How apt that my last post was entitled, ‘Winds of Change’. I’ve always known that I don’t deal well with change but I never realised the extent to which it troubles me until now.
I’ve always been a creature of habit and routine. I would have the same ham sandwiches for lunch day in and day out and would never tire of them. I always have lunch at the same time, whether or not my stomach’s been growling for the last hour. I can’t bring myself to act out of my norm. Of course, I’m sure we’re all the same to an extent. We have our ways of doing things and our routine may give us a sense of security. But the crucial key to a healthy routine is flexibility. The ability to take a step to the side of your norm and feel comfortable with that.
Over the last few years there have been several major upheavals which I’ve had to deal with, and I thought I had navigated my way through them well. That wasn’t the case. Rather than addressing what was scaring me, I put myself into fight mode and buried those feelings as deep as I could. I don’t do breaking down, I don’t do ‘weakness’. I have to succeed. I have to surmount each obstacle and do so without bothering others. I have to be strong.
Fast forward a few years and the wall around those suppressed emotions couldn’t take the strain any more and it crumbled. The ensuing raging flood took me with it and I had no strength left to fight against the tide or even tread water. I sunk to the bottom of a suffocatingly bleak and murky pool.
My obsessive control over food and my weight became my stabilising force. But, that’s fading now. I’m learning to feed my mind, body and soul again. In doing so, however, certain of my usual behaviours have become engrained to the extent that they are as destructive as my eating disorder.
Mum always sends me a text when she’s leaving the office so that I can start preparing dinner and we’re not eating too late. Last Friday she had to do the ‘Big Shop’ on the way home. I knew this and so knew she’d be a little late. That was ok, it would mean she’d be home around 7.30.
At 7pm I still hadn’t received a text so I called her. She was only just leaving the office and wouldn’t be home until closer to 8.30. I went into a spin. This didn’t fit with our pattern, this wasn’t usual. I could feel the anxiety levels rising in me.
Here is where I admit that lately, another gremlin has been growing inside my mind and I’ve been listening to it when I’ve been struggling and it’s effects have become quite serious. I’ve recognised it and have been open about it as it scares me.
As I grew more and more anxious all I wanted was the numbness and release from the ‘crutch’ that my new gremlin was suggesting.
I would not do it. I wanted to do it so badly though. I wanted to stop the feelings.
I didn’t trust myself to move from the settee. I knew, if I got up the gremlin would walk me to my new crutch and let me indulge.
Instead I sat dead still. I didn’t even get up to close the curtains or put a light on as the evening’s darkness came in.
I felt the anxiety. I felt the panic, the confusion, the feeling of not being in control of the situation, of myself. I heard the gremlin’s voice over and over again, tempting me and giving me its wonderfully simplistic logic.
It was utterly horrible. It was the longest hour I can remember and it shocked me. How could something so trivial as Mum being an hour later home than usual cause me so much physical and mental pain?
Two days ago my brother was offered a job in Aberdeen, which is roughly a five/six hour drive from where Mum and I live. I’ve known that he was applying for jobs up there but I never really considered the reality of it until it hit me face on and hard.
I am ashamed of my initial reactions. I claimed that this would be the end of our tight family, that he’s too lazy to keep in touch, that we would see each other once a year. I heard the words coming out of my mouth and I knew they were born out of my fear of change and instability but I couldn’t stop them.
I took myself up to bed and lay there fighting back the tears. My chest felt tight and I could feel my heart hurting with every beat. I didn’t want him to go. I wanted him to stay close by. I’ll miss him so painfully much. As before, I sought release. I wanted these feelings out of me. This time, however, my gremlin offered a different crutch; a deeply more disturbing one.
As with anorexia, I had now had two voices in my head. The gremlin rationalised the wonderful, blissful benefits of this newest crutch. I could visualise the numbing release, it was just there in front of me.
But this gremlin’s new voice isn’t as strong as Ana was, it doesn’t have the power over my mind and body yet.
I let this new gremlin tempt me with its emotive, persuasive images but, I told it no. It wasn’t a definitive, strong ‘no’ I admit. I pinned my body to the bed, as I had done the week before to the settee, and I did not let myself move a muscle. I didn’t trust myself not to give in to the gremlin but I knew if I stayed still it would get tired and go away.
Of course, I’ve told my Mum about this new gremlin and its two ‘crutches’. I know the dangers of keeping him as a secret ‘friend’ and I do not want to succumb to him.
On Monday I met with a new consultant psychiatrist (that takes the count to 33 people I have had to speak to about all ‘this’.)
I told him about the first crutch which I’d been turning to and he explained that it was likely that this was because of my release of Ana. Ana saw me through the tough, stressful times when my world was turning upside down. I’ve created another gremlin with two new crutches as a substitute because I don’t have alternative healthy mental mechanisms in place to deal rely on.
Yesterday my brother and I had talked about the move. I told him the emotions I’d gone through and he talked about his fears and worries. I must admit, I was unsure whether to talk so frankly to him as I didn’t want to give him more stress or worry. But I wanted to show him that I hadn’t succumb to my gremlin, that he’s helping me to learn and to recover. That I will be ok, I will get through this and he will be ok too!
I love him with all of my heart and every bit of my being. He’s my best friend, my brother, my rock, my everything. That won’t change just because his address changes.
Buddhism tells us that one of the causes of our suffering is that we try to hold on to that which is impermanent. Everything changes, even we do, we age. If we hang on to things then we’re inevitably going to be hurt when they change or leave our lives. This doesn’t mean that we should be detached from our lives and our experiences, or in our relationships. Rather, by recognising and allowing ourselves to move with the changing flow of the river we’ll move forward. It may not be in the direction we envisaged, we may drift here and there, but we won’t be exhausted by trying to endlessly tread water against the tide.
I’m buoyant now, I know that I’m not going to drown. But I can’t continue to tread water. I have to let go of the edges and my floats and trust that my body will stay afloat and that I can move with the ebb and flow of the river. I have to learn to be comfortable with that.
Now for the hard part; actually doing it!!