Harmony and Coping Mechanisms
There is no perfect way to recover, just as there is no one right way to live. Parents cannot instruct their children to avoid making mistakes (though I have tried!), and I as a recovered bulimic cannot explain how to recover. Along the lines of the 12-step programs, I choose to share my story and insights, and perhaps they will spark something off in someone to help her on her own path. Sometimes it’s hard to find our own way, and yet that is a gift from the universe: We are each entitled to our own unique path. My only advice: Get help! Therapy is priceless, worth it, and may save you a few years of your life!
Because I am stubborn, or it’s simply my nature, when I am told how to do something, I am immediately sceptical. I tend to feel suffocated by rules – real or imagined – and I just want to find my own way. There is a certain pride involved, I must admit.
Recently I realized that the problem with some of the songs I write is that they are too repetitive and predictable. (Somebody already told me that as well, but I had to figure it out myself!) They need more variety. During a walk yesterday evening, it occurred to me that sometimes the unexpected twists in songs are what make them especially interesting, not the harmonious aspect.
Since it is my nature to relate to things on different levels, I immediately thought to myself: It’s like a relationship. Perfect harmony with no discord gets to be boring and may not be authentic. The less-than-harmonic situations tend to be the ones that promote our growth and bring us closer. Or it’s like eating habits. When I was first in recovery, I ate the same breakfast and lunch every day, because I just couldn’t deal with more at the time. After a while, I did add variety, and I felt so much better!
This can be found in many aspects – in our work situation, or how we spend our free time. Studies come to mind in which workers had one task that they always did, while others rotated among different tasks. That latter group had much higher job satisfaction, and a stronger sense of actually producing something. If I recall correctly, they even did a better job! As opposed to simply identifying themselves with one isolated part.
Which brings me to the subject of coping mechanisms. After several years of sickness, I realized that my bulimic/anorexic behavior was actually a coping mechanism! It helped me deal with an otherwise impossible situation – my parents’ divorce and the aftermath, things beyond the control of a child. I recall my therapist commenting at one point that he was amazed that I had survived as well as I did. The problem was, that once I was grown up and in a position to take control over my life, I didn’t have any other coping mechanisms in my repertoire! These had to be developed, one at a time.
What to do with free time? What to do with meal requirements? What to do with feelings like pain, sadness, happiness, excitement, disappointment, nervousness, hunger, fear, anger, anticipation…? The list goes on and on. I began by simply sitting, or eating the same meal, or writing in my journal. Then I expanded the repertoire, learning to go for a walk, take a relaxing bath, go to the movies, listen to music, or call a friend. Much later I started writing songs. The possibilities are endless. During the process of developing these coping strategies, I wasn’t consciously aware of what I was doing. My first goal was simply not to binge or throw up, and that was how I judged success for a long time. During early student life, I focussed on preparing for exams without getting into the food. Passing or failing became secondary. It was a developmental process in which I gradually learned to structure my life. It also helped assuage my fear of failure (e.g. not being perfect) and made me realize that life is about so much more than passing tests.
Recently I was in a dark space. I don’t mean a relapse; I just mean things were rather difficult for a while. My thoughts drifted back to the meeting rooms, where I haven’t been for nearly 25 years, but they left a lasting impression. I remember the mention of sitting with the pain, feeling the feelings, accepting them and going on. That is still what it’s about! It is normal to have such trying times! The other day, I went to bed and cried for a while, and then I watched a movie (Chocolat with Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche – scrumptious!!!). At one point, my husband came into my room. One look at my swollen eyes and my wave of dismissal were enough. He patted my shoulder, walked back out, and took care of sending the kids to bed and closing things down for the night. After the movie, I went to bed. The next day, I felt peaceful and almost optimistic. And then I was able to talk to him about it.
I believe that the difficult situations are gifts from the universe. They provide opportunities to grow, explore and try new things. When I’m feeling down, I thank the universe for yet another gift. It doesn’t immediately give me an incredible boost, but it’s usually good for a smile.