it’s a hard time of year

I’m getting fat. In my head, at any rate. In the real and actual world, I’m not.

I put on the skinny pants today, fully expecting them to be tight. It would justify my eating disorder’s demand to restrict consumption while increasing the amount of exercise I’m doing. Because if the pants are tight then I’m a failure as a human being and must take steps to address the situation.

I even prepped some positive self-talk, so that when they were too tight, I’d be ready to talk myself down from the eating disorder ledge.

But they weren’t tight. They were, in fact, too baggy, which is also triggering.

Because when the skinny clothes are baggy, my brain temporarily abandons “you’re so fat” in favour of “you could be even thinner if you just tried a little harder.” How much better things would be, it tells me, if the pants were even looser. Then I’d be acceptable. Then I’d be okay. Then I’d start to feel something like normal, whatever that is.

I assumed they’d be tighter because I’ve been binging. I’m still holding the line on vomiting, but the hard restricting I’m doing is leading to weight loss, even in the face of bingeing a couple of times a week. They’re small binges, and my rational brain knows that, but they’re qualitatively difficult. My loud thoughts and anxiety push me to consume compulsively but apparently, restricting is mitigating any weight-gain effects.

I spend a lot of time thinking about not restricting, about eating more, and about eating healthily but even thinking about it generates a sick kind of panic. I’m not ready to change, my eating disorder tells me. I’m not perfect yet.

My depression concurs since it’s decided to act up too, and where my depression goes, my anxiety follows. So, basically, I’m a big ball of triggered with the potential for some self-harm thrown in.

December is hard.

It’s hard for everyone, really. That it’s hard for me doesn’t make me special. I wish it did, in a way. If you’re not one of many, then it’s easier to get noticed. I don’t want to get noticed most of the time, I take efforts to ensure I’m not, but sometimes, when I’m spiraling down, I wish people would see me and reach out. I’m tired of sharing and asking for help. I want people to be psychic.

December’s a dark month in the northern hemisphere, cold and dreary and in British Columbia, where I live, the rain is damn near unrelenting. Everyone’s mood takes a hit. If you’re already struggling with mental health issues, the hit is often more than you can bear.

I have a seasonal, full-spectrum light that’s supposed to help my mood. It helps some. It would help more if I used it consistently, but I don’t. Part of the whole “shoot myself in the foot” thing that I’ve got going on.

Perhaps they should replace the lights in public lamp standards with similar bulbs to give everyone a boost.

The holidays drag us down too. Sure, it’s a lovely time of year. People are full of Christmas and seasonal spirit, carols play their cheerful tunes everywhere, and we socialize ‘til we’re sick of it. Unfortunately, we can’t stop because if we do, then we’re failing to reach the exacting standards of seasonal wonderfulness that made-for-television movies tell us should be ours. And god help you if you’re single. It’s hard to feel right about yourself when every commercial out there celebrates the joys of coupledom.

Then there’s the food. It’s a horrible time of year for me in that regard. Baked goods abound everywhere you go, and you’re also expected to produce vast quantities of them for your own household. It’s how we show our love, by burying those in our circle in cups and cups of sugar. I may be a bit triggered to deal with that can of worms fairly.

Still, excess sugar in addition to being hard on the waistline is also hard on the mood. The carbohydrate-induced highs and lows are challenging for everyone to deal with, not just those of us who are starting the season mired in eating issues.

There’s also the problem with our sanctuaries. My house has been invaded. Not just by people, who, much to my distress, drop by quite regularly for holiday visits, but by the flotsam and jetsam that accompanies the holiday season. My organized, tidy, and safe space has been transformed into a holiday bower. There’s a tree cluttering up the living room and décor on every available space.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy the twinkling lights, it’s that I keep my environment controlled and the changes that occur over the Christmas month challenge that. It’s probably a good thing, it probably leads to all kinds of personal growth, but I don’t like it. I’m distressed and overwhelmed by the changes. If I was the island I seek to be at times, the house would receive zero in the way of decorations but I’m not, and since it’s important to play well with others, especially when they’re family members you love, the displays are unpacked and arranged.

What to do then, with all the mental clutter and chaos that the season is generating, and how do you get through such a triggering time of year?

If you’re me, then you might write. If you’re not me, you might also write but if that’s not your thing then pick something else. Don’t abandon yourself for the holidays. Self-care is hard when we’re under stress and attack but it’s in those moments that it’s most vital.

I know the rules, it’s following them that’s a challenge and I don’t suppose that makes me unique either.

So, my rules are as follows, though my success with them varies.

  • Hydrate. Never underestimate that power of water. It’s important stuff.
  • Eat well. It’s a carbohydrate lover’s time of year, but don’t forget to add in protein and fruits and veggies. One cannot live on cookies and cakes, though some people enjoy trying. Try to keep the white sugar consumption down.
  • Sleep. I’ll get right on that. Sleep is often a fatality when the stress levels climb, but even if you can’t sleep – and there are things you can do to help yourself, such as using relaxation apps and taking melatonin – you can take time to rest.
  • Relax. If you have a meditation practice, now’s not the time to abandon it.
  • Journal. I’m prejudiced because I love to write, but getting thoughts, dreams, and anxieties down onto paper, real or electronic, really does help with the mood and the stress level. If writing really isn’t you, you can always start a doodle journal.
  • Reach out. This one’s the worst. The nastier my mood and the more I’m triggered, the less I feel like asking for help, even though that’s when I need it most.
  • Be kind to yourself. Most of the time, we’re doing the best we can.

15 thoughts on “it’s a hard time of year

  1. I relate to you so much Em. There’s so many triggering episodes this time of year. I had to ask my friend to move his scales – I can’t weigh myself safely.

    Lots of great tips as well, which are invaluable with all the chaos. Even good chaos is hard with the controlling mind of an eating disorder.

    Liked by 1 person

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