I’ve spent an enormous amount of time and energy trying to control life. Trying to be perfect because perfect meant control and control meant safe and the lack thereof meant terrifying and unimaginable chaos during which it would be revealed that I was a horrifyingly awful specimen of humanity.
Since this was not a revelation I relished, what followed was decades of starving, bingeing, purging, going broke, losing jobs, nearly dying and still going back to trying to win an unwinnable fight like it was my only hope.
Five years ago, I nearly died. Although I have struggled since with extremely severe depression, I’m grateful that end didn’t come to pass.
It has been nine months since I threw up on purpose. There have been thoughts recently, a little voice that tells me to go ahead and do it. That I could do it just once a week. Would it be so bad?
I have decided that yes, it would. I struggle with eating disordered thoughts, I struggle with restricting but I think I’m ready to say I’m finished with the vomiting portion of the program. Twenty-nine years and done.
Throwing up is in my control, for all that it felt like it wasn’t, for all that it felt like I’d die if I didn’t, for all that I’m still terrified of getting fat when I overindulge. Throwing up is a choice I make. I choose not to do it anymore.
It’s the philosophy thing. It’s studying and learning about life, about the things that are in our control and the things that aren’t. For all I tried to control life so it felt safe, it was never in my ability.
It’s also discovering a purpose in life. My purpose is to be a good person. To be the best person I can be, to exemplify the virtues I admire to the best of my ability. That is not bingeing and purging. I’m not sure if this is a grandiose ambition or a small one. It certainly isn’t one that will make me rich. And yet, I’m convinced it’s the correct one.
As I remain convinced that holding the idea that I’m not in control front and centre is imperative. I’d read the same truth over and over for years but it didn’t really sink in. Life is not in our control.
Almost nothing is in our control when you get down to it. Not even our bodies. Go ahead. Get your gall bladder to do something. I’ll wait.
We control our thoughts, to an extent. We control our actions, to an extent. And that’s it.
Really and truly believing that has changed my life significantly and for the better. It imparts a certain level of ease.
It was terrifying at first. Although I’d say similar things, throw out homilies that expressed more or less the same truth when people hit bumps in the road, I never really believed it was true for me. I firmly believed that if I could just do everything right, I could get this messy, scary life in hand.
But learning to believe it brought ease. Because trying to make the world and yourself perfect is a big job and it’s very stressful. Once you come to terms with the fact that it’s out of your hands, the weight you didn’t realize you were carrying on your shoulders, eases.
It’s helped with my anxiety too. In addition to the compulsive behaviours I engaged in to ameliorate the feelings of anxiety, things like compulsively cleaning, compulsively organizing, and cutting myself, I used to worry. I worried a lot about things near and far. I worried that my son would die in an accident on his way to work. I worried my parents would get sick. I worried my brother would kill his family. I worried I would fall down the stairs and lie broken on the floor for two days.
I worried very well. I’d run through the scenarios in my head, “see” the things happening, feel the emotions. I’ve often ended up in tears, mourning a tragedy that has occurred nowhere but in my brain.
But finally believing the truth that very little is in my control has been freeing. I’ve come to terms with the fact that there’s no point in worrying about a great number of things.
It has made me less afraid in the world. I still worry, still have anxious thoughts about what I’m doing, if I’m doing it right, if I look okay, and if I’m going to have a panic attack, but the thoughts are no longer consuming. I can let them go. I can focus on the moment and the things that are in my control.
Since other people are not in my control, I find I’m easier around them too. There is still fear, but it no longer regularly threatens to become debilitating. I spiral up less; I talk myself down more.
It is not one and done, of course. You don’t say it once and move on, perfect in your every response. I remind myself of it daily, situationally. Sometimes I stumble and falter and fail to execute my beliefs. But it comes back, levels me out, slows things down, and brings me back to the world.
Almost everything in life is out of my control.
Coming to believe that in your bones is a shocking relief.