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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Men or Robots - Animated Thoughts on Eating Our Emotions

For a while now, I've busied my mind with the task of figuring out how to fix my particular brand of screwed up. We all have one. Some of us drink, some of us are bitchy, some of us binge on sports or gamble or smoke or what have you, but we all cope somehow. If we're lucky, we're taught healthy ways to accept our emotions early on, but let's face it--most of us are not.
You spend enough time pealing off layers and you start to see what's underneath. And if you dare to acknowledge your issues face-to-face, to call them out, you might (novel concept that it is) actually be able to deal with them. After all, who can fight an invisible foe? You need to be able to see what you're battling, or at the very least, sense it. 
For me, for the longest time (25 years), I thought I was fighting a battle with food.

I sort of was--on the surface, anyway. Poor food. It wasn't trying to sabotage my body, but, I had, from a tender age, decided that it would be my coping mechanism. Completely unintentionally, of course, as I was only a child, but still. To make matters worse, I was developing (unbeknownst to any of us) an autoimmune/metabolic disease that was taking hold of my little body and already wreaking its own havoc. I was the worst imaginable candidate for becoming an overeater. Talk about your perfect storm.
So, why did I turn to food in the first place? I mean, I sure as hell know why I stuck with it, but why did I begin overeating at all? After all these years, I finally figured out how in the world I'd come to view food, a benign entity, as such a nemesis in my life. As with all such struggles, it's complicated, but to make it brief, I think it was a combination of things, which I'll only mention here for the sake of being relatable. All behavior must be triggered at some point. For me, it was a series of things, starting with a parent who hitchhiked through my childhood, and whose occasional return meant an abundance of love-buying in the form of junk food. The consequent reactions to my weight gain from a thin, image conscious family only served to plant and replant new seeds of food-obsessive thoughts. I was on my first diet by age nine, but had experienced plenty of soul-stamping shame much younger than that. And all for something that ran much deeper than any diet could fix. Not sure why that isn't more obvious to people, but, we tend to miss the forest for the trees. Or we tend to ignore it.
Turns out I wasn't fighting a battle with food at all. I was fighting a battle with feeling
I have a theory that most of us either a.) are raised to stifle our feelings by our families and strive to keep that standard, or b.) learn by example that emotions can be scary. We're raised in chaos and we want to avoid that feeling as adults through whatever means possible. 
I continued this into adulthood because I'd wired myself that way. Food was the solution in times when life seemed miserable or out of control. When I felt vulnerable, depressed, happy, angry, when I felt, period, I turned to food. It never went away and it never let me down and it kept my emotions in check. 
That same seed I'd nurtured as a little girl, the method that had gotten me through my childhood and preserved my sanity, had turned into an overgrown weed as an adult and was strangling me from the inside out. At some point this emotional repression became the default setting for me. Instead of leaving that mechanism behind once it was no longer needed, I'd learned to be frightened by the depth of my own emotions. I fell into category B, viciously determined not to live the way I'd been raised. Desperate to be emotionally "calm" at all times, this was a big mistake for a person who feels things harder than your average Jane. A BIG one.
And I'm not alone.
The thing is, most of us think we need to be here, ________________________ or here --------------------------------- at all times. Either completely zen or always happy. But you know, there's another example of a straight line that resembles this way of living.
Exhibit A
Turns out, I don't want to live like I'm dead. I don't want to be emotionally flatlined, but that's how I was trying to be for a very long time.
A normal heart pattern looks like this:
Same goes for brainwaves, people. This? --------------------------------- is bad. It means you're a cadaver. It's funny. Every time I go home, my family says something about how calm I am, how I don't seem to have been born of the same genes. But the fact is, yes...yes I was. And just beneath that layer of "zen" that seems to be there, is someone so incredibly passionate, someone who feels things with tremendous strength, someone who lost her voice a long time ago and is just now starting to find it again. Starting to use it. And ZOMG, guys...it's the hardest thing I've ever done! But I have no choice. If this is how I was made, it must be right.And I don't want to be an emotional cadaver. Even if it means life is harder, scarier. Even if I feel things too strongly sometimes, if I'm a little more passionate than the people around me. And if I should find my zen again through some happy consequence, fine. Balance is good. Balance is great goal. But the human condition is meant to feel. It's okay to be like this!
Or this.

Or even this
Or all of the above. Life is hard sometimes, man! Give yourself a freakin' break. Who cares if some people are scared of your feels. And who cares if you're scared of them. As long as you're not hurting folks with the verbal (or physical) HULK SMASH all the time, then feelings are fine. Process them and let them out, then move on. That's what you're really striving for, here. Emotional authenticism. Not emotional zombification.
Got that? In other words, this...
Not this...
Now that old adage "one day at a time" means something to me. I've got this mantra: "There is only today. Tomorrow doesn't exist. Today's battle is enough." Because really, it is. This is how I have to deal. One day, one feeling at a time, and every instance I overcome the desire to numb things with food is a triumph I am tremendously proud of. Because I know the strength it took. I know how incredibly difficult it is, rewiring my own brain. It's a victory.
Enough small battles won mean a war overcome. And I'll take it. Today is enough.

1 comment:

Autumn Markus said...

Nice, Jen. It's an incredible struggle to be honest with yourself, for most of us, and even more difficult to be emotionally honest. That drive to shield ourselves also seems to be hardwired into us. This is one you'll never stop fighting (as a 'former' bulimic, I know this well)--it doesn't go away--but you've found an important tool: ONE DAY. We can do anything for ONE DAY.

Rock on, lovey. You're gonna be okay.