Intuitition vs. Compulsion

Compulsion

The force of needing to do something rather than wanting to do something.

 
I struggle with compulsion. I

It’s not just an eating disorder- although that would be an easy diagnosis to wrap up in a pretty little box.

It’s a mentality- a constant belief that I can fill certain voids with inappropriate measures-it’s beyond desire, it morphs into necessity.
It’s a choke-hold restraint of control over the things I will never, ever be able to control.

 
I don’t want to live this way
I don’t want to have to live needing anything tangible
I want to live for experience and spontaneity. I want my intuition to guide me- I trust that, but I ignore its pleading voice. Intuition, for me, is synonymous with higher power. It is the good energy of the universe, the karma of the spiritual world, leading me in the right direction. And so often, I ignore that very clear insight. So often, I run in the opposite direction. It scares me to let go. To trust that things will, as they tend to do, fall into place. They will. I know they will.
And yet, I flirt with control.
 
My compulsion emerges in subtle ways-
From the coffee I think I “need” to drink to the work I think I “need” to do to the exercise I think I “need” to achieve to the “lists” I think I need to cross off to the gum I think I “need” to chew to the food I think I “need” to eat to the people I think I “need” to please to the therapy I think I “need” to perform to the expectations I think I “need” to meet.
My compulsion drives me to calculate, to predict, to meticulously plan. Basically, it drives me to a life that rides me.
What I am realizing is this: compulsion cannot healthily coexist with intuition. They contradict each other. Intuition makes me an active participant in life; compulsion makes me a passive rider. Compulsion throws me around and makes me a victim. Compulsion strips me of free will by convincing me I need to do what I can to take control…of something that doesn’t really need to be controlled, of something larger than me, of something that is a distorted need or want in my life.
 
I take solace that I am not alone.
I am among many others struggling the same fights
A fight against oneself, we discover, is more complex than fighting against anyone else.
 When there is only a party of one, who wins and who loses?
 
Death keeps happening in my life. Another relative. Another funeral. It hurts. God, it hurts. Why me? Why now? So many questions.  I cannot control these acts of nature as much as I want to believe I can. I can only feel. And I hate to feel. Because who wants to be in pain? But I’m letting myself do that. Compulsions cannot “cure” me, or protect me from experiencing the inevitable spectrum of emotions that come with BEING ALIVE AND HUMAN. I am used to believing that I need to punish myself for the “bad things” that happen to me. As if they are somehow my fault. As if I need to add a layer of suffering on top of suffering. As if my pain weren’t real.
 
We were talking about vices the other day. I still hang onto some of mine, but I guess I didn’t like to examine those. I consider them “less evil” than the ones I used to hold onto. I mean, they aren’t drugs. I’m not killing people for recreation. I’m not cutting or self-meditating myself with alcohol. I’m not engaging in the same destructive eating behaviors I used to.
 
But, still. Why? What’s keeping me attached to these compulsive needs. What drives me to the coffee cup, to the constant checking of online media, to the list-making and obsessive planning, and so on?
 
I read this affirmation this morning: Today I dare look within to see what is keeping me stuck. I know I cannot change unless I know what there is to change. I feel energized and empowered to move forward.
 
Fear keeps me stuck. Shame keeps me stuck. Anxiety keeps me stuck. But stuck is not feeling; stuck is a place. And I can get out of there. I know how. I know what I want to change. Intuition- not compulsion- is the answer. I am a beautiful and capable person- innately, I can trust that my heart and soul will lead me in the right directions. There are no rules. I can let go of rigidity. If it’s not making me happy – if it’s not filling the right the void– if it’s not something I genuinely WANT–I can let it go. I can let it go any damn time I want.
Advertisements

good morning.

Dear Bee,

After feeling really dejected the other day about my future and what I had in store for me, yesterday again showed me that I am on the right path and reinforced my avid belief that everything comes to me at the perfect time.

My supervisor, while I was discussing a complex client case in our meeting, praised my “phenomenal work” and told me, “You’re not afraid to push your clients towards the light. And that’s a big strength.” That made me feel so good. And she’s right. Most of my clients are in some kind of pit of darkness or at least are familiar with feelings of the hopelessness that drive them to therapy in the first place, and I do believe it is my job to instill hope where there may be none and provide a light at the end of the tunnel.

Later that afternoon, I was talking with a colleague who is leaving my agency to continue her private practice endeavors. When she was asking me “what’s next?” regarding my own future plans, I told her I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t think I was ready for the private practice route for awhile. She asked why, and I said I didn’t think I was adequate and competent enough for such work. She looked at me in disbelief and said, “Really? You’re incredibly knowledgeable. I have no doubt you’d succeed.” That also made me feel good, given that this woman is twice my age and far more experienced. 

So. Yesterday was a good day 🙂

And today is going to be just as wonderful because I am deeming it to be wonderful.

I am so glad I spent the last year working on myself. I can’t imagine where I would be physically and mentally had I decided to remain stagnant and unwilling to change. I would have probably just continue with my compulsive, rigid way of existence: through food, through work, through relationships. I would have sunk deeper into denial and avoidance. There is little that is more important than the relationship one has with oneself. Thus, to harm yourself is a cry for help and a signal that many primitive needs are not getting met. If you want to harm yourself in anyway, LISTEN to that voice. It’s telling you something, whether you want to hear it or not. 

 

Food and Mortality

Dear Bee,

I want to sit here and complain how much yesterday sucked food-wise. How in my head I felt. How I just wanted to eat all the foods and how annoyed I felt that I didn’t have that opportunity. How I ate candy by the handful, joked about my persistent sweet tooth to cover up my urges, and centered my entire afternoon by the prospective food I could eat. How I went to the grocery store with my boyfriend and imagined all the foods I could binge on. Not just eat, but complete. I fantasized about desserts the way a lover fantasizes about a rendezvous. I could complain that I weighed myself multiple times yesterday and this morning and never felt satisfied with the number I saw. I could complain that I looked in the mirror and only saw a fat, lazy mess reflecting back at me. I could complain how yesterday, food meant more to me than love and spending quality time with the person who means the world to me. I hate to admit that to the world, but it’s the truth. Rather than stay the night at his place, I almost went home. Just because I felt so triggered. Just because I wanted to keep eating. Be alone. Be isolated. If I already fucked up, I wanted to keep fucking up. 

This is a beautiful Geneen Roth quote that I read the other day: Compulsive eating is a way we distance ourselves from the way things are when they are not how we want them to be. I tell them that ending the obsession with food is all about the capacity to stay in the present moment. TO not leave themselves  I tell them that they don’t have to make a choice between losing weight and doing this. Weight loss is the easy part; anytime you truly listen to your hunger and fullness, you lose weight. But I also tell them compulsive eating is basically a refusal to be fully alive. No matter what we weigh, those of us who are compulsive eaters have anorexia of the soul. We refuse to take in what sustains us. We live lives of deprivation. And when we can’t stand it any longer, we binge. The way we are able to accomplish of of this is by the simple act of bolting, of leaving ourselves hundreds of times a day.

I always recommend her books. She is a truly inspirational writer and public speaker on eating disorders. 

I guess the idea of being fully alive is a scary one. My boyfriend and I were talking about this yesterday. There is just so much pressure to carpe diem, to seize the day, to YOLO, that we become caught in this vicious cycle of comparing ourselves to others and feeling like we can never stack up. We face such a need to LIVE, and I mean FULLY, TRULY RELISH IN LIFE, but at the same time, we exist in a society that is constantly reminding us to consider our future while reflect on our past. This is a tricky dance. 

We took a long walk yesterday evening and talked about our childhoods. I noted that maybe we struggle so much in adolescence not because we struggle to enter adulthood, but because we have to grieve exiting childhood. Our whole lives shape us, in a sense, to become adults and have responsibility, but we are never taught how to prepare leaving our youths. Is it any wonder that many mental illnesses stem during puberty, during adolescence, in that awkward transition time between not having any autonomy to suddenly being forced to make an identity? 

I have never met a child born with a compulsive or addictive mindset. No child is born with an eating disorder. This is learned behavior. Even with a genetic predisposition, a toddler is not simply going to starve him or herself or think to overeat beyond the point of satiation. A young child is not going to suddenly down a bottle of vodka for the sheer pleasure of it. The very thought is unnatural. Why do we suddenly feel this incessant need to escape? Drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, food, work: it’s all the same. Passion is doing something because we want to do it, and compulsion is doing something because we have to do it.

But what are we running from? Ourselves? Reality? Responsibility? The complexities of life? 

The opposite act of escaping must be embracing. Accepting. Just like children do before the world taints them, before their own minds turn against them. Can the compulsive mindset really be erased? Or is it something we must constantly manage and monitor? Is it possible to live a life without wanting to run away from it? It has to be. It absolutely has to be.

 

Life does not ever slow down, and we cannot freeze, alter, or go back in time. The world is constantly fluid, in motion, and evolving. I will never be younger than I am at this very second, and that is a very grounding thought. A terrifying one, too. I visited my grandmother earlier this morning, who has been plagued by her own set of mental illnesses and is currently residing in hospice care, and realized that at one point, she was my age. She was a vital woman with a sharp mind and an active body. Now, she is confined to a hospital bed with decaying health. Again, life does not slow down. We will age; time will always catch up to us; one day, we will turn around and realize our youths and our adulthoods are practically behind us.

The only constant every human shares is birth and death. What lies in between is up to us. 

Yesterday was a rough day, and I didn’t do my best at recovery. But it was in my past, and I have chosen to let it go. I am a human being, and I make mistakes. I punished myself for it already; I can choose to reward myself today. 

Life is a beautiful blessing and no day is inherently ours. Whether we seize it or let it pass on by, the awareness that we are one day closer to our imminent death, does seem to make the ride worthwhile. 

I think I’m going to show this blog to my boyfriend…?

Dear Bee,

It is very interesting how these letters have evolved in content since the beginning stages. Sometimes I reread the previous entries just for reference: my gratitude is overwhelming. I put in so much hard work, and it’s wonderful to reap the limitless benefits that come from choosing recovery every single day. 

I remember when I used to be afraid of eating. Just in general. I hated it. I couldn’t trust myself around food. I couldn’t trust how much I would or wouldn’t eat. Newborns and infants have this ability, and yet, as we mature and grow, we lose sight of our intuition. I couldn’t do a biological and inherent act necessary to survive. I couldn’t eat just to eat. It was terrible. Dark, dark days. After such a long journey, it feels feels relieving to gain some of that inner trust back. 

My life is so colorful now. So exciting. I am just SO happy. 

But, looking back: I was afraid. Definitely afraid. Comfortable only with the black-and-white. Desperately trying to achieve perfectionism and be the very best at anything and everything I did. 

I was so convinced that my body determined my worth. Sadly, we live in a society that cherishes physique. We do determine people’s credibility and attractiveness by the sizes and shapes of their bodies. In the past, when people complimented my size, I would either thank them (while silently disagreeing and wondering why they were lying to me) or thank them (while feeling more of an urge to keep doing what I was doing). In other words, not eat, over-exercise, and binge to make up for feeling so deprived. A chaotic cycle- it became second-nature. Chaos was more familiar than simplicity, and I thrived on my own internal drama. 

I had to learn how to re-feed myself. With everything. Not just with food, but with LIFE. Nourishing the body is one thing. Nourishing the soul is what counts. Nourishing the soul is where the healing and growth comes. At one point, I just stopped caring about what felt good and only did what I thought I needed to do. I let my compulsions drive me. And, it worked. I was numbed by to-do lists, diet plans, growling stomachs, and ridiculous schedules. On the outside, I was this calm and collected young woman, always with many friends and support. Inside, I was killing myself. 

I wasn’t taking care of myself. With an eating disorder, you’re, in fact, doing the exact opposite. Learning how to actually take care of yourself, physically and mentally, is one of the most rewarding journeys any of us can take. Because we simply cannot take care of others until we are able to extend that same love and kindness to ourselves. In recovery, I love who I am. In recovery, I can chase what feels good. In recovery, I am free.

I leave for Europe on Monday. I think I am going to show my boyfriend this blog. He knows I maintain it, and he thinks it’s great that I give so much support to the eating disorder community. I tell him that I have to give back what I have been given.

It’s scary- breaking down the walls. There have been some really ugly days captured in here. He knows about my past. Knows about the starving and bingeing, the weirdness with food and exercise, the complications of recovery. therapy and therapy groups, the challenges, the fears. He sees me in such a healthy place. And it’s true. I met him when things were finally coming full-circle in recovery. And I mean, really full-circle. 

But, to have him peak at the raw emotions lined out on the pages so many of you have read…to read about the heartache and fear and vulnerability, that’s a huge risk. Even though I may be afraid to take it, I’m going to do it, because I know he’s there to catch me. Already, I’m thinking about all the things I’ve written: the slips, the anger, the ridiculous pleas to just stop feeling triggered…some of it seems so crazy, but it was real. It was so real. It was so painful. 

But, I pushed. I keep pushing. I am a fucking warrior. 

He loves and accepts me unconditionally, and in showing him this true piece of me, he will get to see a part of the authentic journey of recovery. This is who I am. I can’t change my past. But I sure have grown from it. I don’t regret a single second spent in my disorder because without it, I would never know how amazing recovery could feel! And as for the boyfriend, he will get to fall in love with me over and over again. No barriers, no hang-ups. The fear comes from the shame, and the shame is what I am trying everyday to dismantle. Radical honesty, it’s the glue that makes our relationship so strong and beautiful.

I deserve his love, and I am finally at a place in my life where I can happily say I deserve what feels good. 

❤ 

Certainty of Misery vs. Misery of Uncertainty

Dear Bee,

Image

Today, my professor actually used that quote in talking about her own experiences in working with individuals processing trauma. It resonated with my entire class. The doubt and skepticism to change is universal. But without change, we often remain stuck.

And feeling “stuck” is toxic to our confidence and faith. Feeling “stuck” is lethal. It makes us feel inadequate, ineffective, and inferior. 

Virginia Satir, who remains my absolute favorite family therapist for her impeccable insight and unbelievable nurture, said, Most people prefer the certainty of misery over the misery of uncertainty. 

I agree. What better explains the pervasiveness of people who remain in abusive relationships, employees who stay in jobs they loathe, or individuals who continuously complain how their lives are going nowhere? 

Even if we complain, we feel safer in our predictable worlds.

By nature and force of learned behavior and modeling, we humans are primitive and habitual creatures. Much of our actions are subconscious; an overwhelming majority of our language and understanding of one another remains nonverbal. Change is hard because, most of the time, we do not realize that our routines, rules, and perceptions remain so deeply-rooted.  

Misery of the uncertainty?

This explains why change terrifies most of us. This makes recovery so challenging. The strive for balance and freedom feels unknown. With an eating disorder, the misery is absolutely certain. It is reasonable to compromise the negative emotions, because at least, we know they are coming. With this, we can create our own self-fulfilling prophecies. Eating disorders do not entirely numb emotions; rather, they centralize the emotions stemming from other stressors and stimuli directly onto the food and the body. What may be anger concerning an interpersonal relationship becomes projected into anger over feeling “out of control” with food. What may start as anxiety over a new job spills into feeling too “fat” and hating our bodies. We label these moments as “triggers,” and rather than focus on the problem at hand, we instantly feel drawn into our inappropriate coping mechanisms, negative self-talk, or destructive thoughts. 

As we engage deeper into the pathology, our inner worlds become centered on the eating disorder. Again, misery in certainty. If we cannot absolutely stop emotions,we at least want to control what stimuli we do have emotions over. 

I do not believe eating disorders are a choice, but I do believe change and recovery is. We are not limited to this diagnosis. Change is possible. Recovery is possible. Transformation from the victim to the warrior mindset is difficult, but I believe it is imperative. At one point, we realize we are holding onto pain and agony that no longer serves us. The decision to change is a powerful one, for we must find the willingness to transition from accepting certainty with misery to accepting misery with uncertainty. 

And as much as I love Satir, I am going to tweak her powerful, thought-provoking statement to a more simplistic one: To heal, we must be willing to accept uncertainty over certainty. 

Eating disorders keep our worlds certain. They keep them predictable, boxed, and “safe.” We are sheltered by a haven built on fear, mistrust, and compulsion. Recovery from such imprisonment might compromise some of this illusion of certainty, but once we can truly experience the joys of nourishing our souls and living in the present moment, having certainty over anything simply won’t matter as much. 

to be alive or to feel alive

Dear Bee,

This is gotta be the good life, right? That’s what I’m striving towards: happy, happy, happy, free, free, free. I never knew what that really meant until I started understanding the difference between people who really experienced those two feelings and people who don’t.

I have this friend I’m becoming quickly close to. She’s everything I admire in an individual: carefree, assertive, beautiful in every way a woman can be beautiful, nomadic, spontaneous, pensive, curious, spiritual, intellectual. She has done more in this lifetime than most people ever will and she has the stories, scars, photographs to reveal it. She intimidated the hell out of me when I first met her, but she’s drawn to me as much as I am to her. 

I admire her because she does what she wants. And she makes so much room in her life to take care of her needs and actively seek out what feels good, rather than “wait” for things to happen. She is so intuitive in every aspect of life. She lights candles because they smell good;,fills the room with moving music because it sounds good, goes on adventures, jets around the world, committing to whatever and whoever she wants to because that’s what appeals to her. It has been eye-opening. Because this is so normal for her. This is her second nature just as punishing, depriving, and filling my days with compulsive behavior became my second nature.

When I’m with her, I just feel alive. Alive and excited.

And I’ve really realized I want to do more than BE alive. I want to FEEL alive. The difference between being and feeling lies in the difference between passivity and activity. I want to feel reckless and young and spirited and passionate. I want to be spontaneous the way I was as a child. I want to dream big and take wild risks because I can. 

I just don’t think anybody can feel alive with an active eating disorder. It’s the dark cloud overcasting every feeling and thought and event happening in our lives. It’s the core of so much shame, regret, anxiety, and depression. Eating disorders leave little room for spontaneity, pleasure, passion, and zest. How can they, when they require so much planning, control, self-loathing, stress, and worry?

Even while working recovery, the preoccupation lingers…the intruding thoughts can be unbearable. It’s not about the thoughts. It can’t be. We can’t control our thoughts, nor can we dwell or beat on ourselves for having them. We can challenge or reframe them however we may need to. But we can’t always stop those primary thoughts from invading our mind. What can we stop? What can we control?

Our behaviors. Reactions. Choices. 

That’s what leads us to happiness, to freedom, to whatever the hell we want. 

Happiness is a choice that I’ve DEMANDED to choose every single day.