I’ve had loved ones ask if I’m ok since starting this blog. I always appreciate being checked on, but rest assured- I am better than I’ve ever been. I live a life full of joy and grace today. This blog is about life in recovery. Which looks a lot like just…. life. An honest, authentic life which includes both the joy and the difficulties. Many people have never been forced to be brutally honest about how hard life can be. I believe that what I write about is universal. Some struggle more and some less. I think we are so used to relating to each other through perfect Facebook pages that it can be unnerving for someone to write about the hard truths of life. My hope is that someone, somewhere will read this and think, “me too”. We are put on this earth to be in relationship with one another. Being emotionally honest in relationships is extremely difficult and very rare. And relationships are what addictions are really about- the eating disorder and/ or other substance(s) fill the need for connection. Until they don’t.
Relationships are messy and hard. I have someone in my life who tends to make fun of things I do. I struggle with this person. Do you struggle with people in your life? Do you leave some interactions feeling bad? My initial reaction is to cut people off- if not physical detachment then emotional detachment. Then they can’t hurt me. But this was so much easier when I had an active eating disorder. It’s not so easy these days. And it’s not a healthy reaction. Being in recovery means I must have relationships. I must be connected. Plus… I actually really like and care about people. I am highly sensitive and can’t shake things off as easily as some. I have been this way my entire life. If you knew me growing up you did not know the eating disordered, detached me. You probably knew someone who loved big. I created ways to cope with being highly sensitive as a child, as children do. Children are very resilient and use creative ways to cope. If only the coping could stay child-like, right? But when the creative healthy coping stopped working and I still felt so intensely, I started using bulimia and anorexia. The pendulum tends to swing back and forth in eating disorders- everything is too much then not enough then too much again (symbolic through restricting, bingeing, and purging). And the thing about any addiction is that it works at first. But eventually it becomes unmanageable and harmful to the addict as well as the people around her/ him.
So now that I don’t use eating disordered behaviors to cope, I feel. And I mean… I FEEL. I get to be present in this life- sometimes it’s more like an ugggghhhh… I HAVE to be present?!? Because being present can be brutal. Think about it- the normal person may eat a lot of ice cream after a break up or have some wine after a tough day. We have all used substances and/ or obsessive behavior to cope. I don’t know many people who really know how to just feel and express the feelings. Some detach. Some may explode and spill messily onto their loved ones. And still some explode and spill violently onto strangers. Feeling is hard. Yet we are created to feel. Feelings give us information. And feelings are how we connect to others. Sure- I may like someone because they also like football. But I will feel connected to that person if she cries when Ole Miss loses a football game. See how that works?? I connect to her sadness because I too feel so very sad after a loss. We see each other. We are in this together (if you are a Rebel fan, you know what I mean. In. This. Together.) But if she just talks about football from an intellectual standpoint- I may appreciate her knowledge. I may ask her questions. But I will not feel connected. Connection comes from vulnerability. Being vulnerable means allowing someone to see who I am. And the core of being human- what we all share- is feelings. Circumstances can be very different, but sadness is sadness. Joy is joy. Anger is anger. Excitement is excitement. Feelings are what connect us to each other.
So what do we do when people make us feel bad? Because that is what makes connection scary. I always need to remember it’s not about me. I have to remember this over and over again. It’s not about me. The way you treat me has nothing to do with me. It may be directed at me, but it’s not really about me. I’m just being me. You are just being you. And our reactions are about what we bring up in each other. For example, my toddler was being clingy and needy this morning and I felt frustrated. If I raise my voice at him, he will think he did something wrong. He’s just being a one year old who is completely dependent on his caregiver. He was just as needy yesterday as today. So what’s different? Me. I had things I needed to do. So my frustration had nothing to do with him even though it was a reaction to his behavior. It was about me. It’s easier to see when it’s a child but you could insert this into any given situation. An argument with your spouse. A rude comment from a stranger. Once I remember it’s not really about me I can drop my defenses. I can listen for feelings. I can work to be kind and loving toward that person. But this can only happen when I take me out of the equation- only then can I hear truth. Then we can leave the conflict more connected than before instead of creating another wall. Sounds nice, huh? It’s not about me. I’m just being me. You are just being you. And thank the good Lord each of us is a work in progress!