Old Demons: Due

Sooooo yes…the procrastination was at an all time high for writing a part 2 to my previous blog. I needed to enter a certain head space to write on these deeper topics, and it just seemed to evade me these last few weeks. Perhaps because for a little while after writing it I felt a vulnerability that blocked my powers of reflection.

The other day I readied myself; there I was with my laptop perched on my legs lying in bed coaxing myself to push through the uneasiness. I opened up my last blog to reread it and struggled to focus my eyes on the screen to be honest, I felt detached from my own words. It’s hard at times to connect the sad, withdrawn girl to the woman I have become.

I retrieved old diaries to try and trace back through my journey, and it was shocking to be confronted with how unhappy I was. I’ve squashed the darker memories into a murky patch of darkness, and I don’t think I was prepared for distinct memories to jump out from the pages and slap me in the face.

I wasn’t exaggerating about my weight  yo-yoing, at one point I put on 5kg over 10 days!!!! It makes me sad to think I was filled with so much pain.  To see the ups and downs documented is exhausting: One day I am describing how amazing and empowered I feel after a gym workout, and then the next I am sobbing on the kitchen floor after a binge episode. Stuck in the diary was a letter I had written to myself which read “When you binge Arielle, your soul deflates like a balloon, and the twinkle leaves your eyes”. How awfully poetic.

It was NOT easy trying to change my habits, and it was a matter of turning the tables on my response to anxiety. To sadness. To pain. To disappointment.To stress. Natural feelings along the spectrum of emotions we experience as humans. But for me these difficult emotions were triggers to binge. Amongst the divorce, family tensions and struggling at uni there were plenty of triggers, so instead of putting up a fortress and trying to numb myself to uncomfortable feelings I had to painstakingly teach myself to respond in more constructive ways. And this is where exercise became my saviour. Instead of being utilised in a harmful manner to compensate for overeating…I learnt to embrace exercise for the simple reason that it kept me sane. And whenever I felt overcome by a difficult emotion I would channel it into the gym. I started lifting weights, I started running.

Yes, I admit sometimes I would become too fixated on how many calories I was burning, but over time I ran because it made me feel free. I lifted weights because through becoming physically leaner, my mind became mentally stronger and more resilient.

Whilst I learnt how powerful a tool exercise could be for me, that’s not to say I stopped binging. I would have a particularly shitty day of eating which could spiral into a shitty month of eating, but the antidote to this was routine. I would try to drag myself to the gym no matter what the consequences. Who was it that said showing up is half the battle?  Not only would I feel physically sick jumping around in a body combat class with a stomach bursting at the seams, what was normally worse was was pushing through the shame. I would experience anxiety and feel like I was branded with a big X… that the fit gym goers would look at me and see straight into my stomach and know my dirty secret. But at the end of each session I would march back to my car with my head held high; feeling 10x more positive and hopeful then I had an hour prior.

My other saving grace?? My therapist. It took a lot of courage for me go, but once I did I realised I had done myself the biggest favour of all. Sitting down on a plush couch faced with gentle eyes, she simply commenced our first session with “What happened?”.

I almost burst into tears because I didn’t realise how badly I needed to talk to someone until she presented me with those 2 words.This therapist was a godsend and helped me identify my patterns; My private nature closed me off from loved ones and stopped me from leaning on people for support.Instead I would internalise my worries and make myself miserable. I was able to recognise that when I binge I become withdrawn and can very quickly spiral into an unstable mindset which triggers dark and paranoid thoughts.

And then the realisation came that when I am at my best, caring for myself, respecting myself and my body with exercise and good nutrition, that I am equipped with the tools I need to spread love and positive vibes to those around me. This became a motivating factor in itself to continually strive to be the best version of myself. I have so much love, empathy and kindness to impart upon others, but they were being deprived of it because of an inability to cope with my own pain.

To put it into perspective…when my struggles escalated I was 17…I have now just turned 22. I can’t believe it’s been 5 years…. I have learned so much about myself and come a long way since then.

I want to share this poem by Portia Nelson- I saw it in the waiting room of my therapist before my first ever session and it inspired me, so I printed it off and have kept it close to me ever since. I love it because I feel like it perfectly sums up my journey.

AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY IN FIVE SHORT CHAPTERS

(PORTIA NELSON)

Chapter 1

“I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

Chapter 3

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

Chapter 4

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter 5

I walk down another street.”

I am a work in progress. I won’t bullshit and say I never eat in times of stress because that would be a lie. But I’m okay with that..because I remind myself I am human and we all comfort eat from time to time. Some days are from Chapter 5;  I feel stronger and more resilient, and the urge to reach for food when I am anxious doesn’t cross my mind. And other days (like the day that sparked part one of my post) the  urge to binge wells up inside me and my mind starts whirring and some food will get mindlessly shoved into my mouth. On that particular day it was a packet of chocolate chips used for cooking. A couple of biscuits. Corn chips. Then a toasted sandwich.. at which point I forced myself to start actually chewing and becoming mindful of what I was doing. I started feeling guilty, which triggered the urge to keep binging…but it just goes to show how far I’ve come. I can break the cycle now, I flick off the guilt/shame that comes because I know it’s detrimental to my progress, and I just carry on with routine.  I made my way to the gym and smashed out a workout, and I walked out strutting my stuff.

And that’s how I know I’ll be ok.

 

Old Demons: Due

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