Tied up in knots

I'm feeling this knot of fear in my stomach. Mostly over school in the fall. There are all these questions like:

  • How will I adjust to being in school?
  • How will I juggle everything?
  • What if I screw things up for the gazillionth time?
  • What if everyone hates my writing?
  • What if my students hate my teaching?
  • How will I manage recovery?
  • What if I relapse?
  • What if I gain weight?

That last one is a doozy. Seriously. The intellectual Carrie knows that it should be the least of my worries. But the emotional Carrie knows that she will freak the f*ck out if her clothes stop fitting.

The obvious solution is: then get new clothes, ya ding dong! Problem solved.

Only not really. Then there's the do-I-keep-all-the-new-clothes-I-just-bought problem. The how-soon-can-I-lose-this-weight problem. The what-if-it-doesn't-stop problem. And so on.

I'm walking into a veritable mine field. I know I need to learn how to keep my perfectionism in check. That all A's, the perfect meal plan, the perfect exercise plan, the perfect lesson plans, the perfectly clean apartment are NOT going to happen. Not separately, and certainly not all together. I get this.

But I still want it.

I want to feel okay, both with myself and with the world. I feel so bruised from the last year and a half. I have learned a lot, come quite a ways in recovery. I eat now. With marginal freedom. I am no longer addicted to numerous varieties of pills related to eating disorders. I'm not sobbing and suicidal the majority of my days. So however crappy these months have been, at least they haven't been totally pointless.

Still, the fear remains.

There are the questions of: what will this next year bring? Will I make it through the next year? Intact?

I wish I had the spirit of "I'll handle it! Whatever comes my way, I'll handle it!" But that's probably not going to happen. I'm not like that. I can usually make things happen. That's usually not a problem. At least with the little things.

On the other hand, I have to manage all of these things at once. Wake up, go to class, teach, appointments, do work, eat, sleep again, repeat the next day. And it is freaking me out. All of it. The vast magnitude of the task in front of me.

The helpful therapist would say to take it one thing at a time. How can you take things one at a time when there are ten of them flying at you at once? Do you get some sort of task fly swatter? Swing it around with a sort of psychotic glee screaming, "Die, dammit!"

That sounds absurdly appealing. Paper to write? Swat it. Phone calls to make? Swat the phone. (Or, if you are me, chuck the phone against the cement floor and watch it explode into little pieces. Though I have not, to date, performed this experiment.)

I'm rambling right now. Quite pathetically. I just don't know how I'm going to manage everything. I know that I'm going to have to lower my standards, which frankly pisses me off. It's like juggling, only I can't, um, juggle.

Minor detail there.

Maybe one day I'll look around and say, "That's enough. I'm satisfied." I just wish that day would come. I want to be satisfied with my efforts. Sometimes I am. Mostly not. I feel the deck is stacked against me because some days, when the depression and anxiety get real bad, it's struggle to make it out of bed, or to be social. And I can't help but get jealous that other people don't have those problems. I don't know- maybe they do. Writers in general are not known to be an emotionally stable lot.

So for right now, I'm here, I'm writing, I'm managing things. Which really isn't all that bad.

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Charlynn said...

I remember the days of worrying incessantly about my clothes and if they would still fit. The truth is, I *did* outgrow my clothes, but only by one size. I did have to buy new things, but I didn't balloon up as much as I feared. While I was relieved about that, I still hated having to shop for size x clothes instead of y. Over time, it's bothered me less and less.

The best advice I can give you is to face your fears. Seriously. They're not as bad as they seem and you'll learn so much if and when you have to deal with them.

carrie said...

Alas, is true.

Sometimes I try to think: okay, what's the absolute worst that could happen?

So I drop out. So what. My parents won't let me starve (they damn well better not!) or let me live on the streets.

I'm remembering one of my nights at the newspaper office in college and we had three really long articles to fit on the page, along with some photos and we got stuck with a huge ad. Bleck. And my co-editor and I were freaking out and I just said, "This is going to fit."
She said, "How do you know?"
And I replied, "It will fit because I *say* it will fit."

And it fit. We didn't sleep that night, but the damn page worked out.

I need to remember that.

ms. em said...

hey carrie,

one thing which i keep reminding myself is to try my very best to remain present. i'll deal with a week from now in a week from now and am not going to obsess about it until it's reality. (think i may write a post about this...hmmm...)

i know easier said than done, but practice makes it more intuitive.


Nancy Lebovitz said...

Could you ask yourself "What if things go well?".

disordered girl said...

I relate to pretty much everything in this post. It's so hard when you know what kind of challenge you are facing and feel the fear of not measuring up, but it's true (and at the end you say you are doing it) that you just have to tackle one thing at a time. Before you know it, you'll be looking back going, hey--I did it!

carrie said...


One thing I'm working on in therapy is mindfulness and staying in the present moment. Part of the problem is that intense anxiety kicks in so freaking fast that it takes a lot of effort and practice on my part to help me see more clearly.


You know, I never thought about that question. Given my recent history (past 2-3 years) that has yet to happen. It's a good question to ask, it really is, but if one teensy thing goes wrong, then to me it's all done with. And I think that's why I'm nervous. When I first got accepted and such, all I was thinking was how great and perfect it would be. Then it hit me- things weren't going to be perfect and I felt I was going to be royally screwed. I have a hard time seeing the difference between "well" and "perfect." If it's not perfect, it's not okay. Therein lies my problem.


Thanks for understanding. It means a lot.

Sarah said...

It is so hard to live in the moment. So, so hard. I have to remind myself constantly to do that, because I get ahead of myself and anxious so easily. Actually sometimes I think that is my natural state, and living one day at a time -- sometimes one hour at a time -- is the unnatural state.

I have a lot of confidence in you. You have already accomplished so much and overcome so many obstacles in your life! Take off the ED-phones; don't talk yourself out of this exciting time of your life.

ms. em said...

anti-anxiety meds?

mary said...

Maybe you need to redefine perfect.
Make it a perfectly imperfect!
I know letting go of everything you've come to know and trust seems hard but it's a matter of freeing yourself to experiment with some new and challenging ways that might work better for the new you. Letting go of these ways is not the same as losing you. In a way it'll be finding a part of you that you didn't allow out. The messy part, the part that just knows getting her hands dirty would be fun.
I wish you well on this part of your journey. I haven't done well at living in the present all the time either. I enjoy a good mind trip. Perhaps working on the 'what ifs' and obsessing parts and learning to integrate the past with the present and future so you remain wise to the potholes in the road would be more helpful right now.
There's absolutely no reason you can't let out a howl if you need to! /********

radioactive girl said...

"It's like juggling, only I can't, um, juggle."

That line above was the most perfect thing I have ever read.

I can relate to a lot of what you wrote. When DOES it become ok to let your standards slide a little. I know for absolute certain that I would be happier if I could let that happen, but for some reason I will not allow myself the freedom. I hope you find the way (and then share it with me please!)

carrie said...


Mindfulness is one of the things I'm working on. It's so hard for be because my mind is usually functioning at warp speed. I did have some luck with guided meditation. Maybe I'll get one of those CDs, light up some Patchouli scented incense and meet nirvana.


Ahhh...better living through pharmaceuticals. ;) I've been on anti-anxiety meds for a while. They really do help, though they aren't proven to be 100% effective at preventing basketcase episodes. I'm much better than I used to be.


Part of what is helping me right now is that I know so well how to make a mess of things that I'll know I will have found something when it feels unfamiliar. And here's the really ironic thing: I know my standards are too high. I just need to get over the fact that I can't meet them and it's okay.


Glad to hear you can't juggle, too. I always thought I would be 'free' if I would somehow be perfect. Interesting how it turns out life's the other way around.

Gina said...

I, too, am starting school again in the fall (as a first year graduate student). It'll be different. I am already having awful trouble with the Ed emotions - he's been screaming at me alot lately - and I fear how things will change once my schedule, routine, life, gets reconfigured once again. My main fear is, like you said, will I gain weight?

I ask myself, Isn't that the point? Don't I have to gain weight to get better? If only getting better entailed NOT having to gain weight.

I really don't understand how I can live such a paradoxical existence. It's Ed, but its me. I wrote in my journal today - I am smart, I have substance, how can I believe and live according to such falsities? It is frustrating and just more fuel to add to my fire of disappointment in myself.

If you get a chance, please e-mail or IM me (Jolie410). I'd love to chat. I am trying to reach out to anything for the sake of my recovery, besides my weekly therapy and group therapy. I, too, want to just wake up and say "Okay, that's enough. I'm done with this."

I don't remember a Gina without "this."

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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Have any questions or comments about this blog? Feel free to email me at carrie@edbites.com

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