Monday, January 13, 2014

How to Think About the Big Stuff without Flipping Your Lid

Are we half way through January already? 

Ok, so these past two weeks don't really seem to have flown by per se, but certainly I feel like it is time to do some writing on where I am in life, what I want from life, and what I can realistically do about my life in order to make it functional and healthy. I have been rolling around the words reflection, resolve, and re-imagining in my mind, letting them siphon off all the gunk and rise to the top bobbing like little rubber duckies, hoping to catch my attention. 

Reflection is a hard place to start. For me, there is a lot of pain and regret in my recent past. And there is anxiety about the work that is to come, the healing that has yet to be done. Often in my sessions with Trusty Therapist Judy, my heart rate jolts and my forehead buzzes. These are moments of revelation, where I realize that my attitudes, assumptions, thoughts, and judgments about myself are not based in reality, but in emotion. These emotions - shame, bewilderment, hopelessness, anxiety - have been with me, have twisted my thoughts, have governed my behavior. As I reflect on this, the world both opens up with new freedom, but I am also left feeling even more hollow than when under the spell of self-hate.

Returning to our more authentic selves sounds like such an overwhelming proposition. How much of our lives will we have to disrupt in order to allow for this freedom? How much of our lives will we tear away from in order to cling on to our own voices? What is the cost of being heard, seen, empowered? And why does that cost seem too high a price when what we would get in return is ourselves

I believe the risk to remain unchanged is greater than the risk to make daring steps toward change. I believe that shifting my focus in small measures, every day, to what I am grateful for and for what makes me me, is enough to keep myself emotionally connected and real. The process of healing may be spiritual but it doesn't have to come in the form of a burning bush or second sight. We don't have to see the purple auras of grace to know that we are taking care of ourselves.

I am reflecting on the past, knowing how much I hurt myself. I am reflecting on the future, scared that I am not capable of being real, that I will detach myself - observe and fantasize like the writer I am - and continue building walls around me. But, I remind myself, walls aren't inherently bad. A low-risk life is perfectly legitimate and noble. I am allowed to baby step my way towards authenticity, make mistakes, hide, run, return, kick up dust, spit, cry, hug. I am scared of myself. Scared of my own empowerment. Today, though, I realize I don't have to be. Because self-empowerment can come in the form of My So Called Life marathons. It can be going to the movies, taking a weekend road trip, staring at the ocean, petting my cat. The big stuff isn't so big. Keeping it small can keep it accessible, keep it close, and keep it alive. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year Reunion of the Soul, Sister!

There's this older woman at my gym. I've noticed her for only the past few days. Every morning, she is in her little corner, stretching. Twisting, turning into yoga poses. Nothing fancy. She's not necessarily super fit. One morning I tell her, "I really admire your practice. I never do yoga. But I want to." "I hate every minute of it and this is only my third day," she says with a smile. Love it.

For me, my resistance to yoga is about challenge. I challenge my body every day. But in my own repetitive routine so that I'm used to it and I feel in control of it. I actually like the sameness. I know my body would feel strained, awkward, unsteady in a yoga class. I know there are muscles all up in this body of mine that I may never really have used or at least intentionally paid attention to. 

What if I hate it? What if I really don't get the hang of it or my body doesn't get stronger? These seem like familiar questions; the same thinking that makes me feel different, broken, shameful. I feel like a walking oil slick. I don't know if that makes sense to anyone else. Either an oil slick or a giant blackhead. And neither of those things can  have friends or sex or jobs or voices, let alone do yoga. 

As I was walking out of the gym, I heard some music coming from the group exercise room. One of those Putomayo things with sweeping, loose refrains and uplifting foreign voices. I stepped into the room and a woman I know is grooving into the new year. And I join her. I sweep my arms, I circle my hips, I flop around. I do the grapevine. And I remember: Oh, yeah! Music is my in. Music is my doorway to the mental and emotional benefits I want from yoga. I had forgotten, again! But how wonderful it is, each time, to rediscover it. This happens in every aspect of our lives. We find what works, we let it slip away, we berate ourselves, and then - if we're lucky...seriously...if we're lucky - we find it again. And the reunion is the best part of all.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Enter the Maze

"I'm willing to treat you," Trusty Therapist Judy is telling me over the phone, "no matter what you['re doing with food." I can hear the playfulness in her voice. "As long as it's safe."

For the past thee years, I have consistently not had a safe relationship with food. My relapses into binge eating have left me suicidal and unable to make my appointments with TTJ, unable to make my appointments with life. But for the past six weeks, I have been in recovery. My kind of recovery, such as it is right now. I am still fucked up about food. Still resistant to a steady, regularized, planned meal plan. I'm still kind of wingin' it. 

The Fucked-Upness:
- I restrict calories during the day.
- I horde food from the dining hall at the facility where I'm doing a food rehab program. 
- Twice (okay thrice) a week I spend all day in bed isolated and binging on food that I get from the salad bar in the dining room. Imagine me in sweats, hood up, sunglasses on, filling Styrofoam cups with all manner of veggies and fruit. Imagine me binging on 3,000 of raw veg and fruit. 
- One night I binged on gum (like packs and packs) and that is basically the most uncomfortable stupid awful thing.

What this pattern means, is that I'm binging enough to settle that part of me that can't let it go, but not enough so that I get despondent and suicidal. I'm also restricting enough so that that part of me is kind of satisfied, but not restricting to the point of being medically dangerous or losing weight at an alarming rate. 

I often imagine my recovery as big ass wrinkled stretch of fabric. And I just keep ironing it out, but my iron is just lukewarm. And damn if I'm going to do anything to heat it up. As long as I just keep at it, this fabric will slowly smooth out. That's my hope. 

Above all, what TTJ and I have learned is how sensitive I am to feeling controlled. My inability to make commitments; my resistance to meal-planning, to sponsorship in OA, to surrendering are the fall-outs of this rebellious nature. At certain point, I have to accept that and understand that if I own my rebelliousness, I can work that into my recovery.

We don't all recover in the same way. And recovery doesn't mean the same thing for all of us. When we step out and try to change the way we live our lives - whether or not we suffer from addiction - there is a lot (a lot) of trial and error. We're all in the maze, but we each have our own map and our own way of getting to the other side. Maybe I'm all always going to be fucked up about food. But my hope is that however fucked up I am, my life and my Self shine through greater. What I hope is that eventually getting through the maze isn't so impossible. I hope the maze doesn't swallow me whole anymore and that my time starts to tip towards more in the Kickass Julia realm than the Kick Julia's Ass realm.

What does recovery look like for you? What tools have you used to get through your maze? Which have lead you deeper? Which have led you out?