Monday, February 1, 2016

Monday Mantra: All The Light We Cannot See

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: Find your way out of the woods; follow the light
Tordis Kayma

"You will become like a waterfall, a volley of bullets- you will all surge in the same direction at the same pace toward the same cause." - Anthony Doerr

Once upon a time, I was my own personal assassin. When faced with the choice of hard or harder, I chose harder. I fought myself instead of freeing myself. I waged an internal war that was impossible to win. I lost, daily. Continually. Always. I couldn't see the light, no matter how hard I tried.

Once upon a time, in another life years and years ago, I was unhappy. I was miserably, terribly, horribly unhappy. 

It started like this: I was in a relationship with a man I no longer loved, but felt obliged to stay with. We'd been through a lot together- we'd traveled the world, we'd laughed and loved, we'd become our own little family. But under all of the good was a very unstable foundation of bad. A foundation of lies and resentment and differences that would never match up. A His Side vs. Her Side chronicle of everything that had ever gone wrong. Even with the bad, we had vowed a life of eternity to each other. Eternity quickly became overwhelming. Suffocating. Destructive. I was slowly and quietly dying on the inside. I was becoming a shadow in the waking world.

Because I felt awful about the potential of inflicting pain and suffering on my family and his, I chose not to. This meant inflicting pain on myself. Instead of leaving when I should have, I stayed. I didn't know it at the time, but this would prove to be a terrible mistake in a way I had never imagined. 

In staying, I had turned my back on everything my instincts were telling me to do, which was to get out. I walked in the wrong direction with every forward motion and my life started to feel like it wasn't mine. Everything felt just beyond my reach of control. And because of that, I found another way to control things. This control came in the form of an eating disorder. 

What started as a once-in-a-while binge session on bad days eventually became a daily occurrence in my life. I would quite literally stuff myself with food until I hurt, and then I would keep going. Because I've always hated throwing up, I wouldn't purge. I would lie on the floor in ridiculous amounts of pain until finally, hours later, the pain passed. 

This binge eating disorder took over my life. Food became something I couldn't escape, but desperately needed to. It became a kind of addiction. My normal thoughts of food became completely irrational. I would seek it out in the most ridiculous ways, like driving an hour away to a place that had amazing cheesecake because that was my choice of poison for the day. All of my efforts went toward the direction of self-destruction, the one thing I could control.

Rather early on, thankfully, I sought professional help. I didn't know why I was acting in such destructive ways at the time, but as my weekly sessions with my therapist continued we began to get to the bottom of things- the source being my marriage. To get past this I had to force myself to dig deep. To find my way through the forest of my mind. To ask the "why's" and "what if's" that I had previously been avoiding. 

One of the "why's" to my staying was that I felt like I needed some higher power to grant me permission to leave. Back before things had gotten out of control in the land of eating, I had paid a visit to Barnes & Noble. I used to peruse the aisles for hours, finding comfort in the quiet of the books, the possibilities in all the stories written by the most imaginative minds. On this one particular visit I meandered over to the self-help section. I picked up a book on relationships and happened upon a page that said "You don't need God's permission to leave. This is something you have to give yourself." Right there, in the middle of Barnes & Noble, I knelt down and started crying. 

It took a while to get past my eating disorder, but I did. I wish I could say the secret to beating it was X, Y, and Z and it was completely gone and I was 100% better overnight, but that's not at all how it worked. From the first time I made the decision to get help to each and every little step toward healing after that, I had been redirecting my attention, my resources, my focus to the cause of getting better. I also had two major life events occur back to back  - my grandma died and my husband and I split up - and those shook up everything so severely that I had no choice but to alter my life. While I don't recommend this method, I would be remiss to say it didn't have an effect. 

The truth is, not physically binge eating anymore was probably the easiest part in the healing process. The most difficult challenge was my mind. Oh, our minds - such beautiful, wild, unexplainable things. It took me a very, very long time to get my thoughts about food back to a healthy place. The thoughts of how to eat and when to eat and what to eat and why to eat. Because you can't stop eating when you have an eating disorder. You have to eat to survive. Healing the mind in this case is quite a challenge. Let's not forget the overly image obsessed world we live in. This helps absolutely zero when dealing with these matters. 

The thoughts about my body are still being sorted out. I gained some weight, not surprisingly, during this time and although I've lost most of it and I maintain a pretty good self-body image the truth is I'm not back to where I was before. Before this mess. I am a fraction away in size and shape, but mentally the thoughts about my body are still further out of my grasp. 

I didn't bring up my old marriage to beat a dead horse, so to speak. To understand the disorder, you have to understand the why and what generated it. For any addiction or disorder or serious situation, there is an underlying reason. We don't just do things like this because we're bored. Understanding is the first step to healing. Accepting is the second. There are many, many more after that and each person's path is different. 

I've never written about this before because I haven't felt ready. I've been waiting for the day when it felt far enough away from where I once was with it. Today seems to be that day. Today is the first time in many years that I can see all the light, all of it, everywhere.

To everyone who is going through anything remotely similar to this, I hope you too will find your way to all of the beautiful light.

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