Yes, you read the title correctly, I'm making all parts of me work for me!
I've been threatening to write for days now but didn't know what to write about. Tonight, I learned a pretty significant (for me) lesson and am inspired to tell about it!
There are days where I am scared that I will, not necessarily go back to the eating disorder but, pick up some other sort of destructive behaviour to get my rush. No longer do I play Russian Roulette when I go to bed at night, wondering if I'll wake up in the morning...that's from a very long time ago now it seems. However, there's still part of me that craves the rush of risk. I know that there are other ways to find that rush and I have a few, healthy ways I get it now, but the fear that it won't be enough, that I'll have to push it a little further and end up possibly risking my life again is present all too often. I figured it out a bit tonight. Additionally, I realized the power of determination and the role it continues to play in my forward movement.
Carrying on with the preamble, I will illustrate the situation this evening that gave me the lesson I needed: I just arrived home from the salon with a new “do” that I'm quite pleased with. I finish my dinner and realize...if I let today go by, it will have been three full days without purposeful exercise. *alarm!* Then the hamster wheel starts analyzing the past three days. The first was after an amazing and spontaneous squash practice where I had the luck of working briefly with a coach from the UK - my body was tired and sore from the new technique. Yesterday, I was busy in good ways and exhausted by the evening. Today, however, I just didn't get myself together enough to head to the squash court in the morning and then spent all afternoon at the salon. It's evening time, the clouds are growing thicker and threatening a wonderful storm. Part of me doesn't feel like going for a walk but part of me says that I “should”. And here begins an all too familiar war of me versus her...
I've already been going through some pretty significant anxiety again as I approach my time to leave Portugal and return to the “real world” with more finality. I have moments of reprieve from the hamster wheel of fear and doubt but it affects each day to some extent at this point. Today was no different in that regard and therefore the thoughts snow balled: when I walk I think even more, I need distraction right now rather than another opportunity to ruminate; I can't go 3 days without purposeful exercise – but that seems like a negative thought so I probably shouldn't engage it and should choose to fight it; if I walk I might run into someone who smiles at me or returns I smile I give to them and that would feel better than sitting at home by myself...but it's late in the evening and at this time of year, very few people are out and about at this time; I need to do something physical, why? Because it's good for my body.
Aha! Sifting back through those thoughts I see that the real motivation is that it is good for my body, my back is stiff from driving so much the past few days, the fresh air is lovely and it's amazing that it is cool enough to be out in it, it's good to do something different than my usual squash practice and games, I can do whatever I choose to for the rest of the evening, etc. The fear was of my mind. I was a) scared of thinking too much while walking without sufficient distraction and b) couldn't figure out if wanting to “treat my body well” with a bit of movement was just a trick my mind was playing on me in a bad way. Part “b” of that needed to be examined carefully and I felt that it was the Real Me desiring this activity. When I realized this, I made my decision: I was going to walk because it would feel good and I was going to make it a positive event. Quickly, I gathered my iPod, umbrella, and phone, put on a better pair of shoes, and nipped out the door.
I hadn't thought it through (read: over-thought it) and figured out what “making this a positive event” might look like. The thoughts started as soon as I began up the hill outside my apartment. Just a whirring of activity in my head and for a moment, I felt powerless. Not for long though, I remembered what I've been thinking about recently that being here, coming through the program, has given me so much and one of the greatest aspects has been the gift of choice. I'd be darned if I was going to feel victimized by my own mind! So I decided I would choose to spend some time remembering the good of my day, the best interactions, rethinking compliments given and received, and humorous moments. That worked for a bit until I was reminded of my earlier anxiety and how big it seemed. I started to analyze that anxiety and...was hit with the most beautiful smell of flowers coming from behind a cement wall! That brought me back out of my head and into my moment. Horray! Now...how was I going to hold onto my present? Sing? Sure!
So, I started to sing the song playing at that moment, quietly. It helped a lot to distract from my thoughts. Over the next few minutes, I saw a cute older couple who gave me big smiles. I observed people eating dinner at one of the few restaurants that's still open in the little town I'm in. I felt a breeze and just stood for a moment in the cool air, not thinking at all.
As I turned towards home, I realized that I was doing it! I was making my thoughts and activity work for me. I decided to stop fighting, reduce the effort I was making, and see where my mind went. Quickly, over about one minute, I found myself frowning and feeling very angry about a few things. This is one emotion I have become acutely aware of recently, specifically why I react to certain situations with anger, so I questioned it and encouraged what was underneath to come out and just be. I started to cry. I was simply sad at the thought of leaving! I let myself realize how much I am going to miss about this place I've been for the last year and a bit and allowed myself the tears that brim frequently these days. This all happened over about 3 minutes total and I started to giggle while I wiped my eyes because I realized, I was “doing it”. I was doing exactly what I want to be able to do:
- Choose my thoughts and actions and make them best for me.
- Be aware of my emotional reactions and allow what is real to be, even if it hurts.
- Figure these things out on my own, if necessary.
So, now I sit here, peaceful again and appreciating the determination I have towards achieving the wellness I desire.
I mentioned previously that I acknowledge that the mindset and little devil in my head are not completely gone yet, despite the length of time I have spent in treatment and working towards eradicating my eating disorder completely. This is yet another example of the little battles I still face but far more important than that, it is proof that I'm winning. The real me.
I decided when I was offered the opportunity to come to this place last year, that there was no going back if I was enabled to move forward enough that I could see the end. That commitment hasn't changed, I want to be well more than anything at this point and I need to remind myself of that commitment and put my efforts towards making the wellness I want come to fruition.
So, with today's very simple experience, I've realized how unnecessary my fear of falling prey to destructive behaviour is. I've reclaimed the choice I can have in my life and as far as I am humanly able, I will keep working towards making the right choices for me because I can. I'm far beyond the confused little girl from last year who was either drowning out her thoughts with behaviours or berating and hating herself for any choice to act against the dictates of her mind if she made positive behavioural choices that enabled life. I didn't have a choice then but I've been brought to a place where I do.
This is today's reason why I don't think it's possible to relapse after really coming through this completely. People with EDs are warned that there is a risk that remains for a very long time if not forever. I disagree, as I'm sure any of my readers are aware of! If I have a choice and elect to make the better choice in as many situations as I'm faced with, be they external/situational or internal, eventually, it will become what is natural. I've been built up mentally and emotionally to understand the strength and worthiness I have to live a full life. I understand where tendencies towards negative behaviour (in any way) come from. With those parts of me working alongside each other, I will make a well life, habitual.
No, overcoming eating disorders is not about overcoming a habit. Practising positive choices, once brought to place where that is an option, is.
I so appreciate how stubborn I am at this point. Determination was a better word tonight, I wasn't digging my heels in against something, I was figuring it out, as I went along, what was going to work for me. I did it, I learned. And it's an awesome lesson.
So, for anyone wondering “when it gets easier?”, for me, I think it might be now or at least soon. I've acknowledged that I don't need to be scared of my mind because I choose how to let it work more often than not. I choose how I see things, what I take away from situations, and where I am going to spend my energy. Some days, I still crawl into bed completely exhausted from the emotional fight – but it's not everyday. Additionally, I finally see the real “light”. I see where this process I'm going through right now can take me. Throughout the last years of being sick, once I understood something, I was often able to work a bit better with it/resist less. It was more practical then (why I needed to be in hospital and fed, etc.) but now, the way I see the fight I need to put up at times still, is a means to a really beautiful end!