You guys… I’ve broken out the scarves.
I actually love fall, but it’s moments like this that remind me that after fall comes winter, and winter means cold. And wet, cold, snow. I don’t like being cold, wet, or in the snow.
I think I’m a wimpy Canadian. Or a spoiled one. Perhaps if I grew up in Alberta or Saskatchewan and was used to -40˚C I wouldn’t have this problem. It’s like Boyfriend, who grew up in a part of the country that frequently had snow up to your waist, and hit the minus 30s and 40s on the regular in the winter… yeah, he has NO problem with the cold. Living where we do now he doesn’t even wear a winter jacket. Meanwhile there’s me who piles on the the parka and three sweaters as soon as it gets around zero.
Yep, I think if I had lived somewhere else and been used to cold, I’d be different. Perhaps I’d own long-johns, actually enjoy hockey, and put maple syrup on my pancakes. And I’d have a pet polar bear named Alfie living in the backyard.
(Joke. I reaffirm, we do not have pet polar bears, live in igloos, or take baths in maple syrup… as far as I know. But the world is made up of all kinds of people.)
Perhaps that would have prepared me for what is to come. I was Skyping with one of my best friends last night, and she announced excitedly that her and her fiancé had finally set a date for their wedding, and I was super excited for them… until she said it was going to be on December 31st. That in and of itself isn’t the WORST thing… but she also happens to live in one of the coldest places in Canada. Hence, me in bridesmaid territory, that reads, “I’m going to be in -40˚C, in the middle of winter, in a dress, not wearing 400 layers of clothing, and be ridiculously unprepared for this.”
I’m happy for her, I am. But is it okay to say I’m absolutely terrified as well?
There are so many things coming up lately that I feel ridiculously unprepared for.
I started a new job this week as a mixer/shaper/person at a bakery, another job I’m ridiculously unprepared and unqualified for. I have no formal training… and a strong tendency to make yeast breads that are flat. RISE, damn you!
So I’m literally running on a passion for food, being a morning person (yay 4-5 am shifts!), knowing that I REALLY REALLY want to learn how to do this, and hoping to high heaven I can keep it together long enough to not make unleavened bread unintentionally out of every single loaf I am in charge of starting.
Either that or the whole bakery will be really prepared for Passover.
I was also unprepared for the change that was going to happen in my dietitian’s appointment a couple weeks back. To clarify, I’m not relapsing. I’m not falling apart. BUT I did lose A LOT of exercise privileges (that spelling SO doesn’t look right but autocorrect is telling me it is!) because we’re running along the lines of, “What kind of life do you want to have?”
I know as soon as I admit I’m doing something compulsively, and not because I’m genuinely wanting to do it, we’re going to deal with the issue. And that’s why it took me so long to bring it up, even though I knew I’d have to cross that bridge eventually. I knew, and still know, the way to reduce behaviour related anxiety is to stop engaging in the compulsive behaviour without coming up with more compensatory measures. And then sit with it. OVER, and OVER.
AKA: I want to exercise to change my body… therefore I must STOP exercising to change my body, and NOT restrict food to make up for a lack of activity.
“What kind of life do you want to create for yourself?”
“Is this behaviour worth the emotional toll it is taking?”
“What are you willing to give up to create the life you want?”
(Side note: If you start singing, “Let it go”, I will come and murder you in your sleep. Sorry, not sorry.)
If you hope to recover, you have to be willing to let go of things. At the moment, that means for me, I need to let go of compulsive exercise, or exercise to impact what I look like. AND at the moment, that means really cutting everything down, down, down, so I can sit with that anxiety and work through it. If you hope to recover, you have to be willing to let go of things. I know this seems like an obvious statement, but when put into practice it’s actually quite a difficult thing.
Picture yourself on a sailing trip, when your boat hits an unseen high reef and instantly springs an irreparable leak. Because you’re such a daredevil and do things on impulse (yeah, I know… but bear with me here), you planned this trip spur of the moment, without telling anyone you were going, and went solo. And you also decided that nothing could be better than finding Jaws in his natural habitat (because Nemo and Free Willy are so last season), so you decided to sail to known shark infested waters. Knowing the boat was toast, and you have to go somewhere, you swim rapidly to the closest sprig of land nearby; a tiny island. You make it there safe, but there’s no one living there, and limited resources. You might be fine for a while, but eventually you’re going to have to make a move.
Oh, and you’re a recovering pyromaniac who can’t risk lighting a fire…
And you’re also suffering from aichmophobia (fear of sharp/pointed things) and petraphobia (fear of rocks), so using a stick to write SOS in the sand, or writing it out of rocks is not an option. You’re an aichmophobic, petraphobic, pyromaniac, who is somehow also an impulsive daredevil living on the edge…
Basically, you’re a walking enigmatic contradiction that should have been in therapy YEARS ago. (My apologies for the judgment if YOU are actually an aichmophobic petraphobic pyromaniac. It’s not personal.)
But I digress… point is, you’re royally screwed. And the daredevil you’re trying so hard to be figures this out because contrary to your rash actions you’re not actually stupid. And once a daredevil figures out that luck has run out, that daredevil is terrified.
You’re unprepared. You’re at a precipice. You’re on your own. You make the decisions. You have to save yourself.
So regardless of the danger, you know you eventually have to leave the island. Even though jaws may be circling around, you face certain death or possible death. You have to work up the courage to leave, and that takes time and perseverance.
So the first time, you swim out maybe ten meters. You test the waters. But you’re not ready, and you’re not able to keep going, so you swim back. And the next time, you swim out maybe 15 meters… and then you swim back. The cycle keeps going… hours, days… I’d say weeks but if you’re on an island with no resources you probably don’t have that long. Each time you make it out a little further, until eventually you have to take that last step and lose sight of the spit of land in the hopes of a better option just out of sight.
Luckily, just out of sight is another island where they are currently filming the next ridiculous reality TV show that’s somewhat Lord-of-the-Flies-esque probably with convicts because we all like to make TV shows about life in prison recently. And there’s plenty of donuts and burnt coffee to satisfy your hunger and caffeine needs… as well as a way off the island assuming you’re not like Piggy.
Wow… you know I try to be emotionally deep, but my sarcasm and overly critical nature sometimes gets the best of me…
The point is: Just like a life or death situation on an island, you are faced with a life or death situation in recovery. Just like you have to literally lose sight of the shore to escape a uncharted island, you have to lose sight of what is comfortable and familiar in recovery in order to create a life worth living for the long term.
I know I’ve used it before, but I’m using it again because it’s so important.
What are you willing to give up to create the life you want?
What shore do you need to lose sight of to cross the ocean?
And, are you willing to take that risk, even if you’re feeling unprepared, because the grass might just be greener on the other side?
Basically, regardless of how unprepared I feel, I realize that staying on my island is certain death. No, I’m not currently dying. No, I’m not relapsing. No, I’m not back at the point of life or death, eat or die, in the hospital, organs shutting down, and all that fun jazz… although you might be. But just as severe as a physical death, emotional death is significant.
The reality is: If I don’t start to leave parts of the eating disorder behind, I cannot create the life that I want to live. And if I cannot create the life that I want to live, I will never feel satisfied, content, or at peace with myself or with my situation. And if I don’t feel satisfied, physically, and emotionally, that is just as bad as a physical death.
I have to give a lot up. And I’m grossly unprepared to do it.
- The idea of a lack of cellulite
- The thigh gap
- Allowing the ED to buffer me and give an excuse for me to put life on hold
- Exercising to manipulate my body
- The idea that health=thinness
- All food rules, and judgements about foods
- The need to feel in control all the time
- Perfectionism and not allowing myself to make mistakes
I’m sure there’s a lot more. And do I know what will happen when I give these things up?
Not a clue.
BUT, if I hold on to them, I am doomed to stay where I am. And that’s not a place I want to be.
So I let the exercise go these past two weeks. I let go of the hour of activity after work…for a few days. And then I brought it back. And then I let it go for a few more. And I brought it back. And then we did again, for longer.
I swam 10 meters from the shore, and then I returned. Then I swam 15, and back I went. The cycle continued, and continues. And that’s okay.
It’s okay if it’s a process. It’s okay if it takes a long time. It’s okay if it isn’t all or nothing. Because it’s hard, and you need to swim back when you’re struggling to tread water.
But eventually, prepared or not, you have to lose sight of the shore. You have to not look back. You have to put all your energy into going only forward. Because where your going has to become more important than where you’ve been.
It isn’t easy. But nothing worth doing ever is.