Forgiving myself for every single thing I have ever done

Dear Bee,

You’re keeping me up so late! ¬†Maybe that’s because I’ve slept more the past weekend than I probably did all last week…crazy, CRAZY fatigue. It feels good to be home, even though I’ll be leaving for another mini-vacation in just a few hours.

In brief, I still haven’t 100% picked myself up from that deep and treacherous low point I hit last Thursday. Last week was really hard. Between the small fire, feelings of utter hopelessness with the ups and downs of my recovery process, wicked bout of food poisoning, and a six-hour drive in the pouring rain with little to no visibility last night…well, I’m ready for some positivity ūüôā¬†

I have good people to lean on and I am grateful for that. Where you used to keep me outwardly social but inwardly isolated, I am slowly learning how to ask for help from others when I need it. And I’ve definitely needed it.¬†

I had a very good therapy session this afternoon (what else is new, right?). The other day, my therapist disclosed to me that she has full faith in my recovery and that I’m one of the most successful people she’s ever seen do this. I know she’s not just trying to appease me, and I have mixed feelings on such compliments. On one hand, this just stokes my people-pleasing tendencies and satisfies my need for approval and praise from others. On the other hand, this sentiment put me on yet another pedestal, in that I felt more pressure to continue doing a “good job.” This exchange happened over the phone last Thursday (the day of my terrible meltdown; she was a saving grace at the time), but we processed it in today’s session.

She told me she that she absolutely understood the pressure I felt from others (now that I also have a sponsor and more people know about my eating disorder), because I think I have to “fess up” my mistakes to these people, and that, in turn, makes me feel guilty when I slip. I struggle with¬†not¬†feeling guilty, because I think I am disappointing the individuals who appear to be sacrificing their time, energy, and kindness on me.

I know I am being much harder on myself than anyone else has ever been (or will ever be). Nobody expected me to recover overnight and nobody expects me to have this “perfect” linear journey.

We talked about my high-achieving, successful life and how I constantly exceed people’s expectations for me.¬†It makes me feel conceited for feeling exhausted at people gushing that they are just so proud of me.¬†I have heard it my entire life.

Parents, teachers, friends, even strangers.¬†She can do it all. She’s just so smart. She’s so talented. She’s so well-mannered. She’s an amazing writer/student/athlete/girlfriend/friend/daughter.

I remember my ex-boyfriend telling me that he could count on one hand the number of times his father had told him he was proud of him. I felt a powerful mixture of sadness, shock, and confusion upon learning this, for I had heard it probably a million from just my parents alone. 

Then again, I know I revel in other people’s opinion and praise of me, so them doing it just reinforces my perfectionist complex. I like when people like me, but I love proving people wrong.¬†Fortunately, I now realize the drawbacks of this dependency of such approval. In doing so, I often neglect my own needs because I am constantly seeking to¬†impress everyone else.¬†This stems from insecurity and an inability to accept myself and has consequently become a subconscious drive. Only recently have I become aware of this flawed need, and I am determined to work on it.

 

My therapist told me I need to write a letter of forgiveness to myself. At first, I dismissed it, thinking,¬†well, I already have this blog. I write letters to myself practically every single day.¬†And then it occurred to me: been able to apologize to myself for engaging in self-destructive behaviors; I’ve processed my mistakes and discussed my shortcomings and talked about the lessons I have learned. But, that’s just awareness and self-realization: I have never taken the next step in absolutely, wholeheartedly forgiving myself.

I just wrote that letter. I think that’s why I’m unable to fall asleep. I filled four notebook pages back-to-back. Eight pages. I lost track of time. I haven’t read it over yet and I don’t think I will until my next therapy session. I don’t have any desire to even post it on here. That letter is for me and it’s something I need to read aloud and think about. I forgave myself for many things: for being a perfectionist, for letting other people influence my own judgment, for believing I wasn’t good enough, for the relationships and people that I let hurt me, and yes, for my eating disorder.

I am able to find the positive strengths in everyone; this is innate to me, and I did not recognize that it was even a skill until I realized not everyone thinks in such an optimistic way. However, until now, I have not extended that same generosity towards myself. Nope, I have mentally beaten myself into oblivion, doubting and questioning nearly every decision I have made, comparing my everything to everyone else. 

I cannot say I will absolutely wake up tomorrow and fully embrace the virtues of self-love. But I am damn well going to try my hardest. Because I am good enough. And I am going to get through this, no matter how long it takes, no matter how many times I break down, no matter how much it hurts or scares me. I know that I have no other choice. I have too much awareness, and one of my favorite quotes is: A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.

 I can never return to the girl I used to be, the one shackled by the bondage of her own deceit, denial, and lying facade, the one buried by you, the vicious, conniving monster, who swore up and down that I needed you. 

I don’t need you and forgiving myself will set both of us free.¬†

 

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therapy smacked me upside today

Dear Bee,

I think I had the hardest therapy session of my life today. 

Ugh. You would think that a graduate student studying to become a therapist would be okay receiving a dose of her own medicine. No. In fact, I think my situation may make the process even MORE difficult just because I spend so much time studying behavior, interventions, disorders, etc. I am probably far more insightful and knowledgeable about the goals and techniques of therapy than the average client.

But little did I know how difficult it would be to sit on the other side of the couch. This may very well be the hardest part of my program! Being a client and exposing my vulnerabilities and processing my fears and feelings (while still worrying that my therapist is judging me) is incredibly foreign to me.

Although our initial sessions focused on the history of my eating disorder, the food, and my complete struggles and frustration with (any) attempts at recovery, our discussions have now dug deeper into the core issues stunting and occasionally jeopardizing my mental well-being.

We have identified my anxiety, need for control and perfection, people-pleasing tendencies, inability to sit well with feelings or cope with stress, and compulsive behavior.

In other words, I have a LOT of issues I need to address before I even begin to consider addressing the issues of others.

To be honest, such raw exploration is fucking painful. This afternoon, I became a hot mess (internally, because I still have not been able to muster the courage to cry in session). Awareness is hard to accept. When we rely on denial and avoidance for so long, the blindfold removing the ignorance makes the world look so scary.

We think we want change, but we fear what our lives will look like once the changes are implemented…we often fear happiness more than we fear stagnation. Stagnation, at least, is familiar. It is what we are probably already used to living in.

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 I now realize that I have been punishing myself for a long time and in many ways (not just with food). As much as I want to consider myself a huge risk-taker, I feel hypocritical taking that title. An eating disorder is all about scheduling, control, and rigidity. My whole life, in turn, has centered on those principles. It probably always has; the eating disorder was just the presenting problem that raised awareness to it.

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So, now, it’s about taking some action and about making some changes. About learning to radically accept myself and do¬†what feels good for me¬†without worrying about¬†what feels good for him/her/them. About reframing negative thoughts into positive ones.

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Stop holding on to what hurts and make room for what feels good

Dear Bee,

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I had this quote as my background on the phone for about a month and I just recently changed it to another cliched, but nonetheless, inspirational quote. Every time I looked at it (which admittedly was about a billion times a day, because iPhone usage is a compulsion of itself), it made me think…really think.¬†

You, my lovely friend, are all about holding onto pain; you are about keeping me sick and vulnerable, helpless and incapable. That is the very definition of an eating disorder. Believing you do not deserve love or attention. Believing that something is terribly wrong with you and you must punish yourself for your atrocities. Believing that control and discipline will make you are more wholesome, likable person.

It starts with punishing the body, but it progresses with the distortion of the mind and soul. Restoring a body can take a few weeks; reshaping the mind can take a lifetime. 

You tell me I’m not worth it. You tell me I don’t deserve to feel good, and most of the time, I believe you. How do I know that I listen to you? Because I often engage in behaviors that do not satisfy or uplift me. Because I often feel ashamed and embarrassed by what I do or who I am. Because I worry more about other opinions than my own. Because I let fear or worry prevent me from pursuing endeavors I may not succeed in.

Most people perceive me as a happy-go-lucky girl, the one who seemingly “has it all.” On paper, I do have it all. Because I work damn hard for it. I am a perfectionist by nature, compulsive by habit, and meticulous by choice. I do not let myself rest often.

I do not often let myself often make room for what feels good.

And that is really, really sad.

I joke that I “think too much.” My mind doesn’t stop reeling and my thoughts pounce on me from all directions. For that reason, I struggle with appreciating silence. I cannot easily meditate, pray, or focus on deep breathing. To be perfectly frank, it can be difficult to stop the mind chatter during the more intimate moments of life…deep conversations with a close friend, sex, falling asleep next to someone.

I know slowing down my life speed takes practice. I am aware of this, and yet, having this knowledge is not enough. I must actively seek to relax everyday; unwinding is as crucial to one’s health as sleep, exercise, nutrition. It is also imperative in recovery, as relaxation and calmness eases the anxiety and preoccupation.

Today, I am choosing peace with myself. It is almost midnight and tomorrow is a new day.

Tomorrow, I will shut out the unnecessary pain and adversities and make room for what brings pleasure and joy. Because I absolutely deserve it.

Control does not lead to perfection and perfection does not lead to balance

I feel anxious and insecure lately, and I’m really starting to hate it. I think this is due to increased awareness of my vulnerabilities. Now that I avoid using you as a shield to protect me from pure reality, I must make conscious decisions to react to stressors in an appropriate and constructive demeanor.

Unsurprisngly, this is much harder than it seems.

I have a fortunate life and am grateful for all the people and blessings in my world. And yet, I know I still have voids. I know something is still missing. I can feel those pangs of emptiness, and they gnaw at me with gentle but persistent force.

I feel imbalanced, and the need to feel wholesome has become an unavoidable desire.

I still struggle with accepting myself for who I am and not for what I achieve. I still desperately seek the approval and attention and respect from others. I still flirt with compulsion and dichotous thinking, albeit not with food and my eating disorder, but with other things…working, micro-managing my time, keeping busy…anything really. Anything to take off the edge. Anything to distract.

I spend so little time actually living in the present moment. I am existing, but am I living?

I cannot remember when I truly “lost track of time” and that absolutely baffles and saddens me. I do not seek to be so wired that I am constantly planning and waiting and anticipating an unpromised tomorrow. I want to be at peace with my current state of mind…I want time to move slowly, and for the most part, I want to cherish the spontaneity of the ever-changing minute.

We must find our own serenity; it does not just stumble upon us. It can be in our backyards, in our hearts, in the smiles of people we love…but we must search for it and want to hold onto it, for refuge disappears once we take it for granted.

Refuge eliminates the need for control, which eliminates the need for worry, which eliminates the need for anxiety. Refuge is about trusting the scope of the universe, flowing rather than fighting, accepting that the world is not a puppet in your hands.

So, I need to rewind and return to a more primitive state of existence. I need to disconnect and relearn what keeps me happy and fulfilled. Life is so much more than filling time. I want to forget the time, lose myself in the idle cracks of bliss, get buried into deep and consuming passion.

You kept me on rigid schedules with inflexible counting and calculating, wrapped into anxiety and sadness, selling me on the false pretense that control was the same as perfection and perfection was the same as balance.

Like everything else on this journey, this is a work-in-progress, not a whimisical dream or half-assed plan. Positive change must be created and refined; it does not fall naturally into place. Just like I fight against you in my blithe of recovery, I will fight for the life I want.