Welcome to my small corner of the internet. Since I’ve been connecting with some new people on here I thought this would be a good opportunity to write a little summary to introduce myself, my blog, and why I’m here.
I started this personal blog almost a year ago in the midst of one of the darkest periods of my life when my mental and physical health were at their all-time worst. This time last year I was in the depths of my worst depressive episode ever, my anxiety was at a peak, and I was completely debilitated by an eating disorder. I’m going to spare the potentially-triggering details, but if anyone has any questions I encourage you to reach out and I’ll do my best to respond as constructively as possible.
By some miracle (read: time, effort, medication changes, and lots of support) I have gradually been able to start to pull myself out of the vicious cycle of illness and destruction by (reluctantly) turning inwards and beginning to validate my own experience. However, two sentences can hardly do this process justice, which is why this blog came about – essentially as a collection of my thoughts, feelings, struggles, and successes throughout this journey. I am beyond grateful to have found this creative outlet through which I can make sense of my own experiences and not only connect with myself, but with others as well.
It’s crazy to believe how much things have changed over the past year. I’d like to think, that at the very least, I’m gradually gaining a clearer view of myself and hopefully even life in general. From my personal experiences, reflection, and my undergraduate studies in psychology and biology, I have definitely come to have a better understanding of my own history with mental health issues.
My current perspective attempts to integrate how my detrimental core beliefs (i.e. that I am inherently not worthy) were shaped by my childhood experiences and combined with my temperament and biological predisposition to result in maladaptive coping mechanisms that serve (counter-productively) only to reinforce the underlying negative beliefs themselves.
Identifying my core beliefs has allowed me to develop a better understanding of the role specific behaviours play in my life, and in examining their function I am able to reflect on how else to fill these roles more constructively.
For example, my eating disorder is a consequence of many things: A child with low-self esteem, a biological pre-disposition to anxiety and depression, combined with difficult situations in my developmental years. It has served a myriad of purposes that have evolved over time, holding on now as an identity, a response to fear of never being good enough, and a way to simultaneously avoid and attempt to meet, my own perfectionistic standards set out to prevent me from ever feeling truly unworthy.
My eating disorder (and self-destructive habits) serve as a protective barrier between myself and my harmful core beliefs. They’re an ineffective shield against failure. When confronted with unrealistic, unforgiving expectations laid-down to prove I’m worthy, I have given myself little choice but to surrender to the vicious cycle. If I can’t achieve what is expected of me, or what I expect of myself, it’s not because I am a failure but rather because I’m sick. Self-sabotage is my excuse for giving up or saying no when I don’t feel I am otherwise worth setting these boundaries. It helps deal with my tendency to make tasks impossible from the get-go because of my unhealthy standards. In some twisted way I thought (unconsciously…) that they would defend me. No one can hurt me more than I hurt myself. No one can expect more from me than I expect from myself. I can’t disappoint anyone more than I disappoint myself. Unfortunately, instead of protecting me from my lack of self-worth, they inadvertently sustain the negative deep-seated beliefs themselves.
Perfectionism isn’t achievement-based – It’s shame based. It isn’t just a desire to do well, it’s a mask for vulnerability. It doesn’t set you up to feel perfect or to achieve high standards, it sets you up to feel like a failure. Eating disorders aren’t a desire to be thin, they’re a disease that no one chooses to have.
Having started to consider how my habits took route and continue to manifest, I am working with a lovely private counsellor (among other things) to “break the cycle” of self-sustaining negative beliefs. I’m by no means out of the woods yet, but I have (for the first time in my life) made a commitment to myself to try something different. I am going to treatment three times a week and while most days I still don’t entirely feel “worth it”, I try instead to operate under the hope that it might be possible that I am. I’m not even close to saying that I have gone from self-hate to self-love, but in the tiniest of ways I have been able to change my immediate, compulsive responses to some situations, and that has given me enough hope to hold on to.
For the first time in 13 years I’ve taken time off from competitive sport, which began to have a twisted and triggering role in my life, and I’m slowing down the pursuit of my degree by taking fewer courses at a time. As someone who has always obligated to keep busy, and in a society that condones running ourselves into the ground in the name of meritocracy, this in itself has been really challenging for me. However, at the same time I feel like I’m not doing enough, many days it still feels like too much. Now, having made the decision to try, I find myself devoting all my extra time to “getting better” and it seems like I walk out of therapy with binders full of “homework”.
The work of introspection may never be done and I think recovery is a life-long process. Choosing to show up for myself and to practice self-compassion will be choices I have to make daily, and or the time being ones I have to make from moment to moment, but I’m hopeful that these choices will get easier with time.
Right now I’m trying to ask different questions from the old ones that have kept me stuck for almost two decades. Instead of “how do I avoid failure” I’m asking “What could I do if I didn’t allow failure to define me?“. As opposed to “Why am I unworthy” – “How would I behave if I was?“.
I thought living with an eating disorder (or mental illness) would be the hardest thing I would ever have to do but I was wrong – recovering from them is way harder. It asks me to feel everything I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid. It asks me to question most of what I’ve spent my whole life believing to be true. It asks me to have the hindsight to forgive my past-self for how I responded to pain when I didn’t know any better. and to have patience with myself now even when I do. It requires I be vulnerable to the discomfort and uncertainty of life that I always frighted me more than any monsters under my bed. It asks me to show up up fully in this life despite not knowing what tomorrow looks like – and for once, I’m actually beginning to do so.