my recovery is not going well today. i’m struggling to hold the line, to hold onto a reality that isn’t the voices pounding inside my head, asking to be let out to play.
“play” is a misnomer, because when the mental illnesses come out, it’s no longer playtime. my brain gets busy while my body gets quiet, in an agitated, pacing kind of way. i become exquisitely unproductive. i fall back into negative routines that get me nowhere. a track in the brain that took decades to establish is hard to escape from; in fact, it’s shockingly easy to abandon the new route.
i have yet to examine what set me off in depth, but i suspect the causes are multitudinous and connected. most significantly, my safe and structured home environment keeps changing; various people of assorted ages and needs have moved in and increased the numbers from two to often six; it no longer feels like just my sanctuary. because my home is full of people, the organized and tidy spaces are now cluttered, and the chaos of life is everywhere. the food situation is very stressful. there’s too much of the wrong stuff rolling around the house, in all the wrong quantities, and the fact that it’s here, living with me, is stressing me out extremely. all i want to do is binge and purge, not just because of the food but because i can’t stand feeling this way.
my brain tells me things were better in the past. my brain tells me things were better when i had more control. what my brain means is that things were better when the eating disorder was in control. my brain is such a liar, though i do miss the simplicity of those very hard days. i miss not having to worry about what to do or what to think. every day was the same: wake up, engage in negative trash talk, binge and purge, rinse, and repeat. i still have so many of the problematic thoughts that in a way, it almost seems wrong to not compulsively re-engage with the behaviours.
thoughts like that are a red flag; thoughts like that are how i know i’m stumbling. it’s confirmation that my depression and anxiety are stepping up their game. i can also tell from my feelings or rather, the absence thereof. they mostly fade away when i start to falter, save for one – anger.
i’m angry. i’m in a rage. the emotion is sitting there, under the surface, begging me to let it lash out. keeping it in check is a challenge when all my brain wants to do is attack myself or others; the target doesn’t matter; my need isn’t terribly picky. when i get angry like that, it invariably means that the black dog of depression is back for a visit.
i’ve been engaging in a variety of behaviours designed to help me stay stable, behaviours designed to keep the problematic thoughts and emotions at bay, but they’ve become harder to commit to, now that my life is in flux and my routines are drifting away. the quiet moments and empty spaces i relied on have vanished. in the long run, getting out of the rut i established to keep me safe is probably a good thing (i hate perspective) but in the short run, i don’t know if i can handle it. i feel shockingly selfish for even having needs.
a large part of the problem is my lack of honesty. it’s a long-term problem. even when i’m being honest, i’m also not. i share some of what i’m thinking and feeling, sometimes even most, but never all. there are secret truths and feelings that i never let out. i don’t know how to. they are locked deep inside, trapped in a towering citadel that i built. the critical bits of damage live there and i don’t look at them, ever. when they try and stick their heads out, i stomp them back. that’s probably a mistake; i’m reasonably certain that what’s inside is what drives the voices to keep telling me i’m fat, and useless, and hopeless, and a failure.
the fact that i’ve yet to engage in its deconstruction is likely another reason that i can’t maintain my recovery behaviours. even when no noise is coming from the tower, it has influence. it’s probably the locked-up thoughts and feelings that kill my attempts to establish and maintain new and healthy patterns. it’s those locked up thoughts and feelings that send the constant “why bother; you can’t do it” sotto voce messages. i’m outside of the vault but so trapped by it, i might as well be locked up too.
i know what the answer is, i just don’t like it. i’m afraid to expose what’s in there to the light. it’s a conundrum: avoid facing it and i’ll fall off the wagon again, get trapped inside myself again, and relapse again; face it, and i’ll be dealing with a big, scary ugliness that’s made up of things i don’t want to see. a hard choice to make. i get tired of everything being so hard. i get tired of fighting. i get angry at the unfairness of it all, a state of mind that’s both pointless and dangerous.
pointless because what’s happening is what’s happening, and dangerous because the “unfair” argument is just a sneaky way my mental illnesses have of justifying behaviours that are unhelpful in the extreme. life isn’t fair; i know that.
i have books, and quotes, and posters full of hints on what to do for myself when i have days like this, when i have days when i realize i’m falling and don’t care. when it’s day four of no showering or journaling or meditating, and i’m dumping good-for-me choices in favour of the easy, familiar, and harmful.
drink some water, have a shower, get dressed, eat something, go for a walk, call someone, get some fresh air, meditate.
great advice that’s hard to follow when a large part of you really doesn’t want to. when you’re angry and don’t want to do anything but act like a fractious toddler. when the only thought in your head is the wish that some random genie would show up and fix you.
people tell me there are blessings to be found in any situation. that i’m more empathetic because of my struggles, that i’m more patient, that i have more compassion. at this moment, i don’t care. i don’t care about anything much at all today, to be honest, and i can’t even go back to bed because of the aforementioned full-household. i also can’t be authentic; i have too much invested in being “i’m fine, getting better” to fall apart in front of people now. the fact that being “fine” is what ultimately led to my breakdown three years ago has been shunted off to the side of my brain so that it can be ignored. because more than anything else, my illnesses want to survive and endure and today, they seem to be getting their wish. as for tomorrow, who knows?
there is one helpful thought that remains, one that i cling to, one i’ve referenced before. like many of my mantras, it springs from fiction, this one from the movie, batman begins:
“why do we fall? so we can learn to pick ourselves up again.”
the learning and practice of that truth is apparently going to be a lifetime process.