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.
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I am the master of none…and I love myself for it.

Dear Bee,

There is a saying often expressed in the martial arts discipline, I believe the world is one big family and we need to help each other. Upon receiving my black belt, one of my requirements involved apprenticing with my sensei and mentoring young children starting out with their training. In martial arts, one is never a master; we are always “in training,” always to be humbled and willing to grow. To this day, I still consider the opportunity to teach preschool students how to properly form their first stances one of my most valuable experiences. I recall one boy, the smallest child in his class, staring at my belt and asking how long it would take him to be that good. I replied, As long as you practice often, do more of what works and less of what doesn’t, you’ll always be making yourself better. 

I like knowing that I will never be the master. Yesterday, on my random day date, my gorgeous stranger sitting next to me asked me what I liked to do and I blabbed my laundry list of leisurely activities and so forth. I told him that I consider myself a jack of all trades, to which he naturally added, and a master of none. 

And that’s absolutely true. I enjoy many things. And to be honest, I’m good at many things.

 But a master? Nope. That title, I cannot claim.

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I know that this idea of “mastering” recovery, therefore, must be a fallacy. How can it not be? We are constantly learning and growing; making mistakes, coping to them, finding new solutions, stretching ourselves, finding ourselves. This is what keeps life evolving. This is what keeps us from merely existing and motivates into really living.

Since I learned how to criticize and pass judgment, I have spent my whole life being hard on myself. This drive for perfectionism has served purpose, and I can see the positivity in this trait: I would never be where I am today had it not been for such compulsory self-motivation. But, it’s also driven me to excessive levels of stress, compromised self-esteem, and a host of other mental health imbalances. Learning to let go of that is so freeing and so healing…these feelings of being “light” and “carefree” are so foreign to me, but I am chasing them, because they feel so good.

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Unconditional self-love is radical; while this is an innate trait found among children, somewhere along the blurred lines of our socially-constructed youth, we learn to dissociate ourselves from the pleasure we retain from just liking ourselves. We learn how to focus on our flaws; we spend lifetimes obsessing to fix the parts about ourselves we cannot change; we often only see our limitations, rather than our potentials. When people hurt others, we may stick up for them. When people hurt us, what do we do? We justify and internalize it, believing what they said must be true. We take it absolutely personally.

Radical self-love. Radical self-acceptance. If we don’t give it to ourselves, who will?

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Bee, I perceive you as a sad child now, someone who just needs love and affection, but does not know how to appropriately give it. I also see you as a parasitic host who feeds off my vulnerabilities and anxiety. But when I love myself, when I’m really able to just let that happen and revel in the glory that is my own awesomeness, you’re nowhere to be find.

Aside

Valentine’s Day all by myself!

Dear Bee,

Valentine’s Day.

First year in awhile I’ve been single on this day, and it feels good. No high-pressure, commercialized dates. No sugarcoated, over-the-top romance. No overpriced roses. No dependency on a man.

Total liberation. 

In the spirit of this day of love, I have decided that I am going to prioritize working on the most critical relationship in my life right now: the one I share with myself.

Yes “working on me” corny, but it’s something I’ve never actively done. To venture on a wild hunch, I would guess most individuals struggling with eating disorders haven’t. We’re too consumed in our own bubbles of punishment, self-loathing, and inner turmoil. We don’t think we’re worthy of receiving love.

But at the same time, we GIVE love so freely. We are some of the “nicest” people we know. Most of us have excellent support systems with bountiful friends and relationships. We give to others what we cannot accept for ourselves: unconditional forgiveness, timeless second chances, indefinite support. And when we make a mistake, we catastrophize. When we do not achieve perfection, we must be failures. We identify ourselves by our fragments (our weights, our distorted behaviors, the food we eat) rather than by our whole, genuine selves.

I developed a relationship with you because I experienced such discourse in the relationship I shared with myself. I was abusing myself to begin with: you merely exaggerated it. I was harsh on myself: you merely made the demands and discipline firmer. You did not plant new ideas into my head; you just helped cement and maintain them. You just encouraged the negative self-talk and fueled the disturbed pathology.

What will loving myself entail?

For one, giving myself time and energy to do the things I enjoy. To take care of both my needs and wants. To make myself feel good without experiencing guilt or remorse over it. I have composed a list of things that bring me joy and happiness, and I will make the genuine effort to engage in these activities on a routine basis. Once they feel like work, I will STOP doing them. Even though I did not recognize it before, passion is absolutely different from compulsion. Passion entails no expectations, time table, or punishment. Compulsion does.

On this note, I will make an effort to stop or reduce doing things I don’t enjoy. This includes spending time with people who add unnecessary emotional turmoil to my life, pursuing in activities that make me feel anxious or stressed, wasting time on things/people that do not matter to me.

For another, I will continue practicing my positive attributions and self-talk. Why? Because I am a damn good person! Because I deserve to FEEL like the person I so often project myself to be to others. I want to FEEL comfortable in my skin and FEEL proud and comfortable at the idea of simply being me. I want to FEEL happy with the choices I make and the personality I have.

Finally, I will start stop waiting to begin LIVING. I have devoted so much of my life to “my future,” to “what’s coming next” to “ten pounds lighter” to “being in a relationship” to “after I finish school” to “when I have more money.” No more. I don’t have enough time? Bullshit. I had time to binge, time to compulsively exercise, time to spend hours researching diet plans and weight loss strategies, etc. I don’t have enough money? Bullshit. Happiness cannot be bought and prioritizing my money on worthwhile things immensely stretches the value of the dollar. I need a relationship. Bullshit. I can rely on myself, feel the love I generate from my family and friends, and enjoy the unpredictable spontaneity of dating, lust, and attraction. I need to lose weight. Bullshit. This is a blog devoted to eating disorder recovery…I don’t even need to go into the reasons why this excuse is incredibly flawed, illogical, and detrimental.

Start living now. Live the life you want to live. If you don’t, who will?