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Archive for June, 2011

Even before I went into recovery I knew that my lies, shady behavior, and destructive relationships were holding me in my addictions. I was so full of shame for the things I had done, and the things that had happened to me, that I couldn’t admit them to myself let alone other people. I was also incredibly angry. I was mad at people whom I felt had betrayed me and those who had hurt me (mostly men, to be frank). And this made me an intolerably cynical person unable to face my problems and break free from them. Instead they dragged me further and further into despair.

Søren Kierkegaard talks about the “Inclosing Reserve” in his book The Sickness Unto Death.  For me, this perfectly reflects what happened to me as my despair enveloped me and I sunk further and further away from health. There are 2 sides to the Reserve: one describes the grandiose person. It is the person who lives for the moment and gets carried away by their delusions of grandeur; they become mired in material possessions and come to think of themselves as a god. The other side of the Reserve is the depressive person; this person cannot connect with reality, becomes wholly dependent on others and is swallowed up in their depression. Both persons lose their Self, whether it is through the classic thought of the depressive person who succumbs to their misery or through being whisked away by immediate satisfaction on their desires. Both people are despairing, in fact he says that ALL people are despairing – but some people don’t realize it. Kierkegaard goes on to describe the various levels of despair, which I won’t go into because it would get too long, and then describes freedom as presenting one’s self naked and baring our souls to God. Only this, he says, can free us from our despairing souls. Now, for anyone who knows Kierkegaard they know that he was a devout Christian whose writings often aimed at dispelling, what he felt, were the mistakes of the Swedish Church. But, regardless of his leanings (or one’s opinion on some of his conclusions – which often lead back to his faith in Jesus), there lie in his writings poignant observations on the human condition and what will free it.

I read The Sickness Unto Death about a year before finding my own desire to recover and when I did find it, it played a large role in my figuring out what I needed to do to get better (as it spoke to me, I needed to do Steps 1-3). And as I began to recover it also told me that I needed to do Steps 4-9 too. Because, until I admit what I’ve done to someone else, I can’t fully process or admit them to myself.

Ok, that was my long-winded roundabout to discussing the 4th Step (the “fearless and moral inventory”, which I have started doing again with my current sponsor. Doing the 4th step the first time I felt very lost. Sure, all the literature (whether it is AA, EDA, or another fellowship) “spell it out” I still was unsure of how to go about being fearless at looking at my past and as a result have always felt very dissatisfied with how it turned out. I voiced this to my current sponsor and asked that we break it down further, which we have. It will probably take a lot longer to finish this way, but already I am feeling like I am doing a more thorough search through my past. And next time I write I’ll share how I am doing it, in case anyone cares. =)

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Lately I have also been feeling a lot of fear. I have big changes coming up in my life (I’m moving to another state, starting graduate school, planning a wedding) and in total honesty I am terrified. I don’t like not knowing what is going to happen and I have insane, irrational, thoughts that swirl around in my head.

But I practice letting go of my fear; I have to practice letting it go. When I let go of it and trust that things will be ok (no matter what happens) then I am no longer frozen by my fear and I can go back to living my life one day at a time. I can focus on what is in front of me. I do this in many ways: I pray. I repeat to myself that my worry is only adding to my stress (it does me no good to worry about something I can’t change). I talk with friends and family. I distract myself by doing other things. I make sure to sleep enough. I take time to do things for me. And when none of those work I accept that at this point I am feeling stressed and that is ok.

Acceptance is one of the great challenges of recovery. I spent so many years trying to manipulate the world and make life go the way I want and it only left me despairing in my own misery. Acceptance is letting go. In letting go I drop my arms to my sides, let out a deep breath, and give up the fight. I give up the fight when I refuse to engage with my addictions in my head; I give up when I talk with others and air out the craziness in my head. I let go when I take care of myself. And I let go when I sit in my discomfort and refuse to let it upset my world.

Now, I am not advocating giving up on life when things are crappy. We should always be working to improve our situation, but we can’t be fighting the world. Working and fighting are different. Working involves accepting that things aren’t going to work out the way we planned them (necessarily), but we keep trying to improve our life in relation to those around us. And sometimes our best left in relation to others means that we don’t get what we want or that we have to accept our own discomfort for the betterment of others.

In recovery I learn to let go. I learn to accept. I learn that just because I am uncomfortable doesn’t mean I have to make myself crazy trying to get comfortable. Sometimes we just have to be uncomfortable until things settle down around us.

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I couldn’t manage the problems I laid on myself.
And it just made it worse when I laid them on somebody else.
So I finally surrendered it all, brought down in despair.
I cried out for help, and I felt a warm comforter there.

And I came to believe in a power much higher than I.
I came to believe that I needed help to get by.
In childlike faith I gave in and gave him a try
Then I came to believe in a power much higher than I.

Nothing worked out when I handled it all on my own.
And each time I failed it made me feel twice as alone.
Then I cried lord there must be a sure and easier way.
For it just cannot be that a man should lose hope every day.

And I came to believe in a power much higher than I.
I came to believe that I needed help to get by.
In childlike faith I gave in and gave him a try.
Then I came to believe in a power much higher than I.

Yes I came to believe in a power much higher than I.

-Mr. Johnny Cash

 

It is amazing how putting simple words to a melody can make it so much more powerful. I could listen to this song over and over again, especially when I’m feeling sad, depressed, or alone. Its so simple but reminds me that, in my darkest hour, when I reached out for help I found it. And it reminds me still that if I reach out again I will get help again.

I don’t have to do it alone. Actually, I can’t do it alone. The first two lines of the second verse say it all: “Nothing worked out when I handled it all on my own, and each time I failed I felt twice as alone.” Such was the bottomless hole I was digging for myself. It was like quicksand – any time I made a move to try and better my situation I made it worse. And each time I made it worse I felt more disconnected, more lost, and more alone.

Sometimes I need to remind myself of that. And a lot of times a song can do it better than I can.

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Trigger warning in both the article and my post (just an fyi!)

Bulimia Laid Bare: http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2011/06/03/bulimia-laid-bare/#dsq-content

This young woman is absolutely right. We don’t talk about bulimia when we talk about eating disorders. Sure, we have objective comments on it, but people don’t actually *talk* about what it is like to have bulimia. Those who have never had it probably will never fully understand and those of us who have had it are too ashamed to tell anyone the ugly truth.

I know that is true for me. I am, overall, pretty open with talking about my history with eating disorders. But I find myself glossing over the bulimia. Why? Because I fear what others will think of me and because I have the convenience of multiple eating disordered behaviors and because when I was bulimic I also happened to be severely underweight (all the easier to blame it on anorexia). but mostly, I gloss over it because I KNOW that some of the stuff I used to do is, to the normal brain, absolutely disgusting… It is not easy to tell the details of bulimia because to truly get at the essence of the torture that the bulimic goes through we *have* to tell those things that are absolutely disgusting. We don’t like to say it and, at least from what I’ve found, even people who DO want to know my story don’t *really* want to know the gruesome details of my bulimic phase. There is still an air of glamour to an eating disorder, this illusion the general public has of the tortured starlet who starves herself down to skin and bones and the apparent “control” she has gained by not eating.

Sure, I can talk about some of it. I’ve been able to talk to a lot of people about how I maxxed out my credit card buying binge food. I can talk about how I hid food in my room, in my car, in my back pack. How the binges/purges happened upwards of 7 to 10 times per day. I can talk about how painful it was to wake up in the middle of the night with stomach acid burning my esophagus. Hell, I can even make jokes about the first time this happened and I panicked and called the paramedics. I can talk about these things because I can create room between the ME I am now and the person who did all those things. I can disconnect and just report “the facts.”

But here is what I don’t like to talk about…

I don’t like to tell people about the insatiable hole that was inside of me. I don’t like to talk about how I tried desperately to fill that hole with food and then, overcome with guilt and fear of gaining weight, I would force myself to vomit. If the vomit wouldn’t come up, I would drink water, swoosh my stomach around to “mix it up” and try again until I felt empty.

I don’t like to talk about how it stopped mattering to me *where* or *how* I binged and purged; it only mattered that it happened. I stole food from stores, from roommates, from my parents, from the cafeteria at school, from the community refrigerator at work. I puked in toilets, in trash cans, in plastic bags. I climbed out my window in the middle of the night when I still lived at my parents house and puked outside in the woods in the back of the house.

I don’t like to talk about how I would lock myself in the bathroom at work, sink to the floor, and cry. I don’t like to talk about the black outs when I stood up, the shakiness after an especially violent purge, the bruises that started appearing all over my body.

I don’t like to talk about the nights I would lay in bed praying for my heart to give out while I was sleeping. Or the fear I had each time I leaned over the toilet and thought *this* was going to be the time that did me in. I dont’ like to talk about the envy I felt over my cat’s ability to eat and then stop when she was full (yes, I did say my cat).

I really don’t like to talk about what it did to my relationship with my family and friends. Basically, I had no friends and I isolated myself from my family because of my shame. I moved into a studio apartment to die. I didn’t want to bother people and I didn’t want them to have to watch me kill myself… but I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t stop eating. I couldn’t stop puking. I couldn’t stop weighing myself. I couldn’t stop counting my bones and putting up “motivational” signs urging me to go lower and lower and lower in weight…

I don’t like to talk about the obsession, how bulimia took over my brain and how it was all I thought about. I couldn’t make it through class without thinking about where and when my next binge would be. I couldn’t stop making mental notes of ALL bathrooms in all the buildings I went into. I couldn’t stop even when I knew that I was on the verge of a heart attack. In the end, not even death could make me stop. It stopped being a choice as to whether I would binge or whether I would purge. It became my entire existence. I became the embodiment of bulimia.

Even these things that I don’t like to talk about don’t give an accurate picture of bulimia… I don’t know how to put it into words, and maybe I never will be able to. What I do know is that the woman who wrote the post I cited above is absolutely right when she says that anyone who has had bulimia would never wish it on any of their enemies.

Bulimia is living hell. You exist in limbo between life and death. You are a shell of  a human, a machine designed only to consume and then rid itself of food. Nothing else matters. Nothing.

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