Friday, April 6, 2012

Lessons from Childhood

I consider myself a really quick learner. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I usually pick up on things really quickly and with general ease. As backwards as this may sound, usually the harder the task, the easier and quicker I learn. So what about the small things?

This morning I was thinking about my experience when I first learned to ride a bike, without training wheels. It only took me one spill into a mailbox when my mom yelled “I am going to let go” and I panicked, to realize that crashing is pretty painful and to try and avoid it at all costs. After that experience I turned into speed racer and you could find me on my bike at any chance I could get. Except there was one minor problem, I struggled with getting on and off the bike. Balance has never been my strong suit and it takes a decent amount of it along with courage to be able to do it properly. The first few times my mom helped me but then she grew sick of it and told me that if I wanted to ride that I needed to learn how to do it myself.

So I stopped riding for a little bit. (Mind you I was a kid and a little bit was probably a few hours, maybe a day or two) I remember two things that were going through my mind: 1. Fear & anxiety about all of the possible things that could happen (what if I tipped over? Couldn’t do it? Got badly hurt?) 2. Shame, that something as simple as getting onto a bike was so difficult for me. Number (2) was the big one.  I was embarrassed and didn’t think it should be so hard; especially because all of my friends did it with such ease. And I really didn’t want them to know that “Fearless Daniella” was scared, embarrassed and unable to get on her bike by herself.

So now let’s go back to the present, like this current week. I have been struggling greatly with the eating disorder and just with life in general. It’s been one of those hell-ish weeks that everyone has and in a lot of senses I have added to the suffering/pain of it. You know that feeling of shame that I was describing above? Add disappointment and frustration to the mix and that is how I have been feeling. (Throw in not taking care of yourself properly i.e. not eating enough and sleeping enough and you have a recipe for disaster) I’ve been embarrassed that I have been having a rough time and instead of owning up to it, I’ve spent a good part of the week trying to ignore it, which is near impossible to do. Ask anyone who is close to me and they will tell you how different(difficult) of a person I am when I am having a rough time. You don’t need to have an eating disorder to know that awful feeling of when you skip a meal because you are busy and become super irritable & paranoid later. Multiply that times a bunch and that has been me for the past week.

Back to the bike example. With patience, practice, courage and a lot of trial and error I eventually learned how to get on my bike. (Those who know me well know my obsession with my road bike and well I wouldn’t have it if I had never learned how to get on a bike in the first place) It started with me asking a friend for help; having her show me how she got on her bike and trying to repeat it. Although I guess even before that I had to work up the courage to show my struggle and confess to her that I couldn’t do it myself.(hello vulnerability) I remember the first few times I needed to lean my bike up against something for balance in order to do it. And I fell over on numerous occasions. Then once I felt comfortable with that I started using the curb to step on and for support to swing my leg over. Before you know it, I was on and off the bike with ease and my speed racer status resumed. I started challenging other kids in the neighborhood to races but that probably isn’t too surprising given my competitive nature.

The point of the matter is, I finally learned how to do it. Once I was able to let go of the shame of not being able to do what I considered a simple task, I was able to take the necessary steps to learn how to. I was also able to let go of the fear and anxiety around the ‘what-if’s’ and trust the process. I was able to reach out and ask for the help from friends for support and encouragement. I was also able to let go of the notion that not being able to get on my bike made me less of a person or was some kind of personality flaw.

So that brings me back to today. Like I said above, this week recovery has been hard. While no one in life particularly enjoys struggling, I hate it more than anything. I have really high standards for myself and think I should be able to do everything all of the time.(and do it well) I think that my recovery should be perfect and I should always be moving in the right direction. And heaven forbid I have a “fuck this” kind of day, which is perfectly normal of course. I’ve been super upset and disappointed in myself all week and it’s only caused further destruction. I can tell you one thing, shaming and blaming myself for not eating has not caused me to start. Yelling at myself for struggling with what most people consider a simple task (eating) has not caused me to do anything differently. Both of these things have just enabled the cycle and caused things to get worse pretty quickly. 

Just like I eventually learned how to ride my bike, I know that I will get through this rough patch that I have encountered. However, it’s going to require the same patience, practice, courage and trial and error that I mentioned above. It’s also going to require allowing myself to be vulnerable and uncomfortable until the fear & anxiety of eating more/asking for help/eating around people etc. subsides. Even more so, it’s going to require me to let go of the shame and embarrassment that I have been feeling. Only then will I be able to stop adding to the struggle and try new hard things. It’s going to require compassion towards myself and my difficulties. And mostly, it’s going to require a lot of letting go. 

I would be a liar to say that I am looking forward to the next week. You know what’s worse than falling off the wagon? Getting back on. In recovery slips happen so quickly and the first few steps to getting up are always the worst. Even though I have been in this place before, getting back on track still sucks a lot but continuing to follow the path that I was on sounds and is much worse. So today is a new day and I am choosing to make it different. Through admitting my problem, reaching out for support and trusting myself and my abilities, along with the process, I was able to learn to get on and off my bike and this experience is no different.

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