Thursday, February 28, 2013

People pleasing? Not really.

My mom is arriving today and I am so looking forward to spending the day with her.  This morning, as I was getting dressed, I realized what a simple example I could use of how things have changed for me regarding the concept of "people pleasing".

This is often a classic trait in people with eating disorders (and "nice" people in the general population possibly resulting in anxiety disorders at some point, not always.  This blog is specific to my eating disorder recovery and the mindset that goes with it and part of my manifestation of symptoms had a lot to do with this characteristic); we want everyone to be okay even at the expense of ourselves.  I continue to want that but am finding a balance that keeps me in the equation too.

So!  My example!  I generally choose my clothes for the following day at night just because I don't want to be bothered with that decision in the morning.  Last night was no different.  This morning, I got up, showered, dressed and glanced in the mirror and would probably like to see you in something a little more girly.  I smiled because this thought came with no distress.  I ran through my options in my head and changed my clothes.  

In years gone by, since I was a little girl, I wore whatever my mom thought looked good on me even if I hated it.  I remember many outfits where I looked in the mirror and thought, "This is so dorky" or more often, "This makes me look chubby" (at as young as 7 that I can remember clearly).  Despite those thoughts, I would see my mom smiling proudly at how "cute" or "pretty" I looked or how lovely the fabric was, and regardless of how I felt about the clothes, I would choose what had lit her face up the most.  Sure, I would grumble frequently when I put on these outfits but frequently, I would walk out of my room, ready for school, and mom would tell me how lovely I looked.  I wanted so badly to be a daughter that she was proud of that if it meant wearing something I felt less than confident in, that was okay.  It seemed to make her happy.

I went through phases over the years - sometimes wearing things just to get a reaction from her that was less than positive.  Other times if mom said she liked to see me in pink, I would seek out a pink shirt or dress even if I really wanted a grey one.  

To clarify, there was never any negative intent behind her words.  I know now that she probably would have preferred if I had chosen what I liked best but I didn't ever voice my thoughts and feelings to her about this.

Today, the difference was subtle but existed.  I considered what my mom might think of my outfit and I'm sure she would have liked it, but, I knew I had something slightly more girly that would really make her smile to see me in.  I like both outfits, I bought them on my own volition!  What is the harm in choosing the one that I hadn't planned on wearing when I know it will bring a smile to her face?  There isn't any!

It's this equal worth - mine and her's - that finally exists that allows me to bend myself ever so slightly to enhance another person's experience.  Can I change something and have the situation still work well for me and possibly better for someone else?  How much am I willing to "bend"?

Today's situation is so simple but illustrates a way of being and thinking that is so drastically different than before.  I still want people to be okay, happy, and comfortable as much as possible, that is just me.  I do not identify as a "people pleaser" in a way that negatively impacts me anymore (any friend can attest to that, I'm sure).  If my mom would prefer to see me in long skirts and blouses, I would not likely accommodate that because as superficial as clothing is, it is how I present visually to the world and is a small aspect of my Self that is less often compromised these days.  

This way of thinking applies much more broadly and there are likely many more examples that I could use and might one day.  The point is:  I will not shrink and change and morph myself to extents that leave me out.  I also know that those that have my best interests in mind, would not want me to change for them - my mom would be happy to see me in sweats and a hoody today if that's what I felt like wearing - she doesn't actually care!  

What's most fun for me is that people might not ever know of the small things that were considered, in my world, for them but that's just part of honouring myself too.  I enjoy the thought and the result - like today, knowing my mom will smile and have a little comment and see me being me merely in a different outfit than I had chosen last night.

When it is done having equal value as everyone else in my life, I am not dragged down and stressed, I am built up and energized.

So, for you mom, this is as much girlishness I could muster and I know you're going to think it's "cute".  Love you.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Great Adventure

So much to say, so many topics to write about, so much learning and growth continuing to occur!

Today I thought about how wonderful the experience of simple daily life is - how great the little things are and how much each step I take, each challenge I meet and surpass is a gift. 

Sure, I'm proud of myself but that matters less and less these days.  Each moment contains such wealth - my interactions, my thoughts, my activities, are leading to a past I can look back on fondly.

In the past month or so, I focused on doing something each day, even one thing, that I could not have done or appreciated fully when I was sick.  The options for this are plentiful and range from squash games, to venturing to busy public places that would have provoked panic attacks previously; from having a good conversation to enjoying quiet company of just me or that of others without my mind trekking off to some negative place.  Peace is still so new and pleasant that I notice it and I hope that I do not lose that despite how far I move from that old negative world.

Tonight, as I wrap up a long day with a few new challenges, I thought back to last February....

It was on this day, 2012, that I left my treatment environment to meet my sister in Lisbon for my first trip back to Canada.  I could not have known that "great adventure" was just a tiny, baby taste of what real life could contain.

Ah, yes, what an adventure.  Life is so good when we let it be.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Eating Disorder Awareness Week, 2013

I have been unusually quiet this Eating Disorder Awareness Week. In fact, I was unaware this was the week until Wednesday!! Why? Because this year I am busy living a life largely separate from an eating disorder. In years past, I was living the hell that we as a collective group of sufferers, families, and professionals were trying to bring awareness about. This year, finally, I have tasted freedom. No, my journey is not over. I work each day, still, to choose life and strengthen my real self.

Today it dawned on me to share a response to the note of thanks I extended last year, mid way through my brilliantly supported journey to wellness and recovery; to offer perspective to sufferers who are aware of how painful the journey is and who ask “why?” they are still trying to stay alive and if anyone on the outside can grasp just how painful it is; who feel lonely despite being surrounded by people. When I received this, I cried. Often the degree of love that people hold for me blows me out of the water - still.

I want to keep the writer anonymous but for friends and families who are walking the road next to a loved one, sometimes, we can't hear you; the negative thoughts and feelings are so strong that your words and actions are twisted against us; sometimes I thought people on the outside were the crazy ones for continuing to care. Now, I believe how much you love me and I look back and thank you all for being reasons for me to hold on and for being the people that held on for me.

We had begun to see the real light when this was written, had started to understand that there was an end to mine and that of those around me struggle and pain.

So with that, here is this!
Thank you, Julia, for reaching into the void for a hand to hold when all you could see was evil and darkness.
Thank you for listening to voices of hope when you didn't feel any.
Thank you for having a sense of humor, even on days when you didn't have the energy to enjoy the laugh yourself.
Thank you for spreading as much love as you could muster even when all we wanted was that you could begin to love yourself a little hair as much as we loved you.
Thank you for being nicer to yourself [when I was around].
Thank you for taking yourself to ER all (each and every one of) the times you did...and thank you for everything else you did to stay alive, even though it was so hard.
Thank you for letting me hug you when I had nothing to say.
Thank you for telling me what you found helpful and not-so-helpful.
Thank you for staying in hospital for the weeks you needed before going to Portugal.
And more than anything, thank you for taking your courageous journey that will restore us to each other - sharing love, hope, life, dreams and beauty and bearing witness to each others' journeys of changing the world by spreading peace and joy.
I have missed you...and I can't wait for your struggle to be over and you to taste total freedom! Life is just beginning for you, and I am so grateful that chances are overwhelmingly in our favour - we will be a part of each others' lives for a long time yet. Thanks to you."
So to this beautiful soul who is so close to me in my days still, I can finally say "you're welcome".
To life!! And the everlasting possibility for recovery, renewal, and brilliant experience of love and joy.