from today’s journal prompt: “what inessential things can i eliminate from my life?” my immediate response was to plan on buying more garbage and recycling bags so i could work on culling the contents of the closets and storage cupboards. they are full of things i don’t really need but find difficult to part with. on a fundamental level, i don’t really like stuff. i get oddly emotionally attached to it and find it hard to get rid of. i have some real hoarder tendencies; it’s a challenge. luckily, i’m broke most of the time, which limits my acquisitions. e-books also help keep the number of physical things in my environment down; they take up very little real space.
tidying up my external environment is one of my go-to techniques for dealing with my anxiety when it seems out of control and over the top. opening drawers and culling the contents, sorting through clothes, alphabetizing books, and organizing cupboards to make them more streamlined is soothing. it makes me happy to see bags of what is essentially clutter leaving the house. if it wasn’t for my attachment to inanimate things, i’d be quite happy with a minimalist aesthetic.
a reorganizing day did not happen, however. before i even finished making plans on where to start (i think the kitchen pantry needs some work; the shelves are getting far too inter-mingled and my anxiety with surplus goods extends to food), i reread the quote and realized that it was perhaps directed not so much at the physical but at the mental. the inessentials that i need to look at eliminating are more ephemeral than shoes or surplus tins of soup.
the negative self-talk, for instance; that’s a big one. i have no idea whether i’m wired to trash-talk myself or if it’s a skill i learned from years of mental health struggles but in the end, it doesn’t matter. i live with it now and it’s a problem.
the negative comments start the moment i regain consciousness in the morning. that little voice that negatively narrates everything i do doesn’t even wait for me to leave the bed. it doesn’t stick to a specific area either; it’s not solely about hating my body though that’s a theme that comes up quite often.
i wake and the first thing that happens is my brain tells me that it can feel flesh. it revisits everything i ate the previous day, passing judgement on the food i chose to consume. it points out the lack of physical perfection, causing me to feel for bones in my hips and torso. once it establishes that i’m a failure physically, it moves on into other areas.
you don’t work. you’re a failure. you don’t accomplish anything. you’re fat and useless. you’re supposed to write every day. you’re supposed to exercise every day. you should’ve called someone and connected with them; you’re a lousy friend. you should’ve done better by your family. you didn’t reach out and try to work on your relationships (the fact that they didn’t either is irrelevant; the expectations i have are for me alone, i don’t expect things of other people. the problem with that is that often, in your relationships with others, you get what you expect and demand.)
your house is a disaster. it’s pathetic. you don’t work; your house should at least be perfect. you should’ve done more yard work yesterday. three hours is pathetic. what must the neighbours think of you and your home? it’s not perfect. it’s awful. i know people tell you they like your garden but you’ve seen it; it’s messy and cluttered. “english garden”. what were you thinking?
your hair is awful. you’re so lazy. you didn’t have a shower yesterday and now look at you. gross. it’s bad enough that you’re ugly and scarred, but you can’t even take care of yourself. you have no sense of style and no presentation. it’s pathetic. you’re pathetic. a failure. you’ll never get out of this hole, never get better. your whole life you’ve been like this. you’re useless. a waste of skin.
trust me when i tell you that it’s unpleasant to deal with that voice ad infinitum, even less so when you haven’t had coffee.
knowing that, it seems that one inessential thing i could eliminate from my life is the harsh self-talk. i’m trying. i debate with myself all day, correcting, reframing, and offering countering evidence. it’s a tiring way to live. it’s why i enjoyed my time on benzodiazepines; they shut down the noise and chaos in my brain, creating a nice, mellow chill. unfortunately, their usage for me was escalatory and habituating. one pill became two, then four, and before long i was popping them all day. wellness via dissociation. coming off them was problematic as well; the withdrawal was hard and prolonged, so i’m not going there again but oh, on some days i wish i could. a quiet brain is so much easier.
instead, i will soldier on, reading books and articles that talk about how to deal with the horrible things your brain has to say. as is the case with the eating disorder, i hope that the longer i do the things i need to do, the easier it will get. i hope that eventually, that part of my brain will get used to being corrected and stop sending hate mail. i hope that i’ll be able to rid myself of at least one “inessential thing.”
i’m not particularly optimistic, mind you, but i’ve decided that doesn’t matter. i committed decades to living otherwise. i committed decades to starvation, purging, self-mutilation, and self-hatred and none of that made me into the perfect person i thought i needed to be. i might as well continue with this changed game plan for a while – eating, positive reinforcement, and attacking negative thoughts. if it turns out that none of it works, if i can’t rewire my pathways, if i can’t get to “normal”, i’m no worse off than if i hadn’t made the effort. but if it works? that’d be gold.