I am entering my fourth week of therapy after a long absence. With my lapse in medical insurance and a chaotic 3 years of divorce, bankruptcy, unemployment, moving, and just a new start in general, I have neglected to maintain either the progress or deterioration of my mental health. However, on the flip side of that same coin, I must remember that all of the above took place with high priority so that I could, in fact, keep my mental health in tact.
So here I am, sitting with the same issues that have accompanied me since adolescence. These issues feel somehow magnified now. I believe this is a result of the chaos in my life quieting down. With this quiet from external intrusions comes the sudden awareness of the noises within. Images from an ugly past, memories, nightmares, my addictions and obsessions have suddenly magnified and manifested themselves. I have, without warning, had to play “whack a mole” against a crafty opponent. My own mind.
It’s like there is a long thread that has been woven into the center of my heart and soul. It’s been there since I was born and it will still be with me when I die. I compare it to an affliction with changing symptoms. Like a woman who changes her clothes. Her name is mental illness. She has many outfits. She has disguised herself as many different calamities, all which have plagued me at different times since childhood.
Currently, my eating disorder is her wardrobe of choice. It is difficult for me to even admit or say the terms “mental illness” or “eating disorder.” It feels uncomfortable and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the stigma that accompanies such things. It’s one matter to be uncomfortable saying it aloud, but to feel uneasy saying it in the privacy of my own head alarms me.
In the last few days I have decided to take charge of my brain in a new way. I am unsure of the outcome and do not know if it will work, or even change anything. What if I get worse? But, what if I get better? I posted a few days ago how it is not healthy for me right now to be obsessing over diet and exercise. It has consumed me. I came to the conclusion that I will never be happy as long as I chase after this perfection, attainable or not. I am undergoing an experiment. This morning, painful as it was, I ate 2 hash browns, 2 eggs and 1 and a half pieces of swiss cheese. I wouldn’t allow my eggs to be cooked in butter. I’ll save that for a more courageous day. Normally, this meal would have ruined my day and crushed any enthusiasm I had for the day. I don’t know how many calories I ingested, and that’s okay, because my goal is to not give a shit. These foods are not unhealthy just sitting there on a plate to most people. However, I see something completely different. Rather, the feeling provoked in me upon seeing the food is what is different. I don’t even need to see it. Just thinking about it is enough to send me into a spiral of self loathing. It is like my brain is at war with my body. I want to be “normal” and eat what other people eat. But when I do allow myself this, I feel like I have done myself a huge injustice. Because one of my biggest fears is gaining weight.
I have been wrestling with this since I was a teenager. I want more than anything to be over it. Maybe in two weeks when my pants don’t fit, I’ll change my mind. But for right now my daily goal is no not give a shit. It sounds simple, I am sure, to those who walk with confidence. For me, confidence can be a moment to moment struggle. And the only way to become confident is to literally not care what anyone is thinking of you. I will practice this with my family, at the grocery store, and right here with you. When I pass by a mirror or a window and get a glimpse of myself, I am going to feel better knowing that I am not going to waste a whole day trying to change myself.
How I felt sitting in my big red chair again this morning, acutely aware of my fleshy tummy, I had a decision to make. A big one. Breakfast. I was either going into the kitchen to make “the usual,” or I was going to let my other half make what she makes for herself every day, but make it a double. I sat and contemplated. And it hurt. I struggled with my self. The war between my head and my body is an intense one. I ended up surrendering to my instincts, not wanting to revert back to my old behavior too quickly, without allowing this experiment to take it’s course. And that was to eat the fucking hash browns that I always decline. It was freeing. This was hours ago and I am just now getting hungry again. In fact, looking at my plate this morning, I was concerned it wouldn’t fill me up. It was like getting more bang for my buck. It looked like less food, but somehow it was more.
So I will continue with this experiment. I am hoping to make leaps and bounds into new territory. I am scared and excited at the same time. Dealing with the painful feelings that I have bypassed with this obsession will not be easy. It will be hard work as my therapist has warned me. But it’s work I want to do. Having an obsession and/or an addiction makes it easy to avoid what’s really going on in the dark corners of my mind. Having this awakening to focus on what I think instead of what others think just may be the biggest victory for me. Ever.
Who gives a shit? That’s my daily affirmation, my homework, my medication.