I’m someone who finds comfort in logic, organization, making lists, crossing off tasks, and generally tying to fit everything into its own neat little box. But I’ve come to realize that as much as I’d like to, I can’t tackle life with a ruler and an agenda all the time. I unfortunately can’t put my feelings into boxes or make a flow chart telling me how to respond to each emotion that arises. With a history of obsessive compulsive tendencies (aside from just that associated with my eating disorder) any lack of planning and control is terrifying.
What I can do is gradually trust listening to my body again. I can check in and remind myself that whatever I may be feeling is valid, and fighting against it adds unnecessary suffering. I can trust that I won’t always get it right. I can trust that it will be difficult. I can expect to get it wrong. But that’s okay, that’s life.
What I can do, day by day, is recognize what NOT to do. Life is trial and error. We won’t always know what to do, but many times we know what definitely won’t help. Breaking the cycle of these bad habits that only provide momentary relief (while simultaneously guaranteeing to prolong your pain) is difficult. Every day, every hour, every meal, provides a new opportunity to fight. To make, maybe not the perfect choice, but probably not the worst one either. More often than not, this requires guidance. I can seek that help. Someone who can see beyond my immediate anxieties. Someone who can slow my spinning thoughts and suggest ways to reflect on what no longer serves me. Help that can guide me towards a better path.
You will make the wrong decisions. You always have and always will. This is how we learn. This is human. the absence of mistakes is the absence of learning. The absence of growth.
Growth is uncomfortable. My disorder longs for control. Control my anxiety, control my pain, control my body. Letting go of this control is uncomfortable. Extremely uncomfortable. Without the numbness of starvation I am vulnerable to all my emotions. Without a mind full of numbers and obsessions, my thoughts fall to what I subconsciously try to avoid.
Do you find it difficult to accept compliments? Are you occasionally closed off to affection and love?
In psychology there’s a basic theory of something called “Cognitive dissonance” – when something you feel conflicts with your actions or your thoughts. A depressogenic schema (introduced by Beck – whether or not it’s 100% accurate I like to use this to refer to the induced feelings often associated with depression even if that’s incorrect) is essentially the negative cognition associated with depression. Part of these though patterns are feelings of guilt, unworthiness, shame, and sadness. So when you don’t think I deserve things you tend not to give yourself what you truly deserve to prevent feeling uncomfortable.
⁃ so we have to, EMBRACE THE DISCOMFORT.
⁃ Start doing good things for yourself and the more you do, the more it will feedback to make you feel like you actually do deserve it. And even if you don’t feel it, your loved ones will be much happier knowing you’re trying to treat yourself right.
⁃ Embrace the discomfort to make decisions for yourself, not for you disorder, or for what your plan on paper says.
From my perspective, these negative patterns of cognition are closely linked to your subsequent actions. The self fulfilling prophecy reflects the fact that your initial belief influences your actions which end up ultimately supporting the belief you have in the first place. Like giving someone the benefit of the doubt. Give yourself benefit of the doubt. Don’t act towards yourself like you aren’t worth it. Treat yourself well and maybe your beliefs will start to shift. Don’t put yourself at a disadvantage before giving yourself a chance.
I am now able to recognize my feelings better and am more able to accept that I often feel things for confusing/unconventional reasons (By nature of my mood disorder). Not everything you feel is going to make sense. Everything you feel however, is valid – the mere nature of feeling it makes it so. Recognize that your feelings will likely steer your wrong, at least in the beginning of your journey. As we rebuild a relationship with ourselves we can come to trust our minds and bodies more. And trust that we can recognize when a thought calls for an opposite action. For example, feeling unworthy of affection doesn’t mean you should cancel your date with your loving significant other. In fact, while it might not feel like it, it might be just what you need to lift your spirits a bit. All we can do is try and listen to our bodies and learn as we go. Learn from our inevitable failures. Learn from reading. Learn from others. We’ll make mistakes that might make us feel worse sometimes, but no one can be happy all the time. And from those mistakes we too shall learn.