(DAY #54 total inpatient admission)
White toast x2, butter.
Vegetable goulash, boiled rice, herb dumpling, cauliflower.
Ice-cream (2 scoops).
Ham sandwich (wholemeal), 5-bean salad, side salad.
Lemon sponge and custard.
…& the usual PINT of semi-skimmed milk.
Funny old Jim Carrey enlightened me with a quote I read yesterday:
“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”
So what IS the answer to a meaningful life?
…CONNECTION. Regardless of what we ‘get’ or we ‘have’, or we ‘achieve’.
Building your world with meaningful relationships in the process. EVERYTHING exists to connect. And as we are hard-wired to do just that, whether we convince ourselves we’re ‘just not a people-person’ or that we’re fiercely independent, if connection is lacking in us/our lives, we will suffer that loneliness… we will keep chasing things to fill that hole… we will experience that shitty human emptiness that we can’t quite put a finger on what to call. The loneliness that for some of us leads to depression.
As a modern world, most of us are naturally driven to go ‘get’ things in order to be happy… to fill that something in us that feels empty. Whether that be a job, a piece of work, moving home, money, shopping for ‘things’, an invite to a party, lots of likes on a Facebook photo, losing weight, a holiday, making a lifestyle change, any task/object…
Whilst most of that CAN be positive, it doesn’t last. Go ahead and enjoy it, savour it, after all you probably worked very hard for it! I’m far from saying that you don’t deserve it! Embracing those little things is a way of celebrating your life… the sad thing for all of us, is that once the happy, elated feeling of having or doing that ‘thing’ is over – when the sun goes back behind the clouds again, we’re driven to the next ‘thing’. We’re frustrated that ‘thing’ we so relied on, didn’t sustain a long-enough ‘happiness battery-life’.
Grappling onto anything we can on the outside world to control our inside worlds. To seek constant validation for our existence. And it’s not all our fault, the way society has come on, especially with the humongous explosion of technology and social media break-out… often without knowing we become lead and controlled by the external environment. It makes us powerless without realising… we don’t even know what we’re looking for to get that feeling of ‘fulfilment’ that makes us feel worthy enough to be alive.
I became inspired after watching a few ‘TED’ talks online yesterday; it made me really, TRULY think back through why I have never for long enough felt ‘complete’ in my life… and have continued to be mopped up by a sense of ‘loneliness’… even when I’ve achieved things. (scroll to the end of this post to see a random list of examples – from everyday tasks, to ‘bigger’ stuff) All the things I felt I was doing by the ‘rulebook’. I even thought my perfectionism was a positive characteristic in helping me to keep things in check. En route for a tidy life.
Regardless of if I didn’t have many friends, or the confidence to be a bubbly person, my self-esteem was/is rubbish, prioritising my school-work, getting excellent grades, putting all my emphasis on what my successful career should look like and seeing that as the ultimate ‘light at the end of the tunnel’/answer to life, never seeing friendships as important as work or tasks I could carry out on my own (I wasn’t very good at it, so why would I prioritise it and expose myself more to social situations if I felt inadequate, and the weakest person in the whole room – how could I connect if I felt clammed up, unconfident, shy, uncertain and inferior to everyone else?) So I often kept myself ‘safe’, protecting myself from my negative thoughts I guess, and avoided any extra social contact that wasn’t ‘needed’ to get through my day – be it school, work or outer life. Even with family. Of course this has varied in intensities through the years, and I’ve had some reasonable spells when I’ve really tried to work on my confidence etc, or there have been other factors contributing to my experimented confidence levels.
Luckily, I had made a best friend at school/college that shone off social likability. I could look up to her for confidence and learnt a lot looking back. She was well-liked and continues to be… bubbly, engaging, hard-working… she is a truly amazing person. I owe a lot to her for surviving the social aspect of school. I often felt in awe of her ability to interact/socialise and CONNECT with people.
Something inside still felt very dead and missing. And it trickles on to feel that way day-to-day, which is becoming even more painful now my plaster ‘Anorexia’ is being peeled away… yet I’m choosing to CONTINUE peeling it away, even when the fresh air, exposure to my feelings absolutely STINGS.
Sometimes, when it does sting, I really question WHY I’m continuing to put myself through the motions of recovery. The REAL loneliness, that has actually been exaggerated by being occupied with an Eating Disorder for many years of my life. Why am I putting myself through this recovery thing? When it highlights this emptiness in me even more-so. It’s easy for Anorexia to spot that discomfort right away and try to direct me back in it’s close and careful arms.
As I pointed out in yesterday’s post, I was so incredibly interested to question how Anorexia (for me, and maybe lots of others unknowingly out there?)… perhaps became/IS a connection. A way of coping with that LACK of connection in life. As much as I cringe when people refer to their Eating Disorder as ‘another person’, I can definitely see how, for me, it NUMBED that feeling of loneliness. What confirms that for me, is when I feel overwhelmed by that returned ‘empty’ hole often now over the past couple of months committing to recovery – after eating, and definitely since sticking to the full-portions meal-plan. Especially after eating certain foods, and when it hits hard again the fact that I’m no longer absorbed in seeing my meal and it’s components as numbers. The numbers/order/structure to everything Anorexia is/was, the HEART of my connection. Also, I guess, seeing the number on the scales go down was another way of maintaining that feeling of connection… a bit like how friends make each other friendship bracelets. Or wear half a necklace each.
That’s why Anorexia gives people a ‘false’ sense of happiness/fulfilment/confidence. I’m smiling on plenty of photographs where I’m in my worst mental/physical state. Because I felt a connection and a void was filled. So my confidence was lifted. It was a positive distraction from my fear of social rejection, from feeling inferior. Lack of confidence and character made me feel like I didn’t have a personality, that I was worthless.
I guess, without knowing my Eating Disorder is a CONNECTION to a set of rules/focus/dedication – not only with the bits everyone sees on the outside – calorie-counting, exercising, losing weight… but with every little detail that comes hand-in-hand. The behaviours around eating – in a certain way, at certain times, in a certain order etc. etc. This then also feeds into other aspects of life not related to food… like I have noticed a particular strengthening of my perfectionism since developing my Eating Disorder.
I could literally explore this deep psychological topic in writing for the next few days. I think I’d be keen to write a dissertation on it… ! But I don’t think I am going to feed into my ‘high expectations’ by doing much more, as it’s nearly tea soon as well.
Discovering that ‘connection’ is the main answer to feeling like you’re living a fulfilled life – has given me lots of HOPE in coping with life without Anorexia. It’s bridging the gap between that is the tricky bit. The skills – socially, mentally I feel I have lost in the process of wrapping myself up in an Eating Disorder. All that reliance for self-confidence/purpose/sense of connection will now have to be worked on and replaced INSIDE of me. But if I’m brave enough to want to work on the parts of me that are my biggest weakness, especially when my plaster is being ripped off, and I don’t have Anorexia as my armour/false confidence, then things CAN be different. Life can FEEL different. I don’t have to feel as inadequate as I did before my Eating Disorder. That’s what terrifies me most. Feeling like that trapped, small, weak person.
Obviously I feel like a lot of my unhealthy attitudes/values from over the years shape my daily negative thought-processes and behaviours that actually lead me still to become isolated. It’s my natural instinct. Being around people feels both a novelty/and odd concept. It’s a daily constant learning curve. Especially now I’m waking up to the real world. For such a long time I convinced myself I was just an ‘independent’ person but I think I became so reliant on conquering everything by myself, by experiencing the majority of life by myself. Because I knew little other ways to cope, or to trust my confidence in working with other people and doing things as a team, to stand up for myself, to make my voice heard amongst other people.
I feel that during my ‘suffering’ with Anorexia, I actually felt LESS suffering. I was suffering LESS about feeling inferior in a room of people. I was suffering LESS the discomfort of being the least bubbly, outgoing and likeable one. I was suffering LESS with loneliness… because that was numbed by my connection with Anorexia.
Feeling a sense of ‘connection’ and making up for my lack of meaningful relationships is not the EXCLUSIVE reason for my Eating Disorder… there is no x + y formula. But I’m just sharing with you the insight I gained from learning more about the general human needs for fulfilment. We never purposely go out of our way to turn to addiction or a mental illness… so being able to see that it must be serving some PURPOSE to fill something that we’re lacking, helps to offer a bit of science/logic.
If I have time tomorrow, I think I’m going to explore this a bit more… and how my perfectionism/compelling need to feel ‘productive’ both fuel and are fuelled by my Eating Disorder. If I’m going to live a free-spirited life I know I need to work on reconstructing the values in my head. I think my values have been mis-shapen by my fears over the years, especially at school. They have now left me caged in my own mental box, which I’m not going to let stay closed for much longer. I’ve been making an effort each day to try and ‘spot’ opportunities where I can do things differently, and that influence me not spending AS much time by myself. To remind myself when an opportunity is there, that I need to be choosing and testing the alternatives if I want my mind-set to change. Like in groups on the Unit for example – I’ve been forcing myself to try and contribute if I feel I can. Instead of feeling like I don’t deserve to have an input.
I wonder if it’s possible to be confident in a room full of people, whilst making spontaneous conversation. And not worry about my mouth clamming up. Or wondering if I’m making things negative or awkward just ‘being’ there. I wonder if it’s possible to have fun without worrying about what I’ve got to do later that day to ‘compensate’ having some control over my life, in order to earn that ‘fun’. I wonder if I’ll approach someone soon to make a conversation for ‘the sake of it’ because I really enjoy talking and am confident at being myself.
And that’s the thing, I really do enjoy talking to people when I’m doing it. And when I’m not worrying about what I need to be doing and can control by myself. Instead of being in a social situation where I hugely worry that I will lose control and make myself appear and feel a very weak person. It’s when my thoughts get wrapped up and give me memories/reminders of that shame from being younger and feeling like an inadequate reject that seem to destroy that sense of enjoyment. It’s the fear of tripping up, saying the wrong thing, sounding stupid, my words not coming out right, speaking too much and others finding me boring, people wondering why I deserve to feel like I should speak to them, not having a ‘personality’… just all sorts of boring negative crap playing on a vinyl record!
You can see why it’s easier to stay in my own company. Which may feel safe, but it doesn’t get me anywhere. So it’s going to be difficult but I’m continuing to tackle social bits and pieces through my time here… I want to feel like I can enjoy connecting with others. Which I do. I really, REALLY do. I’m tired and done with having to feel like a perfect person.
If there’s hope in the fact that I just need to learn to and be confident in connecting, living a life of meaningful connected relationships, then I’m confident that eventually (soon) and gradually with time… I can live a life without Anorexia. If I can build on my skills to be CONFIDENT and self-accepting enough to connect, then I believe this can help my depression too.
It’s become clear to me now that maybe the reason I have found this blog to be so therapeutic, especially with spending most time on my own, is because this is my current way to connect with you. And making me feel purposeful. It’s been a safer connection/way to express myself than the one I had relied on with Anorexia. So thank you for letting me do that.
(Examples list from earlier in post, 5 or so paragraphs in….! After getting a ‘first class honours’ in my degree… after succeeding those few part-time job interviews… after that fantastic holiday to Florida… after finally cleaning my room and tidying up my wardrobe so that things felt orderly again… after being able to tick off all the ‘essentials’ on my shopping list for the weekend… after finally having my hands on a more ‘designer’ schoolbag like the popular kids back at secondary school… after getting a fair few ‘likes’ and publicity on my Portrait Artist self-employed Facebook page… after finally finishing reading that book… after passing my driving test… after enrolling for nursing at Uni and getting accepted… after being told time and time by my family “you can do anything you turn your hand to”… after being told how talented I am at art by my teachers… after finally sussing out how to properly straighten my hair as vertically on-point as the popular kids… after having a full-feminine spruce-up in the shower including full-shave, hair washed with new matching shampoo and conditioner, eyebrows plucked… after going for the jog that I thought would trigger enough endorphins to keep me ‘happy’ and ‘confident’… after receiving my new phone in the post after smashing the screen on my last… after going to bed knowing I’ve done everything I needed to do that day… after watching that inspirational movie… after being able to tick off all the phone calls and errands I’ve accomplished through the week in my diary… after having all the cards/gifts sorted for all the birthdays coming up over the next couple of months… after being able to prove to myself and everyone else I could travel abroad for two weeks and make it back alive… after updating my playlist to the latest songs… after catching up with all that washing lingering in the basket… after having a couple of teeth out and then braces to straighten my teeth… after selling some of my old clothes online and having a clear-out…)