Dear Cookie Monsters (all of you),
So, that just happened.
I feel kind of sick and there are food containers everywhere. I’m going to have to put them all out with the recycling and everyone will see them, so I’m not feeling so great about that, but it is what it is.
There was something I noticed that I’d sensed before but hadn’t really acknowledged. Boredom.
While going from store to store buying just a bit of this and that so I didn’t appear to be buying a lot of food in one particular place, you (or I?) thought:
“This is so boring.”
And I (or you?) replied, “Yeah, super boring. I wish we were doing something else.”
But I had bought all this food and I couldn’t bring myself to throw any of it away (unspeakable), even though forcing yourself to eat a bunch of food you don’t want to eat is pretty much just as wasteful. I haven’t looked that up, so maybe it’s not true, but it makes for a strong argument and I’m going to keep it.
What was going on right beforehand?
I was watching videos because I didn’t want to do the things I was supposed to be doing (replying to that one email, sending out more emails, and other things that I just didn’t want to do because I felt tired and heavy and everything felt hard).
We did have the same conversation as before, but it was different.
“I want to binge.”
“OK, sure, whatever you want (panicked). Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure. And I can tell you don’t want me to do it, that you’re liking things being “normal” for a while, and you’re getting really full of yourself, so that’s what we’re going to do.”
“Wait, are you sure? I mean if you’re just doing it because I don’t want us to do it, then isn’t that a bad idea? Because you don’t really want to do it in the first place?”
“AHA. I knew you were up to something. You said you would be OK with bingeing, and on those first two days maybe you did actually mean it, but once the days piled up and you saw some small changes, you began to change your mind. You wanted things to keep going in that direction and you would do whatever it took to keep it going that way even though focusing on the results rather than the process is what has made you fail every time. You disgust me. You’re no better than before. I’m shutting this down.”
And so we went out and bought food (twice).
I think I did a pretty good job of being chill about it. It felt a bit like I was taking a kid (well, maybe an emo teenager) out trick -or-treating, stopping at each store to get a little bit of this and that. Just sort of being there and having some casual back and forth like, “Hey, they’ve got those M&Ms you like. That’s a new dessert they have there, maybe we should try it. Don’t forget to buy juice, you said you wanted it back there.”
And my going along with you kind of deflated things.
That’s when you said, “I’m bored.” and I said, “Me too.”
So: what can I do next time that will make things different?
I think what I did this time was really different than what I’ve done before, so that’s already a huge step in the right direction. But it doesn’t change that there’s this game of chicken going on where you’re constantly monitoring me to see if I’m actually treating you like an equal and giving you free rein, or if I’m just pretending so I can lure you into a trap and then dominate you.
If I’m doing that (I’m pretty sure I maybe was doing that), I’m sorry. In this demure post-binge state of clarity after the storm, I can say that I don’t intend to do that. If I end up doing it, it’s not something I’ve planned. You’re sitting right here with me and can see exactly everything that I’m thinking – can’t you tell that I’m being genuine right now?
Yes, I’m scared.
I guess I didn’t want to admit it, and maybe I didn’t realize it back when I was bingeing all the time, but I actually do care if I (we) binge or not. I really like having brain space to think and energy to do things. We got so much stuff done this morning, it was amazing! Not bingeing for 2.5 days was the longest I’ve gone in I don’t know how long. It was a beautiful breath of fresh air, and once I tasted it, I was terrified to go back to the depths. What if we went there and I couldn’t swim back to the surface? What if I just drowned underneath all those cravings and whispers and food? It was like I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and I wanted to drag you all along with me whether you liked it or not, but maybe do it more with a flute-playing method than actual dragging.
So, how stupid did I think you were? A little, I guess. I was hoping.
I know that you are me and you sure as hell don’t like people telling you what to do. Someone telling you to do something will certainly make you want to do the opposite. Someone commanding you to do something you were going to do anyway is one of the most infuriating things for you (as a younger me – although it still bothers me quite a bit when that happens). It’s like when you would have to sit in timeout as a kid. Our mom would point to a chair and command you to sit, and then you’d go and sit in a different chair.
You’re kind of one of the most annoying people ever, but I really like that about you.
It means you have an energy inside you that you are fighting to keep free. You didn’t like anyone telling you what to do then, and you certainly don’t like me telling you what to do now.
I don’t really know how to approach this relationship because it’s true, I do want you to do something and you not doing that will make me feel discontent. I don’t know how to tell you I don’t care about the outcome, because I really do care about the outcome. I’m tired of things being like this. After just 2 days (2 days!) I could see a bit of light coming through the clouds. I didn’t realize how much I wanted that. And all the wanting freaked you out and you put on the breaks.
So I’m getting up and dusting myself off and asking you: how are we going to do this?
Once I stop bingeing, maybe that means I stop listening as well. Maybe I think that if you’re not doing something that’s bad for you, then you must be perfectly alright and I don’t have to listen anymore. I’ll only listen if it’s to my benefit and will get you to cooperate.
We need to keep talking no matter what and I need to actually listen. I need to be real, as well. Some of what I was writing did seem a bit sappy, and maybe I was laying it on too thick because I wanted to fast-forward to the part where we were happy and besties and running around in a meadow with daisy chains in our hair.
Because I really do want that. I see us sort of like a family, one that I could have really used in certain times. Your family loves you, but they’re not perfect and you are incredibly different from all of them. They rarely know what you want and bristle at any sort of communication that resembles therapy lahlah-land talk in any way.
When I see us getting along, maybe it is a bit cheesy.
None of us are wearing all black or covered in crumbs or hopped up on any sort of substance or hiding in a closet. We look like a family in an allergy medication commercial, where they fling open the windows and go prance around in the grass laughing like it’s the first time they’ve been outside in ages.
Maybe I’m setting my expectations too high and am being unrealistic about where this is headed. But isn’t that a nice picture? Us just being together as we are, enjoying each other, not expecting anything from each other, just existing? And actually not just existing, maybe we’re all working on all those projects and things we wanted to do but we couldn’t because all our brain space and energy was draining into food.
Cookie Monster age 11 could be tearing through book after book, writing stories, playing outside. I’m not sure how she could play outside on her own, but we’ll think of something.
Cookie Monster age 15 could do all her schoolwork and studying, but not in such a frantic and severe manner, and maybe she could do something healthy to take a break. Since she was alone in the house, didn’t really have any friends, didn’t want to go outside, and so on, I’m not really sure what that healthy way of taking a break could be, but we’ll work on that.
Cookie Monster age 20 could also do her schoolwork, but I’m not really sure about the logistics since she normally would be hopped up on something and either recovering from or highly anticipating a weekend party. I can’t see her in an allergy commercial. I guess I can only sort of see Cookie Monster age 11 in that commercial, but I think we can straggle our way onto set.
I, soon-to-be Cookie Monster age 25, but Ana for right now, can start buckling down and studying for the entrance exam for next year, even though I have no idea if this notion of going back to school is a fantastically horrible plan that I should be running from like a burning building, but I’m going to study anyway. All I’m doing is waiting for people to get back to me, and while I’m waiting I might as well do something interesting.
Because I’m not thinking about going back to school to make my parents proud or because it’s the only thing I can think of to do with my life and I want everyone to think I’m awesome. Well, maybe there are still bits and pieces in there, but there is something more to it. I stopped going down that path because it felt hard and unfair and unrealistic and what I was going through (my struggles with XYZ) was severely damaging my academic records without leaving me any space to explain. Admission committees would just see a number and that number wouldn’t be good enough and I would get tossed into the reject pile before my application would even be reviewed. Maybe my rejection would be automated by a computer and a human wouldn’t even lay eyes on my application.
This is a fresh start.
A chance to go back and begin again from scratch. It’s going to be a super long time until I graduate. If I start next year, I’ll be 32 when I graduate, and then I’ll have to do more training until I’m employable. But I don’t really care about how long it will take because I’ll be doing something that I find meaningful. People do things for all sorts of reasons, and just because I might have some motivations that differ from most doesn’t make those motivations bad. If I did what was expected of me, I would just keep hiding out here in this cave away from everyone wasting away.
After everything that’s happened, that’s not the life I want. Life is scary, but I’m not going to quit trying just because it’s scary and bad things happen sometimes. I would rather “fail” than not try at all. Being in this cave is horrible and I don’t want to be here forever. I’ve seen people who live in caves suffocating under isolation and I don’t ever want that to be me. No matter how much I love and care for those people, I don’t ever want to be like them. Ever.
I hate doing things I don’t want to do and that people tell me to do. A bit childish? Probably.
Somewhere along the way, I stopped wanting to pursue my dreams because they felt out of reach and I was tired. I also let other people convince me I was only chasing them because I wanted to be fancy and make my parents happy, and maybe that was true a bit, but doesn’t everyone kind of want that a little bit?
Now, if I go back to school, I will not be fancy. I will be sobered up and perhaps not able to connect with my younger mostly optimistic and unscarred classmates. It’s going to be a long battle to get through those six years, there are not going to be any glamor shots. It’s just going to be me with my turtle glasses on wearing comfy clothes and putting my nose to the grindstone. I’m going to try and be more realistic this time around by letting myself take breaks and having interests besides just studying and maybe even having a few friends, but it’s not going to be pretty. Not like it was before in those few fleeting moments when I was able to achieve that.
And I won’t be making my parents happy. I’ll be making them worried sick.
I haven’t told them anything because the minute I do, they’ll say “you’re too sick” “you’re unstable” “you’re just doing that because you only think inside the box” “you’re not the kind of person that can do ABC” and on and on and on. I’m not telling them that I’m studying, making plans to gather all my transcripts and book a test date. I’m not telling them anything. I might not tell them until a month or so after classes start, assuming all of this goes through.
Where was I going with this? I can’t remember exactly.
Me not wanting to do things I don’t want to do? That sounds about right, but I could be wrong. What I want to say is that I want us to have a good relationship more than for us to not binge. Not bingeing and being tormented all the time with an internal argument is not worth it. And you bingeing and having me yell at you spoils the fun. And when I stop yelling at you, you realize bingeing actually is kind of boring and maybe the only fun came from doing what you weren’t “supposed” to do.
So what can we do about those dry spells when we’re not bingeing?
How can we change this so you don’t feel like I’m keeping you under my thumb? What can I do to not worry about controlling you all the time and feel like I need to resort to sappy sweet-talk to get you to cooperate? Being under my thumb sucks. Me controlling you all the time sucks. How do we make this stop?
Because the previous 2.5 days were awesome and the previous 0.5 day was bad. Unable to do anything except lie in bed watching videos and willing binge urges to go away, and then giving into binge urges and feeling bored/sick. Right now, I’m OK, but that previous 0.5 is something all too familiar that I don’t want to keep playing on repeat.
Is it just because I’m not worried that you’re going to do anything? Because I don’t know how to do that when we’re 3 days in and you aren’t completely stuffed from your last binge. Right now, I don’t have anything to worry about because you have eaten so much that you are unable to move much or put anything more down the hatchet.
How can I stay this calm and collected and trusting when you’re liable to do and say anything?
It freaks me out when you do XYZ because I have lived through years and years of XYZ and I know what it’s done to me, what it’s going to do to you. I don’t want to imagine what my future will look like if I do XYZ for another five years.
So, will you work with me?
I’m only trying to control you because I’m terrified of you being uncontrollable. How do I let you go and not keep you tied up somewhere? If you can sympathize, you not doing what I tell you to do is almost as irritating as someone telling you what to do that you don’t want to do. We’re just taking turns making each other angry.
The only solutions I can see are for either me to stop telling you what to do or for you to obey my every command. The latter most certainly has not worked no matter how many times I’ve tried, so I guess I will have to work on the former. But can you make it easier for me? Like if I’m having trouble letting go, maybe giving me a break and just going along with it? No? OK, well it was worth a shot. The problem with you cooperating is that slowly the tiny breaks from time to time get bigger and more frequent until you’re back under my thumb again without realizing it, sort of like a frog slowly getting cooked in a pot of heating water (it turns out that doesn’t happen, but it’s a good metaphor).
So, I’ll try to nip things in the bud. I could really use some advice, thoughts, anything because I have no idea how to do that. Maybe we’ll just keep talking? And you keep bingeing when I mess up so I know when I’m messing up? Wait, that’s what you’ve been doing all along? Great, this should be fun.
Here’s to us.
How do you manage the push and pull between conflicting impulses?