Buried: Getting Out of Bed is Hard

Dear Self That Can’t Get Out of Bed:

I know this is hard.

You don’t feel like there is a reason to get out of bed.

There are a million reasons why you should, but you just don’t care about them anymore.

You see people doing amazing things. You see people graduating with advanced degrees, building robots, and founding companies. You see people making friends, getting married, having families. You see people trying, failing, and getting back up again. You see people being human.

You just feel so far away from all of them. You feel so behind.

The things you want from life seem like they’re on a rocket blasting out into space while you’re lying on the ground staring up at it too tired to even raise a hand. As if that would make a difference.

It’s true: your old plans are like that rocket blasting away and you are stuck here on Earth with gravity pinning you to the ground. You can’t fly, you can’t escape, you can’t get away. You are stuck here. You are you.

So, what’s next?

You have to start from scratch.

I know you see that rocket ship you were supposed to be on fading farther and farther away until you can barely see it. You tally up all the things weighing you down, like a big pile of stones you’re buried under that keeps you chained to the Earth.

Your upbringing: the way your parents raised you, how they made you feel about yourself, how they taught you (or didn’t teach you) to deal with the world. The years of damage you’ve done to yourself: having an eating disorder, isolating yourself from the world, poisoning your mind with toxic thoughts. The opportunities you’ve missed: the gaps in your education from getting treatment, the time and energy you wasted on dysfunction, the things you didn’t pursue because you were too scared. The things that happened to you: getting locked up in a hospital, being in dysfunctional relationships, developing PTSD. The labels assigned to you: bipolar, PTSD, eating disordered, addict, suicidal. The ways you’ve treated others: lied, manipulated, discarded. The ways you’ve treated yourself: abused, disrespected, punished.

That pile of rocks just keeps getting bigger and bigger until you can barely breathe.

How can you keep yourself from getting crushed, let alone get out from under all these rocks, let alone build a new life to support your hopes and dreams from scratch?

I don’t know. I’m so so sorry that I don’t know.

I just know that people have done it before and they don’t do it by sitting in bed and crying. I’m tired, too. I’ll get energy to do something and then it will just go away in a split second and I’ll never want to get out of bed again.

I’ll hold your hand in the meantime.

Please just hold on and don’t give up on me.

Love,

Signature: Ana (Dear Cookie Monster)

Ana

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Endings: Growth After A Separation

Dear Reader and My Younger Self:

Apologies for the inconsistent blogging.

A relationship I was in just ended because we’re moving to different countries.

I don’t really know how I felt about him because we weren’t together for very long, but I liked how I was starting to feel. I felt like I was both floating and grounded when he was there. I would light up whenever he came into the room. His arms made me feel safe and his hands made me feel connected. He was just such a genuinely good, kind, and respectful person. Those don’t come along everyday.

I liked who I was when I was around him.

I feel like he let my better self shine through. He let me want to take care of myself and want to grow. He let me let down my hair and laugh, really laugh. He let me soften, let go, and trust. He let me go on adventures and be spontaneous. He let me stop disparaging myself out loud and apologizing for things I shouldn’t. He let me see that he wasn’t “letting” me do anything.

He was the kind of person I wish I could have been.

He spent his childhood outdoors with friends and excelling at school while I spent mine not eating or binge eating or throwing up or riding an exercise bike wishing it was over already or in treatment centers or unable to get out of bed or crying in my closet wishing I was dead or with my head buried in magazines to make myself acceptable or watching TV to distract myself from my life or binge drinking until blackout. All that wasted time and energy and brain space. Think of all the books I could have read, trails I could have hiked, camping trips I could have gone on, classes I could have taken, people I could have met, places I could have traveled to, words I could have written.

He said I can still be the person I want to be. I’m not dead yet.

But getting out of bed is so hard. I just want to stay here and cry and feel sorry for myself because of the cards I was dealt. And because he’s not here anymore.

In reality, what I’ve been given is but a tiny part of how my life has turned out.

The major contributing factor is what I do with what I’ve been given. I take it for granted, I’m ungrateful, I doubt myself, I waste my energy on self-defeating thoughts, I engage in behaviors I know are unhealthy, and I don’t take care of myself. I have come a long way in that regard, but I still can do so much more. Awareness may be the first step, but I’ve been there for a while and I need to move forward.

This blog needs to happen.

I need this. I want to write letters to my past self because she still has her head buried in a magazine or a toilet rather than in a book or an adventure. I can still move forward and become this new person without her, but I want to bring my old self with me. I don’t want to leave her alone crying in her closet wishing she was “brave” enough to kill herself.

Best wishes,

Signature: Ana (Dear Cookie Monster)

Ana

The Third Archetype: The Saboteur

This is the third part in a series of twelve.

Here is part 1. I’ve decided to use archetypes as a way to talk to my previous self/ves, as explained here. Once I’ve given each of my twelve archetypes an introduction, we’ll start exchanging letters again.

For reference, here are my twelve archetypes. 

12The first four are universal – everyone has them – and the remaining eight are personal. You can check out this link for a full list of possible archetypes.

1. Child (Cookie Monster)

2. Sellout

3. Saboteur

4. Victim

5. Addict

6. Critic

7. Vampire

8. Shape Shifter

9. Storyteller

10. Dilettante

11. Seeker

12. Seer

Saboteur

Name(s):

  • Saboteur
  • Trickster

Description:

  • Relates to fears and low-self esteem that cause you to make choices that undermine your own empowerment and success
  • Calls attention to when you are in danger of sabotaging yourself or being sabotaged
  • Helps you learn the many ways in which you undermine yourself
  • Manifests as self-destructive behavior or desire to undermine others
  • Undermine plans, relationships, etc due to fear of a painful outcome

Typical thoughts, feelings, & behaviors

binge

  • This scary new thing isn’t going to work out – I need to do something familiar with results that are safe and familiar
  • Bingeing so I gain weight, will be too ashamed to go out in public, and remain safe from new people and experiences
  • Bingeing so I don’t have the energy or self-esteem to try new things
  • Staying sick and dependent on family so I don’t risk not being able to take care of myself
  • Sabotaging relationships so I don’t feel rejected later
  • Procrastinating and not putting my energy into dreams I have that have risk to fail or bring me embarrassment
  • Bingeing so I can protect myself from unpleasant feelings (sadness, loneliness, rejection, embarrassment, etc)

What personal characteristics led me to choose this archetype?

  • This is one of the four survival archetypes, so I automatically have it
  • I constantly self-sabotage the ways listed above due to fear of the new and unknown so I can remain in a safe familiar setting
  • Kept me safe from scary new situations where I would feel embarrassed, afraid, ashamed, rejected, etc.

What events reflect this archetype during my life?

  • Struggling with binge eating since I was eleven to avoid unpleasant feelings (especially loneliness)
  • Harming myself and engaging in eating disordered behavior so I could stay in a treatment center (age 21-22)
  • Binged and gained over 30 pounds when I moved to my location in August so I would be too ashamed of my body to go out in public, try new things, make friends, etc. This also made me numb to feelings associated with my move to get away from my past (sadness, anger, frustration, rejection, loneliness, etc) (age 25)
  • Making myself become distant in my current relationship so I don’t get hurt later – it’s ending in a few weeks since we’ll both be moving to different countries (age 25)

What role or function has this archetype played for me?

  • Kept me insulated from painful feelings, given me comfort
  • Given me access to care in the form of family support and insurance payment for treatment centers
  • Kept me safe from experiencing failure

Which prominent people have interacted with the aspect of my nature supported by this archetype? (Think of people who have played important roles or inspired you)

treatment.jpg

  • Eating disorder treatment centers – I sabotaged my own recovery and health so I could remain under their care
  • Fellow eating disorder patients – I learned from the best
  • Family – I self-sabotaged to remain under their care. They also tend to cast doubt on my ability to take care of myself and pursue dreams. The saboteur tends to use their arguments to justify self-sabotage.

What myths, fairy tales, or spiritual stories that have meaning for me do I associate with this archetype?

  • I can’t actually think of any at the moment.

Does thinking of this archetype make me feel empowered or disempowered? How has it affected my spirituality?

  • Disempowered – there are so many things I want to do with my life (like write) that I haven’t let myself fully commit to because I fear failure and rejection
  • I haven’t been able to truly connect with anyone romantically because I fear being left. I already knew the relationship I’m in now was going to end because we’re both moving to different countries, but I didn’t let myself truly fall for him since I knew he was leaving. I think I could have enjoyed our time together, however brief, more if I hadn’t been so hung up on how depressed I’ll feel once I’m alone again.
  • I don’t feel fulfilled in life because of how fear controls my actions.

Has it caused me to block or forgo change that needs to happen? (Ex: forgiveness, can’t let go of the past)

  • There are several changes I need to make in my life, such as pursuing my goals and having new experiences, that I haven’t made due to fear and subsequent self-sabotage.
  • I’ve hung onto my past “failures” and use them as evidence that I cannot succeed at my goals and need to self-sabotage.
  • I still cling to my parents’ ideas that I am not competent to do the things I want, and I use that to support self-sabotage

What immediate guidance might this archetype have to offer me in the present moment?

  • Who I was in the past is not necessarily the person I am today. Continuing to use my past as evidence that my future is doomed is not constructive or accurate. Especially now that I have awareness of my self-sabotage tendencies, I can exact real change.
  • Yes, new experiences are scary and cause possible rejection and embarrassment, but only through trying new things can I change my future. Repeating my past actions will only perpetuate the past.
  • Staying sick may gain me familiar security, but it will ultimately bring me more harm than good. Only through risking going through life as a healthy person vulnerable to failure and rejection can I truly find fulfillment.

A few things of note:

tools.jpg

  • This profile of the Saboteur clearly demonstrates that certain dysfunctional behaviors can be used as a tool by multiple archetypes. For example, my desire to binge can come both from the Child archetype that wants to have fun with candy, etc. and also from the Saboteur archetype that wants me to eat until I feel so sick that I can’t engage in new experiences.
  • This is one of the hardest archetypes to wrap my head around. The idea that I have used my eating disorder or depression as a way to self-sabotage gets under my skin. Yes, I genuinely was in need of help for my mental and physical struggles, but remaining sick also sabotaged my plans and relationships in a way that I was free from a certain type of pain. While I was in pain that my plans didn’t work out, I didn’t have to suffer going through with plans and having them fail. While I suffered when relationships didn’t work out, I could blame their failure on my eating disorder rather than being rejected for my personality, etc. Especially because my parents have accused me of faking mental health issues to avoid growing up and to be taken care of, I am quick to become defensive when I contemplate this archetype. I’ve resolved to view my mental health issues as a balance: yes, I was genuinely sick, but there were other aspects in my control. I don’t believe I make a conscious choice to stay sick so I could sit on the sidelines of life, but I wouldn’t say that I was unaware of the benefits I gained from remaining sick.

I would love to hear what you guys think of the Saboteur archetype and how this archetype might have impacted your life.

Best wishes,

Signature: Ana (Dear Cookie Monster)

Ana

Lights: Visible Shame (Dear Cookie Monster)

The Second Archetype: The Sellout

This is the second part in a series of twelve.

Here is part 1. I’ve decided to use archetypes as a way to talk to my previous self/ves, as explained here. Once I’ve given each of my twelve archetypes an introduction, we’ll start exchanging letters again.

For reference, here are my twelve archetypes.
The first four are universal – everyone has them – and the remaining eight are personal. You can check out this link for a full list of possible archetypes.

121. Child (Cookie Monster)

2. Sellout

3. Saboteur

4. Victim

5. Addict

6. Critic

7. Vampire

8. Shape Shifter

9. Storyteller

10. Dilettante

11. Seeker

12. Seer

sellout

Name(s):

  • Sellout
  • Prostitute* (this is the term Carolyn Myss uses, but I’m not comfortable with it)

Description:

  • Engages in lessons of integrity, self-esteem, and self-respect
  • Negotiates one’s integrity or spirit due to fears of survival (physical and financial) or for financial gain
  • Most noticeable when survival is threatened
  • Selling own power to buy a controlled interest in another person
  • Selling of talents, ideas, and self-expression
  • Tests faith in following the right course of action (in accordance with values, etc) or going astray for the sake of survival
  • Staying in unhealthy relationships for the sake of security
  • Can become an ally that alerts you when you start compromising your integrity for survival

Typical thoughts, feelings, & behaviors:

  • I can’t take care of myself – I need to keep strong ties with my family so that I will never suffer
  • I am not lovable and I need to be loved to survive – therefore I will change myself to become more lovable (more attractive body, don’t stick up for myself, stay with people who mistreat me)
  • Anxious and insecure when thinking about my financial situation
  • Worried about appearance and what people will think – fear losing approval and the survival risks not being accepted might pose
  • People please, which compromises integrity for the sake of acceptance

What personal characteristics led me to choose this archetype?

  • This is one of the four universal archetypes (child, sellout, saboteur, victim), so I automatically have it
  • I tend to be anxious and insecure, especially about my ability to care for myself, which leads to choices that don’t uphold my values
  • I’m overly concerned with my appearance

What events reflect this archetype during my life?

scale

  • Giving up my “childish” dreams (becoming a writer, etc) to gain approval from my family
  • Giving up my identity to conform with my classmates in hopes I could gain their acceptance
  • Dieting, fasting, and purging to lose weight so I become more acceptable despite how damaging it is to my health
  • Having unhealthy relationships for the sake of feeling secure and wanted
  • Staying in a long-distance relationship with someone I felt zero attraction to for the sake of being in a relationship (having someone call me, etc)
  • Staying sick so my family will take care of me – sacrifice my independence and health

What role or function has this archetype played for me?

  • Kept me safe from financial hardship (family will always be there to provide a safety net just in case)
  • Put me on a path for financial security (original plan, that I have not yet entirely discarded, was to become a medical doctor)
  • Made my body more acceptable
  • Provided me with security in the form of relationships

Which prominent people have interacted with the aspect of my nature supported by this archetype? (Think of people who have played important roles or inspired you)

  • Parents: I’ve compromised my independence and dreams for the sake of pleasing them
  • Previous relationships: people-pleased and compromised my spirit for the sake of security and feeling loved
  • Fellow patients at eating disorder treatment centers: learned how to compromise health and sanity for the sake of remaining in a safe environment

What myths, fairy tales, or spiritual stories that have meaning for me do I associate with this archetype?

scabbers

  • Dumbledore: “Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.”
  • Peter Pettigrew: betraying his friends for the sake of security and power
  • (There are plenty more, but I’m blanking at the moment)

Does thinking of this archetype make me feel empowered or disempowered? How has it affected my spirituality?

  • Disempowered: I don’t feel like I have a strong set of values in the first place, and I struggle with following them in the face of adversity
  • I don’t value myself as I am. I feel like I need to compromise myself in order to gain acceptance and security.

Has it caused me to block or forgo change that needs to happen? (Ex: forgiveness, can’t let go of the past)

  • I’m starting to get sad about an upcoming separation because I will be alone. I’ve also tied my self-esteem into it: the person doesn’t want to sacrifice everything to be with me, so I must not be worth much.

What immediate guidance might this archetype have to offer me in the present moment?

  • Try new things that you think are scary – these will help you grow as a person and fill your heart with joy. Even though you may feel like they threaten you (people will reject me, I will look silly, etc), they ultimately will pay off. You miss all the shots you don’t take.
  • Have faith that everything will work out. If you constantly worry about your security, you will put yourself into a box that eventually will drain your resources (emotional, etc).
  • Only keep supportive people in your life. You don’t have to compromise yourself in order to be likable. A million fake friends don’t hold a candle to one real friend.
  • You don’t need a boyfriend to take care of you or prove that you are lovable. Changing yourself to please someone or settling just for the sake of being in a relationship will make you miserable.

A note about the last question:

The great thing about archetypes is that they help bring awareness to the areas they concern once you learn more about them. While the Sellout archetype may have caused me to compromise my morals in the past, it can now alert me to situations where I will have to choose between my values and my survival. Once I am aware of the situation, thanks to this archetype, I can then choose to follow my values rather than act on my impulse to take care of my financial or physical survival in shallow ways that ultimately lead to more harm than good.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about the Sellout archetype and how it impacts your life. 

Best wishes,

Signature: Ana (Dear Cookie Monster)

Sources:

Carolyn Myss – Appendix: A Gallery of Archetypes

The First Archetype: The Child

This is the first part of a series of twelve. I’ve decided to use archetypes as a way to talk to my previous self/ves, as explained here. Once I’ve given each of my twelve archetypes an introduction, we’ll start exchanging letters again.

Signature - Cookie Monster age 11

Name(s):

  • Inner Child
  • Cookie Monster

Description:

  • One of the four universal survival archetypes (child, sellout, saboteur, victim)

Typical thoughts, feelings, & behaviors

childhood-011

  • Playful, childish, innocent
  • Finding wonder in the world
  • Feeling excited about nothing
  • Looking for the best in people
  • Pursuing adventures
  • Lonely and bored when not around people
  • Insecure when doing adult things without supervision or approval
  • Insecure about making own decisions
  • Feel like the black sheep in the family
  • Feel abandoned and misunderstood by family
  • Seeking out a surrogate family in friends and adults
  • Sense of possibility and optimism
  • Getting lost in fantasy
  • Wanting to stay young, worried about getting older
  • Forgetting what age I am, thinking I’m younger than I actually am
  • Feeling empty, trying to fill up the emptiness from childhood (like with bingeing)
  • Mischievous and stubborn
  • Giggly
  • Short attention span

What personal characteristics led me to choose this archetype?

  • Self-doubt to take on adult responsibilities, feel inadequate like I need a proper adult to help me (managing finances, taxes, signing legal contracts, work issues)
  • Feeling amazed when people my age or younger do adult things with their lives – Aren’t we all still supposed to be kids?
  • Feel uncertain in adult relationships. Relationships end up one-sided with me being taken care of or taught how to be an adult
  • I’m uneasy around authority and always do what I’m told
  • I feel nervous making major life decisions without consulting my parents or another adult
  • When I binge-eat, I tend to eat kid’s food or food from my childhood (candy, ice cream, cookies, etc.)
  • Desire to help other people heal their childhood wounds (through this blog, contemplating becoming a social worker)

What events reflect this archetype during my life?

“Drunk Me”: Kid in a Candy Store (Dear Cookie Monster)

  • Binge-eating as a kid on cookies and junk food, which my parents forbid
  • Continuing to binge eat as an adult (as recent as Sunday)
  • Alternating between childishly rebelling against my parents (rebelling just for the sake of rebelling) and being unwaveringly obedient
  • Being criticized growing up for not fitting in with family ideals (poor marks in grammar school, pursing childish dreams, always reading fiction)
  • Constantly worrying about parental approval even as an adult
  • Fantasizing about running away from home, which led to me going to a boarding school at 16, college 3,000 miles away at 18, and moving half-way around the world last August at 25
  • Resisting recovery from my eating disorder because staying sick meant I could keep getting care
  • It’s become more problematic as I’ve gotten older since it undermines my ability to be a functioning adult.

What role or function has this archetype played for me? (Ex: filling needs, bringing security, etc)

  • This has kept me safe and secure. I am still able to get help from my parents because I have never really left the nest. I live on the other side of the world, but with my ups and downs I’ve needed to ask them for assistance.
  • This has kept me from failure. Because I’ve never truly spread my wings as an adult, I haven’t failed at anything I’ve tried to do.

Which prominent people have interacted with the aspect of my nature supported by this archetype? (Think of people who have played important roles or inspired you)

  • My parents
  • People I met in treatment who were adults but still highly dependent upon parents since they struggled caring for and supporting themselves
  • Children I work with now – I find myself comparing my own childhood to theirs and feeling empty

What myths, fairy tales, or spiritual stories that have meaning for me do I associate with this archetype?

harry-potter-and-the-sorcerers-stone-cover-image

  • Peter Pan – not wanting to grow up
  • The Secret Garden – finding escape from family
  • Harry Potter – feeling like black sheep, dreaming about leaving, Hogwarts becoming new home, I cried all day on my 11th birthday when my Hogwarts letter didn’t come
  • Anne Frank – still thinking humanity is good despite the things I’ve seen

Does thinking of this archetype make me feel empowered or disempowered? How has it affected my spirituality?

  • I feel disempowered. I want to become a healthy functioning adult, but I’m riddled with self-doubt and insecurities.
  • I don’t feel able to take care of myself
  • My energy drains into my insecurity and anxiety
  • I’m not as playful and free as I naturally am

Has it caused me to block or forgo change that needs to happen? (Ex: forgiveness, can’t let go of the past)

  • This blocks my ability to become a functioning adult
  • I feel insecure in adult relationships
  • I lack confidence to manage adult things (finances, taxes, etc)
  • I still blame my parents a bit for how my dysfunctional upbringing still impacts me today (body shame and dieting laying the foundation for an eating disorder, using criticism and shame to direct me, overprotection leading to insecurity and dependence, letting my brother degrade my self-esteem)

What immediate guidance might this archetype have to offer me in the present moment?

  • Be more innocent, playful, adventurous
  • People are fun to go on adventures with
  • I am a creative, awesome, daring person who is unstoppable
  • “Genius is childhood recaptured” – Baudelaire

My sources:

Carolyn Myss – Appendix: A Gallery of Archetypes

Candess M. Campbell – The Child Archetype

 

 

Archetypes: Parts of Self

Dear Reader,

I apologize to anyone trying to follow along. Right now, I’m just trying to sort things out in my head by writing them out.

Last time, I talked about Internal Family Systems as a method to create dialogue between different parts of self.

I exchange letters between my younger self. How does this relate?

Each of these different parts of self formed at different times in my life. Since they have extreme roles, they broke off at a time when extreme action was required to remedy a situation. For example, the part that binges emerged when I was 11 to cope with being lonely, bored, and rejected after school. When I binge today, my behaviors tend to revert back to how I acted as an eleven-year-old. Therefore, if I’m dialoguing with a part of self, I am dialoguing with a younger self.

So, how do I determine these parts of self?

Before, when I was in therapy, the parts of self were defined quite vaguely. I could define it by a behavior, like, “the part that binges.” But what does that mean? Lots of parts end up bingeing because that is a useful tool for many goals (self-sabotage, comfort, punishment, etc.).

So, what I’m going to use is Carolyn Myss’s system of archetypes. My mom swears one of her audiobooks (“Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can“) helped her recover from cancer.  I normally wouldn’t buy into that sort of “mumbo jumbo,” but she’s a medical doctor and was on death’s doorstep. If she’s into it, then I’ll give it a try.

I read “Why Poeple Don’t Heal and How They Can” when I got out of the hospital for a manic/psychotic episode. I was at my absolute lowest and didn’t want to get out of bed. That book helped drag me back from the depths and has contributed to me putting a lot of my baggage behind me.

Back on track: I later went on to read her book “Sacred Contracts,” which is about a bunch more “mumbo jumbo” that I feel sheepish to admit I believe a tiny bit. (Just a tiny bit.)

One of the things she mentions in her book is this concept of archetypes.

Myss didn’t come up with the idea of archetypes – that was Carl Jung’s doing. Jung conceived archetypes as “universal, archaic patterns and images that derive from the collective unconscious and are the psychic counterpart of instinct” (Feist J, Feist GJ, (2009) Theories of Personality, New York New York; McGraw-Hill). Honestly, I can’t really think of a way to concisely summarize what an archetype is, so I hope that’s good enough for now. I’m just going to call them “parts of self” because that’s easier for me.

According to Myss, each person is born with 12 parts of self.

(They can be arranged like the face of a clock – hence the featured image).  The first four are all the same in everyone because they are essential to survival (the Child, the Sellout, the Saboteur, and the Victim). The remaining eight are more specific to the individual.

Here are my 12 archetypes:

Signature - Cookie Monster age 11

1. Child (which I call “Cookie Monster”)

sellout

2. Sellout (she calls it the “Prostitute,” but I prefer this term)

Saboteur

3. Saboteur

victim

4. Victim

addict

5. Addict

Critic

6. Critic

vampire

7. Vampire

shapeshifter

8. Shape-Shifter

storyteller

9. Storyteller

dilettante

10. Dilettante

seeker

11. Seeker

seer

12. Seer

My first phase of this project will to create a profile for each of them.

I plan to look at their description (including when they emerged on my timeline), what behaviors they have, why they do those behaviors (what need are they trying to fill), the consequences of those behaviors, and what new behaviors we can try that would achieve the same goal.

The key thing to keep in mind: all parts of self have benevolent intentions.

Beneath it all, they genuinely care for the self as a whole. How they envision that differs drastically, but I believe well-being can ultimately be achieved if we can all get on the same page.

Thanks for reading. Major kudos if you are following along!

Until next time,

Signature: Ana (Dear Cookie Monster)

Ana

I'm Back: Simple is Best by Dear Cookie Monster

I’m Back: Simple is Best

Dear Reader,

I took an unplanned hiatus from writing because I just couldn’t do this blog anymore. Everything was too complicated, too tiring, too much work. I would chastise myself for being lazy, but laziness has its perks according to Bill Gates:

“I choose a lazy person to do a hard job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”

If you need a reminder, I write letters on this blog to my younger self and she writes back so we can heal the past. However, writing letters to myself at 10, 13, 15, 20, 22.5, 23, 24… It was just too much to keep track of. I can’t even remember who I was back then. Trying to speak from the past has just made me paint caricatures of who I used to be. It puts my past selves in a box, keeps them from becoming more than rough sketches, and doesn’t give them room to heal.

My new approach: Internal Family Systems.

I learned this therapy method while I was in eating disorder treatment. I don’t even know how to begin summarizing it, but I need to, both for you and for me. This blog cannot get out of control like last time (I was seriously considering 23.0, 23.33, and 23.66 because that was such a momentous year – never again). If I can explain it simply here, maybe I can do better this time.

Let’s start with its name. Internal Family Systems (IFS) gets its name because it uses a family therapy approach to dealing with the different parts of you that have dysfunctional relationships.

It gets a bit complicated from there – we all have 3 kinds of parts: 1. exiles that hurt, 2. managers that protect them, and 3. firefighters that rush in to put out whatever fires have started from all the mishandling of everything.

An (extremely simplified) example that resulted in bulimia:

An exile part of me was hurt – I didn’t feel like I was good enough (parents, brother, etc). A manager part stepped up to take away that hurt – by binge eating to bring comfort. A firefighter part then rushed in to take away the damage caused by binge eating (weight gain, shame, etc) – by making me throw up.

The result: a viscous cycle of bulimia that didn’t help the victim and only made everything worse. The parts were furious with each other. If the other would just behave, then everything would be OK.

So, I know I have these parts and that they are fighting, but that doesn’t really solve anything.  Where do I go from here?

What this family of parts needs is a mediator.

The great thing about IFS is that YOU can be your own mediator. A therapist is great to have on hand, but you can do a lot on your own once you get the hang of it. The key to becoming your own mediator is to step back into your True Self. This Self is identified by its 8 characteristics (that all start with C): compassion, curiosity, clarity, connected, courageous, calm, creativity, confidence. If you ever don’t feel that way, then you’re “in a part” rather than “in Self.”

So, now you’ve got your True Self. What now?

The one thing all parts have in common is their goal: to take care of the Family, particularly the victims that have been hurt. The problem is how they go about achieving this goal and how these methods clash with each other. No matter how their actions appear, deep down, their goal is to help. Even suicide has a benevolent intention: to end suffering indefinitely. The key is to get parts talking, working together, and coordinating their efforts to achieve this common goal.

Rather than shame, punish, and control parts, the objective is to get them all on the same side.

Use gratitude and thank them for their hard work.

Feel compassion for how hard they’ve worked. Feel curious about their actions and ask questions. Feel clarity as you get answers. Feel even more connected to your parts as you learn about how much they care about you. Feel courageous to push into dark territory. Feel calm despite the chaos you encounter in your inner world. Feel creative as you search together for new solutions. Feel confidence that you can and will bring about healthy change that finally helps you all heal rather than push away that which hurts.

So for right now, I just want everyone to talk.

We’ll figure out where to go from there, I guess.

Best wishes,

Signature: Ana (Dear Cookie Monster)

Ana

 

Down Under: 12 Step Programs and ED Recovery by Dear Cookie Monster

Down Under: 12 Step Programs and ED Recovery

I am still so amazed that you guys are reading and commenting. Seriously, thank you so much.

I am starting to come out of this a bit.

I went a whole day (1 day ago) without bingeing, then my roommates wanted to make (virgin) eggnog today and that all went out the window.

I just caved and called my AA sponsor (it’s been almost a year).

I told her about my recent drinking urges and feeling like I was an imposter addict – that I had just pretended (back in 2013 when I got sober) to have alcohol problems so I could be included in the AA community. Therefore, I could now start drinking again without any consequences since I was never an alcoholic – according to my twisted logic, anyway.

I was telling so many lies back then (in 2013) to get me a spot at the recovery center, to keep insurance from cutting out again, and to make me feel like I belonged somewhere. Soon, I didn’t know what was the truth or who I was. I didn’t know if I really was hurting or if I was just pretending to hurt so I could meet the (ridiculous) insurance conditions to get treatment.

My sponsor gave me a reality check, which was awesome.

She said she felt like an imposter sometimes, too.

While the AA community is awesome, I feel like there’s a competition for having the worst rock bottom. She said she exaggerated a few things in the beginning, too.

She also said it doesn’t matter if I’m an alcoholic or not. She said either way I have great potential to become an alcoholic and asked if I wanted to risk finding out.

I don’t.

There’s alcoholism on both sides of my family and I’ve had 2 family members die from it. I was bulimic for 6 years and have struggled with binge eating for 14 years (holy cow) – I’ve definitely got “bad genes.”

I also told her about food.

And then she told me about her sponsor, who is in food addicts anonymous (which I didn’t know existed). The treatment centers I went to told me to stay away from 12 step food related programs (like OA – no offense OA) because they often call for rigidity, cutting out entire food groups, and unrealistic antics.

I’m desperate, though. My sponsor put me in contact with her sponsor, and then her sponsor told me that a person from her FA group is now in the SAME COUNTRY that I am, all the way on the other side of the planet.

I don’t (with my rational mind) believe in coincidences, but that is pretty cool.

I’m going to bed with hope that maybe I can end this charade.

I made the connection (while talking to my sponsor) that maybe bingeing without purging is driving me to drink again. I want to show how much pain I have.

“No one takes seriously a fat girl who eats too much ice cream” has been my motto since I was twelve. My problems are only worth listening to if I’m skinny or throwing up, preferably both.

Well, I don’t buy it anymore. Whether I’m reaching for alcohol or drugs or scissors or chocolate, I recognize that the base impulse behind them is the same:

“Get me out of here, this is too much.”

I need to learn how to stay trapped inside this body while it sinks to the bottom of the ocean and screams for air. I can’t float away and leave it down there. I have to swim a bit with the fishes and then come up to the surface.

I don’t even know where I’m going with this. It’s 8am now and I haven’t slept. I don’t want to do daylight anymore.

OK, the end.

I promise I am going to get my (stuff) together and start participating in recovery on here.

Being selfish and wrapped up in my own little world drives this whole thing.

Thank you so much in the meantime for reading and for your support.

Best wishes,

Signature: Unknown (Dear Cookie Monster)

Whoever this is

P.S.

There is always going to be an excuse to not participate in recovery (and this blogging community). You spend all day sleeping and wasting time. Why don’t you spend some of it on here reading stuff? Just a suggestion. (After you get some sleep, of course)

Future Visualization: Choices Over Time

Thank you guys so much for reading, you all seriously are amazing.

I’m sorry I still haven’t responded to anyone or read your posts. I’m pretty energy-drained and self-absorbed.  I’m writing so I don’t stop and never start again, rather than to actively participate in recovery and build a support network. I will be back soon once I get through this rough patch (and stop making excuses).

Onwards:

The bingeing continues. What fun.

I’ve arrived at the conclusion that I need to stop overthinking this (groundbreaking, I know).

I need to keep it simple. Just eat normally, be flexible, don’t try to control everything, and stick up for myself.

Incredibly simple, but excruciatingly difficult.

I can fake it on the outside, but I still need to do some work on the inside. If I’ve got my insides sorted out, then maybe I won’t have to fake it so much because it will be real. I think.

So, I’m bringing back the future visualization I did a while ago.

That was incredibly successful and greatly contributed to my 2 weeks of not bingeing. This time, I’m going to add in tomorrow, 1 week, 1 month, and 1 year to give it a greater effect (hopefully).

Future Visualization for Breaking Habits by Dear Cookie Monster

Where do you want to be…

Tomorrow?

  • Not bingeing
  • Catching up on sleep

In 1 week?

  • Recovered from not bingeing
  • Enjoying my last month in this city
  • Preparing for my move in a responsible way

In 1 month?

  • Not bingeing to cope with the stress of moving, making friends, and starting a new job
  • Exploring the new city and making friends rather than bingeing

In 1 year (age 26)?

  • Done with my work contract & moving on to the next thing
  • Active, social, and comfortable in my own skin

In 5 years (age 30)?

  • Done something with my writing
  • Active, social, comfortable in my own skin
  • Have friends and maybe a romantic relationship with someone who is respectful, adventurous, funny, and kind

In 10 years (age 35)?

  • Basically the same as above
  • Maybe married and thinking about kids

In 20 years (age 45)?

  • The same as above
  • Have a strong group of friends and family
  • Be genuine, confident, generous, and content

Now, here comes the fun part:

If nothing changes, where will you be…

Tomorrow?

  • Stuffed from bingeing, feeling hopeless, feeling trapped inside my body and my room
  • Watching movies all day to distract myself from everything
  • Hiding inside my room not even peeing until I absolutely have to so I don’t run into my roommates and hope they don’t even realize I’m home

In 1 week?

  • Gained more weight from bingeing: going outside and being social is even more impossible
  • Terrified about moving to the new city, not prepared at all

In 1 month?

  • I’ll be too ashamed to go out and meet people with my big body
  • Going to work and standing in front of a bunch of high school students all day will be excruciating – I’ll be picturing what they say about me to their friends (kids at that age are unforgiving)
  • I’ll just work and binge and sleep

In 1 year (age 26)?

  • All these stretch marks will be permanent
  • I will have made no friends or had any experiences

In 5 years (age 30)?

  • I won’t have any friends, let alone a romantic relationship
  • I’ll be working a job I hate living in a place I don’t like

In 10 years (age 35)?

  • I don’t even want to do this anymore: overweight, tired, hating myself, wishing I was dead, etc.

In 20 years (age 45)?

  • An empty shell of a woman who wakes up wishing the day was already over, counting down the days until she doesn’t exist anymore
  • No friends or family. Everyone else has their own lives and her parents are now deceased – the only people who cared about her.
  • She is utterly alone, without purpose, and unfulfilled

OK, I officially feel depressed now.

I’ll see tomorrow if that did anything.

Thank you again so much for reading this.

 

House of Cards by Dear Cookie Monster

House of Cards: The Ease of Relapse

This is turning into a diary, but I can’t help it right now.

Writing about “three things myself at age 10 would take to a desert island” just kind of seems pointless right now (sorry to belittle the writing prompts – they just feel like that right now).

I am just writing for myself at this point. I don’t expect anyone to read this because it is so long and rambling. At least I’m writing.

Thank you to everyone who is reading – you all are saints.

I can’t process everything that’s contributing to me feeling overwhelmed because there is just too much stuff, so here are bullet points:

  • I threw up involuntarily this morning because I got food poisoning

    • This is the first time I’ve thrown up in 2 years after being bulimic for 6 years.
    • I’m not counting this as a relapse, but it’s still rattling. ED recovery isn’t black and white, so I keep feeling like I did purge even though I know I didn’t (I think)
    • It felt incredibly amazing to go from stuffed to empty in 2 seconds – like SO amazing. It felt like I was taking a hit from a joint or something. And I really want to feel that again.
    • I am beating myself up for throwing up because I think I could have kept it down if I really tried. I tried not to puke for 3 hours but I was just really exhausted and there were all these mosquitos in my room and I had a job interview in a few hours and it was really hot and kept tasting the food in my mouth because it was coming up my throat and I just couldn’t take it anymore.
    • I am further beating myself up because the food that made me sick was one of the many foods I ate during a binge. If I hadn’t binged, I think I would have been able to keep it down because there wouldn’t have been so much stuff in there physically forcing itself out. Also, I wouldn’t have been so motivated – I can’t pretend that making a night’s binge disappear wasn’t on my radar.
    • I am further further beating myself up because I think I could have stopped throwing up half-way through. I think I got rid of whatever made me sick in the beginning but continued either out of reflex or because I just really wanted all that food gone. It’s too late for me to remember which it was – maybe it was both.
  • I CANNOT STOP BINGEING

    • I am such a wreck over:
      • The job interview (which I got! 😍😊😬😱😭😵)
      • Leaving this awesome place for a new scary place in the middle of no where (not actually true, but it feels like it)
      • Throwing up
      • Not being able to stop bingeing
      • My life slipping by and me feeling hopeless to change anything
    • My roommates keep inviting me to do stuff with them
      • No matter what, I always say yes because I am so happy there are finally people in my life who like doing stuff with me
      • No matter what, I always eat, even if eating isn’t part of it
      • No matter what, eating always turns into a binge, which I often have to make up an excuse to go do by myself or I sneak food into my room and eat it in the dark with the door closed trying not to make any of the packages crinkle so they don’t know I’m doing it

I keep telling myself to just be normal and knock it off, but I am just freaking out and I cannot stop.

I now have people in my life and I have to somehow coordinate my rigidity with their whateverness and I just go overboard and eat everything and can’t make it stop. I just threw up (talking about the same previous instance) and it felt so good and I want to do it again. Purging would just make my life so simple again (the biggest ED lie EVER – I cannot believe I still fall for this even a tiny bit).

I keep beating myself up (a pattern) for being so hung up on weight, but that’s not it.

This isn’t fundamentally about the weight and how I look. It’s about respecting myself, about controlling what happens to me, about protecting myself from the world.

Respect:

  • Bingeing disrespects my body
  • Restricting disrespects my body
  • Eating normally respects my body

Control:

  • Controlling what I eat controls my body and controls my life
  • Not controlling what I eat makes my body and life uncontrollable
  • Controlling what I eat often gets out of control and then I end up not being able to control my body or my life
  • (Basically, nothing is ever in control and trying to control it just makes everything worse)

Protection:

  • Bingeing keeps my body large and safe from people thinking sexual thoughts about me, but it also makes me big and noticeable
  • Restricting keeps my body small and exposed to people thinking sexual thoughts about me, and yet still makes me noticeable despite a smaller size because of the increased attractiveness (I’m not flattering myself as a gorgeous goddess – the differences are tiny and probably all in my head)
  • (So: my body shape makes me a (largely imaginary – thanks PTSD) target no matter what, the reason just changes depending on what it looks like)

What I need to do to fix things:

Find BALANCE. Don’t restrict or binge: eat normally. Don’t try to control anything and go with the flow. Protect myself with my words and choices rather than with my body.

I feel like I’m starting to become healthier, but it’s just so MADDENING that any sort of progress I make just gets obliterated by bingeing.

Trying to recover sometimes feels like building a house of cards for hours only for a tiny puff of wind to blow it over.

For example, I just went almost 2 entire WEEKS without bingeing and was finally starting to see some real changes. Then, I binged hardcore for a couple days and my weight zooms back up again, putting me back in baggy clothes, hiding under the covers, and avoiding the world.

It just makes trying to recover seem pointless. Why should I try when it’s all just going to fall apart??

That’s why I love purging. I can work hard and just pretend all the binges never happened. I can struggle and not show it on the outside. I hate people getting to see my greatest weakness at first sight.

OK, reality check: What I’m measuring success by is weight.

Even if I was losing weight by purging, that would NOT be progress. Even though I am gaining weight by struggling to eat healthy and bingeing intermittently, that IS progress.

I just don’t want this to be my life. It’s already turning into my life. I don’t want this.

My mom keeps saying that soon I’ll be all settled and everything will be OK then. She’s been saying that for years. I never will have anything settled. I am bipolar and nomadic. At any given moment, I have no idea what’s next. I doubt anything that seems fixed (like this new job).

The point is, I can’t wait for things to stabilize to become healthy.

I need to become more flexible and roll with the punches. I have progressed leaps and bounds, but I need to step it up.

All this bingeing is NOT OK.

I’m not just saying that as in “we’re going to get fat, so you better watch out.”

Newsflash: you are the size of a whale. That’s not changing anytime soon, either. It would take you months to get back to your former size if you stopped bingeing entirely, and since you can’t seem to stop doing that, it will probably take you years (or never).

I need to take losing weight entirely off the table because right now I’m using that as the metric to measure my progress – which is extremely eating disordered.

Now that purging is trying to inch its way back onto the table, I need to squash it like all these god damn MOSQUITOS that are EVERYWHERE (my walls look like a crime scene. And yet still more come. HOW??)

OK, the end. Please just chill.

Love,

Signature: Unknown (Dear Cookie Monster)

Whoever this is

P.S.

Sorry for not reading anyone’s stuff. I’m a bit self-absorbed at the moment, if you couldn’t tell. Thank you again to anyone who reads this, you all are truly amazing.