I am trying to figure out why I indulge in actions that disgust me, but I do anyway. Sure – most of them are inherent behaviours. But I’m not as silly as I look – I do have the capacity to learn and change. My mental health stuff has become appallingly resistant to change. There is nothing we do that is without benefit to us. Nothing. Even all those things we do “for other people”, it turns out, there is also something in it for us.
I am a people pleaser first and foremost. Everything I do, I consider other people’s feelings ahead of my own. I don’t do this out of any sense of superiority or martyrdom – I do it because I learned it. I learned it watching my mother bury her own needs (most of them) ahead of others – and play the martyrdom card. And I learned it when taught considering my own feelings was selfish. One must always put others ahead of oneself. Always. Without exception. Right or wrong – these are the lessons I was taught. I gain a sense of accomplishment when helping someone out. Or a sense of guilt if I don’t. And avoiding negative feelings is as much (if not more) of an incentive, as seeking positive feelings.
Now when it comes to mental health stuff, it is important to figure out how maladaptive behaviours benefit me. And more importantly – a question I actually asked my psychologist – when it comes to recovery, what’s in it for me?!
I feel hideously self-absorbed asking that… But ultimately, how can I possibly move out of my comfort zone, towards healthy but incredibly uncomfortable behaviours, if I can’t find a sense of purpose for the change? I can do it for others, but lasting change requires intrinsic, not extrinsic, motivation.
So – here’s my take on how my issues have benefitted me. Followed by my perception of how recovery might be beneficial.
- Binging: This is the biggie – I’ve jumped in at the deep end. Primarily it numbs me – while I’m binging, there are no thoughts or feelings going through my head at all. It is also familiar and comfortable, and there is a lot of comfort in routine. It is an automatic, unconscious, go-to means of rewarding myself and it is also a way to punish myself when I’m “bad”.
- Purging: Benefits are obvious – it’s a means of weight control. And also a clear way to punish myself. Very much a self-flagellation kind of behaviour. I hate every minute and every inch of it. I feel ashamed and disgusted and physically horrendous. Then I do it again and again and again. Because I have to do. I’m afraid to stop.
- Self-harm: Bizarre as it may sound to anyone who never fallen down this rabbit hole, self-harm feels great (for me it’s cutting). It’s numbing. Very soothing. Incredibly mindful.It releases stress and built up emotions and the endorphins are calming and help with sleep. There are a gazillion bad things about it as well…But I don’t consider them at the time.
- Restricting: Like self-harm, it feels great. The hunger disappears after a day or so. Being lightheaded is a big of a high. But mostly I feel in control. Powerful. And it feels like I’m doing something really positive about combatting my weight and reversing all the damage from binging. I’d rather be anorexic than bulimic – every day of the week.
- Isolating: I do this a lot. I didn’t really realise it until recently. I hide away on my own so I can indulge in all my other numbing behaviours – including eating and self-harm issues, but also playing computer games or surfing the net. It also gives me time to recharge and write and think through stuff (I do a LOT of thinking. My head never shuts up – hence my need to numb all the time).
As far as the benefits of recovery? This is speculation… Given that I haven’t got there yet. But I need to find some things that I can perceive as being of benefit to me.
- Weight: I hesitate to write this here… But I am totally obsessed with my weight and I can only assume that if I ever reach the magical land of full recovery, then my weight will stabilise in a healthy place. I have to believe this.
- Health: Everything I do at the moment is sending my health backwards. If I can find even small steps of consistent recovery, it will be of enormous benefit to my physical – and possibly mental – health.
- Relationships: I know there have been many people concerned about my deteriorating issues over the past year or so. I am definitely in a much better place than I was in a year ago, but I think some people are still concerned. Being recovered would mean I could return to being an equal – rather than a burden – in my relationships with family, friends and colleagues.
- Money: It’s costing me a bucket of money to be mentally ill. Medications. Food. Doctors appointments. Retail therapy. It all costs money. I’d rather save for a good holiday to be honest.
- Pride: I know it’s one of the seven deadly sins. But it also feels good to have a sense of accomplishment. I really do believe that if through some miraculous circumstance I actually manage to beat this shitty disease, I would feel an enormous sense of relief and pride. Just for a little bit of time.