Tuesday, January 31, 2012

When tired takes over…

I got so physically exhausted that on Tuesday of last week I actually heard high pitched screeching in my head.  Tuesday!  I couldn’t see how in the world I was going to get through the rest of the week with that kind of fatigue setting in.  Of course I made it through and into the weekend without some banshee taking over my brain and body, but that took some doing.  When tired I become increasingly emotional and usually experience problems with depression, loneliness, self image, relationships, motivation, work, ambition, the little things, and then strangest of all - sleep!!!  That’s ridiculous by the way- I can’t sleep because I’m too tired?!!!!?????  What?  If things continue and I cross into the dangerous neighborhood of overtired, I lose the ability to hide my increased emotional state.  I might be seen experiencing one or more of the following: spontaneous crying, uncontrollable and/or inappropriate laughter, extreme anger at the suggestion of any sort of change in schedule or routine, inexplicable clumsiness, verbal ranting coupled with a lack of language or content filter, etcetera!   It becomes unmanageable in a hurry and I have found only one cure.  Sleep. 

My family pokes fun at me by calling me a professional sleeper.  It’s what I do best!  Okay it really used to be best if I was sleeping, and I would sleep for fifteen hours at a time for days in a row as an avoidance strategy.  Now, it’s just best if I get the proper amount of sleep.  For me that’s in excess of eight hours a day.  Right about nine hours seems to work best.  I realize that this won’t always be possible.  Actually, it’s already not possible all of time.  What if I have children though?  I don’t think I have ever met a mother who gets eight hours a night.  That’s so scary… for you all that have to deal with me then!!!  Hahahaha!  Seriously though, not only do I experience high emotions and incredible sensitivity, everyone around me gets a very ‘funny’ version of me.  I cannot imagine what my friends and family think during my overtired times.  Oh heck, they are so used to it they’re probably just amused or shrug it off.  But for the folks that haven’t known me so long?  Last week I told our team mom that there was no February 6th and therefore our team dinner could not possibly happen that day, and I really meant it.  While the head swim coach was retelling the story later that day (he was copied on the emails), I was both uncontrollably laughing and crying real tears.  I also noticed the divers looking at me a bit sideways this past week.  I mean you can’t really miss when your coach starts giggling while talking about the schedule or comes close to falling in the pool a few times during practice.  What a wreck!

At any rate, I am still pretty tired from the last week or two but am beginning to feel some relief.  Strangely, this semi-rested, not quite 100% space is where I get myself in the most trouble.  I feel stronger, present much more sanely, and perform normally at work, but my emotions are still raw and tender.  My reactions continue to be magnified within, and instead of my extremely silly or unglued outward reaction, I can get pointedly mean and hurtful.  I remember a counselor of mine being concerned for my safety back in a particularly dark year of my twenties.  I was a couple days released from a psych ward, and I told her she should not worry because I was feeling a whole lot better than a few days before.  She gently replied that her concern was precisely because of my slight progress.  She acknowledged my improved cognitive reasoning and more groomed appearance but reminded me that I had struggled to find a reason to get out of bed that morning and then had experienced road rage and extreme jubilation within an hour of that.  She noted the imminent danger of my road rage transferring to rage towards myself, not to mention the danger it brought to other drivers as it was.  She reminded me that before being committed to the psych ward a few days prior, I had possessed no energy at all to do anything, including take my own life.  Now, in this ‘recovery stage’ I certainly had energy enough to accomplish that if I was hit sideways just right.  I absorbed her point and apply her message today.  I am watching myself closely and making a concerted effort not to step on too many toes or entertain any hopeless thoughts for too long.  Self pity is a luxury I can’t afford much on any day but in these times I must air it out quick, or else. 

Every doctor I’ve ever seen for anything has stressed the importance of sleep for a girl like me.  I am fairly certain they would say that to anyone.  So take advice from someone who knows: when tired takes over, just let it.  Get some sleep.

Friday, January 20, 2012

So good, so simple, so difficult!!

I can guess that everyone I have ever met can relate to not wanting to do something, even when they know that doing it wouldn't take much effort at all and it would quickly improve their life.  All gain and we don’t want to do it!  Seems nutty but then I think this must be a part of the human condition, because I’ve never met anyone that welcomes all healthy, positive, fun or good opportunities right away.  There’s some element of reluctance in all of us on certain things.  Exercise is a perfect example of my point.  Over the years I have heard countless people say countless times, “I know it would be really good for me but it’s just too hard to get started,” and go on to say “I know I’ll have more energy and more motivation to do things but I just don’t have enough time,” and go on to say “I know I’ll be so much more productive so I probably will have more time once I start, but I just can’t seem to get started,” and go on and on and on.  I’ve said all these things myself without any intention of actually exercising!  It's crazy really but everyone does it. 

I have a couple theories on why we have this strange unwillingness to do the ‘win wins’.  One I wrote about last week.  Fear of change.  Self centered fear that facilities us metaphorically shooting ourselves in the foot over and over and over again.  Fears like: I might not be able to follow through; it might be uncomfortable to change my routine; it might keep me from handling all the things I usually do in the same manner I usually handle them; I might not like it; people might look at me differently; etc.  The logical error is easy to identify.  Admit it.  These fears are ridiculous in light of the benefits we receive in overcoming them.  Don’t want to hang out with friends tonight because you’re too depressed and people won’t want to be around you?  Get over yourself.  They don’t care how you come.  They probably don’t even care if you come.  You will care.  Overcome the fear that you won’t enjoy yourself and that you will regret time missed reflecting on all the horrible crap in your life and the one that says you’ll feel stupid and uncomfortable the whole time because you won’t be able to entertain or relate to everyone like usual.  Just get off your butt and go!!!  Seriously, there’s nothing to lose but a few hours of self imposed misery.

And that brings me to my second theory on this issue.  People are lazy and we just don’t wanna.  Pure and simple.  I’m not an exception to this at all.  When I’m in a lazy zone, it doesn’t matter how little the effort; if it takes effort, I’m out.  It’s sad but true.  Imagine if when considering whether to do or not do, I counted to three and went on go.  I would get to reap so many benefits that I’d simply let pass me by otherwise.  Now, I realize the lazy factor is something that is hard to really find one real fix for but try everything and then try everything again.  Maybe not one, two, three, go but something!  What works for me at one time will not at others and vice versa.  Here are some of my efforts:

1.    When mornings are rough, I give myself a few minutes to stay in bed from the time I last looked at the clock.  I pick an exact time that I must be up by and as that time nears, I begin my own countdown.  It’s weird but as competitive as I am, I am almost always up before the clock reads the time I first chose.
2.    When I don’t want to exercise at all, I come up with the smallest amount of time I can possibly allow for a workout while still believing I will benefit.  I did some yoga this morning but really needed to try some cardio even with my aches and pains.  I ran for 2 minutes.  Yes 2.  I walked for 8 minutes afterward.  It’s a start!
3.    When I don’t want to go somewhere, I try to judge what an acceptable attendance time is for the event.  I usually decide that all I have to do is show up and I’ll be able to leave whenever I want to.  If it’s a family deal or an event in honor of something, I usually set an obligatory hour for myself.  That’s a really short time frame and I outstay my allotted hour nearly every time.  I get there and voila I have a social experience!
4.    When I don’t want to go to work, eesh every work day (I’m kidding!  It’s not that bad!), I use a laundry list of tricks.  One is to just to get there by blocking out all the thoughts projecting how the day will go until I actually arrive at work.  Another is trying to place something on the other side of the work day or week that I really want to do.  It makes getting through the work day way more appealing and cathartic.  Tons of things come to mind but these two are keepers!
5.    When I don’t want to try something new, I consider what I have to lose by trying it.  Usually the answer is either nothing or a couple moments of my time.  It seems silly to give up an opportunity that I might really enjoy when all I’m looking at sacrificing is not much of anything.

You feeling motivated yet?  

Friday, January 13, 2012

So little talk of food

I tend to talk a lot more about my experience as a recovering alcoholic than I do about my experience as a recovering bulimic.  It’s certainly not less of a focus in my recovery nor is it something like my secondary illness.  In fact, I would not be able to judge which disease brought more consequences.  My preference when talking about recovery in terms of my alcoholism is really for simplicity’s sake.   I don’t take a drink and treat my mind and spirit… period.  There’s no option to where I just don’t eat, so it requires a bit more detail and most people aren’t interested.  Fortunately for me, I have found a pretty simple recipe to keep free of my active eating disorder.  It’s not perfect and it has changed many times over the past few years, but it does work.  So here’s a little peek at my abstinence (abstinence is what many in food recovery call refraining from disease behavior or compulsive eating):

First, I just had to stop throwing up.  That was the most obvious thing I had to change.  After about two weeks without vomiting, I still felt terrible physically.  I knew a lot of my discomfort was because of my nighttime eating.  So, I added a blackout time of 10pm – 6am during which I could not eat any meals or snacks.  I was amazed at how difficult it was for me to sleep for the next few weeks!  I was so used to munching while watching television in bed well into the night that it was rough to go without.  I got through my first night and then used the strength of having gotten through the night before to get through subsequent nights.  I also used my phone to make SOS calls when I couldn’t do it alone.  These two changes, no purging and no night eating, dramatically changed my relationship with food and gave me a ton of hope and relief.  I have purged only a handful of times in four years and have loosened the blackout time on occasion (usually realizing within a short number of days that I need to tighten it up again).  I have addressed many other ‘problem areas’ over the years as well.  When I’m having trouble with grazing or restricting and need to place clear starts and ends to meal times, I set time windows for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.  I have used tracker tools, which I currently do and have done for over a year now, where I log my day’s food intake in order to keep aware of both what I’m eating and what my body is asking for.  I have turned on red lights for some foods and yellow lights for others.  Red light foods are foods I don’t allow myself to eat.  Yellows are foods I check in with myself and how I’m relating to food before I eat them.  The easiest way for me to decide whether a yellow light food should be eaten or not is by asking myself, “Can I eat this food like a lady?”  If I think that I may eat 10 portions instead of one, the answer is no and I don’t eat it.  If I think it will pretty much guarantee that I cry and yell at the mirror the next time I’m in front of it, the answer is no and I don’t eat it.  If I feel hungry and I have no desperate messages arriving in my head, I can enjoy that food.  A food is really only red lighted if it causes me increased consequences on a consistent basis.   For the most part, I interchange all these tools, except for the no purging and no night eating which are constant, depending on how they are impacting my recovery and my life.   

There is a risk in having an abstinence that allows for so much flexibility and that exists within my own mind.  Being that I’m the one making adjustments and deciding what defines my abstinence at any given time, I may get caught in my disease thought process and feed my addiction rather than my recovery.  I don’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about this though because I’ve found that consequences present themselves quickly when I’m feeding my disease.  These consequences are usually in the form of tears over how I look, what I don’t have to make me look better, anger that I’m not the weight I was at X time, distorted body image where I’m suddenly obese, or just plain old emotional sensitivity to all things normal and I decide that nobody really cares about me or likes me much at all. 

After all the meal planning tools and an abstinence that works in my daily life, what I’m left with is the treatment of my mind and spirit.  Simple as that.  The same as any other addiction recovery.  I get slightly uncomfortable if another recovering addict approaches me with awe and says I’ve overcome a lot, indicating that I have had more to overcome than they have.  I believe to my core that I’ve had to do exactly the same thing they have.  I had to stop my active disease behavior, and then the real work started.  I had to seek relief for my mind and spirit.  Once we are able to first put down the insert drug of choice here and others here, we can all then take our journeys towards sanity, an enriched life and a full heart. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Great Motivator

I’m not the best at dealing with change. I’m not even good at it. Change brings fear of the unknown and for me that’s self-centered fear. I fear that I’m not going to get what I want or I’ll lose something I have. I’m afraid that change will delete the comfortable and easy things from my life, and add stressful and difficult things.

I’ve never understood people when they say, “I have a fear of success”. I used to say it myself and didn’t even understand what I meant. I just wasn't capable of digging down below the surface and seeing the real truth. Looking back, I can see that anytime I said I was afraid to succeed, what would have been a more accurate statement is something like, “I’m afraid that if I do well now, things will change in the future. Then, I might have to take on more responsibility. Harder situations may come. I might lose this way of living where other people take care of me.  Because if I do this thing well, people will see that I can do this thing well, and they won't take care of me anymore. I will have to support myself and find strength within myself instead of stealing it from others.” To someone of a different mind, this may sound extreme. To me it sounds like just enough reason to stay locked up in my addictions. In short, I could have said, “I’m terrified of change.” Neither hope nor faith in anything but me and my sickness existed before I was in enough pain to want out. Being sick was the only way I knew for sure I would get what I needed and be cared for by the people I knew. As far as I was concerned, it was the closest thing to a guarantee that I wouldn’t have to face the terror of change.

They say that if nothing changes, nothing changes. The first time I heard that my heart sank because I knew I was incapable of change, which meant that the pain and despair of my world would continue indefinitely. I also heard that change is easiest when the pain is greatest. By that I knew that I would have to endure more pain, because I certainly was not in enough to want to change… yet. The great thing is that I was blessed to know the day where enough was enough. It wasn’t dramatic at all. Somehow I just knew I was completely beat and I’d had enough. I could not tolerate facing another treatment center or psych ward. It disgusted me to even think of it. I finally could not lie my way out of the truth. I was too tired to find another way out. I had to change and I didn’t give a dam how it was going to turn out. They were right, it really did come easy. I did what I was told for a while and was granted some hope as my life improved quickly. After some time and experience, the most enormous gift arrived – faith. Faith came as I looked back on all my trials, failures, successes, and fears, and realized that it had all worked out on the other side. Today I have faith that I'm not just going to get dropped on my ass. It's always going to work out, no matter my fears.

The freedom and happiness I have today was born of pain. Thankfully, it takes less pain to motivate me and I’m able to welcome change with much more grace than I ever thought possible. All of these thoughts stem from a change that’s happening in my life now. I’m moving this weekend. I’m scared, but I’m still moving. I’m only moving a couple cities over but it’ll change some things. I’m afraid of some of my relationships changing or ending. I’m afraid I won’t be there for the people I love as often and that I’ll miss out on things. I laughed when I wrote that though because it’s a little nutty. I mean, I really am only moving 13 miles from where I’ve been! I also have no clue if this will ACTUALLY affect any of my relationships. It’s like I think I’m living in an age without vehicles or technology. Seriously! I have a car and all kinds of gadgets to get a hold of people on. That’s my ‘magic magnifying mind’ again! I’m moving which means I’m losing something. That’s what I’ve been telling myself anyway. Now I’m kind of amused by my fear of moving. This happens a lot these days when I get to compare the truth to what’s happening in my mind. So I say forget it. Bring it. I’m ready to move and I’m excited about it. Woohoo!