Wednesday, February 5, 2014

illusions of control

control. even the word sounds a bit harsh.

do we ever really have control over anything in our lives? i'm going to argue no. sure, i think i have control over what time i'm going to wake up when i set my alarm the evening before. and, more than likely, i will wake up when it goes off. but, i might not hear it if i had a restless night. i might turn it off in my sleep and not realize it. my phone battery could die if the phone wasn't properly plugged in. or, my phone may just decide that it's mad at me for overuse and not play the alarm in the morning. (ok, well, that last one probably wouldn't happen, but i wouldn't blame my phone for that response!)

i'm someone who likes to have control. when i don't have it, i look for other areas of my life where i can exert some control. and, when i think i have control over something, i get really upset if something goes against what was planned.

one of the (highly destructive) forms of control i exert in my life is over food and exercise. i count calories every day. every pretzel i eat. i keep track of all forms of activity. including all of my walking each day (i walk a lot, and i measure every minute). i balance out these two things with as much detail as possible. and, when i feel like something gets a bit off-balance, i binge and purge. as in, i eat 5 meals worth of food and then throw it all up. some of you know this. some of you don't... don't freak out or worry about me if this is new information to you; i am in "control" of the situation. ;)

i don't often resort to this extreme response. but, when i do, it has a bit of a wrecking ball effect: i feel ashamed and beat myself up about it for at least the following 24 hours.

in my married life, i became accustomed to binging and purging whenever i was alone. usually both of us were home in the evenings. which meant i never had an opportunity to binge and purge. some days i would crave that release so much, but i wouldn't be able to do it. so, eventually i began to do it every time i was alone because "who knows when i will have another opportunity?"

i've just realized that this "alone = binge/purge time" equation got conditioned into my psyche. eventually, i was afraid to be alone, because i felt like i was going to engage in this behavior by conditioned response, whether or not i "wanted" to. if my partner left town for a week, i got really nervous about how i would manage so many nights of either 1) consistently fighting the urge to binge and purge or 2) feeling the negative impacts of engaging in it every night. when my partner moved out permanently, i had this intense fear that i would drown in bulimia, that it would take over my life again, that i wouldn't be able to live my life because of its hold on me.

that happened a little, but not as much as i expected. the reason? i found substitute distractions. (note i did not say that i found good substitutions.) instead of managing the emotions i was feeling, i went about it from the other end: i decided i would just make sure that i wasn't often alone. i decided to control the circumstances. that means that any night that i didn't have plans with friends, or a yoga class that got me home after 9pm, i'd make a date. i didn't care who with; i just needed to be out of my house for another hour or two.

i don't think i even did this consciously. it's something that i've just realized over the past three weeks of NOT going on any dates. (my friends say: "i don't even know who you are!" clearly i've had a lot of dates over the past year.) so. umm, now i have to be alone at home, and that scares me. and i'm realizing it scares me because it is an opportunity to binge and purge. well. it seems i don't have my shit together. who knew?

so now i'm noticing that the 9-date-a-week plan didn't serve me so well. i thought i was having fun; i thought i was managing; i even kind of thought i was thriving. but, upon lots of recent reflection, i realized that i've just been in limbo.

----------enter the next big emotional hit----------

guess i better try something different this time. so now i'm doing what i didn't do the first time: reflecting, changing, growing. being by myself. and i've been trying to let go of my need for control. when i notice the anxiety about food, exercise, or being in my house alone, i look for the opportunity for growth in the response. it's only been a short time, but i'm doing it. instead of approaching time alone with fear, i've begun to look for the opportunities there. i've opened up to seeing love there. and i'm forgiving myself for the time i spent not doing that. #thanksgabby

and i think it's working. i met a friend for lunch today, one that i haven't had a chance to really catch up with in a few months. after lunch she sent me an email saying:
It was soooooo good to see you. I am very happy to be friends with such a vibrant, gorgeous woman who lives life a little differently... I am very grateful there are people like you in the world.
then, later this afternoon, a co-worker who hadn't seen me in a few weeks told me: "you seem different... more connected maybe?"

with evidence like that, who needs control? i'll take comfort in the love and support i have all around me. and thanks KR for all the 40-day motivation. xo

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