causing me anxiety, there are many things that I am considering at this time that would provoke anxiety in a lot of people. For example: Where will I live in the next month? Where will I work? What do I want to do? What can I do to get to a place where I am doing more of what I want and need to do to feel fulfilled? Etc. However, it did not seem to obviously be any of these things at the times I found myself hyperventilating. I was reminded of the nature of anxiety...sometimes it seems to come from no where, when one is least expecting, or cause a reaction to something one would usually not react to. Sometimes the cause is not necessarily one can rationalize away and essentially figure out and move away from.
Unfortunately, I found myself losing any sort of “filter” I have (which is very porous to begin with, I am a direct person when I am communicating but being direct is easy to couple with kindness and that's what I found I lost because of my own emotional state). Kindness, yes, comes naturally to me in many ways but it still requires energy. This is something I am happy to put my energy into because it feels good to me, it feels real to me, and it can only benefit everyone. However, when I am drained of emotional energy, it can be a challenge to muster up enough to extend to others as well as myself.
When I look back at some of my interactions over the past week I would say that I was mean at times and rude at others; impatient at best with myself and with others.
Lesson 1 that will not be further discussed at this time: Identifying when I am not able to be the person I want to be for various reasons - this time emotional energy - it is best to step back.
Prior to realizing this, I had these more unkind interactions. How quickly the negative part of my mind took this, jumped in and blinded me to the lifetime of kindness I have tried to live! I had a number of hours (and that is quite long enough!) questioning if I was a “good person” at all or if I had been “brain washed” into believing something that wasn't true about myself. The worst of what ifs came up: What if I am becoming what I feared most by attempting to recover? That I am actually an inherently bad person that needs to be half-starved and medicated out of her mind to protect the world from her?
I smile a bit as I write that now because it is just familiar. It's a way I've thought for a very long time and although I am well on my way to breaking habitual negative thought patterns, they still comes up at times. That said, being familiar does not make it comfortable because at times, those more tricky and insidious negative thoughts seem so powerful and very, very real.
At this point, I can reach out and ask for external confirmation of my goodness as a person. The biggest difference from say, a year ago til now, is that I am receptive to this feedback because I have the knowledge and proof that I am a good and worthwhile person. Sometimes, I just need reminding.
I suppose this is where I might stumble on an answer when people ask me if I have recovered from my eating disorder. Behaviourally – yes. Over the past week I had very strong negative thoughts and feelings but none of them were taken out on my body or made me question how I should treat my physical self. Through the first few fighting days with this incredible anxiety, I even opted to soothe myself rather than push myself. I distracted in wonderfully “healthy” ways. Body image did not come up. My hunger cues became a little skewed as they do for many people under stress but that did not change how I acted. In fact, I can confidently say that nothing typically eating disordered came up at all!! To me though, the question of being “recovered” includes the mindset and thought patterns that brought on and perpetuated the behaviours. The fact that I got through this time with none of the “simple” reactions that I may have had before (specifically food and body related questions and concerns) is evidence that I am working towards the kind of recovery I always wanted but am not quite there yet.
This kind of experience cements in my mind the idea that I will not live a life at risk of relapse. Yes, I need to be careful and gentle with myself for some time and most importantly, continue to reach out and let others support me; but I am capable of living just like every other human who encounters all sorts of challenges – not as a person with this past that looms over me with an endless possibility of re-occurrence.
That said, I cannot deny that my thinking eventually, when I was emotionally exhausted, still went to that negative place that lead to the manifestation of the ED in the first place. Whatever little beast is left in my head still fights for her say – tries to bring me back to a place of minimal worthiness and value. Once again, it didn't win and these are just the battles I need to fight and win over and over again until that thing is beaten down for good.
In the meantime, I have much more to practice especially when it comes to reaching out and valuing my needs as much as others'. When I am belittling myself, I also minimize my struggles and that, more often than not, leads to the creation of a much bigger event of getting through the harder times than is necessary. As with most new habits, it's all about practice.
I have to commend my friends and family, again, for their patience with me. I do not expect the unconditional love that I continue to receive. As I've said before, I understand this is a process that will continue for sometime and I'm getting “there” as quickly as I possibly can. If I gave myself half the degree of patience that is shown to me, my internal existence would be much more pleasant! Working on that too...
From my experience, I see the absolute importance of a strong support network for people coming through and out of an ED battle (among other struggles of course). I have been fortunate again in that I have this network and I am so excited to be present in all ways in life with the brilliant people that are going above and beyond cheer leading. I see your extended “hands” and although I still hesitate and question, I'm trying to reach out. Finally, we can walk next to each other rather than everyone trying to go ahead and holding onto me for me. Thank you bringing me along when I couldn't do it myself; for now letting the past fall away; and for the continued desire to be with me in my present (and future) in however I am meant to be and am becoming.
With so much love and the peace that is becoming far more familiar than turmoil,