Sunday, January 20, 2013
Editing the Story
We are story tellers, dream weavers, fairy tale spinners. We talk to entertain, to socialize, to laugh, to join in friendships, to impress, to calm others and quell our own nervous thoughts. We are flesh and blood, but we are essentially words. That old 'sticks and stones may break my bones' taunt? Not true. Words can hurt. Words do hurt. And it's usually our own words that hurt the most.
Who are we, really, but characters in diverse, dynamic stories? We are influenced by our environment, families, media, culture, peers and other factors, but our internal voice is also a powerful player in our character development. Messages about our worth, value, strengths, fears, weaknesses, expectations, and needs are heard constantly from childhood on. As we grow older, we hold on to some of these messages and weave them into solidified, stronger stories.
Sometimes, the messages, shoulds, have-tos and identities become so intertwined, it is hard to tell where the real 'you' (whoever that is) begins and the where the 'other' voices end. Perhaps you experienced significant difficulties in adolescence, or early adulthood, or witnessed something traumatic as a child. Maybe you never had a chance or outlet through which you could make yourself heard, explore your interests, travel new avenues, pursue alternate desires. Now you're here. You're an adult, or a young adult (speaking for myself), and you are being pushed in a way that sounds... well, contradictory to everything you logically know is right. You don't like the character you are playing, and you want to challenge the narrative.
The stories are strong, though. They feel real. The messages that used to be external become internalized. What was once an outside message feels like it comes so strongly from within: You will get fat if you eat this. You will be lazy if you don't exercise. You are larger than everyone else in treatment. You do not need to gain weight. You will can outlive your eating disorder. Death is a myth. You should not be sitting still. You should be active. You are wasting time. You will not recover. You have let people down. You are a failure. You will not amount to anything. You will spend your life battling this beast. YOU CAN'T DO THIS.
The character? An eating disorderd 'adult', currently cycling in and out of treatment. One that wears sweatpants to accomodate any gain or mask any loss, has her blood drawn daily and must wake early for rounds of vitals and tests to ensure medical stability. One who eats multiple, measured, painstaking meals with others in a pseudo-casual cafe. One who stares at clocks to wait until she can call home. When she's able to call home, that is. Those voices and stories? In treatment, they can be so strong, you don't want to talk to anyone BUT other people going through the same struggle. Others who hear the same stories, fight the same demons, believe the same myths about their bodies and their lives. About the trap of this disease. Suddenly, your biggest supports (family, friends from the 'outside', loved ones) seem like they're speaking a foreign tongue. You are amongst the chosen ones here. At least that's how it can seem, sometimes. They understand the battle you fight at each meal, and cheer you on every time you edit a line in the story. They are there to pick you back up when you feel like falling in on yourself.
You hope and hope that every day makes the narrative weaker and that you give yourself more power to write a new story. I do, at least. I am just beginning to see the hope in this way of thinking. Just beginning to view my eating disorder as a collection of thoughts, stories, tales, fictions...things I can change. Or can hold as 'un-truths' instead of shoulds. That sounds intellectual, and it is. I'm better at that than at the feeling part of recovery. I'm working to translate this into everyday practice, but just stepping a toe in. I didn't get here in one day, and it will take a long time to make big changes.
When I think, "Not exercising and eating 6 times per day is going to make me fat"... I feel anxious, I feel lazy, I feel sad, I feel.. desperate. I feel everything bad a human can feel. But I am trying to remind myself that this is a thought. I can have the thought, and observe it, and try to dismiss it or talk about the thought or process it another way. And perhaps when I gain strength, rewrite it.
It's all a part of recovery.
For anyone reading, I apologize if this is triggering. I just want to speak the truth abut recovery for me. I want to be accountable. I want to be someone who recovers, and to do that, I am sharing what it's like to battle the demons of an eating disorder.
May you never experience this hell.