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Anticipating Success; Expecting to Heal

Posted Sep 29 2008 4:19pm

All my life, I’ve been a glass-half-full kind of gal, smiling and happy on the outset.

In fact, a good friend in college once told me I’d be “happy in a pile of mud.”

While some would say that is a twisted compliment or an outright insult (and to be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it at the time!), I now realize what she meant: that I make the best of bad situations, and have always turned them around, to my advantage, for the better.

I don’t believe in self-pity or wallowing … a little wallowing, sure. But excessive wallowing? You won’t see that from me. Even this blog is a matter of taking a potentially volatile situation and turning it around.

That said, I wear my heart on my sleeve and it’s hard for me to feign joy when my insides are crumbling. It goes along with my perfectionist tendencies, to always want to showcase the joy of life and not the pain.

But sometimes in moments of weakness, deep stress and frustration or, obviously, anxiety, I feel that equilibrium tipping towards a glass-half-empty, an unhealthy mental shift.

And often, if I don’t conclude what it is that is nagging at me, I dwell … and dwell, beating a dead horse, as my dad says.

A dear friend recently shared with me a quote that really resonated with me after she read my entry on my fears of ever truly being “healed”:

“She who anticipates difficulty, often endures more hardship than necessary.”

Those words are absolutely indicative of my Type-A, first-born personality. When I get stressed and start seeing things as half-empty (like I did before blogging about my disordered eating issues) I tend to let the weight of the world rest upon my shoulders and, in my husband’s words, “project” things, even if they aren’t likely to happen.

Sometimes I think it’s a defense mechanism, how I cope with anxiety: expecting a challenge even when one doesn’t exist. It’s almost as if I anticipate the worst, I can’t be let down/disappointed. It goes back to expectations, and that mine are often too high for my own good.

Perhaps had I given these words thought before my in-laws arrived, I’d have had a more peaceful experience. I can’t go back, but I can look ahead.

When I think about my disordered eating, I become more convinced that the only way to be is positive that this, too, shall pass.

I might have challenges along the way — and might do some emotional eating, no different than what lots of women experience — but that it won’t be the same level of sickness.

I will be ok, if I anticipate being ok … instead of anticipating a relapse.

I say this now because I am eleven days “sober” from chewing-and-spitting, which is awesome–I’m thrilled to report it.

Fortunately, I’ve never gone down the anorexic or bulimic path … so in a way, I feel like I was “saved” before things got too out of control. And I’m learning cognitive behavioral tactics in therapy that are helping me. I feel like I have those things working in my favor.

And so for someone so hung up on expectations, my expectation going forward (which I’ve believed, but never truly come out and said) is that I will heal from this.

That I am doing good things for myself and others by blogging about this topic and getting the dialogue started. And that I have the power to change this.

Naturally, that made me question what is “success”?

Do I expect to never wake at midnight at eat? No. Dr. G. has changed my mindset on this. If I wake because I am hungry, there’s nothing to be shameful of; it’s ok to eat. But if I’m doing it habitually or because it’s that time of the month, I’m going to learn techniques to be more mindful even in a pre-dawn stupor.

Do I expect to never chew-and-spit again? No. In therapy, I will be working on exchanging this coping mechanism for something else. Hopefully, in time the incidents will end completely (I’m eleven days on the right path!). But they might recur and I need to be prepared with how to deal with them.

Do I expect to no longer be an anxious person? No. My disordered eating behaviors stem from my anxiety. It’s my hard-wiring to be anxious, but I’d like to move from the absolute left of my personal “range” to the middle or right.

Do I expect to not want to fight for those last 5 pounds? No. It’s my nature to always want more … but it doesn’t have to come at the expense of everything else, and I think that’s what I’m learning now. If I get to 145, awesome. If I don’t … so what. I’m still me.

I am sure there will be holidays I overeat and want to double-up on workouts to “undo” it … but I don’t think that is any different than the average Joe who eats too much one day and naturally eats less the next and maybe goes for a run instead of a walk. As long as it’s not obsessive behavior, I don’t see it as a problem. Success to me will be being there.

Success will also be where I balance my food choices naturally like a naturally thin person.

Where I find pleasure in food, and not guilt.

Where the gym is truly a place to work out, not a second home (I’m working on this one and doing really well with it).

Where my disordered habits are an occasional occurence rather than a regular part of my life.

Where I look at myself in the mirror most days and truly embrace what I see.

Where my self-worth isn’t determined by a number on the scale, but rather the lives I’ve touched and the love I’ve been blessed with.

Those things will be “success” to me.

How about you? What does “success” when it comes to eating issues mean to you?

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