Wednesday, February 13, 2013

EDAW '13 - Becoming AWARE of ourselves

Eating Disorders Awareness Week's about raising awareness of eating disorders, breaking down stigma and opening up conversation about serious and secretive mental illnesses. But, there's another 'awareness' which I feel under-pins recovery from an eating disorder too.

Self-awareness; Knowing what thoughts lead to which feelings, how we react to social situations, to success and to failure. Building self-awareness is still something I'm striving to do in my own recovery.

Those people with an eating disorder will know all too well how EXHAUSTING this part of recovery is, you become AWARE of what is 'eating disordered', which thoughts and behaviours are destructive and what may have triggered them too. But re-wind, the first step in recovery for me was to think about who I was, why I react in certain ways and to think about my 'character'. What makes me, me?

This piece of work was one of the early things I wrote for my therapist and I've not shared it until now.

I was asked to write a self-characterisation. How I would DESCRIBE me, if I were my BEST FRIEND. At the time it was the hardest thing to do, I was lost in my illness and didn't know who I was - or so I thought. But reading this back today, it makes sense - it's me, it's exactly me? Which proves underneath the layers of disorder, this woman has always been there, it was just covered in anorexia's web and becoming aware of my character and my personality, helps me understand where anorexia could jump in and claim to 'fix' it for me.(N.B. It doesnt!)

Maybe it would be good for everyone, eating disordered or not, to think about this too...

Me in 2010 - What was REALLY happening behind those bug eyes?
(Written in September 2011) 

She is a complex character with a lot to say. She’s not afraid of speaking up about her opinion or voicing her complaints or comments when she wants to. Although, sometimes you have to sieve what she says for effect or to be contrary, from the bits she really feels or means honestly.  Her likes and dislikes can change from day to day or hour to hour and it can sometimes be exhausting to keep up.

On the surface she seems driven and focused on achieving her ambitions and dreams, but it is clear to those that know her that more often than not she is trying to convince herself that she knows which path she’d rather be on. This uncertainty in her own thoughts and ambitions can almost seems like she’s out to prove something to everyone around her and to herself.

One of Sarah’s major struggles is her inability to live in the here and now and accept things for the way they are. She almost seems to live in the past, always dragging up old emotions, blaming herself for things that were sometimes not even her own wrong doing, without even realising she’s doing it.  She blames herself for things that sometimes weren’t even her fault and she convinces herself they were.  If she isn’t playing old events and situations around in her head, she’s planning and worrying about the future. Worried about whether she is ever going to be able to reach her high goals of getting what she wants or whether she is going to mess it all up.

Sarah’s need for control is clear for us all to see and she even knows the extent of her desire herself. All is fine and well until the control is taken away from her and then if that dreaded situation ever occurs, her mood can switch quickly. Her defences go up and her tone becomes less open and chatty and becomes more argumentative and defensive. It almost seems that the loss of control over a situation is too much for her to handle and the barriers go up to protect her weakness.

This can also be seen when Sarah doubts the value of her opinions or if she or her work are criticised. It doesn’t stop there though, Sarah joins in and her habit of being her worst critic comes into action. To those who don’t know her, this is more than likely to be perceived as an inability to take criticism on board, even if it is constructive. But it’s quite the opposite. If you get to really know her you’ll understand that it is because she is her biggest critic and tortures herself for not having done something perfectly in the first place.

Her chatty personality comes across as confident and bubbly on the surface when faced with social events but the internal monologue she is used to hearing paints a very different picture of her. Sarah seems unable to stop comparing herself, physically and socially to anyone who comes into contact with, even her best friends and family. She can almost seem envious or jealous of those around her and her competitiveness ensures she can’t accept being the one no one else envies.

Sarah might not be the prettiest the richest or the most ‘career’ successful of her friends, but she is also not the one with a husband, house or child.  Most of the people around her can accept their ‘place’ in society and accept themselves, but not Sarah. She can’t accept any of it. It is almost as though she doesn’t feel good enough in any of these areas, never mind achieving her goals of being the one they envy.

Sarah, at 26 years old, has only recently realised the extent to which she has managed to keep up her internal conflict of control and self-doubt whilst portraying a driven, independent and confident woman on the surface. It is only after unpeeling some of her layers that you realise that those moments of defensive comments or the times her mood switched or that day she snapped, were pockets of herself hate seeping to the surface in moments of weakness. They are the moments when you realise that she is not she strong as she seems.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is so good Sarah, thank you for posting this. I see myself in some of the things you have said and I think I need to sit down and write one of these for myself. I think it's time I took a step back & reflected, before these ED thoughts get too out of hand.