It’s been almost three weeks now since “Epic Friday” at the studio. So much stuff has come out of that both in terms of music and life in general but the part I want to write about is this point about being emotionally open and how doing that has impacted my life.
The idea that I could just feel all my emotions as they came, without having to suppress them or shut them away was totally novel. I’d been so tired of feeling rubbish and negative that I’d come up with this solution of ignoring my feelings for the most part just so that I could function through the day without crying or lashing out in a way that might seem irrational, and just to give myself a break from feeling bad all the time. I would have set times to visit my emotions when I was writing or singing sometimes. When I started letting those emotions float free in the session I found that yes, there was pain there, but there was love in equal measure, and there was also the joy of being myself and the possibility that other people might connect with me on that level. I tried it in the session and was blown away. I came home and made a safety zone on the floor of the studio where I could sit and feel safe to feel and play songs, and allocated time over that weekend to do that. By the time I went back to work I was fully in the swing of it and was feeling my emotions pretty much the whole time. It really opened me up. I was much better able to connect with people and they responded to me much more in a way that made me feel treasured, plus I had a lot more fun and felt more confident. I felt like I’d stepped through the looking glass, life was THAT different.
The other thing that happened at the same time was that my eating disorders just seemed to lift completely. It was just GONE. As long as I was openly letting my feelings flow I had no need to binge, overeat, or eat mindlessly. The entire mental mechanism of it also evaporated – the constant obsession with weight, food and body image and the constant cycle of fear-binge-guily-self-loathing-binge etc. Now in the last few weeks of that 12-week focus period I had been actively working on some CBT tools from the treatment file I have and I think that helped too, particularly the part about balancing out your priorities and persona so that your self-worth is rooted in a solid variety of things rather than just image and weight. Just the very fact of getting myself into the studio was such a massive swing in the direction of “musician” that there was a lot less space left for evaluating myself on the old criteria. And then out of being emotionally open I realised people saw me as a friend and a colleague and a person, not just a fat thing. There were days I simply forgot to weigh myself – which is phenomenal after weighing daily for most of the past 8 years.
And then in the absence of the disordered mental and behavioural patterns relating to eating, I began to see really clearly that what had been lying underneath all those years was straightforward depression. It seems that the eating disorder was a great distraction from that because my brain got stuck in a holding pattern and as long as I was used to the thoughts and the cycle of emotions, as bad as it was it rarely got really bad. I think eating disorders sit on top of depression like an added layer on top and it’s so difficult to break through those obsessive thoughts about food and your body, it makes you think that’s your biggest problem in life when really that’s just a holding pattern your brain can deal with on a daily basis that shields you from the real problems underneath. And suddenly I could see that it WAS depression and anxiety problems and I could clearly see all the things I was doing in that state and how all the things I’ve been doing in the past year have been helping, and even some of the way to seeing what caused it. Suddenly everything was clear and I could see what was wrong in my own mind, the trips and switches and short-circuits, the cognitive deficit, the things I can potentially heal and the things I need to manage to be well. It also made me realise just how unwell I had been and how in a way I was right that it was the ED keeping me functioning.
Since then I have had one or two lapses but each day I get a little further along the path towards being open, being whole, and being well in my mind. I am living with my feelings, managing (for the most part) the dodgy things that happen in my mind, and I don’t need my eating disorder any more, as long as I continue to be vigilant about those things. I have lost a bunch more weight and I don’t have to weigh all the time or plan my food because I know as long as I’m open to my feelings I will know what’s right to eat when I’m hungry.
I know that the next step is to learn to be bigger than my feelings. I have always been ruled by my emotions and they’ve run riot across my life with very random and sometimes totally destructive consequences. I need to make sure there is more substance to me and that I am a big enough person to be able to accept my feelings but also contain them, weild them, channel them and subdue them when necessary. If I can do THAT I believe I can be everything I want to be in life.
One other thing to note is that I’ve been physically much stronger since I’ve been more open emotionally and I’ve been able to carry more, train harder, and get by on much less sleep than I used to. This is all excellent because one thing I’ve always wanted is to know how to persevere when physically tired so that I can get more done in my life.
It does feel like things will be different from now on – I guess you can never say “forever” about depression and eating disorders but if I keep on this path all will be well. When I started out this year with the aims of losing the weight for good and making an album, I didn’t really know what shape that would take, and what I’ve needed to get well has been completely unexpected, but I think I went out with that intention and eventually that led me to the studio and everything that’s happened since has changed my life, if not saved it.