Every Day

From Mom Season 3, Episode 18 “Beast Mode and Old People Kissing”:

Adam: Where you going?

Bonnie: We’ve got a meeting.

Adam: You just had a meeting last night.

Bonnie: I know, but then I woke up today and I was still an alcoholic. 

I recently started watching Mom on CBS, and I love it. Of course I love Allison Janney in anything, but I especially like the way the show deals with addiction and recovery. It shows that recovery is hard work, but possible with support. It also shows that relapses can happen, but also that it is possible to get back on track.

Bonnie (the Mom, who is in recovery) has the above exchange with her new boyfriend. He doesn’t understand why she goes to meetings so frequently until she shows him a tape of her drunk and out of control at a wedding.

Just that one line “I know, but then I woke up today and I was still an alcoholic” says so much. I know that for me it is easy to forget that I still have to be diligent about recovery and following a meal plan. I will have a few good days, and then think “see, I’m fine, I don’t need this.” This happened recently when I went on vacation – I was so focused on having a good time on vacation that I put having fun first and following the meal plan second. My therapist said that is like an alcoholic thinking “I can just have a few drinks, I’m on vacation.”

While I know that my therapist is right, it wasn’t until I watched this episode and heard this quote that it really struck me. Every day that I wake up, I am still a person that has an eating disorder. I may be in recovery, but I still need to be diligent about recovery every day. This quote is also a good reminder that while in recovery it is ok, and in fact a good thing, to continue to ask for help, whether that be going to meetings, going to therapy, etc.

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Giving

“The joy supposedly is in the giving, so when the joy is gone, when the giving starts to feel more like a burden, that’s when you stop. But if you’re like most people I know, you give till it hurts, and then you give some more.” ~ Meredith, Grey’s Anatomy Season 6 Episode 10: Holidaze

I know that personally, I love to give things to friends, to coworker, and to my family. I like to feel that I am being helpful. As Meredith says, you get joy out of giving. It makes me happy to think of a friend reading a card I sent, or seeing them open a present I gave them. Even just giving my time makes me happy – I wouldn’t hang out with my friends if it didn’t give me joy too!

But everyone has their limits, and I personally am very bad at saying “no”. I am definitely getting better, but I still have a ways to go. I was always the first to volunteer to provide extra time on a project, or go to dinner with a friend if they were having a bad day, or feel like it was my job to make everyone happy. If someone did something nice to me, I felt obligated to buy them a gift to show my appreciation, or spend extra time trying to show them how grateful I was. Rather then putting myself first, I put making others happy first. As a result, sometimes I would feel overwhelmed.

I am trying to be better about setting limits, but am still really struggling with feeling like I am not giving enough. I think I am particularly struggling because all of my friends have been giving ME so much as I try to recover. Many people regularly ask me how I am doing, and offer to help if they can. And what do I do? What have I been giving? Nothing. The meds I am on make me sleep like 10 hours a day, and I am generally tired during the day. I try to do as much as possible with work, but I always feel like I am falling short. I am lazy so I rarely call people. I have been trying to work with my therapist on lowering my expectations for myself and allowing myself to say no, but it is slow going.

Worrying

“We’re all susceptible to it, the dread and anxiety of not knowing what’s coming. It’s pointless in the end, because all the worrying and the making of plans for things that could or could not happen, it only makes things worse. So walk your dog or take a nap. Just whatever you do, stop worrying. Because the only cure for paranoia is to be here, just as you are.” ~ Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy Season 6, Episode 3

I am a chronic worrier, and it is something that I have been working on a lot. I worry about everything, and often try to plan out my every waking moment. Even when I have a day off, I will plan out what I am going to do with each hour. I end up feeling chronically exhausted because I never actually have any time off from the constant planning and worrying.

Recently though, I have been trying to let go and stop planning. I will never be as spontaneous as some, and that is something I have to accept. But, I can do things like pet my cats or watch TV and not count the minutes that pass by, or worry about what I am going to do to pass the next hour. To be more technical about it, I have been trying to practice mindfulness. Just being present, and trying to focus on the sights and sounds around me. As the quote says, it’s impossible to plan for everything, so I should stop trying.

What If?

From Season 1, Episode 6 “If Tomorrow Never Comes”:

Meredith: I don’t know why we put things off, but if I had to guess, I’d say it has a lot to do with fear. Fear of failure. Fear of pain. Fear of rejection. Sometimes the fear is just of making a decision, because what if you’re wrong? What if you make a mistake you can’t undo? Whatever it is we’re afraid of, one thing holds true: that by the time the pain of not doing the thing gets worse than the fear of doing it, it can feel like we’re carrying around a giant tumor…Still sometimes we have to see for ourselves. We have to make our own mistakes. We have to learn our own lessons. We have to sweep today’s possibility under tomorrow’s rug until we can’t anymore, until we finally understand for ourselves…that knowing is better than wondering, that waking is better than sleeping. And that even the biggest failure, even the worst most intractable mistake beats the hell out of never trying.”

I am absolutely horrible at making decisions, and I think a lot of that has to do with fear. I am always worried that I am making the wrong decision, even if it’s something minor. As a result, I often put off making decisions until, by default, sometimes the decision gets made for me.

Even when I do make a decision, I often spend hours, days, or even weeks second guessing whether I made the right decision or not. As Meredith says, this can lead to feeling like you are carrying around a huge weight.Even after a decision is made, I still carry around the “what if?” and wonder if I truly made the right decision or not. I wish I could get to a point where I could make a decision and just leave it be. That is definitely something I am working on, but am not quite there yet.

I think it is helpful though to keep in mind what Meredith says about having to make our own mistakes, and that idea that a mistake is not the worst thing in the world. I will make the wrong decision sometimes, but that is ok. I can learn lessons from those mistakes so that I don’t make them in the future.

They key is I have to let go of this constant “what if?”. There are always going to be unanswered questions, and there is always going to be fear of not doing the right thing. While it may seem like constantly analyzing and second guessing my decisions will lead to making the right choice, often all it does is keep me spinning. Being able to let go and just try to roll with what seems to be the best, as opposed to over analyzing and asking all the “what if” questions in the quote, might just lead to the sort of mental freedom and peace that I crave so badly.

Dreams

From Grey’s Anatomy Season 3, Episode 23 – The Other Side of Life, Part 2:

Meredith: At some point maybe we accept the dream has become a nightmare. We tell ourselves that reality is better. We convince ourselves it’s better that we never dream at all. But, the strongest of us, the most determined of us, we hold on to the dream or we find ourselves faced with a fresh dream we never considered. We wake to find ourselves, against all odds, feeling hopeful. And, if we’re lucky, we realize in the face of everything, in the face of life, the true dream is being able to dream at all.

I think there is a huge tendency, both in the press and among individuals, to glamorize eating disorders. I know I am definitely guilty of falling prey to the “dream” that the eating disorder promises. The eating disorder promises that I will be thin, that I will be happy, that it will solve my problems. As the quote says, however, at some point there has to be an acceptance that this is not a dream after all – it is a nightmare. The eating disorder does nothing but wreck things. It wrecks real dreams, life goals, and relationships.

When that realization happens, it’s easy to just give up all together. The eating disorder is not the answer, but in the face of years of destruction, life doesn’t look all that great either. The original path I set out on after graduating from college doesn’t exist anymore, and it’s really tempting to just give up.

I know logically, however, that it’s not time to give up. As Meredith says, it’s time to find a fresh dream. While several doors have been closed due to past decisions and past struggles, that doesn’t mean that all doors are closed. It is so easy to lose hope when things do not seem to be improving at the pace that I want, or when reminders of the dreams lost keep popping up. But I do hope that if I keep going, that hope will come. That I will continue to be able to dream, and realize that if I can just keep fighting through recovery, the dreams can be far bigger than I ever imagined.

Hope

From House M.D Season 4, Episode 14 – Living the Dream:

House: “No, you’re afraid to change. You’d rather imagine that you can escape instead of actually try. ‘Cause if you fail, then you got nothing. So you’ll give up the chance of something real so you can hold onto hope. The thing is, hope is for sissies.”

I blogged about this quote previously as part of a longer entry on how the eating disorder serves as sort of a scapegoat for not meeting the high expectations I have for myself. However, I was rereading the quote the other night, and it spoke to me in a new way, so I wanted to touch on it again.

Specifically, this time the part about imagining the escape stood out to me.Often before starting a higher level of care, I feel hopeful. I imagine myself feeling better – not having headaches, not feeling so cold. Because I know I am not doing well with eating, I blame all of these physical symptoms on the eating disorder, and thus have hope that things can get better if I can stop the symptoms. However, I then start eating more and the reality is, I don’t feel better. My head is still pounding, often worse than before I started eating more (probably from the stress of eating more). I’m tired. I’m nauseated. I then lose all hope and get really depressed. I struggle to hold onto the hope that I will ever feel better. In turn, I start to lose hope that I can ever have a normal life.

What I take from this quote is that the hope I get from holding onto the eating disorder may feel good, but it’s at the expense of achieving something real – a life that consists of more than the eating disorder. Although it’s hard, I have to figure out a way to keep up the hope that things will change while I’m actively trying to change. Rather than focusing on how awful I feel and how things don’t seem to be improving, I need to remember that the alternative is not much better.