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Archive for the ‘self image’ Category

To put it simply, I need help from others because I can’t tell the difference between the insanity in my head and common sense. That isn’t to say that I haven’t learned a great deal about how to tell when I’m thinking crazy, but when it comes right down to it I think a LOT of crazy things and I believe them!

I have definitely learned that I can’t drink or use drugs “socially” or “in moderation,” so no matter what reasons my head gives me to the contrary I am able to ignore it. I have also learned that what I see in the mirror isn’t what is really there; my head likes to tell me I’m the size of a small country, but I know that isn’t true no matter how convincing my head makes it sound.

But there are other areas that are much less lucid. Areas that involve having relationships with people, handling stress, coping with anxiety, jobs… well, this could all be summed up as LIFE. These are areas that I generally suck at. The reasons *why* I suck at them could be many… mental illness, poorly developed social skills, trauma, character defects, whatever. And compounding my sucking at them is the fact that it is a regular old looney bin up in my head.

I think crazy things. And thinking those crazy things used to get me in a lot of trouble (whether it was internal or external trouble). In fact I would up an alcoholic and with an eating disorder… obviously following my crazy head wasn’t working so well. Thus I need everyone around me to keep my thoughts in check. When I start to “interpret” the “facts” of my life things usually get distorted so I have to ask someone about it. I relay the thoughts in my head to my sponsor, a close friend, my fiancé or my family and see what they make of it. We then talk it through and I am much more able to make a better decision.

And I am happy to report that the further into recovery I go the better I get at mitigating the craziness. Early on I was very dependent on those around me; often I asked people for reality checks multiple times a day… “Sponsor, remind me again why I can’t drink” “Friend, what does ‘Boy A’ mean when he says ‘X’?” “Fiance, do I really look as fat as I feel?”

Thankfully I don’t often have to check in about most of that stuff anymore, but the fact remains that I am still crazy and I will always need help staying out of that craziness. And I plan to continue asking for help. I need YOU and everyone else around me to mollify my craziness. So thank you in advance for keeping me out of my head.

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It sounds simple enought, but I still forget it alot. I get so wrapped up in what is going on around me and what situations I find myself in. This, I believe is a remnant from old thinking patterns… I used to define myself by almost anything I could *except* who I really am.

Let’s see…

For a long time I meant drug user. I also meant punk rocker (I liked that persona best). I meant ‘bitch’ (I also prided myself on my big mouth). I meant pink hair. I meant high school drop out. I meant fuck-up… I also meant fat… then during my underweight years, I meant emaciated. I meant depression. I meant bulimic/anorexic/runner/diet pill addict. Once I hit college I was defined by my grades.

I had all of these things external to the essence of I that i was using to define myself. So, once I decided to let go fo those things I didn’t know what was left. Those first few months of recovery were very disconcerting. How did I know what I liked? What I didn’t like? How did I know what I was… or wasn’t? I took away so many of the external things that I’d used to fill the void where my sense of self should be that I was left with very litte.

But I did start to figure it out. Over time, and through trial and error, I started to figure things out. I noticed that I liked some foods better than others. I became more interested in certain topics than others. And things that I used to think I once wanted I often found out that the real I didn’t care much about them.

But I do not have a proclivity towards looking inwards for my “Self.” My tendency is to turn back towards the external things going on around me and define myself by them. And it is a near-daily battle for me to stay focused on my Truth. When I get wrapped up in those aspects of my life that are dissatisgying to me, then my “magic magnifying mind” (AA Big Book, unknown page) blows it totally out of proportion and suddenly I am the scum of the earth. Its the worst when I start to define myself by the (perceived) negative things I can’t control. For example, the second I assume the identity of “I am what I did in the past.” I am sure to start feeling like shit. I did some pretty horrible things. Both to myself and to other people, so if I believe that is who I am of course I will feel crappy.

So today I have to practice mindfulness about who I think I am. Today I ask myself, “Am I living as the Self I want to be? Or am I becoming my circumstances?”

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For years I struggled with chronic self-loathing. The inner voice that
narrated my life in my head was constantly saying horrid things to me to
make sure I never thought to highly of myself. I don’t know where this
voice came from; it had been there for as long as I can remember.
Perhaps puberty and the awareness that others look at and judge me
brought it on. Perhaps the rampant perfectionism that I’ve had since I
was little spawned it. Who knows. Whatever it was, it was always there
and was always ready to say nasty things.

I’ve always been told how important “positive self talk” is in
recovery. Every treatment program I’ve been in, every therapist
psychiatrist and dietitian I’ve see says the same, but I never
realized its importance until I started trying to improve (rather than
destroy) my life. That insidious voice always sabotaged any successes I
had by telling me that it wasn’t good enough and made my mistakes
100-fold worse by showing me how, once again, I had let everyone down.
In recovery it has always been important for me to celebrate every
victory and to learn from every mistake, so that inner dialogue was
doing me absolutely no good. If I am by nature a disgraceful human being
and I can’t ever change that, then why should I even try?

So, timidly, I began to talk back to that voice. At first it still beat
me back down into submission, but I kept chipping away at it. Even when
I didn’t believe what I was saying, I still talked back to it… hell, I
continue to talk back to it even today when it gets loud. And do you
know what I’ve found? I found that the voice rarely made any sense…
the conclusions it draws based on whatever premises it finds are
completely and utterly off-base.  The invalid conclusions my inner voice
was reaching drove my reason/logic filed brain crazy (remember:
philosophy major here)! And what was worse was that for as long as I
could remember I was subscribing to the things this voice said without
question! Thus, to shut it up I had to start questioning it and
challenging what it was saying to me.

When we stifle that negative voice we find it easier to be gentle with
ourselves and to move forward. Self-loathing kept me in my addictions
because I didn’t want to face what a terrible person I was. So, as
long as the addictions kept me believing that I was the scum of the
earth then I couldn’t break free. But when we muffle that voice as
much as possible our addictions have much less power over us.

After a while I became much more adept at countering the negative inner
voice that kept me trapped. That isn’t to say that I was ever able to
slay the proverbial inner dragon, but I’ve brought it down to the size
of a small lizard. Today it doesn’t dictate how I feel about myself…
it tells me I’m fat and ugly; I remind it that I am normal-sized and
(at worst) average looking. It tells me I can’t do anything right; I
remind it that there are plenty of things I do right and that just
because I messed up this time doesn’t mean I won’t get it right when
I try again. When it reminds me of all the bad things I did during my
drug use and in the eating disorder, I forcefully tell it that I was
sick at the time and that I can’t change what I did in the past but I
can change how I will act in the future.

Initially there was a nearly around-the-clock debate going on in my
head as to how I should view myself. For almost every action that
negative voice had something to say and I had to talk back to it. Today
the debate has turned into a discussion and that negative voice loses
almost every time.

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