for not having weighed myself for AT LEAST three weeks. My weight is what it is, knowing it doesn’t change the number.
If your recovery from a restrictive eating disorder involves a restrictive diet and a strict exercise routine, then I’d really strongly advise you to reconsider and reevaluate. Really.
What’s stopping you from letting it go? What are you scared of?
If you’re not defined as the “sick girl” or “the girl with the weird eating habits”, you’re okay. Because guess what? You get to be defined by the size of your smile. The beauty of you personality. The goodness in your heart. You’re okay. You’re NOT a disorder; you’re a person.
So, how do you live?
I know how to recover. Eat, promise to eat, eat more. Stand in the mirror, promise yourself that your being is beautiful. That the growing stomach and thighs are just growing with power over your toxic mind. Insist you are perfect and wonderful until you believe it.
But how do you actually live?
How do you not write, think, breathe the ghost of your disorder? You’ve spent a decade slowly killing yourself from the inside out. How do you find yourself without your sickness? I can’t help but wonder what will happen to me when I am no longer the snide, sick bitch with puke stains on her cheek. I can’t help but wonder how will they react when you are no longer a dying patient. Who will I become when I can no longer introduce myself as the girl with an eating disorder?
How do you live?"
- Michelle K., How Do You Live? (via michellekpoems)
- Arian Foster (via energiesoftheuniverse)
1. The sky has fallen a thousand times already
I can’t count the number of times my world has ended. At least several dozen times in my life I’ve found myself in a situation so tangled and hopeless that I could not believe I would ever be happy again. Somehow, during each of those personal apocalypses, I forget that each of the previous ones somehow worked themselves out and are no longer relevant. Yet in real-time, the current catastrophe always seems to promise the death or at least permanent disfigurement of my entire life, and I crumple into despair and indignation. If only I could remember that almost all of the problems I’ve ever had are currently solved except the two or three most recent developments. This is just the way life moves along. It is my problems that are always marching to the gallows, not me.
I’m sure your sky has fallen many times before too. The overwhelmed mind underestimates the scale of a human life and therefore over-calculates the ultimate importance of any particular problem. Don’t be fooled.
2. Your problems are the same problems human beings have always had
You will never end up finding a way to suffer that hasn’t been fully explored yet. Heartbreak, death of loved ones, sickness and old age, chronic pain, shame, addiction, failure, poverty, and introspective nightmares are all realms that have been braved by people consistently and exhaustively for thousands of years, and to degrees much worse than yours. There are ultimately only a few basic kinds of human trouble, and they’ve all been suffered and confronted before.
Humankind’s vast experience with suffering is an asset to every one of us, because for every classic human problem there is a world of literature about the best ways to deal with it that other humans have found, and it’s never been easier to get access to this wisdom.
3. Being overwhelmed comes from a breakdown of your thoughts about your life, not a breakdown of your life
The feeling of being overwhelmed creates a convincing illusion. It makes you think everything is happening at once, but that’s not really possible. While different conditions of your life situation can happen concurrently — say your debts are in collections at the same time your relationship is falling apart — life still only unfolds one moment at a time, and it’s quite rare that you need to do more than one small thing in any given moment. Each issue might demand that you deal with a number of difficult moments, but as a rule you only need to deal physically with one particular moment at a time. The “everything is happening at once” feeling is a mental phenomenon that doesn’t reflect the linear way in which concurrent life problems actually unfold.
Thoughts change over much more quickly than life’s actual happenings do, and so in one minute of worried thinking you can experience a dozen problems mentally. It’s easy to get lost in this abstract realm, thinking that there’s too much happening “at once” to possibly know what to do, but when you’re ready to actually deal with a problem in the physical world, you can safely ignore the others for the moment it takes to act on one of them.
4. It is mathematically unlikely that your problems are as bad as you think they are
Most people seem to be pessimists. I certainly have that tendency and I’m slowly re-calibrating toward the optimistic side. From an evolutionary perspective, it’s not hard to understand why we tend toward catastrophizing our setbacks. If you run from every snake just because it may be a deadly one, then you’re less likely to die by snakebite, even though 85% of the time you are running from a creature that ought to be running from you. Pessimistic tendencies may aid self-preservation overall, across a lifetime of ambiguous situations, but this comes at the cost of increased stress and a lot of unnecessary running from things.
To know you are a pessimist is to know that things are generally better than they appear to be. A pessimistic mind will usually create a mental image of the situation that’s much more dangerous and difficult to address than it ultimately will be in real life.
And for many of us, we’re not talking about slight exaggerations of the seriousness of our challenges. On the many occasions in which I realized I may have made a mistake at work, usually it expands quickly to certainty that I have made a mistake, that I will be found out and fired, and that I will never work in this industry again. Within a half a minute I’m suffering a mental movie of myself pounding the pavement on a gloomy day, handing resumes out to fast food managers. If this mental reflex sounds familiar — and if you’re overwhelmed often, it probably is — you are likely a pessimist, and you can almost depend on the situation turning out to be easier to deal with than you initially imagined.
5. Things change pretty quickly when you start doing things instead of thinking so much
The darkness in the overwhelmed person’s mind comes from the feeling of helplessness, and helplessness comes from the belief that nothing you do matters. Although this feeling is common, it is almost never true. However bad the external circumstances actually get, they are probably not quite Auschwitz, and even there you would be able to fall back on Viktor Frankl’s great discovery — that nobody can take away your freedom to choose your way of relating to your circumstances. Wherever you are, you can do something to make the rest of the day better than it would otherwise be, and that means you are not helpless. No matter how small the action, once you see you are capable of improving your position, the feeling of helplessness cannot survive unless you want it to.
Overwhelm is an affliction of messy thoughts rather than messy circumstances, and this becomes clearer when you start acting on the circumstances. Repeatedly throughout my life, a hellish day becomes bearable the moment I make a dent in just one of my dilemmas. It spoils the mirage of total catastrophe, and makes it hard to remain a passive participant in your bad day.
6. It is most tempting to not do things when you most need to do things
Another self-defeating habit of the normal human mind. There is a tendency to freeze when things feel like they’re going off the rails, for two reasons.
The first reason is that you are afraid to make things worse. The ground feels shaky everywhere, and in your apparent stupor of incompetence you don’t want to step in the wrong place. But the bigger reason is that by making a decision to do something you are deciding to take responsibility for where you are, and that’s not a natural reflex for most of us. Particularly when you believe your problem is someone else’s fault, it’s tempting to wait for the person responsible to actually be a responsible person. That doesn’t usually happen, and often I’m mistaken about who is at fault anyway. I know I always want it to be someone else’s fault, and I don’t think I’m unusual there. Believing another party is responsible is tempting because it lets you fantasize about a deus ex machina ending to your crisis, the timely swooping-in of the cavalry, which makes for a lame movie because it makes a fool of the protagonist, and never really happens in real life anyway.
Defy the temptation to cross your arms and wait for some form of cosmic justice to save you — or at least remember that you will feel a temptation to do nothing, right when you should probably be doing something