When I said I wanted to turn my life around, I had no idea of the depth of the changes that would require or what a (positively) destructive force that would be on the way I think about myself. I’ve been kind of borderline miserable when thinking about myself. Whatever fun and fabulousness I’ve had (and there have been a lot of really really good times!) it’s always been against a backdrop of self-directed negativity. Those feelings have been so deep-set I’ve never been able to even know where to start with untangling them, but I am, very slowly, starting to do so now. This whole year I’ve been pushing (/dragging) myself in the direction of the life I believe would make me happy, and by virtue of trying to make those changes, I’m finding that I have to change how I feel inside and think about myself, otherwise I will reach a point where I’ll just have to give up – and that, I’m refusing to do.
It’s not easy to write about because I guess every person’s little web of internal beliefs is different, I’m not even aware of what mine are half the time and they probably sound quite weird to other people. I’m completely wrecked, but I needed to be. I have to become something new to be able to move on without these hangups that have always dragged me down, no matter how far I got or how successful I was in the short-term. I have to break the chain, surrender, collapse, and start from scratch.
One example of this came out of some discussions I had at HH at the weekend. There have been some fairly major changes going on in our lifestyles lately and I think between that and a visit from my family, we got talking about the nitty gritty and things we normally skim over the surface of. He had suggestions about my work and my health efforts and I’m continuing to work through some CBT stuff each week as well. What he made me think seriously about my eating habits and the way I’m dependent on certain types of food and it’s all so knotted that it left me wondering why can’t I just be normal?! Things are such an unnecessary struggle – and yet it IS necessary because it’s all bound up in who I am and how I survive.
I have this idea in my head about what my “perfect” model of eating should be and then there are these “extras” which I insist on having, virtually every day, and the thought of going without them is terrifying. Now on the one hand, what I’m learning in CBT is that there is no “perfect” way of eating and that restriction when it comes to food only feeds into ED thought cycles – there should not be scary foods or banned foods but decisions taken in real time without the inherent stress and pressure that an ED will imbue those decisions with. On the other hand, when I ask myself WHY I need those “extras”, I’m confronted by one belief that rightly or wrongly has been central to my existence: that my eating disorder saved my life when I was suicidal by offering me something pleasurable and a distraction. I don’t mean the actual I-need-something-to-live-for times (those times take something much bigger than food) but all the times I was trying to avoid sliding down to that point. All the times I was lonely or bored, eating could stop me from having to think about things too deeply, stop me realising that I was selling out on a life worth living. (It’s a double-edged sword though because every now and then you contemplate how dependent you are on food and it makes you feel so helpless – that alone can trigger an episode).
Nevertheless, I believe that my eating disorder saved my life and I’m reluctant to let go of these treats and rituals I have, because I fear feeling suicidal again. And this has been going on for at least a decade and a half, it’s not something I can just switch off. But this time I am going to try and work with myself, accept that those kinds of beliefs are there, and find ways to teach myself that I don’t have to worry about having nothing to live for.
These kinds of realisations and changes are being repeated all over my life, all throughout my brain and my image and the way I characterise the world and my place in it. I don’t know if it’s losing weight, confronting my ED, or just going for my big dreams in general, but something is shaking down all my unhelpful beliefs and forcing me to face up to them.
Tomorrow, I have my first recording session. I’m going to walk into a studio as a musician and be treated like a musician and sing my own songs and consider myself worthy of other people’s time, of the luxurious investment involved. I’m stepping into an image of myself that only existed in my imagination at the beginning of this year. It’s a process of becoming and beyond the excitement, the nerves, the anticipation and the imagining of all the different things that might happen, I’m bowled over by the sense of HOW REAL this feels. I have worked and changed to become this person and I feel like everything will be different.